There's a question that I think not enough men ask themselves, and they end up being the worse for it: that is, what to look for in a girlfriend.
I have a habit of being very selective about the people I have
around me. The old adage that "you are the average of your five closest
friends" is one I put a lot of salt in. Where does this "averaging
effect" come from, and how does it play out in real life?
The simplest way of putting it is that successful people believe successful things, and unsuccessful people believe unsuccessful things. Now, that's a very boiled down way of putting it, for you could have a guy who owns a large stake in a Fortune 500 company that's worth billions and think of him as successful, but a guy who owns six gas stations that bring him in $20,000 a month you might also think of as successful, to a different degree.
On a more personal level, you may have a friend who's dead broke, but strongly believes that buying condominiums is the road to riches. No matter how much you point out to that friend that so far his proclamations and prognostications have failed to work out for him, he'll keep harping on it again and again, and pushing you to put all your savings into buying a condo, and you'll either eventually come around to his way of seeing things (whether he's "right" or not), or get so annoyed by it that you exit the friendship.
The people around you influence you strongly for better or for worse. To become exceptional, or to remain the way you are, or to backslide.
And the person with the greatest measure of influence on you of all, with the greatest ability to steer and direct your thoughts and ideas and emotions, is, of course, the one you spend the most time with: your girlfriend.
And if you aren't being selective when selecting the most important, influential person around you, you're doing yourself a major disservice.
Assortative Mating and Absolute
Two years ago, I wrote about assortative mating in "Like Attracts Like." The quick and dirty answer to what "assortative mating" is and how it plays out in real life is that people pick romantic partners similar to themselves.
Well, I stumbled across a study from 2006 entitled "The ideal romantic partner personality," by several researchers from the University of Arizona's Department of Psychology. The findings of these researchers was as follows:
“Individuals sought mates that were matches of themselves to some degree (a concept that we termed aspirational positive assortative mating) but also sought mates that were somewhat higher in Conscientiousness, Extraversion, Agreeableness, and Mate Value, but lower in Neuroticism than themselves.”
... which is quite telling.
Effectively, what the study shows is that most people want a mate who is:
- Similar to them in personality, but
- A bit more conscientious than they are
- A bit more extraverted than they are
- A bit more agreeable than they are
- A bit higher in mate value than they are
You could easily translate that to mean that everyone is looking for the opposite-sex version of themselves... except better.
But not significantly better. The study found that people were looking for partners who were somewhat better than they were.
Obviously, at least one of the partners isn't going to be 100% satisfied - you can't both be more extraverted than one other, say, or both be more agreeable.
So, assortative mating isn't the whole picture; just the first part.
While we do pick romantic partners similar to ourselves, we then want to go one better on top of that.
And the way this affects - or ought to affect - what to look for in a girlfriend when you're on the make is what we'll talk about today.
Most Men's Criteria
Ask one of your buddies what kind of girl he's looking for as his next girlfriend, and what kind of qualities she should have. Unless you surround yourself with extremely exacting people, you'll probably get a list back that looks like this:
- Not fat
This seems to be the Average Man's idea of the Ideal Woman. There's only one problem with it...
... it's really, really VAGUE!
How many women match that description? To be frank, it's quite a lot. Would your buddy actually want to date most of those women? Probably not.
The irony is if you ask most women in the West these days what they'd like to find in a mate, the list is more like this:
- Good job
- In good shape / works out
- Has his own life
- Good family
- Good background
... and a veritable cornucopia of other traits, qualities, and characteristics.
Clearly, there is some difference between the men and the women of the West in today's day and age, at least in terms of what they want for themselves.
But that's for another article (and I do have on in the works on that, but it's one of those ones you've got to get the wording on quite right, unless you want to enrage half of the population of the Western world).
What I'm most interested in here is why so many men have no idea what to look for in a girlfriend. What's going on there?
I don't think it's lack of relationship experience. There are plenty
of men who've had lots of dates, hook ups, and girlfriends who still
have very amorphous standards for whom they'd date. They know how to get a girlfriend, they've
had plenty of girlfriends,
they just don't screen them that well.
And I don't think it's that the guy's so low on the totem pole that he really isn't in a position to be picky.
I think it's that most guys just have no idea of how to actually properly screen women and how to select for the qualities that are going to most benefit their lives.
Because as you can easily tell from reading any American woman's online dating profile these days, Western women are very, very good at making men run the gamut of providing a LOT of value to their lives before they even consider them as potential mates.
