What Do Men Really Want in Relationships?

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Dr. Adam Sheck insists it’s not about a “trophy” wife or a caretaker . . . it’s not even all about sex!

It’s really not that complicated.  From both personal and professional experience, I can tell you that what men want in relationships is pretty basic.

Hint:  It’s not about having a “trophy” partner or someone to feed us and take care of us when we’re sick.  It’s certainly not about having someone to “process” feelings with.  It’s not even about sex, though sexuality IS an important part of relationships.

What men REALLY want in a relationship, is a safe place to recharge and renew themselves in order to go back out and face the world and “fight the good fight.”  What men want is a safe, secure, STRESS-FREE environment where we can recover from dealing with the “rat-race” and just relax.

What men want is a place where we can be ourselves, without putting on the facade that the world sometimes demands.  We want a place where we don’t have to be on our best behavior, where we don’t have to walk on egg shells and where we don’t have to pretend that we’re something we’re not.

We want a place where we can be accepted for who we are and for who we are not!  What men want is consistency and routine, because that is what relaxes us.  ”Same place, same thing” calms us down.  Yes, we like change and excitement from time to time, but what we really want in our primary relationship is a place where we can be at peace, where we don’t have to have our “fight or flight” response triggered.  We’re activated enough in the work world, we don’t want our relationship to be like a second job!

Why is this what men want?  Why do men want to recharge in relationships?  I believe it goes back to our early childhood development (I’m a psychologist, of course I’m going to go there!).  Attachment theory tells us that one stage of childhood is that time where we have started to break away from mommy and become more independent.  We play with our friends and have fun, but every once in a while we take a look back and connect to mommy, maybe just eye contact, to make sure that she is there and that everything is okay. And then we can get back to play.  We need a “secure base” to launch from in order to explore our world and when necessary we need a “safe haven” to seek comfort from that world.

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Flickr/CarbonNYC

On some level, I believe that men still do this in our adult relationships.  Not in that cliche, “I’ve married my mother” way, but hopefully in a more mature, more conscious way.  We want someone around us, to make sure that it (we) are okay.  We don’t necessarily want or need to interact with them constantly, just “check in” or “touch base.”

When I’m in a relationship, I’m happy just knowing that my partner is in the house, we don’t even need to talk.  And yes, we do interact as well, but there’s something comforting in just knowing that someone is there.

There is the psychology, and then there is also the biology. Men are more susceptible to being physiologically aroused.  Yes, THAT way, too, but I mean in terms of “fight or flight” and being ready to fight off attacks from the dinosaurs and sabertooth tigers.  That’s what our bodies tell us to do and so we have relationships in order to take a break from that, in order to give our systems a rest, to renew ourselves.

As men we don’t want to multitask and we don’t want to speak in the language of feelings.  We’re not built to do these things optimally.  We can do them, and of course, sometimes we must, yet we’re just  not designed to do them very well.

I’m not saying that we should use biology as an excuse, it just needs to be understood and accepted, so we that can optimize our relationships and have both partner’s needs acknowledged and met.

So there you have it, what men want in relationships.  Not necessarily what their partners want (if they are partnered with a woman).  And what do women want?  And how do we reconcile the differences?  That, dear reader, will have to be addressed in another post.  Stay tuned!

And of course, it is certainly possible that I’m simply projecting what I personally want in a relationship and backing it up with psychological data, it’s happened before. Once again, it is up to YOU, the reader, to decide what is true for yourself.

If you have a reaction to this post, I welcome ALL of your comments.  As always, I am grateful and stimulated by your interaction.

Thank you so much,

Dr. Adam Sheck

 

Originally appeared at ThePassionDoctor.com 

 

Lead photo: Flickr/oliviavaughn’s photostream 

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About Dr. Adam Sheck

Dr. Adam Sheck is a licensed Psychologist, Couples Counselor and Mission Specialist, supporting people in connecting to their mission, passion and purpose at ownyourmission.com. He especially relates to men dealing with the issues of the second half of life at menafterfifty.com. You can find him on Facebook when he's not busy writing for The Good Men Project.

Comments

  1. Hello Adam,
    Your premise is that mothers are healthy. I was lucky mine was. And most of your thoughts resonates with me. I had relations with great sex, but I didn’t feel safe. I left. Relations with not much sex, but where I felt safe, lasted much longer. So, your theory makes sense to me.
    However, what about those who were not safe at all in the presence of their mother in their childhood? I know several people in this case. They never experienced a safe harbor in their childhood. It was threatening and dangerous, both physically and emotionally to be in the presence of their mother.
    How would they survive that and how can they seek for safety?
    Thanks
    Piany

    • Piany,

      I don’t believe that having a healthy relationship or attachment with mother is requisite for what I’m suggesting. My childhood certainly wasn’t of that nature, but of course, that’s a big part of how I came to become a psychologist :)

      Our needs to bond and attach and feel safe are innate. We may seek this out in more distorted ways based upon our childhood modeling, yet the need is still there. Repairing that and other deep wounds is the work of psychotherapy.

