While there is no playbook for how to snag and keep a good woman, science has accumulated some helpful tips toward a successful romantic life designed to last well beyond Valentine's Day.
1. Offer money, love and dependability
Gals want looks and smarts. While you men can't control those two characteristics much, take heart: Money and character are also important to women. A study in December of more than 1,000 undergraduate students revealed women's top mate characteristics were mutual attraction and love, dependable character, and emotional stability.
Quality time counts, too.
A survey of more than 5,000 U.S. couples published in the journal Social Forces in 2006 suggested women are happiest in their marriages when men show a high level of emotional engagement: expressing positive emotions; being attentive to their wives' needs; and setting aside time for activities focused specifically on the relationship.
2. Practice saying "thank you"
When it comes to a committed relationship, spats about money and household chores top the list of sources for marital rancor. And research has shown women take on the lion's share of laundry and such.
Listen up, guys: One simple way to keep a lady happy even while buried beneath chores is to say "thank you."
Results from a study of both married couples and college students living with roommates revealed that people who felt appreciated by their partners had less resentment over lopsided house labor. Those who felt appreciated also showed higher satisfaction with their relationships compared with other study participants.
3. Don't be jealous
The Brad Pitts of the world may be good for your relationship. Psychologists have found that after meeting an available, attractive guy, women are more likely to work to strengthen their current relationships. The study, published last year in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, ran lab-based experiments of more than 700 college men and women.
In one experiment, women either met a single guy who flirted with them or an unavailable man who ignored them. Women who met the single guy were about 18 percent more likely to say they'd forgive their significant others for lying about the reason for canceling a date or other irritating behavior.
In a similar situation, men who met a hot, single woman were about 12 percent less likely than other men to forgive partners' annoying behavior.
4. Leave aggression on the field
Women may dig guys roughing it up in a hockey game or other athletic competition. But when it comes to long-term romance, ladies would rather if their mates left such power punches on the ice (or other field), according to a study published in the December 2008 issue of the journal Personal Relationships.
Jeffrey Snyder, a doctoral candidate and evolutionary anthropologist at UCLA, and his colleagues found that women preferred men who relied on prestige, or certain skills and accomplishments, to get to the top, as opposed to men who used subtle aggressive behaviors to reach a powerful position — say, in a fraternity.
But don't women go for "bad guys?" Not when it comes to long-term relationships. If that aggressive man isn't flexible in his behavior, the result could be a domineering bully for a partner.
"If you have one individual that every time they disagree they get coercive and insist that their perspective is best, that their decision is final, and they're going to get their way, that compromises the ability of individuals in a relationship to coordinate," Snyder told LiveScience. "Basically what I'm talking about is inviting a jerk into your household."
5. Watch her heart
Chocolates may be one way to a woman's heart on Valentine's Day, but true love is more than a box of chocolates.
Heart disease is the No. 1 killer of women, and studies have found women, being generally so bighearted, are more likely to than men to discount their own risk of heart disease. Your job, men: Make sure your sweetie gets regular checkups and takes care of herself.
"Women must get serious about heart disease and take control of their heart health, starting at an early age," said Elizabeth Nabel, director of the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute. "Younger women need to take steps now, like eating a healthy diet and being physically active, to help prevent heart disease later."
- Who Was Saint Valentine?
- The Rules of Attraction in the Game of Love
- Top 10 Aphrodisiacs
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Jeanna served as editor-in-chief of Live Science. Previously, she was an assistant editor at Scholastic's Science World magazine. Jeanna has an English degree from Salisbury University, a master's degree in biogeochemistry and environmental sciences from the University of Maryland, and a graduate science journalism degree from New York University. She has worked as a biologist in Florida, where she monitored wetlands and did field surveys for endangered species. She also received an ocean sciences journalism fellowship from Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.