Am I Too Nice for the Opposite Sex?

kindness sign with arrow on sunny background

I’m 34 and have had a long dry spell in dating and reading your blog and starting to go through your Finding the One Online has been very helpful.

Just today I was reminded of a recurring theme that I have run into with men. A friend told me about something that was said about me behind my back by an acquaintance. Nothing nasty, nothing meant to be negative, I believe. He said, “she’s too nice for my taste.” I have heard this repeatedly throughout my younger dating life as well as a reason that men don’t want to date me – or theoretically wouldn’t want to if they had the opportunity.

My question is… what does that actually mean? That they believe my “niceness” is fake and don’t trust it? That because I’m so sweet that somehow I wouldn’t be good in bed? That lack of drama would make for an uninteresting relationship?

I am a nice person, meaning I believe in being nice to people.

I am a nice person, meaning I believe in being nice to people. Politeness, agreeableness, and compassion are important to me. I’m not a spineless pushover with no opinions who ingratiates herself to others – perhaps that would be annoying. If I’m nice to you it’s because I want to be – there’s no fakery there.

I would not really think much about one person saying this about me, but as I alluded to, this is recurring. Why wouldn’t a man want a “nice” woman?


After I proposed to my wife, one of her best friends, Kristi, took me aside and said, earnestly “Thank you for seeing what makes her special. Many men — including her ex-husband — didn’t.”

If you think that sounds like an insult buried in a compliment, I hear you, but I didn’t take it that way. It was merely Kristi’s acknowledging what I already knew, “She is nice, easygoing, and good to the core and a lot of men couldn’t appreciate why those qualities make for a spectacular relationship.”

She was right. The entire time I was dating my wife, I was wondering if I should feel more intensely, specifically because our relationship was so drama free. When you’ve spent your life chasing chemistry, pining for the hottest/smartest partners, and discovering that the ones I loved the most never reciprocated, you can’t always recognize when your spouse is right in front of you.

I made a choice to marry my wife that turned out the be the best decision I ever made, but it didn’t come easily. See, the very qualities that make a relationship feel “safe” are not the qualities that stimulate intense attraction. Dr. Pat Allen, the author of “Getting To I Do,” once held up a blank index card to me to explain this phenomenon: “On this side is passion. On the other side is comfort. Choose one.”

I’m delighted to say that Dr. Allen is wrong. It’s not an either/or choice, but it is a trade-off. Generally, more passion = less comfort. And more comfort = less passion. What we’re all trying to do is find the point on the graph where both of those needs are ably met. It’s not easy — and we’ve all made questionable decisions where we stayed with an awful person out of passion or settled on a dissatisfying relationship based on comfort.

This is just my long way of saying, Jamie, that, as I’ve written on this blog before multiple times, nice girls are not doomed to finish last.

nice girls are not doomed to finish last.

They are, however, plagued with the same issues that face nice guys. Their strengths are their weaknesses. By being unconditionally kind to everyone — a great quality by the way — people who are defined by their “niceness” often don’t inspire enough attraction to make partners want to stick around. That’s why women say they want a nice guy with edge, and conversely, men want a cool girl with boundaries.

In other words, men aren’t passing you up because they think your niceness is fake. Nor do you have to stop being polite, agreeable or compassionate to get a man. All you have to do is what my wife did — persevere long enough to find a similarly nice person who appreciates all you bring to the table. Do that and you’ll have a relationship that all the guys who dumped you will ultimately envy.

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  1. 1

    My personal experience is not necessarily related to the OP’s, but I have to share it.

    I had a period in my life (early 20s) when I believed that I was too nice for men to see my amazing qualities. One by one, the men I tried to have a relationship with seemed to have been smitten by me and then suddenly, after 2 months-about 1 year of relationship, most of them simply “ghosted”. I believed that men as a group are simply douchebags. Indeed, I was nice and accommodating with men and physically I looked, like some friends, acquaintances and strangers told me, and as I knew it myself,   like a young version of Julie Delpy.

    Still, looking back with more maturity, during that time of my life, I was also:

    a) a heavy drinker, partier and smoker. So much so, that when one of my ex-bfs asked me if I was able to just stay with him for an hour without a cigarette and a glass of sangria I told him that no, I would choose the cig and sangria over you

    b) I was nice and accommodating as long as my exes agreed with me. As soon as we reached a disagreement, I had no problem treating them like they were idiots, sometimes to the point of insults.

    c) I had episodes of deep depression alternating with episodes of anger and panic. I just couldn’t find myself and my place in this complicated world. These episodes of me in turmoil surfaced exactly after the “nice and accommodating” episodes.

    So, looking back: my nice and accommodating side was just a mask for my inner demons. Objectively speaking, I was simply no relationship material. Heck, if I had met myself by that time, I would have ghosted on myself too.

  2. 2

    I once met a man who told me he had been described as “too nice for his own good”; he was initially good company, and I was completely upfront about the fact that I was newly out of a long-term relationship and it would be a while before I would be ready for another one. All I was looking for at the time was companionship.

    It wasn’t long before he clearly hadn’t taken this on board… in the end I had to be quite brutal about where I was at, in the face of comments like: “Well, we’ve been on four dates now, but I won’t insist that you sleep with me…” or a rather hair-raising story about his ex-wife. How he had been looking through her emails and saw one to a close female friend, saying that she had made a big mistake by marrying him. He shook his head, saying how she used to write “I love you” in the condensation on the window pane. Sure, I thought, she’d made a big mistake – not least by marrying someone who felt entitled to read her emails.

    I’m sure he’d have seen his intrusiveness as “caring”, and his controlling behaviours as “caring”… but sometimes it can feel very uncomfortable to be on the receiving end of the attentions of someone who thinks they’re being nice….



  3. 3

    Sometimes it does seem like a lose/lose situation. Darned if you do, darned if you don’t.

    I’ve often been told that I “don’t care”.

    I don’t get jealous. Which apparently equals I don’t care. Apparently I should have displayed some jealousy, that way they can get mad at me for being jealous.

    I don’t mind at all if they want to go hunting or airboating for a week, or go fishing in the middle of the night after being out of town for a week (with nothing but men, in the middle of nowhere, mind you). Which also equals I don’t care. Apparently, I should have thrown a fit and insisted they spend time with me instead, so they can accuse me of “never allowing them to go anywhere”.

    I don’t nag, or hand out “honey-do” lists. Wrong again. Apparently they have nothing to complain to their buddies about if I don’t.

    Same goes for fighting or arguing. I can’t stand drama, and having a bit of an anger problem, I prefer making a civilized mention long before things ever get to boiling point (it gets expensive after that). But never really having anything to fight about is apparently an issue all of its own.


    At least you’re considered as being nice and sweet. I’m considered another man in all but body.

    As Evan said so wonderfully: Keep being a great and kind person. There are not enough of them in the world. And simply consider all the ones who aren’t interested in you as weeding out the junk. The right man for you will end up appreciating all your great qualities.


    1. 3.1


      You are so right!

  4. 4

    I agree with Evan that people do not always know what is good for them in a relationship. Unfortunately human beings can be very myopic, but you should not let that discourage you or make you feel that you need to prove yourself or be someone you are not.

    One thing I have definitely noticed about people is that they are slow to realise things. In other words, it can sometimes take a long time for someone to appreciate that you are kind, loyal, consistent, generous etc. People are often so caught up in their own hang-ups that getting to know someone is a bit like wading through a lot of debris before you get to the true person. This is all to say that Jamie shouldn’t take other people’s opinions of her on board so much – she should just continue trying to be the best version of herself.