And if you want to have a healthy, beneficial relationship, you want to be doing the exact same thing.
What Do You Want (Out of Life)?
This is the bigger question to answer, and the one underlying the whole guys-who-don't-have-a-clear-idea-what-kind-of-women-they-want issue.
When it comes to selecting the most important person to serve in a supporting role in your life, how can you possibly choose wisely if you don't know what you want her support to do?
If you want to build a billion-dollar conglomerate, you know you're
going to need a shrewd, ambitious, supportive partner who can help push
you a long and pick you up in times of defeat and hardship. A woman
who's too soft or not very ambitious will never give you the firm
backing and foundation and push
you need to get there.
If you want to have a relatively quiet life, with a decent job, and a house and kids, you know you're going to need a quieter, softer partner who'll be comfortable with that kind of life and won't get antsy with the lack of progress that a driven woman would.
But what if you don't know what you want?
Fact is, I think this is where most younger guys are, and it's why a lot of them end up clueless and with vague standards as to what to look for in a girlfriend.
If you ask a man in his 40s what he wants in a girlfriend, the answer almost always rolls quickly off his tongue with confidence and certainty. He's either looking for a fun, casual partner, or he's looking for someone with the same level of commitment to the things he cares about most to partner up with on a more serious level.
Ask that question to a man in his 20s or early 30s, and you usually get the vague reply about looks and her being sweet and chill, but not because these guys don't have relationship experience.
It's because younger men usually don't yet know what they're trying to accomplish with life, and where women fit into that picture.
What to Look for in a Girlfriend
So what should you look to accomplish with your life?
That's a deeply personal question, and I can't answer it for you. Here're a few ideas:
- Join a cause
- Lead a cause
- Give something back to mankind
- Get known for something
- Seek pleasure
- Seek comfort
- Build a family
- Build a business
- Build an empire
Thing is, depending on which of those appeals to you most, you're going to have wildly different mate preferences from the next guy.
For me, I really want to do big things with my life. I have no idea how successful I'll be at that, but that's what I want. So when I pick a girl to be a girlfriend, I'm looking for someone who's going to help me be that. She needs to help me shoulder some of the burden of what's involved in trying to break the mold everyone else follows, and she needs to be able to endure some of the hardship that comes along with starting from zero and not knowing if you'll succeed.
Hence, the qualities I look for include things like mental toughness, a razor-sharp intellect, and extraordinary perseverance.
For a guy who wants a more normal life, that's way too much. A girl like that would go crazy with a guy who has his sights set on something simpler, and he'd go crazy with her bugging and nagging and dissatisfaction with him and their life.
On the other hand, a guy who wants a more casual girlfriend isn't going to care as much about whether she's driven or not driven; instead, that guy's going to be far more concerned with finding women who are comfortable with and open to having uncommitted relationships with no guarantee of them going anywhere. Whether she's an intellectual or a socialite or not is a moot point, almost.
Because every man wants something different out of his life, and because every man wants something different out of his romantic partners, the answer to what to look for in a girlfriend is going to be different for every man.
And for that reason, I can't tell you exactly what to look for on every point.
So first, what I'm going to do is give you a series of questions to
ask yourself - and help you tell yourself what it is you should seek.
And after that, I'm going to give you a few general points about what
you ought to look for no matter what you want.
Do you want comfortable, or stimulating? Imagine your ideal woman. Is she tranquil, serene, and quiet? Or is she lively, vivacious, and an outright firecracker? Most likely, she's somewhere in the middle - but by nailing down how outgoing she is or how calm she is, you've right away got a better indicator what you should be looking for when meeting women - the shy ones, or the aggressive ones.
Do you want a girly-girl, or a tomboy? Girly-girls are very feminine, they have almost entirely female friends, and they don't really "get" men. Tomboys are more interested in things that men are interested in, have more (or sometimes all) male friends, and they know men through-and-through. The advantage of a tomboy is that she's a lot simpler and less work - she knows men, she gets why you do what you do, and she's lower maintenance. However, she sees right through any fibs you try to tell her or any wool you try to pull over her eyes, so if you're not a straight shooter or you're not 100% clear about what you want out of a relationship, a tomboy's going be a pain to date. Girly-girls give you some more room to be vague, because they can never really figure out what men are doing anyway.
Note: there are plenty of girly-girls who wear sweatpants and jeans, and plenty of tomboys who were high heels and mini skirts. We're not talking about dress style here - more about underlying personality types.
