What do women find attractive in men? What should you be looking for in a partner if you want a long-lasting relationship? Are there any red flags to be watching for in a partner? Are married men miserable or happy? My guest today has spent her career researching these questions. Her name is Dr. Duana Welch and in her book Love Factually she highlights the bona fide research that’s out there about dating and relationships. Whether you’re single or married, you’re definitely going to find some great takeaways from this discussion.
- The biggest myths about love, relationships, and marriage
- The benefits of marriage for men
- What you should be looking for in a partner for a long-lasting, loving relationship and how to avoid a lifetime of headaches
- What the research says women look for in men
- How women’s increasing presence in the workforce is affecting relationships
- Why reconnecting with a past flame might be the best way to forge a long-lasting relationship
- What research says about how to plan the perfect first date
- And much more!
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Brett McKay: Brett McKay here. Welcome to another edition of The Art of Manliness Podcast. I get a lot questions from readers about love and relationships. Like, what should you be looking for in a potential marriage partner if you ensure a long-lasting relationship, how do you approach women, what do women find attractive in men? I’m really excited about today’s guest, because we have a PhD who has studied the science of relationships and all the psychology and research that’s out there about what men find attractive in women, what women find attractive in men, and what science says about what makes a lasting relationship work. Her name is Duana Welch, and she just came out with a new book called “Love Factually: 10 Proven Steps from I Wish to I Do.”
Today, in our conversation, Duana and I discuss what the research says about what are the most important attributes in a potential partner for a long-lasting, loving relationship. We discuss what women find attractive in men, and what you can do, as a man, to be a little more attractive to women. We talk about the science of dating, what you can do to plan a first date that really swoops your gal off her feet, and what you can do, before you’re married, to ensure that you have a long and lasting relationship. Really fascinating discussion. I think you’re going to find this really interesting. Let’s do this.
Duana Welch, welcome to the show!
Duana Welch: Thank you so much, Brett! It’s so nice to be here.
Brett McKay: Can you tell us a little about your background, and how your book, “Love Factually,” came to be?
Duana Welch: Sure. I’m, basically, a lifelong nerd. I went to school continually from the age of 5 to the age of 29, and then I became a professor. All my degrees are in psychology. I have a PhD in Developmental Psych. Somewhere during my graduate school years, I realized that my love life was just this complete train wreck. I was doing really well professionally, and I was doing really terribly romantically. Having a good love life, having a special person in my life, was really important to me. I really connected with how much I wanted that, and it wasn’t happening the way that I needed it to happen.
It just occurred to me one day that maybe some other nerds out there had actually made that their focus of study: how to find and keep good relationships. I started looking into that, and, in fact, a lot of people had done that research! I started learning how to apply it to my own life. That’s really where “Love Factually’s” idea came from, was, “Hey, I used this for myself, I used this for my clients, and now I want it to be available for everyone.”
Brett McKay: It’s interesting that you can research, scientifically, relationships and love. We have this popular idea that it’s sort of this ethereal, magical thing. How do they research what makes for a good relationship, what men find attractive in women, and what women find attractive in men? How do you quantify that?
Duana Welch: You’re right, Brett. When you’re in love, it feels ethereal and magical, and it is, but humans, person to person, have more in common than we have different.
That means that science can uncover some of those similarities. Scientists have a lot of ways that they do that. They can use surveys, they can use questionnaires, they can actually do experiments where, let’s say, they post a particular dating profile, and they see who responds to Profile A versus Profile B. From something like that, they can see: what do people prefer? Do men and women have different preferences? Are there things that men and women, everywhere in the world, hold to be valuable, regardless of culture? Using a variety of methods, actually, scientists can study stuff like this. Sometimes, they even study the same couples for 30 or even 40 years, to see what makes happy marriages work.
Brett McKay: You start off your book talking about some of the myths, the popular myths, about love and relationships. What are the big ones, and how do those keep people away from finding a healthy, fulfilling relationship?
Duana Welch: There are really 4 big relationship myths, and they’re holding a lot of us back … I know they were holding me back … largely because many of us don’t even realize we’re carrying these myths around with us. An unexamined myth has that much more power to influence us.
One of the biggest myths that we carry around, or a lot of us do, is this idea that love is really only for the lucky and the few, and that actually marriage is a crap-shoot. Maybe it’ll happen to you and you’ll be happy, maybe it won’t. Maybe you’ll get married and you’ll feel miserable. And it’s just completely random. This idea of random happiness is false. Scientifically speaking, it’s really reliable and predictable who’s going to be happy. Unfortunately, because people believe that happiness is something that might be given to them and might not, a lot of people are hedging toward remaining single. Unfortunately, the data just doesn’t support that, if you want real happiness, that that’s the way to go.
For example, Brett, do you, just off the top of your head, know what the divorce rate is, right now?
