Think passion fades after the honeymoon? No way, say women who’ve clocked a decade or two of wedded bliss.
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Ask a single woman what makes a man attractive and you might get all kinds of answers: His hair, his eyes, his biceps … and more. But what you won’t hear is what is it about a man that remains irresistible for the long haul. It takes a married woman, one who’s watched her man for over a decade or more, to appreciate the attributes that last — and to forget about those that don’t. When we talked to numerous long-married wives about what keeps the chemistry going in their marriage we got all kinds of surprising answers …
What’s more attractive than a man who knows what he’s doing?
“The fact that he knows about stuff I don’t know, especially building and making and repairing. Super sexy.”—Diana*, Orlando, Florida, age 55, married 15 years
“The fact that he can fix almost anything.”—Kerri Arsenault, New York City, age 49, married 15 years
Stepping up, the secret aphrodisiac
“This week it has been his love, caring, and emotional support for my daughter (his step-daughter) and picking up an incredible amount of slack left by her natural father. He is going above and beyond!”—Joanne Mills Poesch, Ashburn, Virginia, age 44, married 13 years
“Even when we’re in a heated argument, I know we’re going to work it out. There is no scenario where one of us storms off and doesn’t return. For someone as stubborn as I am, that’s pretty damn sexy.”—Katie Finch, Seattle, age 37, married 8 years
“Taking out the garbage without being asked — I’m only half kidding.”—Alicia, Bronxville, New York, age 52, married 18 years
“Another thing is his love of my children, his step-children. He raised them and is very close to them. Blending a family is tough. Nothing is better than when you not only survive as a group but to fall in love with each other to become a real family.”—Beth Arnold, Little Rock, Arkansas, age 62, married 26 years
Empathy and affection
“When you walk through the door and he takes one look at you, turns and pours a glass of wine, no words needed. When he says ‘Mijares [a local restaurant] tonight’.”—Kassia, Pasadena, California, age 53, married 20 years
“A set of magic scratching fingers, used often.”—Cheree G., Greenville South Carolina, age 64, married 23 years
“There’s the breakfast-in-bed thing and then there’s the ‘here’s a plane ticket to just about anywhere you could possibly want to go’ thing, and the never forgetting the good-bye kiss.”—Sara, Olympia, Washington, age 55, married 26 years
“Being able to surprise me after 16 years of marriage. The element of surprise fades a bit and yet he still manages to come up with ways … When we were in Maine, he slipped out and bought me a bottle of sea glass because he knew I loved it. Yesterday (and this is huge), he reorganized our bedroom. I think the best surprise was getting the diamond in my engagement ring replaced without me knowing.”—Kathleen, Glen Rock New Jersey, age 43, married 15 years
Parenthood: not a libido-killer
“When he plays with our kids.”—Maria Moser, Middletown, Maryland, age 40, married 15 years
“How much he loves how my body changes during our pregnancies, and what it can do (birth, breastfeeding) even when it isn’t the mid-twenties body I once had.”—Cindy Marie Jenkins, Orlando, Florida and Los Angeles, age 37, married 10 years
“He was an amazing birth partner for both births of my daughters. We delivered in Puerto Rico and then Guam, and both were natural births. He read up, hired doulas, and pampered me as I learned to breastfeed. He’s not a touchy-feely guy, but he dove right in and has as much birth and breastfeeding knowledge as me now.”—Anjelica Malone, Fayetteville, North Carolina, age 32, married 9 years
Being totally and completely seen
“… the way he looks at you, like no one else exists.”—Vanessa von Mollendorf, Gauteng South Africa, age 50, married 26 years
“Completely unexpected attention at a low moment, or when you think they have forgotten a special moment.”—Kathleen, Newton, Massachusetts, age 53, married 25 years
“When my husband and I are at opposite ends of a crowded room engaged in highly adult conversations, then I look up and our eyes lock. He smiles at me, and all I want to do is grab his hand and run away together. Because he knows me better than anyone in that room, better than anyone in the city, better than anyone on Earth and intimate knowledge is sexy.”—Sarah McCoy, Boulder, Colorado, age 36, married 11 years
And of course, just simple chemistry
“He smells awesome!”—Karen, Fairfax, Virginia, age 45, married 20 years
“I love the way my husband smells; always have.”—Anne, Arlington, Virginia, age 50, married 20 years
“My husband is sexiest after he has worked hard. He recently built a storage hut in our yard and had to clear out some trees and brush, as well as dig, a bit just to get started. I would take him out a glass of water to encourage him to take a break. There he was, smiling as he stood back to see what he had accomplished, wiping sweat from his brow, smelling of spruce pitch and earth and musk …”—December Fields-Bryant, Alaska, age 27, married 7 years
Laughter is the best medicine
“At my most intellectual, it’s his laugh.”—Elizabeth, Baltimore, age 54, married 16 years
“Humor, of course, but also being curious all the time: always wanting to learn more.”—Beth, New York City, 34, married 11 years
“My husband wakes up smiling (while I am grouchy) and he teases me out of my bad mood. He also gets excited about things—movies, museums, books and reads me parts of what he’s reading at night, which I love…”—Caroline Leavitt, New York City, 54, married 20 years
* Some of our long-married ladies requested first names only to protect their privacy.