How to Get a Boyfriend

April 3, 2012

In the comment thread for Recognizing the Real Relationship Deal, readers got into a discussion about whether men like a little spirit, feistiness or pushback from their women. There was an interesting array of responses – some guys enjoy the dynamic of some resistance in a relationship, and may even get bored without it. Other guys have zero interest in being with a woman who makes things “difficult.” Reader Dogsquat said something that I’ve been thinking about the last few days.

Nobody wants a puppy that follows you around all day. Nobody likes a bitch who’s “always right, even when I’m not” either.

There is a good balance to be found in girls with a mission outside of their relationship.

In the past I’ve said that when you want a relationship, you have to pursue that goal like it’s your job. Thinking about it more, I don’t think relationship status is the right goal. It’s not an objective with measurable, incremental steps, so it’s impossible to gauge whether you’re any closer to your goal from one month or year to the next. So many factors affect the outcome, some of which are out of your control. Your age, your social environment, your work environment, even the economy can have a large effect. 

Of course, there are several factors that are within your direct control, and that’s where you should focus your strategy. What are your expectations? Are you selecting the most relationship-worthy men? Do you take the initiative to actively communicate your  interest to guys you like, via flirting or attentiveness? All of this is an important part of paving the way to a meaningful relationship, but your results will be only as good as you are. 

What do you have to offer? If you want a man to commit to you, you must be someone who is worthy of commitment. If he takes himself off the market, he is sacrificing the potential (or reality) of sexual variety. The harder you work on becoming an attractive and interesting person of good character, the better your chances of getting an excellent man to commit to you. 

Be Attractive

You were born with a set of physical traits. That’s your basic canvas, and there is much you can do to brighten and enhance your appearance. Female beauty is really the array of fertility cues that men seek in a mate. They signal a woman’s reproductive capacity.  A female mate’s attractiveness also has the potential to increase a male’s status among other males. According to evolutionary psychologists, here is what men look for when evaluating a woman’s attractiveness:

  1. Youth (2.5 years younger is the age difference most preferred by males.)
  2. Full lips
  3. Clear, smooth skin
  4. Clear eyes
  5. Lustrous hair (much easier to assess when hair is long)
  6. Good muscle tone
  7. Body type: This varies by culture to some extent, but the ratio of waist size to hip size is one preference that is invariant.  Healthy, reproductive women have a ratio between .67 and .80.  The ratio is also an accurate indication of long-term health status.

There are also behavioral cues to youth and health that males prefer:

  1. Bouncy, youthful gait
  2. Animated facial expression
  3. High energy level

Together, these traits comprise the ingredients of male standards for female beauty. Makeup, grooming and clothing are all designed to enhance male perception of these traits. Clownish, excessive makeup or immodest clothing detract from the male perception that a woman is a good long-term partner. Use only as much enhancement as you need to maximize your natural attributes.

Be a Person of Good Character

First and foremost, when seeking a long-term partner, be aware of the prevalence and immutability of the sexual double standard:

With the concealed ovulation of humans, men who married benefited by having greater reassurance of paternity.  Before marrying men would need to feel assured that his wife would remain sexually faithful.  Two preferences in a mate that could predict her faithfulness were premarital chastity and the quest for postmarital sexual loyalty.  For this reason, “faithfulness and sexual loyalty” is the number one desirability trait (of 67) that American men prioritize for commitment. (Buss, 1994)

In other words, don’t be a slut. It dramatically reduces the number of guys who will consider you relationship material, much less marriage material.

In addition, all of us seek partners who are companionable. Here are the traits males generally seek in females when contemplating commitment (in no particular order):

  • Charm
  • Athleticism
  • Education
  • Generosity
  • Honesty
  • Independence
  • Kindness
  • Intellectuality
  • Loyalty
  • Sense of humor
  • Sociability
  • Wealth 
  • Responsibility 
  • Spontaneity
  • Cooperativeness 
  • Emotional stability 

Please note that the following traits are not on the list:

  • Hard to get
  • Narcissism
  • Vanity
  • Unreliability
  • Unpredictability
  • Loves to shop
  • Spendthrift
  • Greed
  • Impatience
  • Inspires jealousy
  • Sarcastic
  • Volatile
  • Fickle
  • Boastful
  • Alcoholic
  • Attention seeker
  • Reality show addict
Yes, annoying psycho bitches do get guys. That doesn’t mean it’s a good strategy, as it is certain to shrink your pool of potential mates, and also decrease its quality. It’s worth spending some time thinking about these lists. We all have our faults, but I’ve known several young women whose personalities are defined by the second list. Don’t be that girl. Nobody will tolerate you, much less want you.

Know and Develop Your Purpose(s) in Life

This is something that is often overlooked. It speaks to Dogsquat’s comment about women who have a mission outside their relationship. You may be super passionate about one thing. If you are, you’re lucky. I always have had a bunch of different things I wanted to do and explore, which led to a lot of dabbling and perhaps less achievement. That doesn’t matter. It’s not about achievement in the world – men don’t care much about that when selecting a mate. (Of course, you might, which is fine, just know that it is not a male attraction cue.)

What’s important is how you feel about yourself, and whether that opinion is justified, or just narcissism. If you are truly worthy of your own respect, others will share it too. 

We live in a time when Americans are raised to work extremely long hours, take minimal time off and juggle the responsibilities of work and family. It’s easy to lose one’s sense of purpose and growth, and with it all the curiosity that makes you a person who’s open to learning and engaging with the world around you.

I’m guilty of this myself. I used to be a real news junkie. I read several newspapers, always listened to NPR in the car, always watched CNN at the gym, and sat down for the evening news before starting dinner each night. Around a year ago, feeling pressured for time, I decided to give it up. No more news. I listened to books on tape in the car and at the gym. I took to having my morning coffee while checking blog comments. I delayed starting dinner till 7, working through the extra hour.

For quite a while, I could get by in conversations with my husband, friends and acquaintances, just going on the base of knowledge I’d already built up. Increasingly, I needed to use my husband as my source of news – rather than discuss things with him, I needed for him to tell me what was happening in the world. Finally, I became ignorant about almost everything. 

Alito…Obamacare….June decision, What?

Trayvon Martin, Who?

I now find myself almost completely unable to converse intelligently about what’s happening in the world. During family dinners I am relegated to silence. My kids ask if anything is wrong. How could I let this happen? I’m boring!

This is just one small example, and easy to remedy – I can probably get up to speed in a couple of weeks of reading the paper. But it’s an illustration of how one can become a total dullard just by stopping paying attention and closing oneself off.

To arouse someone’s interest for the long haul, you need to be an interesting person. Do things. Learn stuff. Get out and meet new people. Have a mission in life.

1. Maximize your physical appeal.

2. Develop good character traits.

3. Pursue your passions.

Do these three things like they’re your job, because if you want to marry and have a family, they are.

Source: The Evolution of Desire: Strategies of Human Mating, David M. Buss, 1994.