Brett McKay: Well, you hear 50%, but I hear different things for different socio-economic groups- that it’s lower for college-educated, but higher for people who don’t have a college education.
Duana Welch:Yeah, so that trend is correct, but the 50/50 number is actually an artifact of the 1970s, when divorce was at its peak. Studies right now are indicating that people who married in the 1990s and early 2000s … it looks like about 2/3 of those couples are headed for a lifetime together. It’s also looking like the majority of married people are very happy. In fact, married people are more than twice as likely to be happy than people who are living any other way. By other way, I mean any other way! If they’re widowed, or if they’re divorced, or if they’re single, or if they’re cohabiting.
Marriage is actually a pretty good deal, and it’s a pretty good deal in a lot of ways. Married people tend to wind up wealthier, even if they started off poorer, because of the way that marriage encourages people to organize their economic lives. Because of all the money you don’t spend on repeated break-ups … break-ups are expensive! Have you noticed that? I’ve noticed that.
Brett McKay: Yeah.
Duana Welch: That’s one of the myths. That marriage is not going to work out, anyway, so why really try? Of course, when we believe that something’s not going to work out, how hard do we try?
A second major myth is that you really don’t have to look for love. It just finds you. A variation of this is: don’t look for love, or you’ll never find it. Again, science just doesn’t go along with that. That holds true when you’re in that age group that’s meeting single, available people all the time. If you’re in college, or if you’re in high school, or if you’re working someplace where everyone just happens to be single… then finding someone without intentionally looking really could happen, but a lot of us don’t find the right person when we’re in those environments.
Then, there we are, in an environment that’s not rife with the single and available, and we’re wondering, “Why isn’t it happening for me?” For a lot of us, the reason it’s not happening is: we really aren’t looking. It takes concentrated effort at that point. That would be a second myth.
Brett McKay: Interesting. Let’s talk about that. If you’re looking for a partner, what traits should you be looking for in a potential partner that will hedge your bets on having a fulfilling, long-lasting relationship?
Duana Welch: This kind of ties into another big myth of finding and keeping love, which is that “love is all you need.” In fact, isn’t there a movie right now called “Love is All You Need”? I think so.
Brett McKay: I think so, probably.
Duana Welch: Yeah! Of course, The Beatles made a fortune off a song about that. I don’t want to offend anybody who’s a big Beatles fan, I love them too, but they were wrong about this. Love is not all you need. You also need at least 3 other core things. You need kindness, you need respect, and you need similarity.
If you just have love and you don’t have kindness, respect, and similarity, that’s where you see a pretty high divorce rate. If you’re with somebody who … you’re in love with them, but when things aren’t going their way, they treat you badly … that’s going to kill your love. Over years, your love is going to end. If you’re with someone who, when things aren’t their way, they can still control themselves and be kind and respectful toward you and toward other people, that really is kind of a big … I don’t want to say red flag, because that sounds like a bad thing … but it’s a huge sign that you have found someone really worthy. Especially if that person is really similar to you. It’s very important to look for someone who is almost just like you.
There was a study where John and Julie Schwartz Gottman, two of the most famous long-term marriage researchers in the world, created a list based on their studies of what couples fight about. There was one word that started every single item on the list of things people fight about, and that word was: differences.
Brett McKay: There’s a myth out there, or maybe you know the myth that “opposites attract.” Right?
Duana Welch: Yeah! Yeah, and there’s actually a lot of research on that particular myth. It’s one of the best-researched of all of them. It’s been researched not just in the United States, but multi-nationally and multi-culturally, and the answer is: if opposites attract, scientists can’t find it. When people fight, they fight over their differences. I do think people have a reason for believing that myth exists. After you marry somebody, you start noticing the differences you do have, because, even if you pick somebody really similar to yourself, you don’t pick your clone, right?
Brett McKay: Right.
Duana Welch: Whoever you pick, there are going to be some distinctions. It’s going to be those distinctions that, if you’re going to have a lot of fights, those are going to be things you’re going to argue about. Some people get so focused on their distinctions that their relationship kind of becomes about that, and they say, “I married my opposite.”
Brett McKay: Interesting. It might be too that, I guess someone who is sort of opposite to you, sort of attractive because it’s novel, it’s different, at the beginning, but then later on, maybe those differences start to grate on you.
Duana Welch: That’s the idea. Absolutely, Brett. Helen Fisher, who is a biological anthropologist, collected this enormous data set of 4 different personality types: builders, negotiators, explorers, and directors. She found that explorers like other explorers, and builders like other builders, but then when she exposed people to online dating profiles and said, “Who would you like to meet?” The negotiators wanted to meet the directors, and the directors wanted to meet the negotiators. In other words, that was the one case where science ever found these opposites attract.
A couple of years ago, I got to interview Dr. Fisher, and ask her about those data. I said, “Yeah, Dr. Fisher, I noticed, in your writing, that you talk a lot about this. I’m wondering, how did those relationships work out, because a lot of other studies indicate that people are fighting about their differences, but you’ve really found this one specific area where people are attracted to their opposite.”
