We all have really warped views about what a relationship ought to look like — whether it’s from Hollywood, your friends’ seemingly perfect relationships, or fairytale ideals, it’s easy to get caught up in grand, sweeping gestures of what guys and girls “should” be doing. But often, it’s the little things that leave you with stars in your eyes and make you remember that person. I polled 46 women on those little things they wish the guy in their life or their future would do — and it turns out the things they’re asking for aren’t 5 karat rings.
1. “I know this is dumb, but the other day, my boyfriend actually commented on one of my Instagram posts and engaged with me on social. He doesn’t really use Instagram and rarely likes posts, so I feel special whenever he makes that little gesture.” — Callie, 22
2. “I love it when my boyfriend leaves a sweet, little note for no reason whatsoever. It just let’s me know he’s thinking about me.” — Kelsey, 23
3. “It’s the simple things that count, and so many guys overlook this. Just a back rub or breakfast or running your hands through my hair in the morning. Tell me I look pretty when I get dressed up.” – Kayla, 27
4. “I love it when he favs and retweets some of my stuff. I just wish he’d do it more often.” — Hannah, 25
5. “Ask if I’m free on Friday, tell me you have reservations at 7, tell me what the dress code is, come pick me up, I will be swooning for a week. That’s all it takes.” – Michelle, 28
6. “I think it’s the sweetest thing when my boyfriend says cute things to me while I’m half asleep. It’s like it doesn’t matter if I hear it or not, he just has to say it.” — Kate, 21.
7. “Every time I see a guy on the subway with flowers, I wish I had someone to do that for me. I can buy flowers myself, but the old-school gesture always makes me want to tell that stranger with the flowers good job.” — Stefanie, 25
8. “While I really like it when guys ask me what I want to do for a date, sometimes I just wish he’d plan something. It doesn’t even have to be anything big but taking a second to, like, do basic style planning goes a long way towards making me feel like i’m on a date and not just another random hang out.” — Josie, 25
9. “Offer to carry my purse, just once… please?” — Catherine, 29
10. “Maybe I’m old fashioned, but it makes me feel so special when a guy pulls out my chair for me at a restaurant. It doesn’t matter where we are, the gesture melts me.” — Becca, 27
11. “My ex was always really kind and courteous to my mom and other family members. It set a bar for the next guy who comes along.” — Emily, 26
12. “The thing that makes me melt more than anything else is when a guy grazes his hand slowly over my back while I’m falling asleep. It’s everything. It’s more than gifts or letters or flowers or anything else. The point is: figure out what makes your girl melt and DO THAT.” – Lauren, 24
13. “I like when a guy asks me what I want to do, but always has a preference for what my answer is. Like, a lot of guys just say, ‘Whatever you want!’ and then get mad when they don’t like what you pick. I wish all guys could be assertive without being selfish, you know?” — Kasia, 25.
14. “I want my next boyfriend to know that I need my space and I want him to respect that.” — Vanessa, 26
15. “At least once a day, just shoot a quick ‘thinking of you’ or ‘how are you?’ text. It lets me know you’re thinking of me, and we can continue on with our separate lives while still letting each other know we’re on each other’s minds.” – Rachel, 25
16. “Once in a blue moon, set up a really sexy romantic night. Candles, the whole nine yards. Women often do this for their men, but God, there is NOTHING as amazing as coming home to your man wanting to seduce you in the way you’d seduce him.” – Rory, 27
17. “I really wish my boyfriend would be a little more assertive when it comes to making a decision.” — Maddy, 27
18. “Teach me about your video games! Either you give me a few pointers on how to play (thanks for being patient about it) or I resent you for playing and judge you for it. Best case scenario, I’ll learn, get bored, and let you have your insurgent-blasting time on your own.” — Tania, 23
19. “Clean it up. I’ve dated so many guys who, once they get a girlfriend, just really let themselves go. They stop shaving or shave less often. They don’t exercise anymore. They stop keeping their apartment clean. Those kinds of things can really make me feel like he thinks I’m one of the bros. I’m not. We are having sex. Shave your face if you’re not growing a beard. Hit the gym twice a week. Clean the sink and toilet. Make me feel like you want to keep impressing me.” — Jenny, 24
20. “My ex used to randomly take my hand in public and hold or rub it and just give me that ‘I love you’ look. We’re kind of private people, so we’re not into PDA or anything… this was so subtle, and I think that was half the magic.” – Emma, 26
21. “Make an effort to befriend my friends. Like, be excited for group outings and try to invite your friends too. There’s nothing more ‘boyfriend material’ than a dude who actively tries to be a part of your life instead of making you force it.” – Sasha, 27
22. “When guys kiss girls to wake them up in the morning… pretty much every woman’s fantasy.” – Taya, 30