    I will say, though, that she should be careful of that niceness. Niceness can masquerade as other things and can also have unintended consequences. Sometimes people who are always nice are in fact not self-contained and are in other people’s business energetically. In addition to being “nice” to people, you also have to watch out for the cues they are sending you. Being liked by other people is not just about being nice; it’s also about being sensitive to what makes them comfortable. Sometimes in our haste to show other people we like them and to be nice, we overstep their boundaries or our own, which makes people (particularly men) uncomfortable.

    For instance, I wondered while reading Jamie’s letter whether she wasn’t “overgiving” in relationships. Initiating contact too much, inviting him on dates too much, doing too much for him. I was at a party on Saturday night where one of the guys was complaining about his new girlfriend who insisted on buying him expensive gifts, which made him very uncomfortable. If Jamie is finding that her relationships fizzle too much after a few weeks or months, it could be that she is going too fast, coming on too strong or not letting the relationship progress at a natural pace. Something for her to think about maybe.

    1. 4.1


      I almost agree with you, but not quite. Instead of saying “niceness can masquerade as other things” I would say the opposite: “other things can masquerade as niceness”.

      By this I mean, being needy, over- investing in someone, or having out of proportion expectations of someone can initially look like niceness. It’s only over time that most of us realize that there’s a price for that “niceness” – which therefore renders it not so nice. It’s a bribe for which they expect to have services rendered at a later date.

      1. 4.1.1


        You’re exactly right. This is just what I was trying to say.

        I have come across these behaviours (being “nice” to get something)  many  times in other people, and even, to my horror, in myself sometimes.

        It’s easy to tell if someone is  too nice, and that is, if the niceness is unsolicited or unwanted. It’s no good hiding behind “Oh well, I’m just a nice/kind/generous etc. person” if the object of your niceness does  not welcome it or distrusts it.

        I think when someone is being manipulative by being nice, most of us can feel it and we instinctively pull back.

  5. 5
    Emily, the original

    From my very small sample, I have noticed that so-called nice guys, or the ones who are on the more passive side or extremely bookish/intellectual, like a woman who’s a little mean. They   dig it. It turns them on.

    1. 5.1

      I’ve seen that too. I think it’s just that these guys are too fearful of making a move, so they do nothing. Then when they meet a woman who makes all the moves, they are thrilled to be getting the rewards without having any risk. Sadly, most of these guys figure out too late that this kind of behavior is almost always accompanied by the desire to tell them how to run their lives.

      1. 5.1.1
        Emily, the original


        I’ve seen that too. I think it’s just that these guys are too fearful of making a move, so they do nothing. Then when they meet a woman who makes all the moves, they are thrilled to be getting the rewards without having any risk.

        That perfectly describes a guy friend of mine. He never went after a woman unless she initiated (gave him her phone number, asked him out, etc.). He didn’t have it in him to risk anything.

        Sadly, most of these guys figure out too late that this kind of behavior is almost always accompanied by the desire to tell them how to run their lives.

        I agree, and most of the women start to get annoyed at having to run everything.

    2. 5.2
      No Name To Give

      That might explain my ex husband’s choice in his current wife.

  6. 6
    Yet Another Guy


    Sadly, most of these guys figure out too late that this kind of behavior is almost always accompanied by the desire to tell them how to run their lives.

    I can assure you that the female tendency to try to tell a man how to run his life is not unique to aggressive women.   Most women cannot seem to accept a guy as they met him.   They need to tweak things. 🙂

    1. 6.1


      :-). I hear you. But it’s also not unique to women. Just last week, I had a young man who was pestering me to date him, upon hearing that I went to bed early (~9pm) that “I need to get out, to live life” and that my careful dietary habits were sad because “life is too short to not eat things that taste so good”.

      People shoot themselves in the foot all the time by not hearing what others are saying, loud and clear.

    2. 6.2


      I was just going to say that this tendency is not unique to women, but Nissa beat me to it.

      If you dated guys, you would probably be astonished at the number of men who are controlling and who attempt to change and tweak their partners. I have dated a few different guys who thought it was their job to change many things about me.

      I was once in a relationship with a guy in which, thanks to pressure from him, I stopped eating meat, stopped seeing all my friends or having any social life (thanks to his jealousy), and stopped exercising (dancing and hiking, which I loved to do). His controlling behaviour extended to the little things as well – telling me what to post on my Facebook wall, telling me which picture I should make my profile photo. He consumed every bit of spare energy that I had like a human leech, all under the guise of “loving” me. Clearly I left when I couldn’t handle being stifled any more.

      That’s an extreme example, but I can assure you, I have experienced every shade of controlling behaviour in between as well.

    3. 6.3

      “Most women cannot seem to accept a guy as they met him. ”

      You know most women?
      I am a woman. It has – literally – never occurred to me that I even could attempt to change a man. I have no interest in “remodelling” romantic partners. If they like them, it’s because of what they already are.
      I have at least one female friend who is the same.

      I think it is always wiser and more helpful to state things accurately, i.e. “I get the impression that most of the women I KNOW…”

  7. 7

    I am not “nice” in the way the OP describes herself,but I think there are advantages to it in dating, if you look at it in the right way. Niceness, as in being kind, agreeable and accommodating, is a very feminine trait- it is an expression of being feminine. Capitalise on this by playing up your femininity in other respects and you will strongly appeal to the sort of masculine man who likes to defend and protect. So… dress very feminine Not in the “sultry and dangerous” sort of way, but.banish all sensible practical clothes from your wardrobe and go for delicate floaty dresses and skirts which (on dates) could also be slightly see- through.Avoid trousers. Next, learn to be flirty. Again, not in a challenging, hot as he’ll kind of a way, but in a light, teasing, happy way.This will very much appeal to a certain type of very masculine man. “Damsel in distress”   is the kind of aura you should cultivate, which will mesh well with your niceness. Good luck!




    1. 7.1

      I was thinking “too nice for my taste” might mean “too passive for my taste”? Perhaps the men who said things like this had a type they preferred -hot girl with a bit of drama- and weren’t attracted to the letter writer because she didn’t fit that image?

      I liked your advice Helene, instead of trying to attract men who like drama girls, playing up her femininity in an airy, lightly flirty way may draw the men who will appreciate her sweetness.

      I once dated a man who said he liked that I wore dresses. I hadn’t thought of dresses/skirts as deliberately dressing feminine at the time, I just liked wearing them instead of shorts every day. I remember feeling surprised at the time he noticed.

    2. 7.2


      This is a good example of what I said a while ago, that the skills/what works in dating is not the same as what works in relationships. If you’re a dress wearer, by all means, wear dresses on dates. If you’re doing it to cultivate an image you can’t keep up forever, personally I don’t think it’s a good way to go. Better to work on the skills that make for a great partnership with the right person that tailoring your wardrobe to appeal to certain men, in my view.