She said, “All I know is that there’s an initial attraction. I don’t know how it works out.”
Brett McKay: What does the research say about what women look for in a man? Most of our listeners are heterosexual males. What is it that women are looking for in them as a potential partner, and is there anything they can do to make themselves more attractive?
Duana Welch: I’m so happy you asked that question, because we women are not as complex as we seem. Truly. Scientifically speaking, most people are more alike than different. Most men are more alike than different, actually, and there are 4 things that, pretty much, people of goodwill multi-nationally, multi-culturally, and in at least 37 different societies on every continent except for Antarctica value. The only reason they didn’t study Antarctica was there weren’t many people and they didn’t want to survey penguins.
Here are the 4 qualities that really, really matter a lot. The first one is kindness, which I’ve already talked about a little bit, and that comprehends respect into it. You want to be someone who speaks well of others, and when you can’t speak well of them, you’ve refrained from being harsh. You want to nurture that within yourself, because women are definitely looking at that. There are some women who won’t insist on it, but you have to ask yourself, do you want someone who’s okay with mean-spiritedness? That’s not a good sign.
Kindness is the first thing. Lovingness is another. Loyalty is another. Loyalty doesn’t just mean sexual fidelity. It also means this person kind of has my back. If I come home and tell my husband about a bad day at work, loyalty would mean that he says, “That bastard! How dare he say that to you!” Instead of, “Well, what did you do wrong at work?” He’s on my side. That’s loyalty.
The fourth thing is intelligence. That doesn’t mean that women want an Einstein. It does mean that they’re looking for someone who approximately matches their own intellect. Be who you are, and realize that the myth that jerks are the ones that women want is that: it’s a myth. Women, multi-nationally, do not want jerks. Do jerks sometimes get short-term sexual action? Yes, but the question you asked me, Brett, was about long-term, loving action. That really is a “character counts” kind of thing.
Those are the big four, and you can summarize those as: kill ’em with kindness. Kindness, intelligence, lovingness, and loyalty.
Brett McKay: What about … there’s a lot of … in the pick up artist community that women look for high resources; hypergamy, I guess is what it’s called. When men who have lots of money … that’s what they’re looking for. Is there any truth to that?
Duana Welch:Well, yeah. What I just told you is the list of what men and women alike want. There’s a much shorter list that’s also heavily validated, globally, of what women want that men don’t want, and what men want that women don’t want. The two things that women are looking for … actually, it’s kind of 4 things.
When women are looking for a long-term mate, they’re looking for a man who is all of the following: he’s willing and he’s able to provide and protect; willing, able, provision, and protection. The pick up artist community tends to focus, often rather angrily, on women being gold-diggers. I’d like to counter that with: men also have their own biologically-driven program. This is a biologically-driven program that women are operating off. It’s kind of their operating system. Men also have an operating system, and their operating system focuses on fertility and fidelity. Women who can’t match those standards pay a very high price, just like men pay a very high price if they can’t offer willing and able resources.
I often hear the sexes getting very angry at each other, but I want to ask just as I ask women who say, “It’s so shallow that men are just about T&A”, I say, “Would you date a man who was much poorer than you are?” They admit that, no, they wouldn’t.
I would say to the men listening to this: if you’re upset that women are interested in resources, are you willing to date a woman who is 20 years older than you, and not very good looking? The answer is usually “no.”
These seem like totally shallow concerns, but, if you look at where we inhereted these concerns from, you see that there’s actually a deep psychology to them, even though we might not like them.
Brett McKay: That’s the evolutionary psychology, correct?
Duana Welch: Yes. Men had to face problems in the ancient past that women didn’t have to face. For example, if a woman had sex with 100 guys and she got pregnant, she knows whose baby it is: its hers. It’s a genetic slam-dunk. She doesn’t have to worry that her genes are not going to be cast forward. When a woman gets pregnant, at some level, most men wonder, “Is it really mine?” That’s an ancestral concern that comes from a time when men could never have known for sure. Now, men can know for sure, but our psychology comes from an ancient time. Men really care about signs of fidelity from women.
Women, on the other hand … Now, we live where there are grocery stores around the corner, and hospitals down the road, but women’s mating psychology doesn’t from now. It comes from a time when pregnancy itself could kill you. Childbirth could kill you. The process of trying to raise a young child without a provider and protector could kill you. It was a very dangerous act for a woman to become sexually intimate with a man who either couldn’t or wouldn’t provide and protect.
One of the ways that we see this, Brett, is women really like tall guys. I’m a college professor, and every semester I ask men and women in my classes to please write down a list of everything they consider absolutely essential in a partner that they would get married to. 8/10 women say they want a man who is 6′ or taller. Do you know what the average height for men is, in America?