23. “My boyfriend will lean over in the middle of a movie theater or restaurant — somewhere in public and really PG — and will tell me that he wants me. I never thought I’d find it sexy, but knowing that he wants me is an ego-boost.” — Britanny, 28
24. “I want him to kiss me when I don’t expect it.” — Danielle, 31
25. “A little dirty talk in public never hurt anyone. I’m not talking about anything crazy but I love when the man I’m dating leans over to whisper to me about how ‘I just look so incredible he can’t stand it’ when we’re out in public. It feels spontaneous and it always makes me feel like he thinks I’m so sexy that he just HAD to say something.” — Gwen, 29
26. “Put meaning into things. Remember little things. Saying that this is ‘our restaurant’ or ‘our song’ makes me feel like you’re paying attention to everything, too (because I’ll be thinking it to myself, anyway).” — Dani, 25
27. “Honestly? Buy me sexy lingerie, but not the kind that makes me think that you think I’m stripping on the weekends and need a new warm-up number. Go to a nice place and get something that would turn us both on.” – Melanie, 23
28. “A handwritten letter, breakfast in bed, a sincere compliment here and there, laying together on the couch after a long day… I don’t know, don’t underestimate how much the little things win a lady over.” – Ellen, 32
29. “A spontaneous massage in bed…” — Anne, 28
30. “Just TELL ME when something is pissing you off. I get more upset when I have to pull the issue out of a guy, than I do when he just balls up and talks about it.” — Sophie, 27
31. “I don’t know if other women would be fans of this, so I guess I speak for myself, but I would love perfume as a gift. I like most smells, and I would love to wear something that drives you crazy every day. We could pick it together, it could be a date. Other than that, forget about jewelry and physical gifts, take me somewhere, do something with me. Anybody can buy someone a necklace, not everybody wants to take a day road trip to a new city and walk around and talk to someone they’re in love with.” – Carly, 25
32. “Let me be silly and out there. Don’t brush me off as just being crazy, and don’t just laugh at my jokes — joke WITH me.” — Rachel, 26
33. “Cook, learn how to cook. We can cook together, it doesn’t matter, but you have to learn how to make some things and serve them to me. It’s a basic of being a person that is alive in the world and when my boyfriend cooks and really enjoys it feels like we’re in it together. Start with one dish and master it, then two, then three. Before you know it you’ll be able to properly say ‘I can cook,’ and mean it.” — Maggie, 26
34. “If you sleep over, get me out of bed just 15 minutes earlier so that we can get coffee. We’re both much sweeter if we say goodbye after we’ve had our coffee.” — Lucy, 23
35. “Be honest. If you don’t want to be in our relationship, don’t be. If you want something to be better, tell me. I don’t deserve fake love, and you don’t either.” – Christa 22
36. “Buy a suit. Get it tailored just for you. Wear it. There is nothing as sexy as a guy in a well-fitting suit.” — Melissa, 29
37. “Be social. If I bring you to an event or somewhere with my friends, don’t talk to me and me alone. The more you make an effort out there, the more you’ll get me alone later.” — Jessie, 25
38. “I am not your ex-girlfriend. Relationship hangovers from past girlfriends isn’t just annoying, it’s unfair. I understand that when I do that one thing I remind you of your ex who also did that one thing and also cheated on you. Her cheating is not connected to that one thing I do. Stop it. Handle your shit so that we can date each other and not just echoes of the past.” — Ellie, 24
39. “Lean over and ask: ‘Can I kiss you?’ Text me and say: ‘Can I take you out this weekend?’ If you want to be more than what we are, say: ‘I really like you and I want to take this to another level and I’d like to talk about what that means.’ Communicate the obvious. It’s often the most important, and most overlooked.” – Alana, 33
40. “Give me a nickname that isn’t ‘babe.’ The cutest nicknames come from our own inside jokes, not some recycled thing that everyone says when they’re drunk.” – Holly, 24
41. “Pay for 50% of our birth control. We’re in a relationship. You should want to pay half the birth control expenses because they’re not for ‘me’ at this point. They’re for ‘us.’”— Yvette, 26
42. “Put your hands on my face, pull me in and kiss me like you don’t get to kiss me all the time.” – Brooke, 23
43. “Don’t feel like you’re being emasculated when I take control of something. Let me pay sometimes. I do it because I want to, not because I want you to feel like less of a man.” — Molly, 26
44. “Be sexy and unpredictable sometimes, without just being a horny bro. Follow me when I leave the room and make out with me in the hallway. Touch the inside of my thigh in a cab.” — Neha, 24
45. “Make love to me. Make sex more than just a race to an orgasm.” – Kelly, 25
46. “Just ask me how my day was. Especially at the end of a really long work day, sometimes that’s all I need.” — Lola, 24
1. A tool kit, complete with a screwdriver, hammer, tape measurer, spare lightbulb, and a long-burning candle and matches just in case.
