Sex + Dating

Guys Who Grow Up With Sisters Are Better Boyfriends

men with sisters
Daniel Fishel/Thrillist

My dating history reveals a veritable boys club.

I'm heterosexual so this shouldn't be that surprising; but when I say boys club I truly mean No Girls Allowed. After the latest in a series of disappointing dating debacles I took it upon myself to look at my "list": the list (mental or otherwise) we all keep of our past relationships (and "relationships") to see what they all had in common. For the lucky notches on my belt, there was very little in common, save for one thing: All my exes grew up with brothers. Every single one.

It was something I had never really paid attention to, as I instead focused on their surprisingly witty senses of humors (my downfall) and overinflated egos (my other downfall). Anyway, why would I? I grew up with a brother. He's an absolute delight and he treats me, my mother, and his fiancée with nothing but respect. But there was the rub: He grew up with a sister. And according to SCIENCE, men who grew up with sisters actually make for better boyfriends.

Men with brothers are, in fact, sexier

OK, let's get this out of the way right now. There is actually a reason for my previous choices, and as much as I thought it was about this one's sexy body or that one's honey-tongued wit, it was for a reason entirely unbeknownst to me. And as it also turns out, I am not alone.

"Men who grew up with brothers are physically sexier beings than those who grew up with sisters," says certified sex therapist Kimberly Resnick Anderson, LCSW. "A study was done with rats, that has been shown to be analogous with humans, that boys who grow up with other boys are more masculine. There is testosterone all over the place, along with intra-family competition, and intra-sex dominance with brothers who are always one-upping each other. Women find them more attractive."

It also turns out that our periods have a huge say in who or what we want. "When we are ovulating we value promiscuity, aggression, dominance, willingness to engage in battle… When we aren't ovulating, we value loyalty, stability, and intelligence."

"Younger women like badasses for procreation, but they like kindness for monogamy," adds Tom Murray, PhD and director of counseling services at UNC School of the Arts.

To dumb it down, in our 20s we want the bad boys inside of us -- but a nice guy to hold our hands on Valentine's Day. So what do men with sisters have over the rest? A few key things that are integral to foundations of relationships.

They know how to listen

"Men with sisters tend to be better listeners," says Murray. "By and large, women use more words than men do. If you're around people who talk more, then you're exposed to a lot more words. But boys, as a consequence, may not express themselves so much through words, but through behavior and their physicality.

"Words are less relied upon to communicate with other boys. When you have a mixed-gender household, you're fusing these two strategies together. As a result, boys with sisters are exposed to more words and are more likely to be good listeners."  

They understand we are human

As women we are often made to feel like we have to be superhuman; meaning we don't show traits of being a living, breathing thing -- lest we become entirely unappealing and borderline gross.

I'll give you two examples: One boyfriend, who had an older brother, made it clear early on that he was wildly turned off by women who alluded to the fact that they had to use the bathroom. Apparently women have this magic ability to wish away any aftereffects of a night of cheap beer and chicken wings with their boyfriends, so that we are powder fresh 100% of the time. I was not aware I possessed this power, but I learned real fast. It was a long, long four years.

Another choice example: One man, one of four brothers, (in his mid-30s, mind you) asked me if and when "Aunt Flo" was still in town. I didn't know good ol' Aunt Flo hung around after middle school, let alone into our 30s. It's also not my "friend" or "that time of the month." It's a period. Period.  

"Men who grow up with sisters aren't as freaked out by 'girl stuff' because they got exposed to it early on," says Anderson. "Like periods. They've seen a tampon. It's not so much of a mystery. In that way, women can relate more comfortably because they don't feel like they are an alien or a foreign being. It helps narrow the gap in terms of wondering. Having no direct contact with an age-appropriate woman in your house tends to make men less comfortable around 'girly' things."

They know how to compromise

"When you have a brother-and-sister dynamic you have to learn how to compromise," says Murray. "And so you're more likely to have a feminist among men who have sisters, than I imagine you would among men who don't."

They have seen us go through it all

"Depending on whether or not a boy was an older or younger brother to a sister will change his reaction to watching her go through a bad breakup," says Murray. "An older brother might think, 'I need to kick the shit out of that guy,’ in a hyper-masculine response. Whereas a younger brother might be more intuitive, more sensitive, more interested, and more engaged. He might be trying to understand what it is like for you, as a female in relationships, so that he's better able to find a mate."

Granted, this doesn't mean every good man grew up alongside a sister. Like any science, there are exceptions to the rule -- and it's unfair to assume all men raised without sisters make crappy partners. Parents, friends, and other non-sisterly influencers can do a lot to ready young boys to coexist with this new generation of smart, strong, independent women.

"I intentionally talk to my boys about 'girly' stuff because I'm determined to raise emotionally intelligent boys," Anderson says. "I told my 11-year-old what menstruation is. And sure, he gets grossed out, but he asks all the questions. I want them to be adjusted."

My exes are (with rare exception) by no means bad men. In fact, most of them are really great. But should you be wondering whether that sweet guy you just met has what it takes to stick with you for the long haul, you might want to ask about his background. And specifically, his siblings. If he's proud to tell you about the pack of sisters who raised him, odds are good you've found yourself a prince.

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Meagan Drillinger is a contributing writer for Thrillist. All of her dates are tax-deductible. Follow her on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter @drillinjourneys.