What Guys Really Want In A Partner Is Super Depressing

Illustrated by Ly Ngo.
This article was originally published April 27, 2015.

We're definitely grateful that it seems like guys are getting more on board with some basic, progressive ideas about romantic partnerships. But, according to the results from a new survey, it's still pretty bleak out there, double-standard-wise.

The survey results, published this month as The Shriver Report Snapshot: An Insight Into The 21st Century Man, include responses from 818 American men over the age of 18. Although most respondents were white (71%), all areas of the country were represented. Among many questions about their lives, the heterosexual respondents were asked what two or three traits they wanted most in a wife or partner — and in a daughter.

While intelligence ranked at the top for both, there was a noticeable split for the other qualities. Both independence and strength were far more valued in a daughter than a wife. And, being principled was seen as more important for a daughter than a partner.

On the other hand, the results indicated that the respondents valued attractiveness, sweetness, and being nurturing far more in a partner than in a daughter. But, the way the men ranked the importance of independence is probably the most depressing finding here: As stated in the Snapshot's summary, "Amazingly, 66% describe wanting an independent daughter, yet only 34% mention independence in their partner." Womp.

There were a few other fun nuggets from the survey, though. For instance, 30% of respondents agreed that "women taking on greater responsibility outside of the home has had a negative effect on the confidence of American men." And, the average response for "having a female President of the United States" indicated respondents were on the low end of "comfortable."

So, the survey was able to give an interesting picture of men's conflicted feelings about women. While respondents were okay with some "progressive" ideas — like being married to a woman who makes more money than they do — they were way less comfortable with things like being a stay-at-home dad.

All of that is reflected in the way these men view the women in their lives. As Jeff Horwitt, who was part of the polling team, put it, "the qualities that men want most in a daughter — intelligent, independent, strong, and principled — are the qualities that help women thrive in the workplace. But, this...is what men say has made it harder to be a man today." So, as a result, we're stuck in an extremely frustrating spiral of unrealistic expectations — at least until men manage to get the hell over it.

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