2. A workout routine she can reach for when she needs to blow off steam or give her peace of mind.
3. A budget, a healthy savings account, and a financial plan that involves knowing how to handle all of her bills every month and take care of any emergency things that may come her way.
4. Health insurance. Really. Even if she thinks she’s young and invincible.
5. A sense of style that is unique and doesn’t require spending hundreds — if not thousands — of dollars on things that are trendy or fashionable but she doesn’t even really like deep down.
6. The self-confidence to run to the corner deli in sweats, because A) she values her comfort over what other people think of her appearance and B) who cares if they’re looking anyway?
7. A proper education on sex, regardless of where she stands on sex itself — knowing how her body works is key in taking care of it.
8. Her own Netflix account. Few things are worse than using an ex’s account and having to think about them every time you want to watch a movie.
9. A special pump-up song that always manages to rally her mood whether she’s sad, focusing on something, or just getting dressed for a night out.
10. A healthy relationship with social media that doesn’t involve getting into Twitter fights, posting endless selfies, or stressing over how many likes something got in the past hour.
11. A good relationship with her mother, or with a maternal figure, at least. You might think you need your parents less as you grow up, but really, the relationship just changes, and it helps to have an adult around who has already been. there.
12. A well-tailored professional outfit that she always has clean and on hand because life is full of surprises, and you never know when your dream interview or meeting is just around the corner.
13. A bottle of champagne in the fridge for impromptu celebrations.
14. A bed she can retreat to when she needs it most — think quality sheets, a nice comforter, good pillows, and a mattress that wasn’t purchased used or donated from a friend or family member. Getting a good night’s sleep makes all the difference in the world, so why not invest in it?
15. A good number of meals that she can whip out on her own. Because you can’t live on Seamless for the rest of your life, and there’s a maximum of times you can see the delivery man in one week.
16. A driver’s license — even if she lives in a city with great public transportation — because you never know when you’ll have to step in and take over the wheel. (Bonus points if she has a working knowledge of stick shift, and how to change a tire.)
17. A signature accessory, whether that’s her rings, a lipstick, a nail polish, or a perfume. You don’t want your most marked accessory to be your cell phone.
18. Thank you notes and stamps, and penmanship that doesn’t make her cringe when she sits down to write a note (be it to a prospective employer, someone who gave her a gift or invited her to a party, or simply did something nice for her).
19. When the WiFi, her computer, or her TV blows out on a Thursday night and all she wants to do is get lost in Netflix or her favorite show, she can fix it without smashing the modem and thus restore her night in and her personal mental health.
20. A freak’um dress, a classic LBD, and a dress her grandma will be proud of her for having. Because an independent woman is prepared for any and all dressy occasions.
21. A book in her bag for any time she has to wait for a meeting, appointment, or when she’s traveling.
22. Actual silverware, and not just plastic forks and paper plates. Investing in steak knives might be the advanced course, but baby steps (and maybe a few real wine glasses) count, too.