  8. 8

    Not to be the “mean girl” here, but when I hear “People don’t want to date me, because I am too nice” I am skeptical.   Skeptical when it comes from guys, and equally skeptical when it comes to women.   (Women typically say no one wants to date them because they are too “intimidating”, but sometimes claim it is their “niceness” that drives them away)**************************************************************Numerous articles are available online de-bunking the myth of the “nice guy”.   Many of them could apply in part to the opposite sex as well.**************************************************************As far as hearing “repeatedly” that she is “too nice” as a given reason, I’m wondering if what was REALLY said was more along the lines of “She’s really nice, BUT . . .”   and then that bit about “niceness” got interpreted as the REASON, when really, it was just a nice soft segway (sp ?) to gently reject someone.   C’mon now, how often have we all prefaced saying that someone wasn’t our type, we didn’t feel the chemistry, we didn’t feel attracted, with “S/he is really nice BUT” ?*************************************************************    People aren’t drawn to niceness, nor do they reject people for being nice.   Being a decent human being is the basic minimum to have social interactions, both sexual and non-sexual.   *************************************************************  It’s not that I think the OP is “not nice”, it’s just that I think she is reaching for reasons for why she hasn’t met her match YET.   I think she should just take EMK’s advice, and continue being her sweet, nice self.   Many people are un-coupled, not because they are fatally flawed or unattractive, but simply because they haven’t met their match YET.     **************************************************************  Good luck and best wishes to the OP, and DON’T GIVE UP !  **************************************************************

    1. 8.1

      I think you are spot on in your words about her getting feedback that “she’s nice BUT” and she is just not hearing the BUT. Most people don’t care enough about us to be honest about our flaws.

      Except Evan’s readers of course.

  9. 9

    Maybe the OP is a person who never expresses an opinion. Today I remembered that I had a friend like this in high school. She was very shy and quiet. She wasn’t bad looking, but she wasn’t good looking either – mostly because her clothes, makeup and demeanor were unremarkable. She blended in with the wallpaper, never making suggestions, agreeing with anything, never having an opinion. We never got to be very good friends, because I felt like I could never get to know her – she was hiding her self,  even when she was present.

    If that’s the case, then the OP’s female friends could easily confirm for her that this is the experience her dates are having. Then the OP would do well to express herself more, making sure to keep it in the positive. Dress brightly, use hand gestures and be emphatic.


  10. 10

    Nissa:”  I think you are spot on in your words about her getting feedback that “she’s nice BUT” and she is just not hearing the BUT. Most people don’t care enough about us to be honest about our flaws.”

    From the letter:

    A friend told me about something that was said about me behind my back by an acquaintance. Nothing nasty, nothing meant to be negative, I believe. He said, “she’s too nice for my taste.”  


    I’m curious about the friend’s motivation for relaying this bit of info back to the letter writer Jamie. Was Jamie attracted to this acquaintance and asked her friend to feel him out about her? Did the friend take it upon herself to ask the guy what he thought of Jamie? Is the friend a kind of frenemy who likes to see insecurity in others?


    Since this “too nice” thing is a recurring theme in Jamie’s dating life, perhaps she has been ignoring the “…but,…” part. Yet, how often do men volunteer such an opinion unprompted? I just have the sense some piece is missing here.

  11. 11
    Mrs Happy

    One of the nicest women I know, whom I’ve known since we were teenagers, would have loved to get married and had children, but she only ever had 1 boyfriend (around age 20), and to my knowledge, no other dates or interest from men.   She is now in her late 40’s.

    I was perplexed by it for decades because she is sweet, slim, pretty, feminine, kind, and lovely to be around.   She works in an industry with a hefty percentage of males (male dominated).   She is smart and giving.   Men are all around her, and she is comfortably social with them, and they with her.   She is a normal person.

    She asked me during our 20’s/30’s why so many men asked me and other women out, and how to get men to ask her out.   I couldn’t work out the answers to either.

    I’ve known this woman for a long time and she doesn’t have a nasty characteristic that I know of.   I asked a few of my boyfriends + male friends during my 20’s, and they said she had no SA – sex appeal.   But lots of women I see partnered, have the same or less sex appeal as her, in my opinion (though I admit I don’t know a lot about male-mind-judging of a female’s sex appeal).

    If I were the OP I’d make a serious effort to find out what is really occurring for men who date her.   I’d throw decent time and money at the problem to find the correct answers.   The answers will be uncomfortable to hear.   I’d engage the services of an exit interviewer, and contract them to contact her last 20+ dates/boyfriends and get honest feedback about why things didn’t progress.   I’d pay the guys for their time, or give them something they want, or work out other ways to maximise correct   answers.   Once she has the information, then the OP can decide whether to change anything about how she presents and behaves.

    For me, it’d be too passive to just blithely keep going as I had been for 18 years (she is 34) and magically hope the world somehow showed me the answer, or rely on a perfect partner suddenly showing up.   If she wants marriage or a LTR, find the blockers to this outcome, then problem solve to eradicate them.   She has to be nice to herself and prioritise this.   OP, the most important asset you have is your brain.   Use it to improve your life.

    1. 11.1

      I agree with you, Mrs Happy. Regarding your friend, if she’s attractive, kind and feminine I’m not sure why men wouldn’t ask her out. That package is exactly what many men are looking for – at least, men who are looking to marry. But I wonder the same as you – as a woman, are you accurately judging her sex appeal as men would? I remember one time my wife was telling me about a friend of hers and couldn’t remember her name. She described this woman as attractive, and when I discovered who she was talking about I laughed. Because I didn’t find her attractive at all. I asked my wife what made her seem so attractive to her, and she replied that this woman’s eyebrows were so eloquently shaped and her nails done so well, and her clothes so stylish. I laughed and laughed. But then, I guess I’d have the same problem judging whether a man was attractive to a woman…

      1. 11.1.1
        Mrs Happy

        Dear Jeremy,

        Evan’s states a man really wants a wife who mainly makes him feel good, but I don’t know that’s a near-blanket truth.   I’m not doubting it’s what Evan thought and felt he valued in a partner.    I’m questioning how true it is, that all or most men, really only want nice, sweet, caring, agreeable, pretty, in a partner. How can that be enough?   It sounds like a wet dishcloth.

        I question the stance because lots of nice pretty girls are single.   And because the male intellectual giants I know, also want very smart women, and women with careers, as their wives, and that’s what they’ve chosen.   They say anything else would be too boring.   It’s only a couple of close friends I’ve bluntly asked, but they basically believe they need to be able to talk on an equal level with their wife and life partner.

        I conclude sweetness and nice aren’t enough for everybody.   And the need for a woman to make the man feel good about himself is surely very dependent on the man’s own level of self esteem and worth.   Most men I know aren’t needing to be continually buoyed up by a woman’s admiration.

        1. Jeremy

          When I was looking to marry, the woman’s intelligence was definitely a large factor in my choice.   Career aspirations less so -or better to say, something of a negative.   I recall being on a date with an Ob/Gyn resident years ago and asking her about the life she visualizes for herself.   She replied that she visualized having a couple of kids with 2 nannies to take care of them because she and her high-powered husband would always be at work or on call.   Next.   Not at all what I wanted.   That particular woman ended up marrying a nice male teacher with flexible hours who worships her intelligence and tolerates her workoholism.


          I don’t think men need to be constantly buoyed by a woman’s admiration, but occasionally.   And I think most girlfriends do this naturally, but most wives do not.   And it relates back to something Nissa wrote the other day about intimacy – she asked whether intimacy is not conducive to admiration.   My answer to that is no.   Because intimacy by its nature is conducive to equality in a power hierarchy whereas admiration requires a power gradient.   Most women I know want to be admired by men for their feminine qualities (and therefore must be superior at those qualities), and the same is true for men.   I’ve known so many male professionals tank their marriages or cheat on wives – loving, good wives – because they wanted more admiration.   Cheating with their secretary, nurse, hygienist, whatever – women in subordinate positions who would temporarily give them admiration, because admiration was lacking in their marriages.   These men were idiots.   But their needs are, to some extent, ubiquitous.