      Adam Sheck

  2. Billl Sanders says:

    I found the article quite illuminating. It gave words to my feelings. I need a quiet, peaceful environment to thrive. INTJ when I was young, and INTF now. Was married to a woman who was fun as a gf, but a nightmare of insecurity and drama as a wife. Now that my boundaries are re-established, and the source of the turmoil has been removed, I have that safe, stable base from which to make my positive impact on the outside world.

    It’s too bad that lawyers and judges abuse men financially and emotionally when they attempt to escape women who are abusing them financially and emotionally. I still crave that intimate CONNECTION, but cannot take the risk while the law (VAWA) states I can lose my home, possessions and freedom based on a false accusation of DV by any female.

    • Hi Bill Sanders

      From abroad I look at female friends going through divorce in the US.
      It looks like a man can end up with spousal support even when the wife has no children with him. Is that true? Do a man have to support a grown woman even when she is not taking care of the couples children?

      This surprises me!
      A divorce will always cost both emotionally and economically but divorce in America looks to me like women are treated as they are not supposed to have paid work and support them selves like any adult has to unless he or she stay at home to take care of children.

      A stay at home dad or mom is in a special situation, but apart from that American divorce looks like a nightmare to me. And I am a woman. But maybe I misunderstand. It looks terribly old fashioned.

      Equality between the sexes has a price,and one of them is that women are supposed to support them selves economically.

      I am Scandinavian. Divorce here is not that hard on men UNLESS there are children.

      Still most men prefer not to marry,and research tell that the reason is economic. Living together without being married gives them full control of their own money.
      Women want to marry,but the majority of couple starts a family without getting married.
      If they split up,most of these women ends up with nothing. He has to pay child support of course ,but she gets nothing unless she has super legal contracts.

      What I am trying to say is that women in America women seems to be protected economically and I wonder why?

      • Billl Sanders says:

        yes Iben, for all the talk about equality between the genders, there is enormous hypocrisy in America. In school or business life, women are protected and promoted as if they are something special more than boys and men. This favoritism really shows itself in Family Law courts. Also, in the area of domestic violence. And now on college campuses. Young men’s lives can be ruined by a simple accusation of rape or sexual harassment. No proof is needed.

        This may seem like it is off topic, but really – it is not. Reason being, what men want in marriage is a safe haven from the competitive world. But that world has insidiously inserted itself into the very heart of every personal relationship where it does not belong. The culprit is feminism and it’s beneficiary is the State. That’s all I will say for now, but you can connect the dots.

        • Supra deluca says:

          And when a female or male accuses a female of rape or sexual harassment? What happens then? No proof is needed again? Or do you have double standards? If not, then a young men AND women lives could be ruined this way (even if rare, because false accusations of any crime is very, very low occurrence).

      • Iben, you should keep in mind that every state in the U.S. has different divorce laws. Some states have rather draconian rules about lifetime spousal support (e.g. Florida, from what I understand) whereas in other states, spousal support is usually only awarded for short periods of time, for example, where a non-working spouse gets job training or looks for a job (e.g. California). Similarly, in some states (e.g. California) joint parental custody is now the norm and mothers are not automatically awarded custody anymore. you can’t make generalizations about divorce “in the U.S.”

      • Mytwocents says:

        Iben and Bill, a bit off topic but I think it’s interesting to note that in all Scandinavian countries, their are very strong maternity-leave mandates whereby both men and women get LOTS of fully-paid leave time when a child is born (up to 8 months each). AND, corporations MUST pay salaries and hold positions open when someone leaves for maternity. In the United States, we are one of the only developed countries that requires no fully-paid leave or position mandates. So a woman taking time off of her career to take care of a newborn child is punished in the corporate world and it can severely hinder her financially. I question if this isn’t part of the reason for such a disparity in divorce laws and spousal support between the United States and much of the rest of the developed world.

    • Bill,
      Glad the article made sense and seems to resonate with you. The legal aspects of relationships are out of my scope of expertise, so I’ll stay out of it, though I am sorry that you feel/felt abused by the system.
      Adam Sheck

  3. If you replaced what men want with what people want, you would be on the road to credibility. That and using less “air quotes” would help too.

    • Sam,
      Thanks for wanting to get me on the road to credibility. Being this online publication is “Good Men Project” my presumption was to write from a man’s POV, for men and for those who are in relationship with them. When “Good Person Project” solicits my input, I will be certain to accommodate.
      Take care,
      Adam Sheck

  4. Soooooooooooo………men want a stress free environment at home, and somehow women being women impinge on this. And thus women need to make sure they mould themselves so that they don’t cause stress at home. What the hell?! I swear I’m in a time machine and it’s the freaking 1950s.

