A woman standing with her hands crossing her heart

Men Are Looking for a Nurturer, Not Another Mother

by Dr. Seth Meyers - November 11, 2016

Having worked with hundreds of male clients over the years, I can say with assurance that what men are really looking for in a woman is nurturance. Men are looking for a woman who can be strong, but also kind and warm. Men want a woman who shows them physical affection, and also listens when it matters most. While many mothers have some of these characteristics, there are crucial differences.

Nurturing girlfriends show physical affection, while mothers are sometimes physically smothering.

Some touch is good, but too much touch can be downright annoying. Men want a girlfriend who can alternate between giving them affection and, when needed, giving them space. This distinction calls to mind the scenario of a mother who covers her kids in kisses or hovers over them when they want to be alone. Men want to be nurtured but not smothered.

Nurturing girlfriends share their opinion, while mothers tell you what to do.

If you are a woman who believes that what men are really looking for is a mother, guess again. Yes, there are a handful of men who are looking for a mother figure, but those relationships are not healthy and that relationship dynamic quickly breeds resentment on both sides. Example: You start dating a guy and notice that his home is a little too messy for your comfort. In this case, a nurturing girlfriend suggests that you spend time together at her home because she likes how clean it is at her place. On the other hand, a mother-type goes over to your place, tells you have to clean up your place, and keeps nagging you about it until it’s done.

Nurturing girlfriends understand that you are in charge of your own life, while mothers treat you like a little kid.

One of the most common behaviors of mothering types is taking over the man’s to-do list or activity planner and taking charge for fear that things won’t get done otherwise. Example: A nurturing girlfriend knows her boyfriend has an early dentist appointment, but she knows that it isn’t her job to make sure he gets there on time. On the other hand, a mother-type will remind him about his appointment and later even check to see if he made it to the appointment.

Nurturing girlfriends accept who you are, while mothers often try to change you.

It’s part of a mother’s job to get her child to practice better hygiene, finish his homework, and do better in school. In other words, a mother who is good at her parenting job will help change that child in good, healthy ways. It is a girlfriend’s job, on the other hand, to accept that a man is his own, separate person and to accept (for the most part) who he is, without trying to improve or change him altogether. A woman can get together with a man she can try to change or control, but it’s only a matter of time until he comes to see her as his keeper, his nag, or his “old ball and chain.”

Nurturing girlfriends listen, while mothers talk at you and sometimes even lecture.

One consistent theme I have discerned among men in their relationships with women is their appreciation of a girlfriend who listens instead of rushing to judgment and telling them they did something wrong. Example: When a man doesn’t call when he said he would, a nurturing girlfriend listens to the man explain why he didn’t, tells him how she felt when he didn’t call, and then waits a bit of time to see if he corrects the behavior. On the other hand, a mother type in this situation berates him for his mistake (because mothers have authority over their kin) and repeats over and over how he better not make the same mistake again.

Bottom line: The reason that most relationships fail is because one or both partners’ emotional needs are not getting met. When it comes to meeting the needs of men, women -especially alpha female personalities – should remember that the goal is to be supportive and nurturing but not to control or tell anyone what to do. The best relationships involve two people who feel that the other cares about them but stops short of controlling them or trying to change who they are. If you want a good relationship, choose the nurturing role instead of the mothering one!

About the Author:

Dr. Seth is a licensed clinical psychologist, author, Psychology Today blogger, and TV guest expert. He practices in Los Angeles and treats a wide range of issues and disorders and specializes in relationships, parenting, and addiction. He has had extensive training in conducting couples therapy and is the author of Dr. Seth’s Love Prescription: Overcome Relationship Repetition Syndrome and Find the Love You Deserve