Brett McKay: Like, 5’9”, or something like that?
Duana Welch: Yeah! I tell women, “Knock it off with the height snobbery! Stop it, because you’re cutting out a huge slice of the population, and you’re doing it for a reason that made sense to your ancestors.” In ancestral times, Brett, a woman could be raped at any time by anyone, unless she had a guy who could attack her attackers. Having a big man really made a difference, back then. A big guy probably could hunt more game. In ancient past, that preference for the tallest man made sense. Now, it really doesn’t. A 5’5” computer programmer can bring home the bacon just fine!
I’ve really talked to women about that, and I know it hurts men’s feelings that women are … except for the 6-footers, it doesn’t hurt their feelings … it hurts guys’ feelings that women are height-focused.
Women are also focused, though … If you have time, I’m just going to tell you. It kind of illustrates it. I teach 3 classes- I told all my students this story, yesterday. I’m going to tell you this story, and then ask for your reaction, and then I’ll tell you theirs.
I had a client, years ago, who was dating this man who was very wealthy. He was actually from a family that was very famous, although he himself wasn’t famous. This client of mine had 2 children. I call the client “Diane” in the book. Diane had 2 children, and she felt that this man was going to propose to her. She loved him. She wanted to say yes, but she had some hesitation.
I said, “You really need to listen to that hesitation, because that’s the right side of your brain that does all your unconscious processing. One of its jobs is to protect you. Unfortunately, because the right side of your brain is non-conscious, it doesn’t have language. It can’t tell you why it wants to protect you, it just gives you an emotional sense, which we call intuition.” I said, “You need to listen to that intuition. If he does propose, you need to ask him some questions, rather than simply giving him an answer.”
He proposed pretty soon after that, and she said something along the lines of, “I love you, and I really want to say yes, but before I do, I really want to make sure that I’m making the right choice. Not just for me, but for you, and for my children. Could you tell me, in your ideal world, what being married to me looks like?”
He described it. In his view, she would move from the city she was living in to the city he was living in, where she didn’t have a job, and she would find a job, and she would never own any portion of the house that they shared, she’d move into his house, and she would be responsible for making sure she paid for her children’s health insurance. This is a guy who’s worth multi-millions of dollars, who had group insurance. He just didn’t feel like doing it. He also made it clear that, of course, she would be the one to earn and pay for half the bills and all of her children’s education.
Now, I ask you, in your opinion, Brett, was that a good deal for her? Should she have said yes to this guy?
Brett McKay: I mean, probably not. It sounds like it was more of a business arrangement than a relationship.
Duana Welch: Yeah. Yesterday, I told this story to all my students, and 100% of them said that they were strongly in favor of her saying no. I said, well, that’s what she said. The guy, believing himself to be a great catch, because he knew that women value resources, told her she was making a mistake, and she would always regret this. In fact, what she did was she found a man who was worth probably about, financially, 1/20 of this guy’s worth, but, when he proposed, he made it clear that he was all-in.
This is the thing: when women value resources, they really don’t value the resources nearly as much as they value the willingness to provide those resources. I don’t know if you ever ride a bus, but I bet you that bus driver is married.
Brett McKay: That raises an interesting question. There’s been a lot of talk in the past few years about some of the cultural, or social, or socio-economic changes in the workplace, where, in a lot of cases, women are doing better than men, actually becoming the breadwinners. I’m curious, how does that play out in relationships where women and men have these sort of biological drives, where women are looking for men with resources, but where it’s uneven, where the women are actually doing better than men. How does that play out in relationships? Is it affecting relationships?
Duana Welch: That is a fantastic question. I’m going to start by telling you a little bit of research. These scientists asked men to rate their own ambition level. The experiment was: half the men were unconsciously primed with an image of a young, beautiful woman right before being given the questionnaire. The other half of the men were not primed with any particular image. Interestingly, the men who expressed the highest level of ambition were the ones who had just been primed with vision of youth and beauty.
We shape each other’s evolution. Women have shaped men to want to provide and protect. In fact, from a female point of view, a man who does not want to do these things is not much use as a man. I can’t be more blunt than that. Just as, from a man’s viewpoint, they’re very unlikely to go for a woman they consider really physically unattractive. Yes, this is affecting relationships.
When women … and I say this as a feminist. I believe that women should have every opportunity that men have. Not at men’s expense. I’m not a person who believes women are better than men, but really that there should be equality and opportunity.
What we’re seeing is, most of the college degrees right now are being earned by women. Although there is still a glass ceiling and few women rise much higher than a well-paid employee at a company … there aren’t very many Sheryl Sandbergs in the world, let’s face it … Most of the big leaders, whether we’re talking politically, or CEOs, or very high leadership positions, almost all of those are still filled by men.