    • Heather,
      I truly believe in what I stated in the article as the cornerstone of what men want. I never stated nor do I believe that women need to surrender who they are to support their male partners nor do I believe anyone should be inauthentic, so not sure how you leaped to that conclusion. AND if you either don’t believe this information to be accurate or feel that putting it into practice will compromise your integrity, then don’t apply it. If you have something positive to share on this subject that would support others, please feel free to share it, as I am certainly open to learning more about how we can give our partners more of what they want to have a more loving, successful, intimate relationship.
      Adam Sheck

      • Your article is like Otis Redding’s Respect, is what I’m saying.

        You are basically saying you think men all want a woman who is around, but doesn’t crowd you. Who realizes you don’t want to talk about emotions and since you’ve had a “hard day” out “fighting the good fight,” you want to come home and be in a stress-free environment. The implication is that it is her job to make sure that environment is stress free.

        But there is absolutely no consideration for what she’d been doing the whole day. Presumably she’s either at a job, or taking care of the house or kids or whatever. She’s probably also had just as stressful a day as you have. So then is it your job to make sure the home environment is stress free for her, would you say?

        • “You are basically saying you think men all want a woman who is around, but doesn’t crowd you.”
          He doesn’t want someone to be clingy and smother him with attention n questions n expect him to talk for hours after he’s exhausted is how I read it. This is something both genders should aspire to.

          “Who realizes you don’t want to talk about emotions and since you’ve had a “hard day” out “fighting the good fight,” you want to come home and be in a stress-free environment. The implication is that it is her job to make sure that environment is stress free.”

          Lol what? You’re reading quite a bit into it. It IS her job to make it stress free as possible just as it’s also his job, by that I mean don’t start fights over stupid shit, don’t smother them (or ignore them, find the balance for that couple),

          “But there is absolutely no consideration for what she’d been doing the whole day. Presumably she’s either at a job, or taking care of the house or kids or whatever. She’s probably also had just as stressful a day as you have. So then is it your job to make sure the home environment is stress free for her, would you say?”

          Where did you read that it’s not his job to do so? Isn’t this an article of what one man thinks men want without saying what women want? If she has been working all day even as a stay at home mother it’s his duty to try make the household (her’s too, or whomever the partner is male, female, etc) to be as stress free, free from abuse, etc. I’d expect my partner to try her best at making the house stress free, and I myself try my best to make it stress free. If she’s upset, I will do what I can to take that stress away, that’s just basic decency in a relationship. I believe that is what he is referring to because most of this article is just about being a decent partner, although I disagree this is so gendered since it’s stuff I know women and men both want.

          Basics of a relationship: To be loved for WHO you are, be allowed to be yourself, be allowed to fuckup to some degree (we all make mistakes), have a warm n safe environment where there is love n care n respect.

          I get what he means about having someone around even if they aren’t talking, there have been a few people in life, females especially for some reason (usually sweet, soft spoken, kind women who have this charisma of care) that put me into a level of feeling safe and comfort that I rarely ever get. Even just being around them, their body language, their vocal tones, their presence, the knowledge you’re around GOOD n kind people is amazing. And if you’re around someone you are in love with, this is even more potent.

          For me there are times when my brain goes zzzz, usually around 5-6pm after I’ve been doing stuff, I absolutely without fail HAVE to sit down n relax to allow my body to stop hurting, and my ability to hold a convo drops considerably because I am trying to reset, my brain is thinking far slower, if I get interupted with nagging or major talk it gets annoying because I don’t have the energy required to engage with that person. Quite literally my thinking has slowed to where I actually forget words, speak slower because I can’t think of what to say, but gimme an hour or 2 to relax n unwind and I’m good as gold. Not sure if this is a gendered thing, I’ve known men n women who like these time periods to unwind but I know the stereotype is more that males do it, the whole idea of men literally thinking about nothing for a while to reset. This time is EXTREMELY important to those who need it because it lets them regain their focus, energy, etc, and to have this time taken away will cause major problems. I also am a bit like that first thing in the morning, I’d LOOVEEE to talk but brain no worky, brain need foody, brain n body trying to wakeup n can’t think straight is basically how I am for the first hour or 2 on waking most days. Talk to me when my energy kicks in and I am fully alert and I’ll talk your ear off though.

