Look, there are a billion guides out there on how to "get a girlfriend," as if winning a specific person's affections is the same as getting a job. But the hard truth is, there is no formula, no magical equation of flirtation and assertion that is guaranteed to make someone like you.
But there are, however, other people's experiences of what won them over, and chances are, these won't be found in a step-by-step tutorial on the "right" way to date. So if you're curious about what made nine real women want to date their partner, here are the takeaways:
1) Take things slow.
"I've known my partner for over 10 years and we've only been dating for six. We hung out a lot but I never saw it as anything romantic until one day, when we were at a restaurant. It was definitely a romantic setting and we were alone together for one of the first times. The entire evening was like going on a fake date, but it turned into something more.
It definitely felt different than if I were to go on a date for the first time with someone I'd just met. We chatted about everything over a bottle of wine and ate the best espresso-crusted steak ever. At that moment I felt so alive, and so connected. We had the best time. We were already friends prior and this moment revealed what a great life partner he would be. I wanted to be with this human forever.
It seems that my soul mate was with me all this time and at that moment the universe decided it was time for us to realize how strong our relationship could be. I was also with someone else when we met. I had to break up with the guy, but it was one of the best and most right decisions I've ever made." –Alex, 34
2) Value them as a friend above all else.
"He liked me from the very beginning, but when I said I just wanted to be friends, he never pushed for anything more–I never once felt like he thought he was in 'the friend zone' or was trying to be nice to change my mind. We genuinely had a comfortable, great friendship where we could walk and talk for six hours at a time. After like a year or so, we grew closer and he was so committed to being friends like I'd initially asked that I basically had to make all the first moves. He's the first guy I ever felt vulnerable enough around to tell him I liked him, because I knew he really valued me as a person." –Lisa, 25
3) Keep communication simple and direct.
"I think with my current relationship, I wanted to date him because of how direct he was about being interested in me. We were both very straightforward and honest about being into each other from the start and I think that made for instant trust and healthy communication early on.
We met when I went to his comedy show randomly–it was free and in my neighborhood. I thought he was funny, followed him on Insta, he followed back and we liked each other’s stuff for two months. Then I went back to the same show and we briefly talked. I said 'I follow you on Instagram!' And he said like 'thanks!' Then he DM’d me after thanking me for coming back to the show and we started talking then went on a date that weekend, in true millennial fashion." –Alexis, 23
4) Be forward about your feelings.
"Welp, he said he loved me after about a month. I was wary but he gave me a little speech about how he just wanted to say it because he felt it and that felt more honest than holding it back and I didn't need to say it back. He wasn't afraid to show that he was interested and serious about me through his words and actions, and he never tried to control me or judge me in any way." –Victoria, 27
5) Learn to take notes (literally).
"We met on Tinder and connected instantly on a physical level. But we’re from two different cultures that treat gender very differently. He’d made some comments on that first date that were, frankly, sexist, so I told him that we could only keep seeing each other if he was open to learning about toxic masculinity, gender-based violence, and misogyny—and was clear that I would not be his sole source of education in those things. He said he wanted to learn, and at the time I took that with a grain of salt and told myself his actions would determine how serious he was about that.
Our third date, I took him to a panel about deconstructing toxic masculinity. Not only was he super attentive throughout, but at one point he actually took notes with a pen and paper—and has referenced those notes in conversation more than once since! I found the initiative he took to question and explore things outside of what he’s been taught and conditioned to normalize–not just around gender but life in general–super attractive, and seven months later, it remains one of my favorite things about him. " –T.G., 28
6) Have the important things in common.
"My boyfriend drove me absolutely bonkers when I met him. He and I were so different that I thought our relationship would eventually crash and burn. But the thing is, he was so fun and adventurous. He was an athlete who enjoyed the great outdoors. I’d always been into trying crazy things, and here was someone with whom I could do those crazy things. Finally. I was drawn to his hunger for exploration–and his good looks.
Everything about him that drove me insane before became less important over time, because I started evaluating the relationship instead of the person. And the relationship felt wonderful."–Holly, 30
7) Be kind and non-judgmental.
"My now-fiancé held my hair and took care of me when I binged on Taco Bell and threw up on the J train platform and all over my shoes and pants. I think we’d been seeing each other about two months so it wasn’t super super fresh, but I definitely had not planned on being that vulnerable in front of her that soon yet. All I remember is I kept apologizing and she was like 'Don’t be sorry, you don’t have any reason to be sorry' and that was very sweet because I felt more awful about her dealing with me than I felt actually physically sick. Keeper!" –Lauren, 31
8) Find creative ways to make them feel special.
"My boyfriend always opens doors for me and surprises me with small gifts that remind him of me. He’s not afraid of commitment conversations or talking about feelings. I call him a romantic unicorn after all the bad dates I’ve had before him.
He’s incredibly supportive of my business and is always ready to help any way that he can. He Facetimes me in the middle of the day just to say I love you and, best of all, he makes me laugh. I knew I wanted to keep dating when he changed my mind about hating surprises and made me laugh so hard that I couldn’t breathe." –Kristina, 31
9) Be a genuine source of happiness in their life.
"Honestly, it was the attitude and the way the air felt lighter in the room when he walked in. He keeps things positive. I knew I wanted to seriously date him when, after months of being 'just friends,' I dared him to hike Mt. Tallac in Tahoe with me in June and ski down. He one-upped my dare, picking up beers and food for the top, attempting to make out with me at the top–and abiding when I said no–and helping me navigate my route to ski down. This showed he could take the lead, sense my desire to do something and make it amazing, take initiative, and be spontaneous.
There was a day I joined him on the hill as he coached a full snowboard team of kids aged 5-17 and his positive attitude and care for doing things right, teaching them integrity first and snowboarding second, that's when I knew he was the one. We're married now with a home and our first baby." –Brooke, 35