But when you look kind of at the level that most people live on, yes, increasingly, women are stepping into those kind of middle-class positions, and a lot of men are, for various reasons that sociologists are analyzing right now, they’re not stepping up. It’s, again, for a lot of reasons, but, yes, it’s affecting relationships. Men feel deeply insecure. They feel insecure about that because they know that women expect provision and protection. They know that, if they’ve got a woman who’s youthful and beautiful, other men are going to be attracted to her, right?
Brett McKay: Yeah.
Duana Welch: If there’s another guy who can provide and protect better than he can, and she’s really beautiful, he’s got, actually, a realistic concern. People who say, “Oh, that shouldn’t matter!” Maybe it shouldn’t, but it does.
It’s kind of like … I got a letter from a woman who said that this man, who was much younger, had asked her out. She realized that she looked pretty good for her age, but that, in another 10 years, there’s no way they would look like they belong together. Whereas older men and younger women frequently pair up for a lifetime. The reverse does not often happen. She was worried, “when I get older, and I’m not as attractive anymore, but he is very successful, he can find someone younger.” In other words, both sexes have a corollary of this dilemma.
So, yes, it does affect relationships. When one party feels perpetually insecure, it’s not going to bode well for the relationship, is it?
Brett McKay: No.
Duana Welch: I’ve also heard people say, “Well, that’s the man’s problem. He has an insecurity, and there’s nothing rooted in reality there.” That’s not true! The fact is, studies in evolutionary psych actually looked at women’s income level, and their stated and expressed income level that they would like their partner to have. At every income level, women wanted a partner who had more resources than she herself had. That was true, even regardless of a woman’s sexual orientation. Lesbian women want a partner with more resources than they had. Straight women want a partner with more resources than they had. It’s like men with youth and beauty. If you want to find the 2 groups that are worried about losing their looks, look at gay men and straight women. Why? Because men want that! They want youth and beauty.
Brett McKay: It seems like there could be … if things keep going the way they are, there could be some big social problems, where there’s lots of women available, but men who are falling behind; they’re just not marriage material.
Duana Welch: It’s really fascinating to me that you’re bringing this up, Brett, because this past Wednesday, I sent out 50 of my books to celebrities in Hollywood. Most of them were women. Not because my book is for women, my book is for both, but because most of the celebrities that are single are women. Let’s ask ourselves why. When those guys become super famous, they have their pick, don’t they?
Brett McKay: Sure.
Duana Welch: When women become super famous, do they have their pick?
Brett McKay: No. They just have the guys who have made it, right?
Duana Welch: Yes. And the guys who’ve made it don’t have to restrict themselves just to the A-list, do they?
Brett McKay: No.
Duana Welch: Actually, women lose power when they gain power. Some social scientists, definitely my estimation … one reason why a lot of women hold themselves back … there was even one guy who wrote a book, I’m not going to name the book, because I don’t like it. I don’t think it’s well done. He actually advises women never to get a PhD. Of course, I didn’t like that book, because I have a PhD. But yes, as women gain, there are and there will be social problems, because having a partner who feels perpetually insecure, as with a man whose female partner has a lot more resources, and having a partner who maybe is perpetually dissatisfied, like some of these women with their lower resource-welding mate … That’s not an emotionally comfortable place for the long term.
I don’t have a conclusion.
I don’t have a solution, here. I think we really need to work on how we’re raising boys right now, and give them more self-esteem. I really think that there are still perks for being a man and being a boy, but I also think that the way we’re raising boys right now does not make boys feel very good about being boys. They need to feel great about being boys, just like girls need to feel great about being girls. I do think that we’re creating problems for long-term couplehood. I do.
Brett McKay: Interesting. Let’s go onto this: you talk about the best place to meet a potential partner. Where is the best place? Everyone has their idea. A lot of people that are looking for a mate are going out to the bars, or the clubs … Are those the best place to find a potential long-term partner?
Duana Welch: That’s really interesting. There was a huge study done on this topic very recently. The Harris Survey looked at everyone who got married … well, it wasn’t everyone, they had a sample … but it was randomly sampled so it was a good, scientifically well-done survey. They look at marriage patterns over the period from, I believe it was, 2000-2008. What they’re looking at is: who married whom, and where did they meet, and how happy are they today.
What they found was that, yeah, some people do meet in bars, but 1/3 of people in that period of time got married to someone they met online. That really shocked me. What’s really funny about it, Brett, is I’m married to someone that I met online! It was funny, because I’m living the data, but I’m still surprised by them.
It turned out that 1/3 of the people in that time period had married someone they met online. What was really interesting was, the people who met and married someone they had met online were slightly happier than people who had met any other way.
Brett McKay: Interesting.
Duana Welch: That really shocked me, because I would’ve thought a lot of people online are lying and falsely presenting themselves. I don’t know. I had a lot of stereotypes about it. One reason I appreciate the science so much is … I’m just wrong, a whole lot of the time, and the science tells me where I’m wrong, and that’s one of the areas where I was wrong. People actually really are doing well when they find a mate online. Yeah, there are better ways than bars.