        2. Mrs Happy

          But how and why are we raising all these boys that they so need female admiration?   Or is it biological?   If not biological, what a failure of self.   I will be ashamed if my son continually yearns for a woman’s approval and wonder when he is an adult; I’ll feel unsuccessful in my job as a mother if he isn’t secure in himself.

          I don’t see women needing to be superior in feminine qualities as you’ve described.   Maybe I’m hanging with a different crowd of women.   I personally couldn’t care less if my husband or housekeeper did any of the “woman’s work” a ‘typical’ wife should do.

          And I’m so glad our not-bet is over, because your descriptions of sought-after wifely attributes illustrated just what a man’s world it still is, and so due warning Mr Jeremy, I’m strongly back on the female side for a long innings now.   I do appreciate your honesty and I do realise we all shop for future spouses in ‘how will this benefit me’ ways.   But to hear how you wanted her to be smart, but not so smart that she would want to keep working full time in an interesting career, rather than stay home more than you planned to, doing repetitive boring tasks to keep the household and numerous kids running, so you could keep working as many hours as you wanted as well as progress in your interesting career, but still have the home and family ticking along nicely… agghhh!!!   And you weren’t wrong to expect and get that, because that’s the way the world works, for men.   Though my blood was already boiling with Saudi Arabia only granting women the right to drive last month, so you’re catching some of that emotion.

        3. Evan Marc Katz

          “But how and why are we raising all these boys that they so need female admiration?”

          Please. This is a human need. How many women here have complained that their husbands don’t make them feel hot, sexy, or desirable. That they look at other women, don’t show interest in sex, don’t compliment them, that, in fact, they need to be seen as the most attractive woman in the world with their man?

          PEOPLE want to be accepted, appreciated and admired by their spouses. Otherwise, what’s the point?

        4. Mrs Happy

          Dear Evan,

          Surely for most of human history people have not chased admiration etc from spouses?   Our ancestors needed a workmate for the farm, help raising the children, and the extended family survival support one buys into via marriage.   I suspect adoration wants/needs must be as recent as marrying for love.

          The only women I’ve ever heard complain their husbands don’t make them feel #1 super hot, are the occasional women ones writing in to you or commenting here.   The ones who want their partner to see them as the most beautiful in the world, and who are in my opinion probably emotionally damaged, illogical, and not terribly sensible.   Most women commenting on this blog wouldn’t think like that.   Most women I know are grounded enough to realise there are prettier females than themselves, and their partner will come across such women and acknowledge that fact.

          I’m questioning this need for external validation; I do not believe people have it to the same degree, and I think lots of people are content in their own skin, and don’t require a partner to continually adore them.   The admiration is a want for some in a partner, sure, but not everyone.   We are all allowed our own 3 different not-negotiable wants.   To be admired is pretty far down some people’s lists; e.g. it wouldn’t make it into my list at all.

        5. Evan Marc Katz

          I think people have “lists” that they don’t even know about. Have you taken my Love U Course? Many women think that what’s important is a man who is taller, smarter, richer, funnier, etc, and when they get him, they discover they’re miserable because they neglected another list they hadn’t considered: how he treats them in the long run. So I get clients to switch lists and look for consistent, kind, selfless, high-character, communicative and commitment-oriented. Short version: women want to feel “safe, heard and understood.” Men want to feel “accepted, appreciated and admired” (three things I never felt with all my girlfriends prior to my wife) It’s not universal because nothing is universal, but I do think it speaks a larger truth about what makes relationships REALLY tick. You can substitute the word “respected” for “admired” and pretty much end up in the same place.

        6. Mrs Happy

          In some ways I’m just jealous at how easy it is for a professional man to keep his career almost exactly the same and still get a spouse and children.   I’m like all working mothers who feel exhausted and guilty by the perpetual juggle.   Sorry to be irritated towards you in my anger Jeremy.   It’s the end of the mid-winter school holidays over here, if that’s any excuse.

        7. Jeremy

          Mrs Happy, I feel like we have been playing a game of Snakes and Ladders and landed on a snake at square 99.   I can only hope I caught you in a moment of low empathy, with the accusations you made of me here.

          Did you happen to read my comment on the Aziz Ansari post about the different perspectives of the new mother and father?   That for every woman who feels trapped in drudgery inside the home, there is a man who feels trapped in drudgery outside of it?   The new mother might look at her husband leaving the house for work and envy his freedom to leave… while he envies her freedom to stay.   To her, he is leaving to cultivate an interesting job, to accrue happiness through engagement and achievement.   To him, he is being exiled from love and family, while his wife is free to accrue happiness through love, meaning, and relationships.   For every woman who feels trapped in her role, there’s a man who feels trapped in his, Mrs Happy.

          When we’ve chosen our roles we are not oppressed. It is not that I somehow desired a woman who was less intelligent than I so I might oppress and exploit her (really?!) – it’s that I wanted an extremely intelligent woman who knew what she wanted – and wanted the same thing I did.   She has a master’s degree and a career at which she works part-time.   She will likely go back to full-time when the kids are older, and likely finish her PhD then too.   And in the meantime, has lived EXACTLY as she has dreamed of living.   Forcing her into a corner office full-time for these past 10 years would have been oppressive to her.   Because no one knows the drudgery of working OUTSIDE of the home better than a mother who’d rather be with her kids but can’t afford to.   Aren’t YOU working part-time so you can be with your kids too, Mrs Happy?   Is that because it’s a man’s world, or because it was exactly the choice you wanted to make?

          Finally, regarding admiration in men, see what Evan wrote.   And consider why, when I wrote that women want to be admired by men for their feminine qualities, that the qualities you thought I meant were all the qualities you most feel oppressed by, rather than those you actually feel make you feminine.

        8. kenley


          I think that you are a very unique guy but you make it seem as if you are the typical guy.   When you write that for every stay at home mom who wants to work outside the home and get away from the drudgery of being home, there is a man who wants to get out of the drudgery working outside the home and stay at home with his family, I haven’t seen or read anything to support that lots of men want to stay at home with their children.   Sadly, in my experience, when men view the work of supporting the family as drudgery, they don’t want to stop working and stay at home, they just don’t want to support the family.   They aren’t missing their family, they are missing their independence.   Or they don’t want to bear the burden of working alone.   They want their wives to work outside the home too.   In my experience when men talk about staying home with the kids, it’s typically because they believe that staying home and caring for the kids is a much easier job so they can’t understand why their wives are so exhausted….their goal is to prove that staying at home isn’t nearly as stressful or challenging as what they do.   Their goal isn’t a desire to be with the kids.

        9. Emily, the original


          there is a man who feels trapped in drudgery outside of it?   The new mother might look at her husband leaving the house for work and envy his freedom to leave… while he envies her freedom to stay.   To her, he is leaving to cultivate an interesting job, to accrue happiness through engagement and achievement.   To him, he is being exiled from love and family, while his wife is free to accrue happiness through love, meaning, and relationships.  

          It’s not just leaving family. I know several men in the mid- to late-50s who’ve worked for a long time at a company and don’t feel appreciated and valued but can’t leave because they make too much money and are too close to retirement. It’s soul crushing. They feel trapped. And you don’t need to be a mother to know the drudgery of an office job. I go to one every day. I say goodbye to any semblance of my personality and self-respect at the door! 🙂 I know there are people who find their work challenging, who feel valued and moved along and up by the company, but those the lucky. I mean, you have to do something, but the reality of working full-time in an area you find interesting is much different than anything you expected when you dabbled in it part-time in college.