          In this time period of wanting to “retreat to my cave” I am ok with a partner nearby doing her thing, watching tv, having her presence but it’s a time when I just cannot give extra even if I want to. We’re human, we need to relax, I actually envy the Italian style of afternoon siesta’s because in the west it’s wakeup at 7-8 and go all day till 6-7 when you eat dinner and then you may get to relax (unless you have kids which fucks that up). Now if you have a partner who has more energy or their lull period is at a differnet time then there could be a problem if they get chatty when you can barely remember that last hour.

          But humans are all unique even if similar. Men as a group may have similarities just as women do but there is advice in the article that doesn’t apply to me.

          “As men we don’t want to multitask and we don’t want to speak in the language of feelings. We’re not built to do these things optimally. We can do them, and of course, sometimes we must, yet we’re just not designed to do them very well.”
          I am fine multi-tasking on some things, and I enjoy talking deep n meaningful about feelings. I LOVE being in touch with my feelings and every day I strive to understand them more, I try to hone my skills at reading body language, I try my best to understand other people (especially the stereotypical female in the mars-venus sense gender role), I understand there are some studies of biology that suggest men’s ability to read emotions is lower than a woman’s (though I think the emotions relating to fighting, danger/threat/war/attackers is better in men last I heard) but I also see evidence that it’s more that the brain is a muscle in this regard where you can exercise it and strengthen your ability to read emotion. If you think biology says men can’t do x then how are men going to do x if they’ve given up? It’d be as stupid as women giving up on sports because on average men can lift heavier stuff and run faster or whatever the differences are.

          I do value the men are from mars, women from venus books as I learned to read it mentally ignoring men and women and thinking of it as the stereotypical masculine n feminine style of communication since I actually have some feminine attributes regarding my willingness to talk about feeeeeelings. It’s a basic guidebook though, don’t read it as hard fact for all people just as this article isn’t hard fact for all men.

          • Archy,
            Thanks for clarifying what I intended to say as well as adding your own spin. People definitely tend to read into writing, based upon their own experiences, which is what makes it all so interesting. I’m at work on a Part 2, based upon some of these interactions. I expect it will create a schism as well, though hopeful that it will also be helpful.
            Adam

            • I think some women may be triggered by it by the old sexist notions of women should be seen and not heard, so it may sound like that to them. I don’t think they fully understand that presence is soothing, it’s a comfort thing and nearly universal to all humans (some are anti-social of course).

        • you are a lesbian. this post is about what men want in a relationship. unless you suddenly became heterosexual your anger and opinions on this topic are irrelevant. maybe you should stop trolling a men’s website.

          • I’ve actually been reading and writing at GMP for awhile now. It’s actually quite interesting, because in some ways, I share more with straight men in relationships than I do with straight women in relationships. After all, all my relationships have been with women, not men…and lesbians and bisexual women might not be straight, but they are women.

            I also find the idea that only people within a certain group can comment on that group quite problematic. One of the main theories within anthropology is that sometimes it’s an outsider that can offer a fresh and less muddled perspective…depending on the issue at hand. If we’re talking about oppression (which we aren’t), then the outsider often just doesn’t “get it.” But if we’re talking about cultural norms and internal cultural logic, then often it’s the outsider who can see the holes in that logic that those working within it can’t see.

            • “If we’re talking about oppression (which we aren’t), then the outsider often just doesn’t “get it.” But if we’re talking about cultural norms and internal cultural logic, then often it’s the outsider who can see the holes in that logic that those working within it can’t see.”

              Well that’s some fucked up logic. You are female yes? A female dating a female is different from a male dating a female. This is about what MEN want from a female, not what PEOPLE want from dating a female. So…it’s chalk n cheese considering the biology is quite different, were you raised as a man, lived as a man, have male genes, male developed mind n brain? Then how can you “get it” yet non-oppressed people don’t get it for what it’s like to be oppressed.

              That said I don’t mind who gives an opinion, I’ll read it from men, women, trans people, cis-gender? (not 100% sure on the labels so forgive me), child, adult, asexual, gay, straight, bi, iq of 70, iq of 160, blind, deaf, able bodied, disabled, black, white, green blue whatever colour race or hue, hell aliens too I’ll listen to if they’re out there. I appreciate all aspects as you say because it can offer a perspective I may not have seen. But I’m not sure you can actually say what men SHOULD want, but you can be annoyed at what they do want..though men all differ so there is no way to say what men want anyway so the question is loaded. I don’t think your opinions are irrelevant, nor trolling.

            • Hi Archy

              You write:
              “though men all differ so there is no way to say what men want anyway ”

              But the whole point in what Adam tells us is that men do not differ that much.This IS WHAT MEN want…..usually, In our culture.

              You Archy will succeed in your future relationship.

            • I hope so. I think we as a society need to quit telling people what men n women want because they differ. I know people that want to be stay at home mothers, have their life paid for them by the husbands income whilst their version of working is for the family unit so their employer is kind of their husband, others want to be 100% self-sufficient.