Another really good way is, I bet some of your listeners have kind of the “one that got away;” the girl they could never forget. It turns out that research indicates that might be someone you should go back to, and see if it could work out.
There’s a profile for lost lovers who find each other again and get married. If people match that profile, I just want you to take a guess at the divorce rate for the people who reunite with an old flame that fit this profile, and then they get married. What do you think that divorce rate is?
Brett McKay: I’ll say, 75%.
Duana Welch: Are you ready?
Brett McKay: I’m ready.
Duana Welch: 2.
Brett McKay: 2%, wow.
Duana Welch: 2%.
Brett McKay: That’s crazy.
Duana Welch: The same married for life rate for those people is 98%. They are very happy together. In fact, I really encourage people, if they fit this profile, and that’s a big if, If they fit this profile, to go back and find that one that they cannot stop thinking about, and see if it’s going to work out.
The nutshell version of this profile … and this is research done by a scientist named Nancy Kalish … these are people who usually met when they were very young, the relationship may or may not have even been sexual- they might’ve met in the 6th or 7th grade- they probably were told that it was puppy love, that it wasn’t real … You know what’s interesting, kids fall in love and it’s real love. For some of them, it truly is. The relationship may never have been sexual, or it might have been, depending on when they met. The reason for their separation usually was that their parents tore them apart, either by being, frankly, quite mean and overprotective and just ripping them apart forcefully, or by moving them. Military move was a common reason.
Usually, they’ve been separated at least 10 years when one or the other of them decided to reconnect. Here’s who’s not a good idea to get back in touch with: guys, if this woman that you’ve been thinking about, if the reason you broke up was she was mean to you, she’s unkind, she was disrespectful, you had serious personality differences … don’t even bother calling or texting or writing, or whatever. That’s a no. People don’t change that much. If the reason for your separation was something that had nothing to do with your chemistry and your attachment to this person, that is a really, really good place to start looking.
Brett McKay: Okay. So you use that Facebook profile!
Duana Welch: Yeah!
Brett McKay: Right.
Duana Welch: Yeah. In fact, Dr. Kalish let me interview her, too. She was telling me that Facebook has created a lot of problems, actually, because people who are already married who kind of keep thinking about their 8th grade sweetheart that they never forgot about, they’ll get back in touch with that person, thinking, “Oh, it was just puppy love! It’s not really going to make a difference.” Something like 6/10 of those folks wind up abandoning their mate that they’re happily married to, and abandoning their children, and taking up with someone they knew in the 8th grade.
Brett McKay: So I guess another qualification would be: if you’re married, don’t do this.
Duana Welch: Yes. If you’re married, stay far, far away. Unless you just like your life to implode.
Brett McKay: Some people like that.
Let’s move on to the date. Is there any research on what makes for a good date? I know guys … it’s sort of, even in our progressive culture where men and women are seen as equals, it’s sort of expected on a guy to sort of be the initiator. What should guys be doing or planning to really knock it out of the park on that first date?
Duana Welch: Another great question. If we go back to women’s inherited desires, just like men have an inherited desire for youth and beauty … men can’t pass on their genes without youth and beauty in a partner, because that indicates fertility … Women have this inherited desire for willing and able provision. A man who really wants to impress a woman is going to play into that desire. He is going to do everything he can to show, “Hey! I’m not only able, but, much more importantly, I’m willing.”
As I started to say earlier, the bus driver probably has a wife. It’s not really important how able you are to provide. It’s very important that you’re willing. What this translates to is: men, the first thing you need to do is be as generous as you can be. Do not hold back. That doesn’t mean that you have to sweep her off her feet at expensive restaurants. It means that you pursue her. Guys, if you’re waiting for her to take the initiative, how willing can you be, if you’re not even asking her out? She’s looking for willing much more than she’s looking for able.
You have to show willing by doing the pursuing. You should be the one calling, you should be the one texting, you should be the one writing letters, you should be the one sending cards, sending flowers, opening the doors, and picking the restaurant, and paying. The reason for that is not because your great-grandfather told you so. It’s because you’re wanting to impress this woman.
If you just want a bootycall, just treat ’em any old way and see if it works, but if you want to impress this woman, then you need to tap into her inherited psychology, which says, “The man who loves me is the man who puts effort into this, and risks himself, and sticks his neck out, and takes the chance that I could reject him.”
You’re going to take a lead, and you’re going to be generous. By generous, I mean: whatever you ask this woman to do, you’re going to plan it, and you’re going to pay for it. That’s generous; it’s an open spirit. It doesn’t mean you always pick the 5-star restaurant. It doesn’t mean that you ever pick the 5-star restaurant, actually. If you’re a student, for example, and what you can afford is a picnic at a park, you ask her to go on a picnic to the park, and you plan the picnic, and you bring everything, and she will be wowed. Unless she really is a gold-digger, she’s going to love you for that.