Do you want a partner-in-crime, or just a romantic one? This one's surprisingly important. What it comes down to is essentially this: would you be happier with a girl who's involved in you every step of the way in every single thing you're doing, or would you prefer one who's completely got her own life and the two of you only really see each other at bedtime?
Two extremes there again, but it's to illustrate the point. Most people reading will probably say, "Well, uh, somewhere in the middle would be nice!" but then you're stuck being vague. So answer yourself this: if you had to pick only one of those two extremes, which would it be? Your answer lets you know which side of the spectrum you fall on in terms of preferences.
Now, armed with your list of answers specific to you, we can toss in a few general girlfriend criteria.
Don't go white knighting. I know it's tempting to want to be the hero and save some damsel in distress... but don't, trust me. Reason why? Damsels in distress never fall out of distress. I know you think you can save her and that she'll be grateful to you forever after... but it never, never works that way. Read the article linked to for more if you have any doubts.
Don't mess with crazy. This is street wisdom - no matter how tough you are, or how much this is your part of town you're in, you just don't mess with crazy people, because crazy people do crazy things. It's exactly the same in dating - a little quirkiness might make her more interesting, but if she's nuts - stay way. Trust me on that one.
Don't date women who lie. Even if you're certain it's only other people she's lying to and to you she tells the truth. What people do to others, they do to you too.
Don't date women you're not sure about. If you're trying to convince yourself even one iota that she's okay for you, that means you don't really believe it. Trying to convince yourself = logic attempting to override emotions and gut feelings. Result? Emotions and gut get repressed, to reemerge later on down the road with a vengeance... and that's bad, for you and for her.
Don't listen to your buddies (*caveat: #4 MUST apply). Your friends don't really know you, or what you want or need, as well as you do. So if they're telling you a certain girl is perfect for you, or a certain other one is all wrong, but you're certain otherwise, don't listen to them... provided that you are certain about her being the right or wrong match for you. If you've struggled with yourself to decide though, that means you're not really listening to you - and if you're not listening to you, then you don't get to give yourself the pass to not listen to friends, either.
Don't date party girls or wild girls unless you want something casual. This includes "reformed" party girls... you know, the ones who've "been there, done that" and have seen the light and realized how immature it all is (read: they've reached an age where they don't get the same level or quality of male attention they used to, and have realized it's time to lock a guy down before it's too late). Sure, they might actually have completely moved on, but as we discussed in "How Many Partners," there's actually some solid scientific research that finds that the higher a woman's partner count, the less likely she is to be loyal.
On the other hand, experienced women tend to have higher than normal sex drives and be loads of fun, which makes them ideal for the man seeking a casual relationship, while inexperienced women can be somewhat stilted and difficult to train for that sort of deal. So use that as your gauge: party girl / former party girl if you're looking for something non-serious, and a rather less experienced woman if you're looking for something more committed.
Don't date women less attractive than you. Studies have found that marriages between men and woman where the woman is perceived as more physically attractive than the man are more stable and perceived as better relationships by both the man and the woman. Meanwhile, marriages between men and women where the man is more physically attractive than the woman tend to be far less stable and far more prone to fighting and problems. If you want to have be happy down the road once the first 90 days have worn off, make sure you pick someone to date who looks better than you.
You'll notice it's all "don't"s and no "do"s in this list of what to look for in a girlfriend. Why? Because most guys don't need any more "do"s. They have so much "do" that any girl who isn't an evil fire-breathing demon woman has at least some semblance of a shot with them (and even some of those demons can sneak by sometimes).
Screening is not a process of screening in; the problem that most men have, especially younger men, is failing to be picky enough. Screening needs to be a process of screening out.
But what if you don't have a lot of options, you might ask? Good question, and you'll find that part of the answer is, simply knowing what you want and screening women for it increases your attractiveness to them immensely.
Another part of the answer is, as you continue to improve yourself and use the insights from this blog and from our programs, you'll continue to upgrade your attractiveness and become better able to meet new girls to keep your dating funnel filled up with... and thus, you'll have a lot more women to screen through.
Having the right woman around you in a girlfriend capacity is tremendously important, and it's one of the biggest influencers on the direction your life will take. Don't leave it to chance, or let just anyone in through the gates. Make sure you're screening for a woman who will be compatible with you, with what you want, and with what you believe - and make sure that you know what that is, too.