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Many stereotypes about men abound: They don't like to cuddle after sex; they're only interested in women with model-thin bodies; they hate to show their feelings and vulnerabilities. Not true, say guys. So we gave them the floor to set the record straight. Here, the top things men want women to know, straight from the mouths of real men.
1. Kissing and romance mean as much to us as sex. "There has to be an emotional foundation for sex," says Ed Fertik, a Brooklyn, New York, bachelor. It's not that men don't love unforgettable sex; they do. But in a serious relationship, they want it preceded and followed by romance, kisses, hugs, and a loving touch. Contrary to the notion that men just want to roll over and play dead after intercourse, many guys say they do want to cuddle afterward. Some will even admit they'd like you to read to them or rub lotion on their bodies (and they'll do the same for you, if you ask!).
2. We like you just the way you are; no models required! Hollywood and fashion magazines may make women feel they must have taut tummies and look model-perfect, but guys say they appreciate real women with foibles and imperfections. And personality counts! "Warmth is a much bigger turn-on than cleavage," says Clifford Berkley, a divorcee in Staten Island, New York.
3. We love when you cook us a meal, knit us a scarf, or buy us something we need without our asking. Guys aren't saying that they want women stuck in conventional household roles, just that they enjoy the surprise of a special meal on the table, a homemade gift, or a thoughtful gesture. "I love it when my wife buys me something she knows I need for work," says Douglas Hanau, a New York City newlywed. "Or when she prepares a meal for me that she's never made before."
4. We want to be constantly admired. Guys know they're not perfect, but they want you to tell them they are, or at least highlight frequently the things they do best. If he's great with stuff around the house, ask him to fix something by telling him what a great job he did on the last fix-it task. If he's a gifted writer, ask him to write you love notes, and tell him how much you love his way with words. He wants you to look for his strengths and applaud them -- often! There's also no bigger turn-on, guys say, than a woman who notices the small things he does to be considerate.
5. We appreciate when you contribute financially, especially if you can afford to. Men like to treat women to special things, but they also like to be treated, in return. Share the financial burden of a relationship and know your guy's financial situation; be sensitive to what he can afford. Don't expect a $200 night on the town if that's the sum total of his monthly savings. And don't forget to break out your wallet. "If she earns a good living and is otherwise liberated, I appreciate her helping out," says Fertik. You don't have to split the bill on every night out; just take out your wallet some of the time, men suggest.
6. Being kind to our mothers, siblings, and annoying relatives scores big points with us. Guys so appreciate when women go out of their way to be kind to their families. If there's a relative who's particularly annoying, remember, your man often feels as much frustration or antipathy toward the person as you do. But blood is thicker than water, and a little patience and effort go a long way. Bring along a special treat for a big family meal; send a warm thank-you note after you've visited; or participate in the weekly phone call your guy makes to his mom. Ask him how he prefers you to show your interest.
7. Unusual spots for sex turn us on. Men like to get out of the bedroom. They'd like you to offer up your bathroom, your kitchen, and other unusual spots for a special afternoon of love-making. "There's nothing like sex in the afternoon," says Berkley (especially, he says only half-jokingly, if you'll let him indulge in watching a TV sporting event later). And when it comes to fantasies, they're happy to play along with yours, and they love for you to indulge theirs. Another guy request: They want to talk to you about sex, openly and candidly.
8. We want to be validated all the time. It may sound like psycho-jargon, but men like to talk about their feelings, and they like when you echo those feelings back to them so they feel understood. Guys also love to talk about work, interactions with colleagues -- and sports. Give them their rants. And if they are creative, or concocting an idea a minute for work, they want to lay out their ideas for you to applaud. So applaud! "There's nothing that turns me on more than a girl who asks me to explain the logistics of football calls," says Berkley. "It can be a great bonding moment."
9. We need you to encourage us to take risks, and support us if we fail. If your man has a chance for a promotion at work, he wants your encouragement and support. Build up his confidence by listing all the reasons he should try for the promotion. Also, guys don't want you to change their bad habits; they say they're well-aware of the things they're not so good at. But you can gently offer suggestions for coping or altering annoying habits. "Great is the gal who helps me make fun of my foibles," says Berkley.
10. We can have platonic friendships with females. Don't assume we've got something to hide if we want an hour to play racquetball or four hours to play golf, guys say. Female friends are also a necessary ingredient in many men's social routines -- and work connections make it likely that some of a guy's close friends may be women. If you're concerned that a friendship is turning romantic, talk to him candidly about your worries -- but don't presume foul play.
11. We like women who are assertive, but not aggressive. If you want to try something out in bed, guys are almost always game. Assertiveness is also welcome when planning a weekend getaway, a vacation or even a night out. Let your guy know what you like in a soft-spoken, caring way. Others prefer subtle assertiveness. "Manipulate us in a feminine way," says Berkley, "but don't let us know we're being manipulated." That means don't try stuff that's too strange too soon in a relationship; talk and communicate.
12. We're not as different from you as you think. Books that tout the differences between the sexes may be hot on the best-seller lists, but guys yearn for the same emotional connections that women do -- they just express those needs differently. "Guys who tell you they don't need to be close and bond -- with women or with each other -- are lying," says Berkley. To keep the bond strong, ask your guy often what you can do to make him feel more loved. He'll love you back even stronger.