        10. Mrs Happy

          Well this is a big mess and it’s my fault and I am sorry.   I’ve been arguing against ideas I actually partly agree with, like some secretly closet homosexual being the most vociferously anti-gay in public.   I think everyone who has commented on this sub-thread so far has been right in some ways and because I’m frustrated with reality I’ve tried to twist reality.   Can’t think why I did this, I usually state reality quite bluntly and then work with it.   Maybe because this reality exhausts me past clear thinking.   My thoughts are a bit tumbled but I’ll try:

          Both men and women often feel trapped and frustrated by the reality of day-to-day life with a young family and the need to earn income.   Emily, the Original aptly illustrates that people without these commitments are similarly just ‘over it’ sometimes.

          Probably men (moreso than women I suspect) do want admiration from their spouse, and do not get it as much from a wife as from a girlfriend.   Things are rosy and new for the first year of a relationship, and then the appreciation wanes as faults start to show, so adoration drops. Plus there are only so many times a female partner can say “wow you’re so good at x” before it sounds contrived.   And women get sick of having to repeatedly do this to make their man feel good.   Just like it’s erroneous to say you will make someone happy for the rest of their life in a wedding vow, surely it’s silly to have to try to make a man feel good about himself repeatedly for years.   At the end of the day people need to take some responsibility for their own thoughts and emotions.   I”ll do some wifely appreciation but I don’t want it to be my main job.

          Because I’m the only person in the world who didn’t know who Meghan Markle was, I’ve just binge-watched Suits (nice city), and in that as in almost every other message we all get from society, success, confidence and wealth are lauded.   In countless ways, in the Western world we are all taught that these are the things to strive for if you’re male, and search for in a husband if you’re female.   These become ingrained unquestioned wants.

          Add to that the need for men to be adored by their wife, and we see one of the real reasons women cannot effortlessly switch around their list of (3 and more) desires to ignore income, though I appreciate why Evan says try to do this.   To take a recent example, an Ob/Gyn female dr marrying a male teacher, will be getting a whole lot of good things out of this exchange, not least a spouse with mostly school working hours and school holidays off and more free time, but in the unspoken million-messages-over-her-life, she has not married up, and thus it may be hard for her to adore him, and continually admire him, for years.   So if admiration is what he needs from a wife, she knows this will be a problem.   Maybe that’s why so many women have ‘he needs to earn more/be more senior’ in their list and maybe that’s not a bad thing.   Maybe that’s why the research shows that people in traditional-role marriages are actually happier in their marriages.

          Jeremy, I’m frustrated at myself because I’ve personally taken a huge hit, from an intellectually stimulating varied career, to a job I can do with my brain on slow drive, just so I can earn more per hour, and thus work part time, and thus be available for my very young children, which I know is the right thing to do, for them.   Yes it was my choice.   Yes I’m lucky I get to make that choice.   But I am so bored, so unstimulated now, at work, it upsets me.   I am sorry I directed this distress at you.   I would never think you’d exploit anyone, I’m just incredibly envious your wants seemingly get to line up better than many professional womens’.

          As I said, I’m jealous that men get to marry the woman they want, who they can admire for feminine qualities like caring for others which happen to co-incide with wanting to stay home, and the guy (seemingly) gets everything in the package because he gets to stay at his interesting career full time and have his children brought up by a present, loving, caring mother.   I understand your position that all men don’t want this, but I think many do, otherwise more men would drop to part-time and/or less career-progressing jobs and take the career hit (like I did) after kids were born.   Fathers do not seem to have the same drive as mothers do, to be with their babies and young children, as many hours as possible.   Men choose the career and money option, over the home-with-kids living-on-less-income option, most of the time.   Not all men have a choice, but some do.   There aren’t a lot of stay-at-home dads primarily because men do not want to do it.     And most who do it are initially thrust into the role via job loss or health problems, not via choice.

          I realise for family-focused involved dads, working full time involves countless losses, like first steps, and time with kids, and connection with family.   There are entrenched faults in the wider work system because men anywhere outside Scandinavia don’t get much time off after each baby arrives.

          The qualities I love about myself are not the qualities this blog tells me men want in women.   It’s disheartening.   Been upsetting to read and absorb over the years actually.

          Yes you caught me at a low empathy time – probably all spent on others that day/year – but also this reality is such a struggle for so many people, for me, that I feel overwhelmed by it, and angry, and spent.

        11. Emily, the original

          Mrs. Happy,

          To take a recent example, an Ob/Gyn female dr marrying a male teacher …   she has not married up, and thus it may be hard for her to adore him, and continually admire him, for years.   So if admiration is what he needs from a wife, she knows this will be a problem.  

          I don’t get this, but admiration, for me, has nothing to do with what someone does for a living … unless they’ve done something extraordinary. They’re a non-famous actor and figured out way to make a full-time living at it or they run their own successful business, which is lined up with something they really believe in, etc. Your basic white collar professional? It takes education and hard work. I’m not knocking it, but a teacher and an ob/gyn are both professional jobs that one can get if one puts the effort into it. One is not better   simply because one pays more. Wouldn’t you admire the person and not the job?

        12. kenley

          Oh, Mrs Happy, I feel for you.   I had to work at a job where I wasn’t able to think and I too was miserable.   I now have a job where I am required to use my brand, and I am pretty autonomous too so I am   much happier.   I really hope that you can look for a job that will allow you to work part time and that will be challenging as well.

          As for this blog and the people who tell you that men don’t love the things you love about yourself.   First, I would ask does your husband love those things about you? If he does, why would you care what the men on this blog love?   They are just words on a screen.   But, if your husband doesn’t love those things about you, it really is enough that you do.   He clearly must love other things because he married you!   You love and you and your husband loves on you.     Also, remember, you have what many people on this blog don’t currently have — a husband and children you love.   I know that given how you are feeling right now, that doesn’t seem like much of a consolation, but it is.   But, I again, I urge you to please try to find a job that you at least like.

        13. Jeremy

          I understand.   And I sympathize.   The thoughts you’ve articulated here are ones I’ve heard before, both from my own wife and the women in my circles.   It seems that no matter what a woman chooses, guilt and frustration get in the way of her happiness.   Guilt being the emotion we feel when we do something we don’t think we *should*, frustration being what we feel when we do something we don’t internally want to.   I think that men feel as much frustration as women, but not as much guilt.   We are less affected by guilt because we are less burdened by our own expectations.   For example, I am sad that I missed so much of my kids’ childhood because I was at work, but I don’t feel guilty about it.   It was the choice I made, the sacrifice I made.   I’m only one person, can’t be all things to all people.   Women think they can, feel guilty when they realize they can’t.

          Guilt can be a useful emotion when it leads to remorse, to corrective action.   If I steal a bike and my feelings of guilt lead me to give it back, those feelings are useful and appropriate.   But un-directed guilt just hovers over a person like a toxic cloud, leading to all sorts of misdirected emotions.   For example, when my wife and I were having trouble, she would often tell me how guilty she felt about not wanting sex more.   But instead of using that guilt to change her behavior, it became the excuse to maintain it.   It was as if she said “Yes, I’m behaving badly, but see how I’m suffering with this guilt?   I’m being punished all the time, so I need not take any corrective action.”   In such a case, guilt is actually toxic – either utilize it to alter behavior, or banish it – don’t let it become an excuse for bad behavior because you feel you’re suffering from the guilt.   Banishing inappropriate guilt is easier said than done, I know.   But it should be the order of the day for people who are doing the best they can, as I try to tell my wife when she feels guilt about both not working more and not being with the kids more.