23. The self-awareness to be grounded in her own beliefs — be they religious, political, or anything in between — but the open-mindedness to respect when other people do not share her views.
24. A knowledge of what she wants from a relationship and not feeling any need to subject herself to tired dating rules — and refusing to settle for anyone or anything less.
25. A favorite drink that she orders without hesitation, whether it’s whiskey on the rocks or the most basic Cosmopolitan ever.
26. The memory of at least one relationship that does not make her cringe in retrospect — or if it does, she also has the knowledge of what went wrong, what she’d change (about herself), and what she can do right next time.
27. If she’s into sports, she has her favorite teams and doesn’t need anyone to explain rules to her.
28. That one friend she shares a special language with, and whom she can text at a moment’s notice for a pep talk, a rant-fest, or anything in between.
29. The knowledge that she looks good, and that she deserves to feel as good as she looks — no external compliments, signs of affection, or cat calls required to think she’s worthy.
30. And the humility to suck up her pride and ask for help when she needs it — be it from a man, another woman, her boss, her parents, whoever. Because you can be an independent woman and still need other people, and let them know how grateful you are to have them in your independent life.
You have too many things on your plate. Paying rent, bills, meeting up with friends. Just roll out of bed and get on with your life. You can make your bed another day (at least, that’s what you tell yourself).
2. Say yes
When you’re in your 20s, the most beautiful feeling is that anything is possible. But the worst feeling, as we all know, is the fear of missing out, the ugly FOMO monster living under your (unmade) bed. The truth is that saying no will just guide you to the things you want the most. “Yes” can actually be the most limiting word in the English language.
3. Keep up with ‘friends’
You know all of those “friends” you made during college? You know, when you were in the Graduates Of 2007 Facebook group? You will (probably) never ever talk to them again. Unfriend them. Rinse and repeat. You won’t regret it, I promise.
4. Go out
Say it with me: you. Don’t. Need. Happy. Hour. Well, at least not every day. Or the kind of happy hour that turns into a sad seven-hour night of sweaty bars and street meats. The beauty of adulthood in your 20s is that you’re still young enough to be in touch with your most fun, yet totally innocent self. Get delivery. Watch movies. Do karaoke. Play laser tag, for Christ’s sake. You can do anything you want, and it doesn’t have to involve being rubbed up on by a bunch of drunk strangers.
5. Stay in
Say it with me: DALÉ. Okay, sorry. No more Pitbull. But whatever, you’re 20-something years old. You don’t have to stay home and waste your time on Netflix and Seamless. Go out. Kiss someone you love, or someone you like a little bit. You’re young, you smell good, go have unforgettably wonderful times.
6. Be friends with your parent(s)
Even if it’s out of love, what a parent wants for you may not be the same as what you want for you. While having a strong support system is oftentimes very important, it’s up to you to decide whether what’s being supported is something you’re on board with. I mean, it’s time to depend on yourself. You have a job and a place to live, so what are you doing asking your parents for help? Do things on your own. You’ll come out better for it.
At this stage of life, it starts to seem like every asshole from high school has a piece of grilled chicken on deck, some tasteless asparagus on the grill, and 17 go-to yoga or weight lifting selfies to post on Instagram whenever they’re feeling particularly #FitFam. It’s all a fantasy and it’s not your life. Unfollow or ignore for your own mental health. You have a life to live, you don’t need to spend it navel-gazing, waiting for your abs to show.
8. Have a ton of sex
Your 20s aren’t the only time you have to get laid or fall in love. You don’t need to feel obligated to have sex with anyone. Take it slow or take it fast, but however you want to take it, make sure it’s the way you want to go, and not the way any friend or media outlet’s value system makes it feel like you should be going.
9. Be in a relationship
You don’t need to be with someone to enjoy your 20s, even when it feels like everyone around you is paired off. Don’t be the single friend who can’t be around couples. As irritating as it can be to be the third, fifth, or even the goddamned seventh wheel, know that your time will come and that it’s not your prerogative to force a relationship with someone with whom you just want to have fun and be casual.
People say there’s no better time than traveling in your 20s. They could not be so wrong. You need a foundation to leap off from and you make that NOW, not later. Don’t regret it later. Secure your dreams now so that you can reap the benefits later.
