By: Thomas O’Neill, Staff Spotlight
What do men want in a woman?
Why am I even asking myself such a risky question? Perhaps it was the recent blog posts on relationships by Natalie Plumb and Erin Kisley. Or it may have been celebrating 10 years of knowing my wife and three years of marriage earlier this year. Whatever it was, I started thinking about what a man looks for in a woman and how dramatically my views have changed since I was in my early 20s.
Admittedly, I was a bit of a cad when I was younger. Suffice it to say that I lived the typical “happy hour” lifestyle of many 20-somethings in D.C. My views on women – and specifically, what I looked for in a girlfriend – were fairly representative of my friends and acquaintances at that time:
- Looks. No shock here – my No. 1 criterion was she had to be good-looking. I mean seriously, what would come before that?
- Fun. Next, it was definitely the “fun factor.” Guys like to date cool girls as much as they like to hang out with cool guys, so why not match up with a girl who’s social, friendly, and fun to be around? The kind of girl who’s “one of the guys,” or at least who won’t get on your case when you’re being one of those guys.
- Shared interests. Finally, I wanted someone with the same interests as me. Do we read the same books? Watch the same movies? Talk about the same things? Would she be happy going hiking during the day then bar-hopping by night?
Other bloggers might take this opportunity to point a finger at their former selves, and say, ‘What a superficial jerk I was; oh, how I’ve mended my ways.’ And I will say that — but only up to a point. Viewed retrospectively, my outlook was superficial and probably a tad immature, too. But my journey to a healthier view of women and relationships took years of experience, biology, and God’s grace to achieve.
When I was in my late 20s, I had the opportunity to spend more time with my sister and her children. I found myself not only loving my nieces and nephew, but feeling the strange stirrings of a paternal instinct in myself, as well. I began wondering if relationships were more about giving something rather than getting something, an idea that hadn’t really occurred to me before then. I also grew tired of my carousing ways, almost as if it seemed out of place as I grew older.
Later, after my wife and I were married and we had our first child, I really started to “get it.” And it wasn’t due to the many joys of being married, but rather because of the many sacrifices. Getting up at 3 a.m. to rock your infant daughter back to sleep for an hour — all the while counting every minute you’re losing sleep before work — is not a joyful experience. But in those moments, and in countless others like them, I gradually realized the beauty that lies behind a man and a woman joined together in marriage. It isn’t about spending time or partying together, or even finding your “soul mate.” It isn’t even fundamentally about making each other happy. It is about making each other better people. Every sacrifice is an opportunity to give up a little more of yourself; an opportunity to live a little less for yourself, and a little more for your wife and your children. In short, it is an opportunity to live a life of love, in service to others (c.f. Mt. 20:26-8).
Knowing all that, what a man needs in a wife is very different from what he may have once looked for in a girlfriend. I won’t lie, my wife is a beautiful woman, and I definitely appreciate that fact. But here’s what my checklist might look like today:
- Kindness. The world is an uncertain, stressful, and sometimes painful place to live. A pretty face is not going to ease your mind at the end of the day. But a kind word and a gentle touch can help fix even the worst of days.
- Generosity. Once you have kids – but even before then – the zillion chores, errands, and obligations of married life can be overwhelming. A generous spouse who will pick up the slack when she sees you’re overwhelmed can be a lifesaver.
- Holiness. Last but not least, someone who is seeking holiness is a great blessing, because let’s face it, none of us is perfect. As a husband, I need forgiveness on a regular basis (as in: every single day). But my wife’s own spirit of humility and penance fills our home, too, inspiring me and our children to live holier lives. And that is what the vocation of marriage is all about – helping each other grow closer to God, who is our ultimate joy.
Three years and two children later, it’s these qualities I’ve come to most appreciate in my wife, and to understand their importance in life. I would venture to say that these are the real qualities women might seek in a husband, as well. These are the qualities that will enable married couples to navigate this uncertain life together, and to enter eternal life with the Lord.
Staff Spotlight is — in an ongoing effort to get a range of content on Encourage & Teach — content from staff members within the Diocese of Arlington from contributors who do not write as a part of their day-to-day job.