“I want to find a man that ticks all the right boxes”. You may not have said it in those precise words but you’ve no doubt thought it, whether as a lustful teen or a maturer woman who has attempted to navigate the complex world of dating and relationships. Have you ever actually made a list of the qualities you look for in a guy?
I remember as a teenager having particular ideals of my perfect guy. I had a creative imagination, no doubt assisted by the squeaky clean, boy-band pin ups, hyperactive hormones and naivety of my years. But day-dreams are irrational and often un-realistic ideals. Realistic notions of love and relationships are generally formed through our experiences of others and their conduct, particularly close family members. As children, our perceptions of relationships and how to conduct them are influenced by our family unit, whether it be a married two-parent situation, or as increasingly more common, a single parent situation. Children pick up on how parents communicate and interact, both physically and verbally, and the relationship their parents have can have a lasting influence on their own life choices.
Experts have long studied the sociological impact of parental influence on their offspring, with the predominant studies focusing on how the influence affects socialisation within gender roles. An example of this is the absence of one gender influence, such as a father, in the upbringing of a child. Research conducted by notable psychologist Mary Ainsworth, during the 1960’s and 1970’s outlined the basic concepts of attachment bonds in infancy and childhood, which included the “secure base” ideology.
An attachment bond is defined by Ainsworth as a “proximity bond” meaning physical closeness, something we subconsciously associate in later years with feelings of intimacy and closeness. So when we’re looking for that special guy, what is it that makes us consciously or sub-consciously decide that he is right for us? Well obviously physical attraction is a given, I mean, for most of us, it’s in the top three requirements isn’t it?
Maturer ladies may agree to differ, their preference being on compatibility for companionship, rather than sexual gratification, but for many of us, both go hand-in-hand in the quest for the ideal partner. A study in 2007 conducted by Durham University, focused on the physical attributes women look for in men which were subconsciously influenced by the physical features of their father’s faces.
The measurements of their fathers faces were taken, along with a collective of random men, and the group of 49 women were then asked to rate them in terms of their facial attractiveness. The study found that the correlation between those that the women found attractive, and the similarity in measurements to their father’s faces, proved the theory that fathers play a part in psychological “sexual imprinting” on their daughters brains, influencing their feelings of attraction to potential partners in life.
The study also asked the women to evaluate the positivity of their relationships with their fathers, based on how much time they had spent with them as children, as well as the emotional closeness they shared. These scores showed that women who had experienced positive relationships with their fathers, were attracted to men with similar facial features.
Women who had lesser positive experiences with their fathers, or who were brought up solely by the mother, were found to seek men who were the exact physical opposite to their fathers. As a now proven theory, it could go some way in explaining how we sometimes find ourselves inexplicably, and strongly attracted to someone when we don’t even know them.
Feelings we generally associate with being lustful, could actually be the “psychological, sexual imprinting” our brains use to decide on a man’s level of attractiveness. Sociological influences impact many of our instantaneous decisions when evaluating a possible mate. Many factors arise from the nurture relationships we experience as children, and our interaction throughout early life.
Apart from our fathers, uncles and grandparents, we are also shaped by our relationships with male role models such as teachers, and early friendships with those of the opposite sex. Psychological imprinting is also affected by events, tragedies, occasions and occurrences in our early lives which contribute our emotional development. It evolves our self-esteem, anxiety fears and hopes, and can determine the difference between shyness and being an extrovert.
Interestingly, these experiences also influence the decisions we make regarding our partners. Those with self-esteem or insecurity issues, are more likely to be less particular in their choice of partner, therefore opening themselves up to potentially abusive relationships. Those who are more extroverted with higher levels of self-confidence, are likely to be more picky in their choice of partner.
Our decisions regarding men may well be in part due to sociological impact and nurture, however almost all of us have some idea of the type of man we go for, whether it be one who makes us laugh or one who is career driven. The qualities we look for in a man are often determined by our own life aspirations, whether or not we want a successful, big money career, or whether we are more family orientated.
For those of us keen on settling down, marrying or starting a family, we perhaps seek a man who is fairly established within his line of work and who has begun carving a life out for his future. This could be a man who has the house, the car and the job already, or is working towards these goals.
Career-motivated women may be less likely to look for these traits in a potential partner as they are not yet at a point in their life where they want to conform to the traditional steps of settling down and reproducing, therefore they are less inclined to seek a man with “security” as they are already providing and creating this future themselves. How do you find a man that you respect? And perhaps we should add, one that respects you equally too?
It all depends on your definition of respect, and what traits you find important in a man. This could be his traditional moral values, religious beliefs, work ethic, business acumen or future aspirations. What about his qualities? Honesty, reliability, punctuality (I actually know women who have major issues with male time-keeping), interpersonal skills, sense of humour, intelligence.
The list is endless, and all of us are different in our ideals of the perfect man. It depends on the qualities most important to you as well as your compatibility with possible significant other. You may well think he treats his mother like a queen, but if he doesn’t make you laugh, does that really bode well for a future relationship? He may well be great with kids, but is his own maturity of a level that matches your own?
How to find said ideal man is a challenge in itself, and most of us it will date a number of frogs before we find our prince. By frogs I don’t just mean physically unattractive either. I mean those with ugly personalities too. We’ve all met at least one self centred ego-maniac!
The truth is, the world is as full of hard-working, loyal and faithful men, as it is with unattractive, selfish frogs, and the only way to find the wheat from the chafe is to dive in or try before you buy. As my nan once said, “you can’t judge a book by it’s cover” and the overly used cliche applies to dating as well as friendship!