            • Actually, now that I think about it, when talking about oppression it IS the outsiders that take priority. Arguably, the oppressed group is treated as an outsider to the mainstream culture (and to the main power dynamics and cultural norms and internal cultural logic) and therefore does have an outsider perspective.

              But okay, we’ll take a less controversial issue. In the U.S. water faucets are called, well, water faucets. In the U.K., water faucets are called taps. In both the U.S. and the U.K. tap water is called tap water. But why isn’t tap water called, “faucet water,” in the U.S.? Why is it still called “tap water,” even though we don’t call faucets taps? I have no idea what the answer is, by the way. Probably some sort of historical and linguistic thing. I dunno. But my point is that while growing up in the U.S., I never thought to ask that question. It was just “the way it was.” I didn’t even notice the discrepancy. It wasn’t until I came to the U.K. and was talking about tap water and then called a tap a “faucet,” that we had a conversation about “taps” vs “faucets,” and she asked me why we still called it “tap water.”

              Asking questions about how and why other people do things “differently” is easy. Asking questions about why we do things the way we do is a lot more difficult. Thus, the outsider’s perspective often brings to light holes in internal cultural logic. I’m not saying I know more about what men want than Adam does, by the way. I’m just talking more generally at the moment.

          • Zodiak,
            EVERYONE’S opinions are welcome here, EVERYONE has something to offer. Get over yourself.
            Adam Sheck

            • Anonymous says:

              I am a woman who had a similar reaction as Heather. I think an important point was made in a book I read by Naomi Wolf, that pointed out that men and women have some different and conflicting stressors. For a woman, NOT being able to talk about feelings is often a stressor, for men, it is often a stressor to have to talk about feelings, for instance. Understanding, compassion, and compromise are really called for here.

    • I’d say both genders should try keep a stress free home.

    • “men want a stress free environment at home, and somehow women being women impinge on this. And thus women need to make sure they mould themselves so that they don’t cause stress at home.”

      You’re ok with forty years of articles in mainstream media saying “men being men” is the root of all relationship problems, and that they need to mold themselves in a way more satisfying to the women in their relationships (in other words think more like a woman) . However one article on GMP suggesting suggesting that men just want some comfort when they get home and not to be bombarded with chores, requests, or as a “data dump” for their day _right after_ getting home from work is insulting and feels like “the 50s” to you. Think about that.

      • *chuckle* I know. I’m a woman who creates a chill envoronment for my man. We help each other create peace in our home and although our days are sometimes stressful, we talk about it and let thd stress go. We also work with a lot of staff during the day, so we respect that we need alone time as well. It’s incorrect in the utmost to flip this article on it’s rear end and think that it offers men a way to not take care of a woman’s stress free environment. Every man I have met busts his ass to make sure that their ladies are comfortable, and if the way they do it does not work for you then simply talk to them about it! Men are most certainly not omniscient and need communication just like the rest of us. But I 100% agree from the ladies side of the court, my relationship is the bomb because we both use little tips like these to keep each other relaxed and affectionate.

  5. What about just being content with those memorable shared experiences, rather than the arbitrary stuff in between? It certainly makes me happy.

  6. Hi Adam

    You write:
    “There is the psychology, and then there is also the biology. Men are more susceptible to being physiologically aroused. Yes, THAT way, too, but I mean in terms of “fight or flight” and being ready to fight off attacks from the dinosaurs and sabertooth tigers. That’s what our bodies tell us to do and so we have relationships in order to take a break from that, in order to give our systems a rest, to renew ourselves.”

    Can you give us references to research about this? I did not know men were more sensitive to stress than women.

    I left a man because he was out fighting sable tigers from seven in the morning and until eleven at night. Then he came home ,woke me up from sleep and wanted to tell me all about it.

    After the divorce I asked him:” why on earth did you marry me?” He answered:” to have you in the house,available when I wanted sex”.

    I doubt that most men have relationships
    ” in order to take a break from fighting sable tigers”
    Sorry Adam.

    Tell me then what do senior men want from their partner? They have 30 years ahead of them safe from sable tigers if their can live of their pensions.

    • Iben,
      Research and references are a little out of the GMP comment scope. If you Google the topic, you’ll find plenty of journal articles if that floats your boat.
      Sorry I can’t be more helpful in this venue,
      Adam

  7. I never got my needs met in my marriage. I wish I had a place or a person with whom I could recharge. Maybe I needed a wife instead of a husband. Hmmmm….

    • WTF,
      Wish you the best next time in expressing your needs and getting them met. Maybe you’ll even be in a reciprocal relationship where you’ll want to do the same for your partner.
      Good luck,
      Adam Sheck

  8. Hi Adam

    I took a look at Jezebel. It was interesting, and here is a little of what I found of comments to your article here:

    , “it’s simply not possible that the natural predators of early humans (saber-toothed cats and all that) were only interested in men.

