What Do Modern Women Want?

How I Met Your Mother

Let’s dispel a few truths.

We live in a world where women work. We no longer need you to put a roof over our heads. We don’t need you to show us the world (sorry, Aladdin). We don’t need you as our backbone in an intellectual debate.

So what do we need from you? Technically, nothing. In a former life, we were raised and glazed to attract a ring to our finger. That was the only sure way to secure a future with financial stability and a family. But in a time where women are just as professionally active as men, and freezing your eggs is a viable way to leverage biology, the rules have changed.

Straight women don’t need men to survive anymore. So if a man is going to have a place in a modern woman’s life (a place that isn’t always vacant, I should add), then we need to level the playing grounds. The tricks of the past won’t fly anymore because we are not women from the past. Many of us lead lives independently from a desire to get married one day. Our goals do not line up in that direction. In fact, when we toss and turn at night, it’s not thoughts of marriage that keep us up.

We worry about our career.

My mother warns me that a career is important, but without a partner and family to share it with, the success is shallow. While I agree that building a family is a enriching endeavor, intuitively, I know it’s not where I want to direct my energy right now. I’m not alone in my predicament. There are women like me who hustle harder than they ever knew they could. They’ve started their own businesses and purchased their own houses because they realize their success entitles them to freedom–much more freedom than their mothers had at their age.

The world is different now. A nuclear family is no longer the ideal for every woman. Some of us want more out of life, which is to say, some of us do not rely on love alone to define us. We want to fulfill a purpose that will outlive the typical romance that fizzles out. Partnership is beautiful, but only if it adds to an already full life. Otherwise, it becomes a burden, a distraction from self-actualization and the potential to become all that we can.

My male friends ask me what the modern woman wants. I’m not qualified to speak for all women. But from experience and earnest chats with other women it can be summarized it in two words: be real.

Your flakiness in an age where we can see your online activity is not sexy. It’s predictable and boring. Your allure is not in your alleged absence. It’s in your essence. Instead of honing your ability to ghost, you’d do well to show up when it counts and be the kind of man a dream woman would choose. Since need is no longer her driving force, she has to choose you.

Save the games. There are plenty of women willing (and eager) to pump the brakes and drive slow. Not all of us dream of a wedding when we fall in love. Even if we did, we have a grip on our emotions–just like you. The traditional stereotype that makes women out to be emotional volcanos waiting to erupt is false. We exercise our logical left brain in all matters of life–including love. If you don’t make us feel special, we won’t prioritize you. It’s really that simple.

Moreover, while we appreciate your guidance, we have our own way of doing things. I see men struggle nowadays because they feel like they don’t have the power to impose their ideas on women. Frankly, why would you want to? If you fell in love with a woman’s independence, why do you try to take it away from her? It’s ironic that men are intimidated by exactly what intrigues them.

We’re at a vital turning point in love: social media, dating apps, and globalization are just three modern realities that have completely shifted the dynamics of human relationships. Some of us are still making sense of this freedom and the ease of accessibility we have to each other, because if we don’t manage it well, chaos will swallow us whole. It’s easy to romanticize a weekend fling and give it a longer lifespan than it deserves. But just because you can chat with someone in Germany around the clock at the cost of disengaging from your present life, doesn’t mean you should.

Another caveat of modern romance is how easily we can deceive each other. Much of the frustration between lovers comes from an unwillingness to be honest. We worry people can’t take it, so we lie until the truth blows up in their face. Then we’re forced to have the conversations we should’ve had from the get-go. Why trick someone into thinking a test drive is anything more than just that? You’d be pleasantly surprised at how independent and resilient people are when you’re real with them. Within that period between abstract courting and a concrete relationship label, there’s a sweet opportunity to speak your truth. Use it.

If you don’t want to be monogamous, say it. If you don’t want to get married until you’re 35, say it. If you don’t know what you want, say that.

When you get caught up in a tornado of your own emotions and don’t communicate clearly, you create an inconsistency that while alluring at first, becomes annoying and destructive. We don’t have time for you to waste. A complaint I hear from men is that women expect too much. I’d argue that a secure woman wants you to keep your freedom. I personally know women who tell their men they should both travel separately. We’re not blind to statistics. With a fifty percent divorce rate hanging over our heads like a dark cloud, we’re quite aware that conventional love isn’t as promising as it seems.

But in order for a woman to be secure in your love for her–you need to show up, really show up. When you do, she’ll give you all the room you need and some, because we get it—and we’re right there with you. We’re figuring out what this should look like too.

Do we want to commit to one person sexually or agree on an unconventional setup that keeps our bond as strong as our passion? Do we want you to fill the role of our emotional support system, or do we delegate that to other people to maintain a level of enigma between us? Do we want to manage a love story across borders, or a relationship that is constantly interrupted by travel?

It is transcendental to feel like you’re with someone who gets you. To be seen for who we are is our deepest desire in life, whether conscious of it or not. Love provides the unique context in which we’re able to explore the most authentic side of ourselves. For some of us, we may discover different selves in different lovers. This can do wonders in the self-exploration arena. It’s not wrong to love this way. It’s a choice like anything else–where some stakes have to be risked and compromised to make it work. Thus, instead of forcing yourself to a fit a mold that may or may not work for you, why not try evolving into your truest self and keeping it real?

Jealousy and possessiveness push us to sacrifice parts of ourselves in order that we may ask the same of our partners. But if we instead let things unfold naturally as they did in the initial stages, could we continue to reap the benefits of love long past its predicted expiration date?

When the conditions for love are right, lovers can create a space for each other that is steady but also flexible. A space to lay your head after a long day, but also a base from which you can go out in the world and actualize your wildest dreams. Isn’t that why we fall in love anyway?

So gentlemen, it boils down to this. We understand that your role, like ours, is shifting in romance. It can all be a little confusing to navigate. But what do you want? If you want a confident woman who’s got her life together by your side, then you’ve got to appreciate her strive. She’s played the games and shuffled the deck a dozen times; she’ll see through your bullshit with her eyes rolled. She’s had to fight convention to make a place for her whole self in a patriarchal world that assigned her a limiting role. So if you want to know how we think, then be real with us, and we’ll tell you. If you want to be a part of our world, then show up. Don’t ambush us, but don’t be aloof either.

Just be yourself, and let time do the rest. TC mark

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Image Credit: How I Met Your Mother

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