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What Men Find Attractive in Women—Besides Looks!

What Men Secretly Find Sexy in Women

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Eavesdrop on any pre-date pep talk, and you'll probably hear the typical woman-to-woman dating advice: Play it cool, do your hair like this—and whatever you do, don't wear that. But while those traditional tips aren't necessarily wrong, there are other, way more important traits that research shows men find attractive—and they have nothing to do with your physical appearance.

The problem: Traditional dating advice has been leading us on a wild goose chase, one that leads away from the possibility of real, healthy love, says Ken Page, the author of Deeper Dating. Relationships are built on authenticity and connection, he explains. And if you're constantly on edge, playing hard to get, and worrying about your appearance, you're not going to be taking advantage of the science-backed traits that really attract love and intimacy. And the best news? You probably already have them. (And while you're at it, learn the 8 Things Men Wish Women Knew About Sex.)

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You're Kind

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The most important characteristic is also the most basic, Page says. One major study asked 10,000 men and women what quality they find most important in a mate. The number one response across the board? Kindness. The problem? "No articles are giving advice on how to be 'nice,' even though we'd all be so much better off simply being kind rather than spending hours in front of the mirror," says Page. And it doesn't take a lot to demonstrate these traits. Small acts of kindness, like being on time, letting the other person order first and choose where to sit, and being polite to the server, are clear ways to show consideration.

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You Make the First Move

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Forget playing it cool. Researchers who study speed dating events—where men and women basically make decisions in mere minutes—found that simply showing interest can build attraction. How to do it: Listen closely and ask questions, Page suggests. "It's like an aphrodisiac, and will cause the other person to find you more attractive."

Also, consider body language. Research shows that bodily movements, controlled by the limbic system in our brain, are particularly important for romance, because that part of our brain is also responsible for our feelings of love (fascinating, right?). Focus on positive body language: leaning in toward the other person, smiling, and keeping eye contact, suggests Jeremy Nicholson, Ph.D., author of The Attraction Doctor. (Try these 4 Ways to Use Eye Contact to Your Advantage next time your out with your man.)

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You're Positive

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Beauty really is more than skin deep. Research shows that positive personality traits can impact perceptions of physical attractiveness, Nicholson says. It may not be groundbreaking, but men are indeed attracted to pleasant, positive, and cheerful personalities in women, he explains. These positive personality traits are associated not only with higher physical attraction but also social attraction—a key factor in choosing a long-term partner. This isn't to say you need to put on a happy face 24/7, but if you focus on being friendly, and are open to meeting new people, it's a win-win.

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You're Honest

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Can't lie for the life of you? That's a good thing when it comes to love. For one, research has shown men are more sensitive to sexual infidelity than women (likely for evolutionary reasons—they want to be sure their offspring is actually theirs!), and are more likely to end a relationship after a partner is unfaithful than women. (See: 9 Touchy Subjects Guys Get Sensitive About.) And it's not like you needed another reason to be honest, but research finds that perceived honesty affects judgments of physical attractiveness as well, Nicholson says. In the study, participants deemed "honest" people as more fit, healthy, and kind.

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You Fight Right

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No matter how perfect your relationship is, fights happen. But there are four fighting styles, known in psychology as the four horseman of divorce, which signal a relationship is doomed, says Sean Horan, Ph.D., a professor at Texas State University. They are: criticism, defensiveness, contempt, and stonewalling, or becoming non-responsive—the most damaging behavior of all, research shows. When fighting, remember that you care about each other and that you have the same goals, Horan says. And don't shut your S.O. out. Talk about the issue, watch your words, and try to use "I" statements ("I feel disregarded when you're late to events") rather than blaming "you" statements ("You are never on time!"). (Learn how to Confront Common Relationship Roadblocks with advice from experts.)

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You Have Quirky Interests

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Finally: Your obsession with Harry Potter or that passion for tap dancing pay off. "A woman's unique hobbies, skills, and interests can make her more attractive as a relationship partner," Nicholson says. So despite what Victoria's Secret catalogues may suggest, there's no need to be the same as everyone else. It may sound conventional, but being yourself is a much better strategy, Nicholson says. Translation: Do you, especially if that "you" includes wizadry and tap shoes. (Want to take up something new? Here, Your Sexiest Hobbies, According to Men.)

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You Like Your "You Time"

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"I like to think of it this way: I love eating cake, but I can't eat it 24/7," Horan says. It's the same with a relationship: Of course you like being with the person, but you can't be with him all the time. "As humans, there's a tug between being autonomous and bonding with others." Both are equally important: You need to maintain your independence when you become part of a couple, and the same goes for your partner. Plus, in today's society, we've become more reliant on our partners to meet basically all of our needs, says Page. "This is actually a dangerous thing, as we're all human and limited in our ways." That's why it's important to have a circle of friends, especially one that supports you as a couple. Bottom line: Keep up your yoga-and-brunch dates with the girls, and encourage him to hang out with the guys. (Your "you time" is actually one of the 6 Things You Should Always Ask for in a Relationship.)

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