    Lastly, when men are emotional and, dare I say, overly-sensitive, many of them like to call it “fight or flight” and “arousal”, yet when women have these same responses, we’re “hysterical” and “irrational.” Guess what, guys? Your emotional responses are our emotional responses. It’s very much the same shit. Sunday 5:36pm”

    But back to you Adam.
    As a woman that wants and tries to understand men I can say this to you. My guess is part of that what you mean is this phenomena that men are less comfortable with intense intimacy for long periods of time,and most women are not. And this can be explained with early relationship with our mother( if it was a women that took care of you as an infant).

    . You are qualified to explain this better than I am. Give it a new try!
    I look forward to it.
    You see,I am on GMP because I want to understand men, not fight them.

    • Iben,
      Thanks for your thoughts. Just found out about the Jezebel piece, won’t say much about it. I had a therapist once who told me (and I share this with clients all the time) that in life we have the choice to respond with an intention to protect or with an intention to learn. I am interesting in learning and engaging with those that wish to as well. Though I’m feeling like reading comments on this article could become a full-time job :)
      Adam

  9. Louise Hilson says:

    Hmmm, while I do admit that this kind of strategy would’ve worked one particular previous relationship where I was unhappy, when I left that relationship I finally found out that I had been unnecessarily surrendering my own needs for what I thought was “the perfect relationship”.

    To be honest, I think this is a great strategy, but for people who are in relationships that need severe relationship therapy, which is the sample population you deal with as a psychologist and where you would have drawn most (if not all?) of your inferences (unless you also did studies with happy couples in a separate control population). It might not actually speak to people who are in a relationship that works better than that. It kind of reads as advice about “how to settle”.

    In my current relationship I’m much happier and so is my current boyfriend, and when we are both exhausted perhaps we leave each other alone but most of the time we “speak in the language of feelings” and compared to previous relationships where I shied away from doing this I find we have a much healthier bond and there is no animosity because sharing our feelings means that neither of us is ever wondering what the other person is thinking. It also means we fight less and that when we do fight it’s not a large build-up of “well you always do this and it bothers me” or “you never do this” because we have the courage and courtesy to tell each other what we want. So when we do have (short-lived) arguments, it always feels amazingly cathartic and that we’ve come to a resolution that’s made that relationship stronger.

    Anyway, just my 2 cents. I used to live by the kind of advice in your column but now that I don’t, I feel a lot better. I also read a great book by Dr. David Burns called “Feeling Good Together” (a follow up to “Feeling Good”) that was an amazing approach to communication strategies within your romantic relationship or any other relationship that causes you stress in your life (including your boss, co-workers, friends, etc.).

    I think that trying to pigeon-hole what men want is a bit of a dangerous game to be honest… I speak with the wisdom of 3 failed long-term relationships and finally “breaking the pattern” to realize what truly matters and what makes things work with someone you truly care about (as opposed to someone you might just be trying to control).

  10. Hello Adam Sheck (Sorry, this is probably going to be quite long…too long, really. Sorry, mods),

    Now that I’ve had a couple days to think and not simply react, let’s see if I can’t explain why I reacted to your article the way I did. Archy touched on it when he mentioned how the article hits quite close to the idea that it’s a woman’s job to be seen and not heard. As I pointed out too, your article touches quite close to the old sexist idea that a woman’s place is in the home, and it’s her job to make sure the home is as stress-free and comforting to the husband as possible. The concept of a woman as a “safe haven,” to be used as a shelter from the pressures of the outside world is an old and sexist one. Your mention of wanting someone around who is there to make sure you’re okay, someone to touch base…who’ll make sure you are taken care of in all the traditional, maternal ways. Your mention of “walking on egg shells” and being on your “best behaviour” plays into the idea that women are too sensitive and that they nag men too much, specifically about behaviour. That women, simply by being too present, are a nuisance and causes of stress, just by being womanly at a man. Again, it’s quite full of gender stereotypes and old sexist attitudes about what a woman’s place is.

    Now, based on your reaction to a lot of the critique, it strikes me that you might not actually have been aware of how sexist your article might seem. I read your article like I might read something at A Voice for Men, something that is knowingly trying to “put women in their place,” or how I might have read the “Deranged Sorority Girl” letter. Though your article was certainly less angry…it fed into the idea that women need to please men…that women should be there for the men in their lives.

    But, now, it seems like you were probably just talking about what you wanted in a partner, and then projected that into sweeping generalisations about men and women, and didn’t actually intend to put women down. Unintentional sexism, one might call it.

