Sanderson-Begley Wedding

What Women Want… in a Real Man

I’m still thinking about men (and no, it’s not just because I’m female and that’s an enjoyable pasttime, shuddup, you). Particularly, what you can tell about a man from what he’s got in his pocketses. The First Reader and I were chatting about this lovely article on pocket knives a friend of ours shared on social media – you should definitely take the time to read it, it’s an homage to knives, fathers, and wholesome manhood. He suggested I write about what makes a man attractive to women. I may have waggled a suggestive eyebrow at him. He shook his head and laughed, “No, really, what can a man do to make a woman think he’s worth getting to know?”

“I am a happily married woman, and the only man for me is you.” I told him. The funny thing is, we first started to get to know each other through online interactions, so it wasn’t for years that I knew he was never without his trusty Case knife, or a handkerchief for drying crying eyes and clearing snotty noses, or a pen which I have borrowed time after time, or… It wasn’t what he had on him that attracted my attention to him at first. I knew what he meant, though. It’s the ability to be prepared, and when some small crisis arises, be it a box that needs opening, or a broken down car, or… any of a million petty little things he might not think twice about. It’s not just being handy, although most girls appreciate a man who knows what to do with his hands. It’s that he’s calm under pressure. It’s not that he has a knife, it’s that he took the time to make sure it was on him. He’s always got it. He’s steady, trustworthy, and responsible. That knife wearing a hole in his pockets, the blade incrementally thinner each time he sharpens it, the look of it worn from years of use… that’s what you see. It’s not the tool. It’s the man who cares about the tool. He treasures what he values, and he treats it with respect. No, no, his woman isn’t the same as his knife. But it’s the little things that say much about a man’s character.

Small children and animals, the saying goes. If you watch him and he doesn’t know you are, how does he treat the most vulnerable? Doe he take a few seconds out of his day to make the cashier smile while he’s getting through the line at the store? When he’s driving, is he growling and grumbling and cursing… ok, sometimes that’s what traffic is like. But there are excesses. And that’s what you are looking for. The extremes. The pushiness, the love bombing, the anger that flares up irrationally – not just at you, but others. Heinlein’s ‘an armed society is a polite society’ holds here in an odd way – if he carries concealed, and you ever see that gun when it’s not appropriate, there’s a sign.

“What you want me to talk about,” I told my husband as we discussed this, “Is sort of the opposite of a ladies’ man.”

“Yes. A practical woman’s man.” He pointed at his best friend, who was sitting there laughing at our byplay. “The kind of man a woman wants to live with, not just sleep with. We can’t answer that, we’re still trying to figure out what our wives saw in us.”

That I can answer. It’s not the multitool our friend carries always, or my husband’s knife. I carry both a knife and a multitool daily. It’s the steady man who can be depended on when the chips are down. The kind of man who knows how to fix things, and that sometimes hearts can’t be mended, just held until the crying stops. The kind of man who knows just when their partner needs to hear ‘no, that’s a bad idea’ or a firm push to the base of the spine to propel them through a door their anxiety locked them up in.

But I am only one woman, and perhaps one with peculiar tastes. So I asked on social media if anyone would be willing to share their take on what men do that makes them attractive to practical women. The difference between a ladies man – a dud who is trying to attract female attention for shallow purposes – and a manly man, who is simply living his day as male and not working at striking poses and impressing anyone. I love the responses, and I’ve included a lot of them to represent many viewpoints. The quiet thread running through all? Competence. Humble, never boastful, git ‘r done accomplishment and thoughtfulness.


Someone not only capable, but willing to use that capability on a regular basis without fanfare.

…also that he doesn’t believe in things he doesn’t know how to do, just things he doesn’t know how to do YET. That philosophy is how he’s gotten so capable, and is ridiculously attractive. –Caitlin W.

So competence is the essence of sexiness… I’d argue this is true across the board, for men and women. I want my guy to he good at what he does, to be confident and secure in his skills, and to be unashamed to seek knowledge and practice where those skills are lacking. — Kacey Ezell

One of the things that intrigued me about Brad was the fact he used linen handkerchiefs. We live in such a “throw away” society that little fact told me volumes — Paula H.

