Attraction is a complicated, messy thing. What one person finds attractive may be revolting to another, especially when it comes to appearance (after all, beauty is in the eye of the beholder). But when it comes to attraction, the way people behave is just as important as physical appearance. Sure, we all have different deal-breakers and preferences, but it turns out that there are some behaviors that are nearly universally attractive to women.
We spoke to the experts, including psychologists, relationship experts, and matchmakers, to find out which behaviors are going to attract a woman your way and which are going to send her running for the hills. Whether it's your first time meeting, a first date, or you've been together for a long time, add these behaviors to our repertoire and keep your favorite leading lady coming back for more. These are the behaviors that attract women the most.
They say chivalry is dead, but maybe that rarity is exactly why this old fashioned behavior is so attractive. Celebrity matchmaker Bonnie Winston told The List, "A man who is chivalrous, as evidenced by holding doors open, etc. is something that is old fashioned, but never goes out of style." It may seem like this is something we've all learned from what the movies say a relationship should be like, but it turns out there's more to it than that.
Certified Professional Love Life Coach Lisa Concepcion revealed to The List, "On a physiological, primal level, women want to feel protected and are attracted to a man who makes them feel safe." According to her, men also like to feel they're being chivalrous because they're wired to be protectors. She revealed that men like when women allow them to do things like open doors and tight jars. She continued, "Despite having evolved from the dinosaur era, we still have innate needs tied to our physiology."
Making eye contact
In a world where most people are tied to their phones and can often be found looking straight down instead of around them, it's easy to feel neglected or unimportant, even on a date. According to Winston, this is why making eye contact is so important and why women find it so attractive, especially these days. She revealed, "A man who makes eye contact is very sexy, in fact it's the sexiest behavior a man can do to a woman."
Hear that, guys? She said the sexiest thing, so take note! There's nothing sexier than feeling like someone is listening to you and that's exactly what this does for women. Winston continued, "Women want to feel men are invested in them, and [making eye contact] makes them feel heard, understood and valuable." Making eye contact is also easy to do, so put your phone away and really listen to what the woman across the table is telling you.
If you've ever been on a date with someone who couldn't (or didn't want to) make decisions about the date, you know how frustrating it can be. It isn't fun to always be the person to decide what you'll be doing and where you'll be going, which is why women find it attractive when a potential mate takes initiative and really participates in the date.
According to Sarah Rose Marcus, a PhD candidate at Rutgers University whose research focuses on online dating, "Women are looking for men who were willing to participate in and initiate interesting activities on dates, [because it's] an indicator that they would put in effort into the relationship." Not only do women want a date who takes initiative in this way, according to Marcus they also want someone who is willing to try something that's important to the woman, even if it's outside of their usual interests. Speaking about the participants in her study, Marcus added, "They wanted someone who respected their hobbies, such as going to community service events."
Quality time trumps gifts
Speaking of hobbies and spending time doing fun things together on dates, Marcus also shared that her research revealed women are looking for a partner who cares more about experiences than gifts. In fact, her participants were uncomfortable when a date or partner "showered them with expensive gifts and vacations up front."
She continued, "They would prefer more quality time over material items, especially in the beginning phases when they are still getting to know one another." Sure, the movies often depict that women are looking for roses, jewelry, and all manner of gifts, but women in the real world are much more complex than that. They're looking for connection.
So before you book that private jet to whisk your love interest off to Paris, spend time getting to know her. And before you present her with that gorgeous piece of jewelry, make sure she knows you like spending time with her (and that she likes spending time with you too).
There's nothing like a partner who really knows their stuff. To really see someone in their element, passionate and excelling, is something women find particularly attractive. According to Raffi Bilek, a couples counselor and the director of the Baltimore Therapy Center, "Any behavior in which a man demonstrates competence is one which can be attractive to women. Women are attracted to men who are primed to succeed, in whatever way that might be defined."
Bilek shared that it doesn't much matter what a man is super competent at, just that he is competent and has a venue in which to shine. He continued, "A woman might find a man attractive when he shines as a public speaker or when he fixes a car nobody else could fix in record time. He can demonstrate competence as a vet by calming down an anxious dog, or as a computer technician by getting that darn program to work. Anything a man does where he excels, no matter how mundane it may seem, can be a turn-on for women!"