    So I’m reminded of a story I was recently told by Jamie Utt, which I’ll copy/paste here: “When I was in early in my undergrad, a group of self-proclaimed anti-racist White folks (myself among them) decided that we wanted to have a White caucus space for White folks to hold one another accountable to privilege and racism. The problem was that none of us had done the work to build relationships with activists of Color on campus, and none of us were accountable to those activists. Thus, when we started putting up ads for the White space, people of Color were FURIOUS. As ignorant White folks, we were shocked. It wasn’t until a professor of Color said this to me that I got it: “Jamie, you have to understand, there is a long and violent history of White people meeting in Whites-only spaces with no accountability to and connection to people of Color in this country. How are we to know that this space is any different from a gathering of the KKK?””

    So not quite the same thing, obviously, but similar. I don’t know you and so I don’t know your personal story. All I know are the words you wrote, my own personal experiences, and my own education in issues of gender and sexuality. There are all sorts of power dynamics and social privileges that come into play when talking about a heterosexual romantic relationship, and what is expected of the man and woman in that relationship. Your article wasn’t just about what men want…it’s about what men want from women in a relationship. And therefore the article is making demands of women in a relationship, and it so happens the demands (or requests, to put it nicely), fit right into traditional gender stereotypes.

    I mentioned Otis Redding’s Respect as a half-joke, but it was deliberate. Why is it that Otis Redding’s version is kind of sexist, and Aretha Franklin’s is like a feminist anthem? Aretha and Otis are demanding basically the same thing from their partner, and they are setting up very similar scenarios. ‘I’ve given you everything I had, now give me respect,’ is basically what the whole song boils down to. So why is Otis demanding respect grate on my nerves, whereas I’ll sing along to Aretha in the shower like I’m on American Idol? Because of how their respective versions of the song fit into the larger social narratives about gender, is why. A man saying “respect me because of what I’ve given you in this relationship,” is ENTIRELY different to a woman saying, “respect me because of what I’ve given you in this relationship.” There is a whole history of women being denied respect (in relationships and outside relationships) that just is not there for men.

    And look, I get the desire not to have to process every emotion all the time. There are a million lesbian jokes out there (written by lesbians, mind you) about how exhausting it is to be in a lesbian relationship…where you have to talk about absolutely everything. And of course I also totally understand wanting home to be a place where you can stop putting on the facade that is required of you in the world. Minorities of any kind (racial, sexual, gender, etc) certainly understand that. It’s damn exhausting to have to constantly perform your identity (well, identities) for people. And as someone who really values my alone-time, I also totally understand the comfort that comes from knowing a friend/partner/whatever is around, but not necessarily having to be attached at the hip all the time. One of the reasons I loved living in NYC so much was that I could be both alone, but surrounded by people at the same time…I get that. – The problem wasn’t what you were saying you wanted, it was the gendered nature in which you described it.

    • Hi HeatherN

      Bravo!
      You even made me cry…

    • HeatherN, thank you for articulating better what i’ve been trying to say in my comments!

    • Heather,
      I truly appreciate your thoughtfulness and depth in this comment. I’m feeling about done in this article comment thread, though appreciative of all that has come up. I’m happy to own my stuff and others are welcome to own their or not.

      Obviously EVERYONE in a relationship has needs and the work of relationship is knowing yourself and being able to express what you need. To me, relationships stimulate parts of us that would otherwise not surface, allowing us to learn more about ourselves and share those parts with our partner – the good, the bad and the ugly. That is what I call intimacy and what I work with couples of every gender, sexual preference and personality with.

      In terms of “gendered nature”, I’m not sure how a man, writing for a publication called “The Good Men Project” about “what men really want” can be gender neutral, nor am I even sure that is desirable.

      I am from Brooklyn (before it was popular) and I am pretty direct. That is part of my power as a psychotherapist to cut through the bullshit with my clients and couples. They usually work with me after they’ve been with one or two other psychotherapists that have colluded in keeping them stuck. People love me or hate me and are rarely on the fence. Not infrequently they hate me first and then love me. They know fully and completely that their highest good is what I am interested in and that I am on their side.

      I’m assuming this may very well be true of the blogging world as well. We will see.

      Take care,
      Adam Sheck

      • When I mentioned the “gendered nature” of what you’re writing, I’m talking about the lack of acknowledgement in the article about how what you’re saying fits into larger cultural narratives about gender. A few sentences where you say, “hey I know how this sounds, but that’s not what I mean,” for example. Something saying, “I don’t mean to equate women with the home,” would help. Something, anything, in there that acknowledges that even if these particular gender stereotypes you’re using are true, it’s not up to the woman to ensure that a relationship is “stress-free” or whatever. Literally the moment you start talking about what a man wants in a relationship, it is implied that it is the job of the woman to make sure those wants are met…and this article fails to address that.

