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#1 Surprising Reason Men Said They Chose Their Wife

As a dating coach and matchmaker, I’ve spent the past ten years conducting some unconventional dating research using a business concept called “Exit Interviews.” I interviewed over 1,000 men who were former dates of my clients, as well as strangers I approached in cafes or bookstores.  I asked all these men what turned them on (and off) about the women they had dated. Most of my interview subjects were single, but over 100 of them were married or engaged, and they described to me the moment when they first knew a woman was special and had future-wife potential.

I had assumed these husbands and fiancés would recall how beautiful their wife was, or how funny or smart she was. I might have guessed they’d say, “She seemed like she’d be a good mother.” Perhaps they might talk about mutual interests such as skiing or foreign films. Sure, all those elements probably factored into their attraction, but I discovered something else was actually credited with that initial “aha” moment. The #1 most frequent answer men cited about when they knew a woman had future-wife potential was something rather…. um, bland. They basically said she was really a “nice” person.  Initially this sounded so boring, but I asked for examples to help me understand if there might be more to it. The anecdotes I heard turned out to be anything but boring. The men’s stories focused on small moments that were fascinating but nothing grand: just brief gestures or comments they remembered when a woman seemed nice, kind, thoughtful, or considerate. Four examples:

“I had mentioned my favorite dessert was from a bakery with the best chocolate walnut brownie. The next night she dropped off that brownie with my doorman, but the point was that she did a ‘drive-by.’ Most girls would have used it as an excuse to hang-out, or worse, to check up on me. I liked her gesture because it was actually focused on doing something nice just for me.”  —Thor, age 45, Dallas, TX

“I was blown away by her respect for other people! She told me that whenever she stays at a hotel, she tidies up her room before leaving so the maid won’t be grossed out. She feels sorry for hotel maids because they have a hard and often disgusting job. If there’s hair in the sink, she wipes it out. If there’s a used Kleenex on the desk, she’ll throw it away. She puts herself in the maid’s shoes and tries to do her small part by not leaving one room dirty.  I’d never heard anything so considerate!”
—Nigel, age 46, Minneapolis, MN

“We met for coffee at Starbucks, and we were standing at the condiments bar when she accidentally spilled a little sugar onto the counter top. No big deal, right? Except she actually took a napkin and wiped up after herself! I asked her why [she did that], and she told me it just seemed polite so the next person wouldn’t have to look at someone else’s mess. If it was me, I’d just leave whatever I spilled and figure the staff would clean it up… It was just a small thing, but it impressed me how thoughtful she was.”
—Brian, age 34, Denver, CO

“As a doctor, I used to be on call several nights a week. I was always exhausted, but I was really looking forward to our first date. When I picked her up, she invited me in for a quick glass of wine before we drove to the restaurant. I sat down in this really comfortable leather chair, and while she was in the kitchen opening the wine, I actually fell asleep. But she didn’t get mad! Most gals would have taken offense if their date fell asleep on them. Not only that, she sat quietly for about 20 minutes and read a book. When I woke up, she said she could see I was exhausted and thought I could use a quick nap. I’d never met someone so kind. We’ve been married 46 years.”
—Murray, age 85, Denver, CO {a.k.a., my dad!}

Kind… nice… thoughtful… Hmmm. Was it really that simple?  Do men actually want to marry “bitches” or women who “play it cool,” as I’ve read in some popular advice books? Or do they really, deep down, just want someone nice? Here’s my theory about all the stories men remembered: it’s basically “like attracts like.” The guy looking for a truly nice woman understands the importance of kindness, and is most likely a nice person himself. Of course, there will be individual exceptions, but from what I’ve seen, the guys who stand the test of time-the ones who make the best husbands and continue treating you with respect after “I do”-are impressed during the dating phase by a nice person.  The word “nice” gets a bad rap in our society today: I think it is often synonymous with “boring” (which was my own initial assumption!). But from my research, I can assure you that marriage-minded men sit up and take notice of women who display kindness before any other trait.

The rest of my 1,000 dating “exit interviews” highlight all the small comments and gestures to avoid during the early stages of dating when first impressions are so crucial. You can read about the Top Ten reasons men said they didn’t call back after a date or after an online flirtation in my new book, WHY HE DIDN’T CALL YOU BACK.

Rachel Greenwald is the author of the new book:  Why He Didn’t Call You Back: 1,000 Guys Reveal What They Really Thought About You After Your Date. She is also the New York Times Bestselling author of Find a Husband After 35( Using What I Learned at Harvard Business School). Rachel is a frequent relationship guest on The Today Show, The Early Show, CNN, National Public Radio, The Dennis Prager Show, and has been featured in Oprah Magazine, Fortune Magazine, The New Yorker, People, USA Today, and many others. She is a professional dating coach and matchmaker. Visit her website and ask Rachel a question at