          I hear you about societal messaging, and it cuts both ways.   The Ob/Gyn woman will be conditioned to feel she is marrying down when she marries the male teacher if the qualities she respects are only related to providership.   The male teacher will feel that he married a woman who doesn’t admire him, who is better at being a man than him – if he invests his masculinity in his providership.   She would do well to learn to respect him for other things, he would do well to invest his sexuality into other things.   Easier said than done for some.

          Finally, regarding admiration – I think you’re right, but I think it’s not as hard as you might imagine.   My wife likes to hear “I love you” from me on a regular, even daily basis.   Of course, I do love her, and I do my best to show her through a hundred actions every day.   But without the words, she doesn’t perceive the emotion behind the action – so I do my best to say the words regularly, even though they don’t come naturally to me, even though I don’t internally think I should have to.   I imagine admiring statements could be handled similarly, for similar reasons.   I’ve read descriptions of hunter-gatherer societies where the male hunters would return with meat and the females would sing their praises and take them back to their beds.     We’re all a little primitive still.

        14. Jeremy

          Sorry to add to a long thread, but I had one other thought on the subject matter.   For all the women who feel frustrated by the sacrifices they’ve made in terms of work-life balance, what alternative do you suggest?   Mrs Happy, would you have honestly considered a husband who aspired to work part-time and care for the kids while you focused on your career?   Would you have married the male teacher like our friend, the Ob/Gyn?   And if not, if that’s something your conscious mind might acknowledge as valid but your subconscious mind rebels against, is it possible that the men you and Kenley know – the ones who prefer to work full-time rather than tend to the kids – might have become that way as an adaptive mechanism to capture and retain female interest?   Pew studies show that mothers of young children overwhelmingly prefer to work part-time (if they can), while fathers of young children prefer to work full-time.   But is that because it’s the men’s innate preference, or because they know that if they don’t work full-time, divorce is around the corner for them?   Mrs. Happy wrote about her frustration with the fact that the qualities men claim are attractive in women aren’t the qualities she values in herself.   Would anyone imagine that men feel differently?

        15. Mrs Happy

          Do you think that men feel differently?

        16. kenley


          No, I don’t think men are suppressing their desire to be stay at home dads to please women.   If that were the case, we’d have more men opting to be single fathers the way women are choosing to be single mothers.   As I wrote on another thread, it doesn’t seem as if men really even like children all that much.   Please note that is not a knock on men…just an observation based on how they behave.

        17. Jeremy

          No.   I don’t think men feel differently.   Women want men to focus on who they are, what they’ve achieved, what they can do; to focus less on their bodies, sexuality, and traditionally feminine qualities. Men want women to focus more on who they are and on their bodies/sexuality and less on their providership, status, and traditionally male qualities.   One commenter recently wrote that a man told her she was hot and she took it to mean that he saw her as a “sleeve for his penis.”   And while I think her opinion is valid for her, he likely wanted her to tell him that HE was hot, because he likely rarely/never hears it, but rather hears praise for heuristic qualities representing providership.   At a wedding I attended recently, the groom toasted his “beautiful wife,” while the bride toasted her “adoring husband.”   Both likely would have preferred different compliments, both are boxed into their place in society by those compliments.


          I was raised to invest my sexuality in my providership heuristics, Mrs Happy.   So much so that I could not possibly wrap my head around taking a paternity leave when my kids were little, even if it had been financially feasible.   My father and grandfather were so raised to invest their personal value in their providership that both believed they would die if they ever retired.   Literally die.   It’s not that I think most men want to be full-time stay-at-home dads, but I think most would like to spend more time with their kids than they do, and definitely would work part-time as so many women do….if they could do so while still feeling valued as human beings and as sexual men.

      2. 11.1.2


        I have quite a lot of guy friends and I am often amazed by who they  don’t find attractive. A woman who seems perfectly pretty to me will often get a “meh” response from them. From my observations, I’ve concluded that a man’s opinion of a woman’s attractiveness is more primal. Women can look at another woman more objectively and see that she has nice hair, good skin, pretty eyes, etc… But I think to a man, it simply comes down to whether he feels any sexual attraction for her.

        There are a lot of women who are pretty in that homely, wholesome way who perhaps don’t get asked out very much. I have a friend like this. She is kindness and gentleness personified, and she is pretty in a doll-like way (big blue eyes, rosy cheeks), but even I can see that she has little to no sex appeal. For years, she was rarely asked out or passed over by the guys in our friends group, until finally, she met her now-husband online. Since they waited till marriage to have sex, I conclude that sex wasn’t a big part of their courtship.

        So, I’m thinking that what the OP is probably lacking is sex appeal.

  12. 12

    Hey, I just realized this question was already answered in the movie Grease. Think of sweet Sandy before, and the sultry Sandy, in those tight black pants! She wasn’t mean all of a sudden – her niceness was dialled back to allow a more dynamic, vibrant aspect of herself to emerge. She was lovely and feminine before, but more dynamically feminine after. I think the OP probably needs to stay nice but add vibrancy – upgrade her wardrobe, get a sassy haircut, take up a cool hobby. Maybe take some comedy workshops and loosen up and get crazy from time to time. Those summer niiiiiggghhtts. Tell me more, tell me more, uh huh, yeah!

    1. 12.1
      S. (with a period)

      The only thing with this advice is what if that persona isn’t really her? Danny and Sandy rode Greased Lightning to the heavens, but we don’t see them long term.

      And let’s not forget he lettered in track for her.   😉

      The reason I bring this up is because of how frequently it’s said here that people don’t change. Which I believe to be true.   And that women change after marriage. (Which is inconsistent but it’s what people write here.)

      I am sure the things you suggest would attract a man, but if they weren’t internalized within the person she would eventually revert to who she really is.

      Everyone has some sex appeal they can develop.   Not always tight-pants appeal, but something.   But it has to be authentic to them or they’ll probably revert back.

      1. 12.1.1

        I think was you are saying is so true.   I remember 30 years ago when I went on the first date with my first boyfriend, I wore a sexy black dress – which really wasn’t how I liked to dress in public.   After the first date, I never wore sexy clothes like that again and my boyfriend would often accuse me of bait and switch!   Interestingly, I would wear sexy stuff for his eyes only, but he wanted me to wear sexy clothes in public, and that just wasn’t my thing.   So, now I only wear outfits on first dates that I would wear on dates 2 to infinity!

        1. S. (with a period)

          So weird.   Men here say that women think a guy is going to change.   And he won’t.   But it seems men think a woman will never change.   Like she has to be an exact replica of what she was on their first date as you say until infinity or he feels cheated.   I may be wrong but it seems like that sometimes.

          Goodness.   Can there be some middle ground?   Some women don’t want to look like sex appeal in public all the time.   There are reasons for that.   Some men are capable of change. It just might be small changes or bigger changes on their own timetable. And both can be said for both genders.

          A leetle flexibiity isn’t a bad thing. And I’m a creature of habit, myself!   But I know it’s not a bad thing. 🙂

      2. 12.1.2

        S. (with a period),

        On the other hand, nothing ventured nothing gained. Who do we want to be? What is our authentic self? We can’t know for sure until we try out different things, and get out of our comfort zone rut.

        Many years ago I decided to trade in my basic cotton briefs underwear and bra for some really sexy lingerie sets. I wore them to work, an office job, under my clothes. I just wanted to feel more feminine. No one could see it. The first couple of days, it freaked me out. I felt like some kind of sex maniac. But I persevered. Then I felt more at ease, and a week later I felt like I could be my feminine self and be at work and the sexy lingerie wasn’t a big deal. My external behavior did not change.   What changed was how I felt about myself as a woman. That impacted how I related to men.

