I am here today with the lovely Duana Welch, Ph.D., author of Love Factually, who is going to give some much-needed advice to us men. Before we get started, I want to stress that although this interview is written for the benefit of men, Dr. Welch’s advice is for everyone.
I’ll post this interview in two parts. Part one will be general observations and advice for married men, and part two will be for you single guys. Okay, let’s get started.
Hi Duana. Thank you so much for agreeing to this interview. First, tell us about yourself. Why should guys out there read this interview?
Hi John, and thanks for having me as a guest! In a nutshell, I’ve become a dating expert out of necessity: I wasn’t very good at making good decisions, and that cost me a lot of pain. While I was getting my Ph.D. in psychology, it occurred to me that although I wasn’t studying healthy partnerships, other scientists probably were. Reading their work changed my life—I’m happily married to Vic for a decade now–and eventually started a blog of my own, a client practice around the world, and now have a book out in five languages. Love Factually is the first book to take men and women through every stage of dating based on science rather than opinion.
Guys should ignore my work unless they like fact-based relationship information, in which case, welcome! Seriously, about a third of my readers are men, and about 80% of my clients are, too. I find men extremely open to science and very interested in making and keeping happy relationships, as long as the advice is based on fact and not only opinion.
Right—we do tend to be more persuaded by facts. You stay busy with speaking and writing. What are you working on right now? Any upcoming books?
Basically, I write books I needed. I’m a former single parent, and my next book is Love Factually for Single Parents, due out in January of 2019. It’s the first science-based guide for men and women who want to choose not only the right partner for them, but for their family. It’s also for anyone who is partnered with a single parent, dates single parents, or who has single parents (or their partners) as counseling clients.
That sounds like a great book. Ok—it seems like some men, especially young men, are intimidated by successful and intelligent women. At least there seems to be a perception that that is true, but is it?
Science shows that intelligent men are not, by and large, intimidated by intelligent women. Men of achievements and intellect usually enjoy a partner who interests them, and people all over the world prefer a partner who is a match in intelligence. Smart women don’t hide their intellect; the right guys are turned on by them, and the others would not match them anyway.
That’s true for me; I find my wife’s intelligence incredibly attractive. So, what does a smart, good looking woman want in a man?
Most people seek a match, in terms of looks as well as many other qualities. Most women seek someone about as good-looking and smart as themselves.
Men and women around the world value a partner who is kind, loving, loyal, emotionally stable and available, and honest. Character counts. Where there are gender differences, science finds them globally: women value ongoing provision and protection (read: a guy who will bring home the bacon and give it to their wife and family in a full commitment), and men value fertility and fidelity (read: a woman who is young, beautiful, and unlikely to cheat).
To the extent that a beautiful woman marries a guy who is less good-looking than herself, the guy usually has more resources than she does. This is a trade-off made around the world: men and women either match, or they trade her youth and beauty for his economic security.
Tell us a little about your husband, Vic. What are some things that initially attracted you to him?
We were introduced online, and I could tell from his profile that Vic is the total package: kind, respectful, mature, steady, fully committed, funny, and utterly dependable, with a big heart he wants to devote to others. He’s a rock. It’s amazing how sexy these qualities are if you’ve ever gone without! We shared a vision for life and a value system—things research shows will not only get a good partner, but keep them. I knew he was a great man even before we met in person; he worked full-time, adopted a son, and still found time to devote 10 hours a week to volunteer work. Everyone who knew him told me that I was lucky to have him, and that if they needed help at any hour, they knew they could count on him. And he made me feel very secure the whole time we were dating. I literally never felt lonely again after we met—and I had felt lonely for years before that, including when I was dating.
Ten years into our marriage, I’m still happy every day that he picked me. The most basic question any of us asks in a relationship is, “Are you there for me?” He is. Always. And I could tell he would be, from the very start.
Vic sounds like a great guy—someone I’d love to have as a neighbor and friend. So, a man marries the woman of his dreams. How does he keep her happy and interested?
Science shows that the best thing you can do is to treat her with kindness and love like you did back when you were working to win her heart. You know the song, “Lonely women make good lovers”? Research bears it out: women who start looking elsewhere usually do that as a response to feeling lonely in their marriage. Be your wife’s friend as well as her lover. Treat her at least as well as you would a total stranger, and show her respect in front of others as well as in private. Ask her what you can do to help her out. Act as if you know that if you track mud in the house, someone is going to have to clean it—and let you be the one who does that, because it’s disrespectful to assume that she should have to. Show her physical affection even when there is no chance of it leading to sex.
Sex usually gets better—more intimate, more connected—in marriage. In national surveys, results find that married people are not only having more sex than single people, but that the sex is more enjoyable. When that’s not true, it’s usually the wife who loses interest, and usually that’s due to a partner who is not doing the stuff listed above. If I could summarize over 65 years of relationship science in one sentence, it would be: If you can find and be someone kind and respectful, your love life will probably go well; and if you can’t, it won’t.
My wife is 5 years younger than me. She’s super fit, athletic, and attractive. At 43, I’m not quite the stud that I was when we met. How can a middle-aged man stay attractive to his wife?
Women are much less focused on appearance in their mates than men are, for the simple reason that men are almost endlessly able to procreate; so women’s unconscious mating psychology is not primed to value your looks nearly as much as yours is primed to value your wife’s appearance. Men interested in women value youth and beauty because they’re fertility signals; ancestral men who could not tell on sight whom to mate with were left in the genetic dust, and today, all men appreciate a great body with the face to match.
So if you want to stay attractive to your mate, please know that in many years of coaching, I’ve never heard from a woman who became unattracted to her husband over his appearance. Be clean and smell good to her, and get some moderate exercise a few times per week.
Mainly, though, focus on how you’re treating her. Women who feel cherished, listened to, and regarded with respect and kindness are women who are happy with their mates.
What are the biggest mistakes married men make in their relationships?
Forgetting to be considerate, kind, and respectful of their wives. If you show tenderness and genuine concern for your wife and your relationship with her; if you listen to her talk about her day, back her up, and if her opinion carries real weight with you and is included in decisions; if you speak well of her in front of others and in private; if you adore her and show it in the ways she connects with–you’re golden. If not, going on an expensive vacation ain’t fixing things. I’ve known married men who bought their wife a new car, or took her on a cruise, who couldn’t figure out why she was still unhappy. She was unhappy because she needed love, affection, and a listening ear.
You know that cartoon of the male prostitute who leans in women’s car windows and pitches, “Oh yeah, baby, I’ll listen to you. I’ll listen to you all night long.”? Be that guy, for your wife. She won’t really have you listen continually—she’ll just love you for the willingness to be there for her.
Read Part Two here.
Duana C. Welch, Ph.D.
LoveScience: Research-based relationship advice for everyone