Brett McKay: When I dated my wife, when I was in college, I took her to a football game. She thought that was really fun. I took her to Chili’s, of all places, but she appreciated that I initiated and offered that, and paid. It worked out. We’re married now. Been married for almost ten years, now.
Duana Welch: Well, congratulations!
Brett McKay: Thank you.
Duana Welch:Yeah, Brett. That’s exactly what I’m talking about, right there. For you, that date probably actually wasn’t all that easy for you to provide. She probably knew that, and she respected and admired you for doing what you did. Good-hearted women view you that way. They view you as, “Wow, given what you have, look what you’ve done for me. You made this plan for me.”
I did a survey at my website where I asked men and women alike to describe, anonymously, their best date and their worst date. I wasn’t asking for the date rape stories, I was asking for a normal date where things had gone well, and where things had not gone well. Women … it was very clear, there were 2 huge things that just meant, “Dude, we just don’t like you anymore.”
The top thing that women hated was a cheap man. A man who got them where they were going, and expected her to pay half, or all, the bill. That was true, regardless of the women’s income level. What women hear, at an implicit level, meaning they’re not necessarily consciously aware of this, but they recoil emotionally, because the message is, “I either can’t provide” or, much worse, “I could do it, you’re just not worth it to me.” Usually, when men don’t provide, it’s the latter; it’s “I could do it, you’re just not worth it to me.” That’s the opposite of the message that women need to hear in order to fall in love with you. That’s part of the deal.
The other thing that women really wrote about, the top complaint, was lack of generosity, or: presence of stinginess. What women wrote about when they were really remembering the best date of their lives … I mean, you could practically hear these women swooning over pixels … They wrote about the guy who planned something that was really thoughtful. Women are really into thoughtful, because thoughtful indicates willingness. A thoughtful man is paying attention to what a particular woman likes, and he’s endeavoring to give her something very specific.
One woman, the guy told her, “I’m going to surprise you.” I guess he had told her what she should be wearing, but he didn’t tell her anything else about the date. Just the hours and what she should be wearing. If I’m remembering this correctly, they hadn’t been out very many times. Most of the people wrote about a date that was early in a relationship that made or broke it. She had on her biking clothes. He took her on a bike ride through really beautiful country, and she valued that. He knew that she valued spending time in really beautiful country. Then he took her to some kind of a ride-your-bike-up-and-order-at-the-window kind of restaurant, which couldn’t have cost very much, but it was her favorite kind of food. She was wowed. It wasn’t an expense thing.
It was a thoughtfulness thing. It showed his generosity, and it showed his willingness to do for her. He was basically saying, without using the words, “I am into you! I’m thinking about what you like.” That does it for us.
Brett McKay: So it’s thoughtfulness.
Duana Welch: Thoughtfulness is huge. Generosity and thoughtfulness.
Brett McKay: You talk about this a little in your book; what can men do, and women, do before marriage, to ensure that they have a long and happy relationship?
Duana Welch: Well, it’s been said that there are 2 necessities if you want to be happily married: You’ve got to pick the right partner, and then you have to be the right partner. Picking the right partner means that you’re going to pick somebody kind, respectful, and highly similar to you. This implies that you know what kindness and respect look like. I actually go into detail in my book about what kindness and respect are, and what they aren’t. There are some people who really don’t know what that’s like.
Think about how most people are raised. A lot of people really haven’t had very good role models for those qualities. You learn to recognize those qualities and you learn to only continue dating people who continue to exhibit those qualities. You also commit to something that very few men, and actually not so many women, are actually willing to do, but it’s really important to do this: make a list of everything you want in a life mate. This list is going to do 3 really important things for you.
It’s interesting, I ran into somebody the other day who had read my book, and she said that she had heard the list idea before. She had never done it, because she thought she had the list in her head, she didn’t really need a list, it’s so dorky to have a list … She said that, after she read my book and I made the case for this list, that she actually wrote it down and she said, “Oh, my gosh! It was so different to write it, than to think that I just knew it.”
The list does 3 really important things for you. The first important thing is, it makes it more likely that you will notice Mr. or Mrs. Right. Guys, you’re looking for Mrs. Right. She might actually be right in front of you, and you haven’t noticed her, because you didn’t really realize what you’re looking for.
I drive a Mini Cooper. I’ve driven the same car for 10 years. I love my car. I hope it never dies. The thing is, I remember when I first got that car, I started noticing Mini Coopers everywhere! It was like the planet was just covered with them. Did buying the car make Mini Coopers appear, or did buying the car make me notice what was in front of me?
Brett McKay: Just noticing.