        Who was my more authentic self? The sexy lingerie woman. But I did have to go through some discomfort to find that out. And I had to expand my sense of who I am now, and let go of who I used to be.

        A few weeks later, I tried on my previous cotton underwear and I didn’t like how it felt at all. I had outgrown that person I used to be and did not want to go back to it. But I had to take action for that change to have taken place.

        I agree that inauthentic changes won’t last, but we have to try things out, and keep growing. The OP is not happy with the status quo. So, change it up. As Einstein said, the definition of insanity is continuing to do the same thing expecting to experience different results.

        It isn’t so much about inauthentic changes but having the courage to live the life of your dreams, which often requires us to change how we approach life and be brave.

        That is what Evan’s programs, like Love U, are based on. If what you are doing or being isn’t effective, or getting you the results you want, approach it differently, learn to be different.

        I love Kelly Clarkson’s song Breakaway. “I’ll spread my wings and I’ll learn how to fly, I’ll do what it takes, til I touch the sky. Make a wish, take a chance, make a change, and breakaway.”

        Thanks for commenting. I forgot about Danny lettering for Sandy!

        1. Clare


          I love what you said about trying something new and getting out of our comfort zone.

          Much like your lingerie story – growing up, I didn’t used to be much of a party person. In fact, I hated them. I felt awkward at them, found them loud and overstimulating, didn’t think I’d have anything to say to people, and thought people would judge me for how shy I was being.

          Through a combination of encouragement from other people and a plain old desire to get involved, I started going out more and more. It was stop and start for a while, but aside from a few comments in the beginning, few people even noticed that I wasn’t totally comfortable at parties. These days I’m actually quite extroverted at parties, can happily converse with strangers and actually really enjoy them, even when I’m going on my own.

          Some aspects of ourselves which we think are part of our personality are actually just rooted in fear. With patience and perseverance, these parts absolutely can change, sometimes significantly. So I agree with S. (with a period), change or lack of change is not a hard and fast rule. Anyone  can change if it’s in their best interests, and when it comes to maturing and overcoming fear, these are changes people go through routinely. But you just can’t  bank on change when it comes to another person, because this is largely out of your control.

  13. 13
    Elle 1


    Some aspects of ourselves which we think are part of our personality are actually just rooted in fear. With patience and perseverance, these parts absolutely can change, sometimes significantly.  

    So true. Your story about becoming more extroverted at parties is inspiring. I agree we can’t change other people, or bank on other people to change. We only have control over ourselves; however, it often does take the encouragement of other people for us to make significant changes. I love how your friends supported you.

    I just remembered today another part of that lingerie story I had completely forgotten. I purchased those initial lingerie sets at a factory outlet when I was out of town visiting a close girlfriend from high school. She had been married for about ten years at that time. We went shopping together, and she was noticeably unenthusiastic about my purchases.

    As the day went on, it became clear that she was jealous that I was still single, and she was tied down, and she was also subtly not supportive of other positive changes I was making in my life. About a month later, we got into an argument about how she was treating me and we ended up parting ways permanently.

    It was a classic case of “crabs in a bucket” syndrome. I was climbing higher in my life, and like crabs in a bucket, who see one crab climbing upward and reach up and pull it back down, she kept subtly trying to pull me back down so I would not “outdo” her in life.

    Another example is the “Ya, but” syndrome. You decide you are going to dress up and look really fabulous for a party, and a friend says, “Ya, but what if you attract the wrong kind of guy?” You decide to get your hair cut a different way and a friend says, “Ya, but what if you don’t like it?” You decide to start doing yoga and a friend says, “Ya, but what if you injure yourself?”

    It can really be undermining. I have learned to choose my friends more carefully because of this, and I try to be positive and affirming and encouraging toward others as well so they can be as successful as possible in all areas of life. If we are happy for other people’s good fortune, then we can experience a lot more happiness in life all around.

    S. (with a period) mentioned Danny and Sandy riding the Greasemobile to heaven, and that we don’t know if their relationship worked out after Sandy’s big wardrobe and attitude change. I’m being a bit silly here, but I’m more worried about Rizzo grabbing on to the end of the car and pulling it back down to earth, yelling at Sandy, “Hey, I’m the sexy one, not you!!”

  14. 14

    Mrs Happy

    Hopefully it was the school holiday blues talking and you have your fill of ‘oh poor you’s’ from others….are you aware of how many people would kill to have your ‘problems’? Especially on a dating advice blog.

    You have written that you found dating a breeze, your husband showed up when you wanted him, you’re happily married with the kids you wanted, now you’re struggling with juggling work, kids and your nanny/housekeeper.   And apparently angry at this reality. Hmmm..

    As Jeremy pointed out, what exactly did you expect? Someone has to look after your kids and you’re very fortunate to have options in this regard, including home help. Also, I know many men who would either prefer to stay home or acutely feel the pressure of being the main / only provider for the next 20+ years. They don’t feel like they got the better choice or end of the bargain at all.

    In a few years your kids won’t need you as much and you can return to a high powered role after also having opportunity to spend time with a couple of amazing growing little people. Sounds pretty good to me. If it doesn’t to you – why have kids? Or bring the nanny on full time.

    And why concern yourself with what men want in dating when you’re not dating?

    Maybe try some gratitude. That may help..

    1. 14.1

      I can’t speak for Mrs Happy, Marika, but I can describe what I often see in my female friends, family members, and former students.   You asked “What exactly did you expect?”   But the better question is, “what DIDN’T you expect?”   They didn’t expect to want to be with their kids as much as they do, while also not wanting to be with them.   They didn’t expect the immense feeling of guilt they experience when considering not being with their kids, nor the immense feeling of guilt they experience for not working full-time, nor the frustration they feel in sacrificing the life they had before, nor the guilt they feel in returning to that life.   And regardless of the fact that statistics show that this is exactly how most women in this situation will feel, they never expected it would be how they feel.   Because they aren’t like most women….until they are.



      It’s what I once wrote to you, in fact, regarding a different set of expectations.   “Should the goals of our past remain the goals of our future, or are we allowing our past to dictate our future without consulting our present?”   Women with young kids take a breath and realize that the goals of their past can’t remain the goals of their future, that their presents need to make a contribution – a contribution that negates the qualities in which they have ego-invested their whole lives.   It is difficult, even for the most privileged.

    2. 14.2
      Mrs Happy

      Dear Marika,

      I am grateful for everything – a safe city and country, good quality universal healthcare if I get sick, fresh running water and electricity delivered to my house, free speech (e.g. this blog, no matter what my skin colour, gender, religion or relationship status is), the right to vote, work, be educated, drive, travel, the probability of a long life for me and my loved ones, enough food.   I realise most people throughout human history haven’t had these, and many people and women still don’t.

      Despite numerous advantages, I still (like all of us) get overwhelmed, tired and angry at times.   I shouldn’t let my anger show I know.   I regret that a lot.

      I was shocked at the never-ending-ness of mothering.   Bowled over by the intensity of love and connection.   Surprised at the organisational requirements.

      If I want to work, and I can’t find an employer who lets me arrive at 10am after 9am school drop-off, and then leave at 2pm so I can get to 3pm school pick-up, as well as have 3 months a year off during all the school holidays, I have to organise someone else to mind my children sometimes.   (And unless you have parenting help gold, i.e. involved local healthy grandparents, you have to pay for this childcare help.)

