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In a world full of infidelity and broken promises, it’s little wonder that many people despair over a lasting relationship. Looking to mainstream sources, one finds hundreds of self-help guides and articles claiming to have the recipe to “get” and “keep” the person of your dreams.

It’s sad to see so many of these self-help guides and gurus focusing on the external. From a man’s perspective, I know that when it comes to a lifetime commitment, I would rather my relationship be rooted in areas other than the fluctuating realm of what she wears or how she looks.

Is there such a thing as a magic formula to inspire a man’s commitment to you? Probably not, but I asked men like me what it was about their wife that made them want to spend the rest of their life loving her. Their answers, as you might expect, didn’t have much to do with what she wore or her ability to maintain a cool, coquettish attitude.

01. She fights well.

Most every healthy couple has a fight or two before they get married. Whether a woman can consider your point of view and discuss an area of conflict means a lot to a guy. Hagen said his now wife impressed him with the way she would calmly disagree with him. “She was willing to listen and have discussions,” Hagen said. “She never shut down when we discussed something that we would disagree on, but she would listen to what I had to say and then calmly make her point.” If a guy is willing to give his opinion, he needs to know two things: (1) that the girl won’t jump on him if she doesn’t agree and (2) that she can articulate her opposing viewpoint calmly.

02. She respects him.

I know women might misconstrue respecting a man as some kind of sexist lowering of oneself, but both men and women need respect, and for many men, respect is even more powerful than loving affirmation. For my friend Bo, his now wife was given the key to his heart through her emphasis on respecting him in private and in public. In all matters when dealing with other people, including family, she didn’t openly argue or contradict him in front of them. In private, they respectfully worked out their differences of opinion. But to all outside of their relationship, they were and are a unified front. As he said, “She doesn’t always agree with me, but she trusts in me.” Her dedication to respecting him for what he brings to the relationship has proven to be one of the reasons he decided to commit to her.

03. She has his back.

For a lot of people, loyalty and support in difficult moments are what test a romance. For Bo this was also true. Bo spoke of his wife’s constant support when the going gets rough as his reason for commitment. He takes comfort in the fact that she has his back. As he said, “When times are difficult, she is always supportive and an equal partner in navigating life’s obstacles.” It’s important to have someone you can count on by your side when the audience is throwing vegetables at you.

04. She sees vulnerability as a gift, not a weapon.

Many men struggle with healthy vulnerability, which is part of the reason men admire a woman who puts up boundaries but opens up when she feels safe. It’s something to aspire to. One of the reasons I wanted to commit to my girlfriend early on was the way she opened up to me—but only when she felt it was right, not when she was seeking attention or validation. She didn’t rush to reveal her innermost self right away, but as I earned her trust and our relationship progressed, so did her level of openness. Those boundaries and her vulnerability in time showed me that she trusted me and made me feel needed at a time when I was emotionally ready to be there for her. She didn’t emotionally dump on me, pressuring me to move the relationship to greater intimacy faster than we were ready. I have always admired and appreciated that about her. A woman who has mastery over her own heart like that has mastery over mine as well.

05. She walks the walk.

Promises are easy enough to make when they are just words, but it becomes a much harder thing when it’s put into practice. When my fiancée backs up her declaration of putting our relationship first by doing it, there are no smoke and mirrors creating an illusion. She doesn’t just talk the talk. Whether it’s canceling other plans in order to be with me when I need her or patiently listening to me explain my quirky hobbies, her little sacrifices put me and our relationship first on a daily basis. The reality is before my eyes, so how could I not respond but by doing the same?

What’s the common denominator, the secret ingredient that made these men commit to the women they love? Love in action. It had nothing to do with the way they played the game or what they did in bed. They just loved authentically, and commitment happened pretty naturally from there.

Photo Credit: Erynn Christine