According to a survey in the new book The Normal Bar, 29 percent of women say it bothers them “a lot” that their partner isn’t more romantic. That could be why many girlfriends and wives flock to the other men in their lives—fictional characters like Mr. Darcy, Dr. McDreamy, and Christian Grey—to get their romance fix.
We asked real women to tell us just what it is about these make-believe men that make them swoon, then turned to relationship experts to see how you can steal the characters’ tricks and charms.
The character: Fitzwilliam Darcy (a.k.a. Mr. Darcy) in Pride and Prejudice
Why she loves him: The leading man in Jane Austen’s classic novel is a giant prick at first, but eventually he does the right thing—saves female protagonist Elizabeth’s family—and keeps it a secret, refusing to be rewarded or applauded. What he does tell Elizabeth is exactly how he feels about her, which women love. There’s a myth that nice guys never come out ahead, but by the end of Pride and Prejudice, Mr. Darcy’s the epitome of a good, old-fashioned nice guy—and he gets the girl.
How to be more like him: Some things, like moral decency, never go out of style, says Betsy Prioleau, author of the new book Swoon: Great Seducers and Why Women Love Them. She notes morality is “ingrained in the definition of romantic love ever since Plato defined Eros as a love of goodness.” To be more like Darcy, be generous, honest, and fair—not to impress her, but for the sake of being good. In other words, don’t point out every time you do the dishes or fold the laundry. She’ll notice.
The character: Noah Calhoun in The Notebook
Why she loves him: “Poetic sensuality” is how Prioleau describes Noah Calhoun’s style. “He seduces [The Notebook's main character] Allie through the magic of the senses: his exquisite, hand-restored house; seasoned crabs with hot sauce; a trip to a beautiful secret lagoon; and bourbon before a crackling fire,” says Prioleau. Cathy, 33, adds that a large part of Noah’s appeal is his determination in all he does, including fighting to be with Allie to the very end. Plus, he’s played by Ryan Gosling. So there’s that.
How to be more like him: Stimulate her senses. Think beautiful flowers in the center of the dining room table, and a meal you’ve prepared that she can smell when she walks through the door with flavors that delight her taste buds. Turn on music that sets the mood, light some candles, and (before it gets too warm outside) have a fire roaring in the fireplace. Want to go the extra mile? Write her a note before dinner inviting her to your elaborate meal, and include a few romantic lines—even if you have to borrow them from a great poet (or cheesy movie). Your romantic gestures will emulate Noah’s great effort to make his relationship with Allie work.
The character: Derek Shepherd (a.k.a. Dr. McDreamy) in Grey’s Anatomy
Why she loves him: Well, women say he’s dreamy—it’s right there in his name—but the good doc’s appeal is that he’s humble and open to love, says dating coach David Wygant, author of Always Talk to Strangers: 3 Simple Steps to Finding the Love of Your Life. “He cheated on his wife, but he admitted his faults,” says Wygant. “He’s able to be vulnerable when he finds the right woman.” That, Wygant says, allows women to feel safe falling in love with him.
How to be more like him: To channel McDreamy, become McListen. Wygant say it’s important to pay attention to her, and to do so without judgment. “Allow her to express everything so she feels comfortable,” Wygant says. Don’t get defensive if the conversation turns to your relationship. By simply listening and keeping calm, you’ll make her feel safe.
The character: Rhett Butler in Gone With the Wind
Why she loves him: Butler’s style is more primitive and raw than the others on this list. He’s the very definition of a manly man, and as Prioleau puts it, “he is primitive manhood in full mating mode.” Throughout the book and movie, Butler looks at female protagonist Scarlett O’Hara as if he’s seen her naked and can’t wait to take her clothes off again. He kisses her without invitation. He wants her, and makes no qualms about it.
How to be more like him: “Drop the cool guy approach to courtship and come on strong,” Prioleau advises. She says women are turned on by being desired, so instead of playing games, you should be blunt. “The ‘player’ movement is off base when it preaches that men should feign a lack of interest and let women chase them,” says Prioleau. No matter how successful and independent she might be, the primal being within her wants to be pursued and sexually irresistible. Make your move, Butler.
The character: Christian Grey in Fifty Shades of Grey
Why she loves him: Jennifer, 31, says Grey’s ability to make young Anastasia feel sexy is unparalleled in literature. Although much has been made of the sexual exploits in the Fifty Shades trilogy—we’re guilty!—Prioleau says Grey’s appeal goes much further. Namely, the fact that his attention is squarely focused on Anastasia 100 percent of the time. “He makes her the center of his universe, his one and only.”
How to be more like him: Don’t worry, you won’t have to stock up on extra S&M gear. Instead, show her you give more than a crap about her: Don’t check your phone when you’re talking to her or peek at the TV over her shoulder at dinner. Ask her about her day, every day. Remember when she has a big presentation at work and send her a text saying good luck. All that attention will make her feel sexy—and you just might reap the benefits.
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