Being thoughtful, and aware of and respectful of others’ needs. Basically, being a decent human being and not patting oneself on the back for it. But that’s something everyone would be more attractive doing… Let’s see… developing his strengths and using them to help those who lack his particular abilities. Again, that could be anyone, but it really does make a guy appealing and worth respecting. What else… Self-discipline. Resilience. Fortitude. Basically, inner strength and moral courage. — Audrey A.

What does a practical woman want to see? A man who helps when appropriate! Simple things, like if you’re moving boxes, he helps. If he’s good at something you’re not, he does that. And not taking over if you’re better at it. (So I’m the house painter, natch, but he uses the larger power tools.)

Basically, someone who isn’t sitting on his butt when you’re working. (Unless there’s a good reason to, says the person married to a heat-sensitive asthmatic. But hey, if I’m working outside in the heat, he brings me cold electrolyte drinks.) — Bernadette D.

A sense of humor that is not a anyone (esp anyone weaker) expense. Also, my dear one was always standing up for the underdog. He was always working with whoever was on the outside helping them to be part of the group. Good heart, great sense of humor, takes care of children and his mother as a matter of course. And yes he carries a pocket knife, of course I do too. Dad gave me one decades ago. –Alicia I.

Shovels snow when it’s minus 20. Drives 150 miles through a storm to get medical equipment to a stranger. Cooks scrambled eggs and makes cocoa for kids when I am too tired. — Shira T.

One if the reasons Aaron got my attention was because he treated me like a woman. He opened doors for me carried all the heavy things. While most people may say he did those things because he didn’t think I was capable it’s simply not true. I could have opened any door for myself. What woman cant? I can carry heavy things. In some cases I can carry more weight than men. The point is he did those things because he wanted to show he cared, not to try and show that I was beneath him. I agree than women can do most everything a man can. But I know for a fact that men can not do everything a woman can. That’s the beauty of it. When a woman steps a aside and let’s a man do something she is perfectly capable of doing she is not saying that he is better than her or that she is any less than the man. She is allowing that man to be a man. So yes, I can open a door for myself. But if my man is willing to step up and open that door for me I’m certainly not going to stop him. — Elisabeth W.

Someone who doesn’t mind sharing the housework when both of you are working. Someone who spends time with you – even if you’re not doing something together, but at least in the same room. Someone who isn’t scared to actually be a man. –Christine D.

I once heard it said that “The problem with some men is that they see a sink full of dirty dishes and an empty dishwasher, and make no logical connection between the two!” So, being a very lucky wife, among the things I appreciate most in my dear husband are intuition and initiative to see what needs to be done and the willingness to do it, the willingness to teach me from his skill set and learn from mine, and respecting me as his equal partner. I don’t know if any of these qualities correspond to something specifically demonstrable, like carrying a knife ( he does, though), but they are easily seen by anyone who knows what to look for. — Buddy A.

A sense of adventure – the ability to find an adventure in a place, whether with a camera, a kite, a magnifying glass, a microscope, someone to talk to. A positive outlook that there is adventure around the corner, and that one should be ready to take advantage of it. Likewise, the fitness of foot, muscle, and other way to get out of a bad adventure. –Laura R.



6 responses to “What Women Want… in a Real Man”

  1. I really like all of those comments. I was just thinking, as I read them, of the Biblical mandate in Genesis — God created Eve to be a ‘helpmate’ for Adam, or, ‘a helper fit for him.’ A partner, in other words. And the obvious implication, if you think about it, is that if she’s going to be her husband’s helper, he must be doing something for her to help him with. He wasn’t going to just be sitting around on his backside watching the birds and butterflies flitter around (I suppose that would have been their version of TV!). He had work to do, and so did she. Even before the first sin. Work was part of what God called ‘very good,’ at the end of the sixth day of creation. So it makes sense that we would find competent, hard-working men attractive — they are being what men are supposed to be.

  2. Good post. Well done.

    1. Thank you. It was lovely seeing all the women talking about how much they love their husbands, and seeing the emotions in their comments.

  3. Multitooled mind and heart, perhaps, with a sheath of good values.

  4. Cedar, I’ve read dozens (hundreds?) of your posts,and this is BY FAR my favorite.

  5. ** scribbles notes **