Honesty is the best policy
This isn't a shocking revelation: no one wants to be lied to. This one may seem like a no-brainer, but honesty and transparency in dating and relationships can be tricky. How much is too much to share up front? How can you know if someone is being honest with you if you've just met them?
Clinical psychologist and relationship expert Dr. Carla Marie Manly shared that women are right to be on the lookout for dishonesty on a date. She said, "If any patterns of dishonesty or lack of transparency arise, this is a sign of serious underlying trouble." So how can you tell if someone is honest, transparent, and trustworthy? Look for the small clues, not outright lies.
According to Manly, "A man who is honest and trustworthy will naturally be timely, truthful, dependable, and stable." Still, something like showing up to a date late isn't necessarily a deal-breaker, but if his reason for being late sounds like something that would only happen in a movie or TV show, take note. A man who is honest about the reason he is late for a date is far more attractive than a man who shows up late and makes outlandish excuses.
Variety is the spice of life, and a sense of adventurousness in a potential partner can send those stomach butterflies into overdrive. But what women find really attractive is when a man is able to balance that sense of adventure with an equal sense of responsibility.
According to Dr. Manly, "There is nothing as exciting and sexy as a man who is adventurous yet capable of making wise, trustworthy decisions." Not only does this show that a potential partner is capable of surprising you in fun and adventurous ways, it also shows he has your back and isn't going to rush into anything he isn't prepared for. Going for a hike and camping under the stars can feel super adventurous, but a woman is going to be much more attracted to the man who has prepared for that trip by packing adequately, bringing a first aid kit, and researching the area, than the man who takes her on the trip without any preparation or thought. After all, a woman wants adventure, but she also wants to feel safe.
Emotions — everyone has them, so why hide them? Still, many people do and that can be hard in a relationship. That's why showing emotions is a behavior that many women find attractive. It comes down, in part, to vulnerability. According to Winston, "A man who is a mix of alpha and beta is attractive to women. Powerful is sexy, but so is vulnerable. The mix is irresistible. The ability to clearly communicate their feelings is also a turn-on and very sexy to women."
In addition to showing vulnerability, a person's ability to communicate their feelings and emotions is also key to resolving issues in a relationship, which is an early sign for a woman that a relationship is viable. According to Licensed Professional Counselor Dr. Margo de la Garza, the most attractive partners are those who don't shy away from conflict. She added, "They don't sweep issues under the rug. Because they have confidence and their relationships are based on mutual respect, they have the courage to confront issues head on."
Being attentive and taking charge
It's one thing to listen to what your date or lover is saying, it's another to really be attentive and take action on what she is saying. According to Concepcion, it's this second step that women really find attractive. It doesn't have to be a grand gesture, but noticing what a woman needs and taking the extra initiative to make sure she gets her needs met can be a game changer.
Concepcion told me, "One client said she knew the guy was a keeper when she kept rubbing her wrist, said she messed it up playing tennis and he right there texted his brother who is a chiropractor and made an appointment for her and said to add it to his tab." According to Concepcion, the fact that he noticed and asked about it was kind, but the extra step of offering a solution "was what took him from fun date to boyfriend in three minutes."
Treating others with dignity and respect
While a woman obviously wants to be treated with dignity and respect, she also wants a partner who treats others that way as well. So if you're looking to make yourself more attractive to your date, make sure you're kind to everyone, even people who may not really deserve it in the moment.
As Winston put it, "The way a man treats others is a big clue — the way they treat their mother, waiters, etc." Women are always watching to see how a potential partner treats others because it's a clue how they'll actually treat them down the road, should a disagreement arise. Dr. de la Garza agreed, adding, "They don't belittle the waiter for getting their order wrong and they know how to respectfully disagree with others."
Dr. Gail Saltz, an Associate Professor of Psychiatry at the NY Presbyterian Hospital Weill-Cornell School of Medicine, agrees. She shared with The List, "Women are attracted to the guy who is kind not only to them but to others because it shows sensitivity and integrity, and if it's to others, then it's more authentic than if it's only her. Evolutionarily it speaks well to his ability to be giving and sharing and care taking."