What Men And Women Get Wrong About Dating And Compatibility

We all have that one friend who can’t figure out why they’re single. Maybe we’ve even been that friend. We’re fit, successful, intelligent, and driven, but we can’t seem to keep a relationship going longer than a few dates, or make a connection at all. We might even feel like all the guys we happen to attract aren’t up to our level, whether in income, attractiveness, intellect, or otherwise.

By Gwen Farrell4 min read

As it turns out, men are experiencing this too. It’s not that there’s a shortage of single men and single women around, but the pool of people who would make compatible mates seems to be narrowing as time wears on. Our guy friends are so nice, why don’t they have girlfriends? Our girlfriends are ambitious, why don’t they have boyfriends?

At the heart of singleness lies our desire to mirror what traits we think will attract the most interest. But that’s exactly what men and women get wrong about dating!

Why Am I Still Single!?

Men often fall under the misapprehension that they need to exhibit traditionally feminine traits to attract a woman, just as women often think they need to demonstrate traditionally masculine traits to attract men. It’s for this reason that you often hear men say, “I’m a nice guy, why don’t I have a girlfriend?” or women say, “I’m so successful, why doesn’t a guy want to be with me?”

This is a frustrating problem, to be sure, but it could easily be solved by shifting some of our priorities. For one thing, anecdotal experience tells us that men who describe themselves as “nice” are usually anything but. In a similar vein, you can usually count on men who describe themselves as “allies” or feminists turn out to be pretty sketchy. It’s not that women don’t want men who aren’t going to be kind and sweet to them, but a guy who describes himself as “nice” before any other adjective is probably lacking in a few areas – likely self-awareness and confidence, physically or otherwise, to name a few. 

As the saying goes, nice guys usually finish last, and there’s actually research to back this up. An Israeli research study of 56 men and 56 women found that although men were attracted to women they perceived as nice, the women in turn did not find nice men attractive.

Although men were attracted to women they perceived as nice, women weren’t attracted to “nice” guys.

If nice guys finish last, then successful women are right alongside them. Historically, more women are in the workforce now than ever before, which has made things interesting in terms of sexual dynamics, especially when it comes to dating. The driven high-achiever earning six figures but severely lacking in the romance department might be an overused trope of romantic comedies, but it’s also pretty accurate. Women become ambitious and accustomed to being in control in a fast-paced corporate environment, but are surprised and disheartened to find that attitude doesn’t translate to the dating world. 

The Leo DiCaprio Effect

This shift in exhibiting characteristics and traits of the opposite sex is the exact opposite of what I’ve coined “the Leo DiCaprio effect.” DiCaprio perfectly demonstrates how adhering to the natural instincts of our gender tends to work out in our favor more often than not. I’ll explain.

As we all know, DiCaprio is a world-famous actor and millionaire. He’s also a climate activist, a member of the Hollywood elite, and a bit of a playboy, if tabloids and celebrity gossip are anything to go on. DiCaprio started dating in the public eye at a young age. In 1996, a year before the release of Titanic would propel him to heartthrob superstardom, he was already being seen in the company of world-famous models.

Over the years, his list of girlfriends – specifically women under the age of 25 – has only grown, and DiCaprio has since dated Victoria’s Secret models like Gisele Bündchen and Erin Heatherton, as well as actress Blake Lively and models Toni Garrn and Nina Agdal. Though DiCaprio has dated some of the world’s most beautiful and well-known women, he’s never married and has no children, and many have criticized him for currently dating 19-year-old model Eden Polani. DiCaprio is now 48 years old.

The ethics of dating a woman 30 years younger than you aside, DiCaprio exhibits a classic male approach to dating. He only engages in relationships with young, attractive women. Most of us would probably be shocked to see him date an Ivy League-educated academic instead of a Victoria’s Secret model. While each of these women is successful in her own right, their careers are first and foremost based on modeling and acting, or around their physique and appearance. DiCaprio chooses only the young and most beautiful women to date, not the CEOs of Fortune 500s, middle-aged entrepreneurs, or well-known politicians.

Here’s the Truth

What’s Leo’s secret to success? Being an actor and millionaire probably helps, but it looks like he approaches dating with physical attraction in mind. Men are visual creatures, after all, and even if we’re the most successful venture capitalist the world has ever seen, if we never get to the gym or put any effort into our appearance, our social life will probably be lacking.

Similarly, women are emotional creatures. If a man doesn’t describe himself as nice, first and foremost, but has an amazing sense of humor, ability to empathize, makes us laugh, and can carry an intelligent conversation, his chances are good. Plus, there’s something sexy about the mystery and intrigue of a confident, masculine man. That man probably isn’t calling himself “nice.”

Compatibility, at heart, is really about filling the void for what the other person needs. 

Trying to give off masculine energy to attract a man is like two ends of a magnet pushing away from each other – they’re just not compatible. In the same way, giving off feminine energy to attract a woman will also probably backfire.

Any rational woman looks at a nice guy and probably thinks, what would I bring to the table? Could I be emotional without him falling apart too? At the same time, a man looks at a woman dominant in her field and her career and consistently away from home, and thinks, what would she need me for?

Compatibility, at heart, is really about filling the void for what the other person needs. A man might prefer to be in the workforce but come home to a comfortable, warm, and inviting space he couldn’t have accomplished all on his own. As women, we might naturally prefer a strong man who’s not so comfortable in his vulnerability and his emotions that he’s insecure, but one that’s well-adjusted and self-aware. Traditional gender norms might be out of style, but they really had things right the first time, as it turns out.

Closing Thoughts

The key to compatibility is being the negative to the positive end of the magnet. Two positives won’t work, just as two negatives won’t either. But a woman who’s sure of herself and comfortable being the head of her household is likely more approachable and more attractive to a man who spends his own days working. Additionally, a woman wants a man with a strong character and self-possession to come home to her, one she can confide in, rather than one who can’t handle his own emotions in addition to hers.

If we’re concerned that we’re single and not attracting the guy or gal of our dreams, maybe it’s time to reevaluate. Is it really incompatibility, or is it our niceness or our 80-hour-a-week job that’s turning the other person off?

There’s nothing wrong with having impressive accomplishments as a woman or being in tune with your emotions as a man. But do we make those aspects a footnote of who we are, or are they our whole identity?

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