      I was surprised at the constant mental tracking that has to go on in my head- no ballet today, preschool finishing early who will pick him up, email the soccer club, book the immunisation appointment, buy bigger T-shirts he’s outgrown them, who is driving her to piano practice, defrost the chicken thismorning for tonight, plan his playdate, find a maths tutor, etc etc etc etc etc.   It is the mother who does all of this in my experience, no matter if she is in paid work more hours or for more money than her husband, or not.   It is the opposite of calm, in your head, and it occurs from the start of every day, until you are trying to sleep at night.   Sometimes it tires me out.     It also takes brain space so I have less left to read the physics book I bought a year ago and haven’t opened, or skill up on career training I know I should do; there’s just not enough mental downtime and brain space.

      There is a funny thing I’ve read about which is a theoretical physical distance mothers feel uncomfortable being past, away from their young children.   For example locally, I’ve read that it’s why women living in far western Sydney won’t travel 1-2hours each way into the city for work, if they’ve young children who are in daycare/school in western Sydney.   I feel that, and this means I don’t travel overseas for work anymore.

      Also everything Jeremy said just above is my (draining) emotional reality, and that was a surprise too.

      When I had my children I did not have a single friend who had children, and no relatives eg cousins or sisters, who had children, and though I suppose I could have talked to random mothers or researched, I had absolutely no idea any of this would happen.   So now it’s a real juggle to make it work.   I usually don’t mind the juggle, and it’s simply the reality for most working mothers, and even stay-at-home mothers with numerous children too.

      Yes my life is good but it would be a mistake to assume that because a woman has a husband and kids and an income, everything is rosy, and she should be able to be eternally grateful and never become irritated.   We are all only human.   Everyone has problems.   Most people in the developing world would kill to only have the problems of the commenters on this blog.

      1. 14.2.1

        Fair enough Mrs Happy

        I don’t pretend to know what it’s like to be you, and being surrounded with friends and family with children, as well as working with children, and playing a big role in my nephew’s life, I do understand that it can be challenging (I also understand that I get to go home at night, which they/you don’t).

        Of course, everyone has problems. I’ve just never had a high tolerance for the ‘poor me’ thing. Especially because, compared to most of us on this blog, you have it pretty good. I would imagine you’d probably be overwhelmed with support & compassion on a mothering website…this is a different audience.

        I suppose I also feel that in your comments you can be quite, well, brutal really. It never seemed to make an impact that women consistently rejecting their husbands for sex could be upsetting for them. You also wrote quite flippantly about cheating, as well as how disposable men were in dating….I think it can be easier to give empathy to those who try to show it in their wording & opinions. I find it incredibly easy to empathise with, and give Jeremy’s points due consideration, for instance.

        Anyway, perhaps it didn’t need to be said and I was a bit harsh, but this is why.

      2. 14.2.2

        @Mrs Happy, You know, everything you described had a huge impact on my choice not to have children. I was thinking just yesterday, that I don’t think I would have minded having children, if I had been guaranteed a cook, a housekeeper, a chauffeur, and a lady’s maid. (It probably only occurred to me because I was watching Downton Abbey. I have a little crush on Mr. Bates….but I could never have made Sybil’s choice).

        But since I, like most women, did not have that, for me the better choice was not to have kids. I just didn’t think that at the end of the day, I’d be happier. And I’m so grateful that I didn’t, because having to share that with my ex would have a been a nightmare beyond belief.

        As you say, I’ve learned things from this blog, but the biggest was this: Choose from the men that choose you first. If there’s a deal-breaker, accept that it’s what he wants, and break up with him, because it’s morally wrong to try to change him, and you’ll be miserable putting up with it. If he doesn’t meet your minimum sexual standard, break up with him – not wanting to deal with the conflict of telling someone you are not aroused by them, is no justification for their later suffering when you end up wanting a sexless marriage. And if you can accept him, don’t expect anything more, because what a man offers in the beginning is usually his best, not his usual behavior.

        The above makes me cringe, because it seems so passive, so powerless. But a woman’s power is in her no, just as a man’s power is in his offer. A man gets to choose the woman to whom he makes his offer, and she chooses whether or not to say yes. So in reality the power is equal. It helps when I remember it is MY job to represent myself as I wish to be seen – as a lady, as someone to be respected, adored and valued. It’s my job to say no when I see it’s not being offered, even when it’s uncomfortable – because the reward is getting what I really want.

  15. 15
    Mrs Happy

    I understand.   If anyone understands writing things that come across in unfortunate ways, it is I.   You hurt my feelings but then I decided to answer you rather than disappear and I’m glad. When some people on here get angry I try to remember, hey, he lost his good friend to a horrid disease last year, or, her marriage was really traumatic.

    BTW, just because I write about one side of a story, doesn’t mean I’m not appreciative or understanding of the other.   Sometimes I want to bring up an alternative view.   When I wrote in the Aziz Ansari piece, I intended to introduce the serious topic of rape and sexual coercion within long term relationships.   Of course everyone just jumped on the spouses-deserve-sex bandwagon, so I left the room.

    I’m aware that what I say presses some very personal buttons in people’s pasts and makes them angry, though I really do not intend to incite aggression.   I do tend to write bluntly about the reality I see, and that doesn’t always match the but-this-is-how-a-perfect-world-or-marriage ideal would be.   Then I get flamed for stating what I observe. (Or I’m told what I observe is wrong, or selfish, or, I don’t live in the (their) real world.)

    Yes I was very flippant when younger and I am not proud of that.   And just because a woman always has a boyfriend doesn’t mean her life is great. I do not want anyone’s pity. I would like to be able to discuss things without feeling personally attacked (that’s not directed at you Marika).   Sometimes discussions involve giving examples from our lives.   These should not be ammunition for anyone; they are each of us opening up about our lived experiences and I try to respect them as such.

    1. 15.1

      All good Mrs Happy. I didn’t come here to offend anyone or make enemies. To each their own. I hope you feel better now that the school holidays are over 🙂

    2. 15.2

      It’s not about who “deserves” what. It’s worrying to see crowds discuss about who “deserves” what. It’s not an examination to get a scholarship or job offer. It’s about natural and human desires. It’s true that our desires can’t always be met and demanding them to be is a recipe for disaster. BUT we should also acknowledge that we have these desires and it’s our RIGHT. It’s not wrong or SHAMEFUL to have those desires and the moment we start to deride and disparage others for merely HAVING them instead of the ways they express them. (even then, disparaging is usually counterproductive, showing healthy ways of expression is the beneficial way) And this disparagement goes only one way, for example if one is to say that someone who complains about their spouse sexually wanting them so much they would be stamped out as evil.

      I am tired of this hypocrisy. Harping on about “others don’t deserve X and Y” became a tool for making the other person look like who is always in the wrong. As for whether spouses “deserve” sex, again it’s not a job interview. To many people, sex has other meanings than just the physical act. When my partner sexually pleases me; I feel desired, cared for, accepted and like an important part of her life. It’s not about that I see my partner as a sex object, not at all. It’s about that I want to feel like a part of a life being lived and built together. What sustains love is the things we do to show we care about each other’s satisfaction and sex is just a part of it. Given two options, being with a partner who sees sex with you as a chore is very deprecating for self image. It’s not a man thing as I am a female saying this. Many women too would worry about their partner not sexually desiring them at all. I am not a lecherous pervert for acknowledging that, neither would I force my partner to have sex against her will. But I would worry quite much if she saw sex with me as a chore, I would thought what I did wrong. I don’t want to be moralized and lectured about how wrong I am to feel that way and I am unworthy of intimacy with my partner. When they say “you don’t deserve sex with your spouse”, others hear “you are unworthy of having close contact with your spouse” and no one likes to hear that they are unworthy from their partner.

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