This Is What Men Care About Most in Relationships—and It’s Not Sexual Attraction

Updated: Sep. 08, 2017

Here's a little incentive not to hold back your feelings of love and admiration from your partner.

couplend3000/shutterstockFrom facial hair to sex organs, men and women are hardwired differently, and we see life in radically different ways—especially when it comes to romantic relationships. Countless studies show that men’s sex drives are not only stronger, but that they think about sexual material more frequently (at least once a day, according to research) and that they crave sexual activity more often. But it turns out there is one thing that turns the male head more than sexual attraction: It’s reciprocated love, according to a new study.

Joel Wade, PhD, a Bucknell University researcher who previously studied how men and women fight (and kiss and makeup) differently, focused on how men and women react to relationship situations in a new study. In a survey of just under 100 individuals, the majority of them in their early twenties, Wade asked both men and women which scenario they found most upsetting: Finding out a partner’s feelings weren’t as strong as their own, or finding out their partner didn’t see them as sexually attractive as they saw their partner. Both sexes felt that a partner whose love wasn’t equal to their own was worse than unequal sexual attraction.

Dr. Wade was intersted to find that in this study, published in the Journal of the Evolutionary Studies Consortium, men and women were on the same page when valuing the various types of attraction. Emotional commitment and sex both play a role in a relationship’s success—but Dr. Wade didn’t expect commitment to trump sex for both genders, he explained to Reader’s Digest. “It’s surprising that men and women don’t differ on this opinion.”

Wade does note, however, that cross-cultural research on this topic is needed in addition to analyzing older men and women’s views on these two scenarios. “The takeaway, which is surprising, is that individuals want to know that their level of love for, or emotional commitment to, a partner is reciprocated, and that reciprocated love is more important than reciprocated sexual attraction,” he says.