11. Buy things
Anyone can post a picture of something awesome on social media and act like a baller rich kid of Instagram, but not everyone can keep a damn savings account. Be the ‘not everyone’ now so you can be the baller ‘anyone’ later.
12. Binge watch Game Of Thrones
Just kidding. I don’t know how I’d motivate myself without Tyrion’s speeches.
13. Start a career
Some jobs are just that: jobs. They won’t all be stepping stones on your path to self-actualization, workplace utopia, and career bliss. You might work in a restaurant for three months and never work in one again in your life, but it will allow you to eliminate the options that aren’t right for you. Shitty jobs now make for good careers later.
14. Brag about how much coffee you drink
When it comes down to it, you could honestly brag about just how much tea you drink(if you really want).
Seamless is your best friend! ;o)
16. Upgrade your phone
Apple is the worst and most persistent ex who will text you at 2AM just to update you on something completely insignificant. Go home, Apple, you’re drunk.
17. Talk to that asshole
You read this and you thought of a name. Yeah, you’re old enough now that you can lose this person and have plenty of other things to be happy about. Don’t talk to that asshole.
18. Drunk singing
As we grow up / and get drunker / all the shots we had together / And as we blackout / say whatever / we will have this / hangover forever.
19. Like ‘anything’
You don’t have to click on that, like it, or share it. While you’re at it, you don’t have to say “Happy birthday” or “Congrats!” Stick to the contacts in your phone. Compliment people in person. Don’t feel like you need to constantly give out your approval.
20. Buy that extra drink
Moderation, when done right, can be the night’s biggest high.
21. Listen to other people’s opinions of selfies
You’ll have your shameless selfie savants, and you’ll have your brooding mystery men detractors. They’re probably both wrong. Take however many selfies you like. If you end up losing friends over your selfie excess, consider it a convenient exercise in friend-pruning.
22. Grow up
You can get older without growing up, and that’s not a bad thing. Learn who you are more each day. Talk to the people you love and care about their thoughts, but not about what everyone thinks of you. Be better with age, not older.
1. You can’t tell the difference between someone who is just speaking to you and somebody who is trying to flirt with you, so you’re awkward about both.
2. Over half of your ‘first moves’ on people have been preceded by something like “Should I kiss you now?” or the awkward “Uh I think I am going to kiss you now.”
3. When your first date with them is for drinks, you drink two alone at another bar before the date.
4. Birthdays and holidays stress you out because it’s not like you’re just buying a gift for a friend or family member, it has to mean something, and you’re really not romantic enough to get anything that means something.
5. You have gotten the “I think we are supposed to kiss now but aren’t kissing and I’m just going to say goodbye and jog away now” situation down to a science.
6. You’re still not sure who’s supposed to pay for what, so you just kind of wait for them to either grab the check or stare at you awkwardly, to which you then awkwardly take the check, and they say ‘no, you don’t have to!’ but yeah, you kind of do. (You think…)
7. You have inexplicably never called back a lot of the people you had really great first dates with. There is some kind of weird fear that stops you.
8. You have no idea how or when you discuss what you two ‘are so you’ll literally avoid it until the last minute possible, or until there’s no other choice. This also leads to you getting really upset about relationships that were never actually anything at all (at least not mutually).
9. You are so self-conscious of talking about yourself too much that conversation gets boring, fast, because you’re compulsively going through a laundry list of questions for them — anything to avoid talking about yourself.
10. Someone asks if you have a significant other and your response is just laughter.
11. You’ve tried to sext. That’s all. You’ve tried.
12. You’re torn between feeling as though online dating is your only hope and being too awkward and uncomfortable to even complete your profile.
13. And if you have tried online dating you seriously feel like you will never quite “get” how it works. You honestly feel like it’s going through the sales rack. And forget messaging someone first. What do you even say to someone?
14. You’ve started thinking about how the idea of an arranged marriage actually doesn’t sound that bad.
15. Someone asks you the last time you went on a date and you can’t even remember. You think maybe it was that guy your best friend set you up with that turned out to be a total weirdo? Maybe? Your dating life is one blur of sadness.
16. “We’re… talking” is basically your go-to response when somebody asks if you’re seeing anybody.