Duana Welch: Yeah. It was Choice B. The list does that. It makes you notice who’s in front of you. That’s one of the things the list does for you. The other thing is, it makes you do first things first. Right now, we have a culture. Our dating culture largely operates like this: people meet, they’re attracted, they engage in some level of sexual involvement, they start getting to know each other, and only as the relationship has gotten fairly serious, do they figure out whether or not they’re compatible.
The list lets you do first things first. Getting sexually involved first and then hoping it works out … that’s backwards. That’s based on thinking that love is enough, but it’s not! Doing first things first would be, “I know what’s on my list, I know what my deal-breakers are, and if I see any deal-breakers, I stop dating that person. I determine who gets into my life, and that means, when I fall in love, it’s with someone where it will work out. This is someone who is kind, respectful, and highly similar to me.” It really just cuts a lot of the heartache right out of the equation.
The thing thing that the list does is that it helps you stick to your standards. Not just to identify them, but to stick to them. My best friend, whose complete story is in the book … she did end up very happily married, but she broke up with this guy who … the relationship ended because he was devoutly Catholic, and she was a devout atheist. I use the word “devout” because, really, it takes faith to make you the decision. In my opinion, anyway. They broke up over that.
Here’s the thing, Brett. They knew, the day they met, that she was an atheist and he was a Catholic. They knew that that was a deal-breaker, but they did what people right now are doing, which is, they said, “But! She’s so beautiful!” “But! I’m really attracted to him!” They got deeply emotionally involved. When they broke up, 4 years later, over something they knew the day they met, it was heartbreaking.
Brett McKay: Yeah.
Duana Welch: That’s really what people need to look for. They need to look for that kind, respectful partner who’s similar to them, and who they additionally fall in love with.
Brett McKay: The list sort of helps you use your head; bring in the rationality before. Sort of like a fire-guard against the emotions getting the best of you.
Duana Welch: Yes. Falling in love is a very emotional thing. It’s funny, Brett, it occurs to me as we’re talking: probably most of your listeners, like most people in the world, think that women are more emotional than men. It’s interesting; research across a large number of domains in relationships indicates that men are actually far more emotional than women are, and that men are less logical in love than women are. They’re just more purely emotionally-driven.
Actually, in some ways, I think that the list is much more important for men to have than for women to have. Men tend to fall in love in this very implicit kind of core, gut level, without really examining anything else. I certainly have known some men who fell in love that way, and just lived a train wreck of a marriage for years, that made them miserable, because they weren’t a little bit more calculated about it.
Brett McKay: Interesting. Yeah, I’ve read studies like that too, where men are usually the first to say, “I love you” in a relationship.
Duana Welch: Yes, and they’re much more likely to fall in love at first sight.
Brett McKay: Yeah.
Duana Welch: It’s funny, I didn’t realize that falling in love at first sight was a thing, because it never happened to me. Then I had someone ask me a question on my blog, so I did what I do: I looked up science. Yeah! It exists, and these guys- it’s mostly guys who fall in love first- and when you think about, again, inherited mating psychology, evolutionary psych, in a way, it makes sense. Women value willing provision. Do you know what the top sign is that a man’s willing?
Brett McKay: What is the top sign? I don’t know.
Duana Welch: If he’s in love with you.
Brett McKay: Okay. There you go.
Duana Welch: Women have basically selected men to be less logical and more purely emotional about this, and to fall in love really quickly, and really hard. Sometimes, that works. What works a lot more of the time is: know what your standards are, and do not go there until you’re sure a person is meeting your core standards.
Brett McKay: Very fascinating. Duana, where can people find out more about your book and your work?
Duana Welch: You can find out more about me and my work at LoveFactually, that’s with an F, LoveFactually.co and my blog is called LoveScience. If you go to LoveFactually.co, you’ll see where you can get a free chapter of the book, and you’ll see where you can buy the book. For those who just are like, “I just want to see what people are saying about the book,” you can get a free sample of the book also at Amazon.com. The book’s available on audio, it’s available on e-book, and it’s available in paperback, at iTunes, at Audible, at Amazon. You can see reader reviews and also professional reviews of the book.
Brett McKay: All right. Well, Duana Welch, thank you so much for your time. This has been a fascinating discussion.
Duana Welch: Thank you! I really enjoyed it. I hope your listeners do too. It was delightful. Thank you so much.
Brett McKay: Our guest today was Duana Welch. She is the author of the book “Love Factually,” and you can find out more information about her book at LoveFactually.co and it’s also available for purchase at Amazon.com as well as iTunes and iBooks and bookstores everywhere.
Well, that wraps up another edition of The Art of Manliness podcast. For more manly tips and advice, make sure to check out The Art of Manliness website at ArtofManliness.com. I’d really appreciate it, if you got something out of this podcast, to go and give us a review on iTunes, on Stitcher, or whatever it is you use to listen to the podcast. Really appreciate it if you’d recommend it to a friend.
Until next time, this is Brett McKay, telling you to stay manly.
Last updated: November 16, 2017