        This is about to sound really condescending and I don’t mean it to be: But basically, if someone’s going to talk about gender, I expect them to indicate an awareness of gender theory, power structures surrounding gender, etc. This is particularly true if they’re going to speak about generalisations, and not just in terms of personal experiences.

      • Thank you Adam. I’m so tired of seeing criticisms of articles as “heteronormative” or biased toward one gender. It’s silly to expect every article on every subject to have caveats for every possible combination of relationship.

        This article is about males in heterosexual relationships with women. There’s nothing wrong with having the article be about or addressing that audience alone.

        • Indeed, it’s so silly of me, as a woman, to expect an article that is talking about men’s relationships to women…to actually consider women’s opinions on the matter. (I’m being sarcastic, obviously).

          Let me point out I didn’t, actually, call this article heteronormative. It is…I mean it’s all about straight men, and yet it totally fails to address the straightness of its subject. Heterosexuality is so privileged it’s invisible…etc. Simply saying putting the word, “straight” in front “man” and “woman,” the majority of the times those terms were used would have solved it, by the way. An article doesn’t have to address every gender/sexuality combination all the time…but it really should acknowledge when it’s being targeted to a specific audience. Presuming that when talking about men, there’s no need to specify if you’re actually talking about straight men is a problem. It’s as problematic as addressing an article to Americans, and assuming your audience is all white. Anyway…I could have mentioned all that…but frankly that’s the least of its problems so I didn’t…until you brought it up…

          Anyway, if you’re going to write about heterosexual relationships (in generalised terms, not just in personal terms), then you can’t do so from purely a woman’s or a man’s perspective…or rather, you need to take both into consideration. Why? Because a heterosexual relationship involves both men and women…that’s the way the cookie crumbles. And traditionally women’s opinions/wants/desires/etc. have been rather neglected and ignored, both within romantic relationships and outside romantic relationships. So that means its even MORE important to take that into consideration.

          I’ll leave you all with a link to an article Jamie Utt wrote about privilege and listening: http://everydayfeminism.com/2013/04/the-importance-of-listening-as-a-privileged-person-fighting-for-justice/

          • This is the reason I think it would be beneficial to have this kind of a discussion in the terms of masculine and feminine. These don’t have to be associated with a gender and we can all relate ourselves to being some ratio between these two energies.

          • Do take into account this is a site for men, and that in modern days men’s opinions are becoming less n less valued to the point there are many men who simply give up trying to say what they want for fear of being silenced for fucking up. Jezebel tearing apart this article cuz omg a man describes what he wants, and how dare he want a warm n loving partner doesn’t exactly make other men feel like opening up on this shit. Will I be accepted in talking about men’s perspectives on a woman’s site, writing about what women want in a relationship? Last time I saw that, the person was accused of derailing.

          • FlyingKal says:

            I highly doubt that the characteristics listed in the article are dependent on the gender of the man’s partner.

            • FlyingKal,
              I agree with you here and did my best to keep partner gender out of the discussion for the most part. I work with many gay couples as well and what men want becomes a big issue in the treatment. And yes, as was stated in an earlier comment, the masculine and the feminine reside in us all, yet this article isn’t about that, though certainly relevant and addressed a great deal when couples are wanting to reignite the passion in their relationship

    • “I read your article like I might read something at A Voice for Men, something that is knowingly trying to “put women in their place,” or how I might have read the “Deranged Sorority Girl” letter. ”

      Strange, I never get that impression from AVfM unless they’re doing a sattire article that usually says so in the article.

      I think the author has come across wrongly, I saw Jezebel also missed the mark bigtime on the article and tore it to shreds. Trouble is people really are reading what they want in his words far too much and because it seems similar to other sexist stuff it’s coming across far worse than it should I think. I feel the article would be far better read if it were written as one man’s desires for a partner. When I read the Eggshells part, coupled with the behaviour part my impression was that he gets to turn off his public face and is allowed to laugh at bad jokes, allowed to be himself, allowed to sit back with his balls hanging out butt nekkid scratching himself if he wants, drinking a drink, watching tv, yelling at the tv, shit we take for granted at home which we could not do in public. Hell I swear like a sailor at home, but in public I gotta cut that shit down, hence I can’t be myself. Eggshells could also mean he doesn’t want an abusive partner too.

  11. Flyingkal says:

    If I am sharing a relationship and a home with another person, I would assume that what that person wants and desires would in general terms be much about the same as me. At least until the opposite has been clearly stated.
    And so, maybe I’m a freak or just unique in my way of thinking, but as long as we can get along and share, I don’t see that my desire to have a stressfree home environment will by default in any way prevent me from doing my best to ensure that my partner also has one!

  12. I enjoyed reading this because it stimulated me to consider if your sharing was applicable in my life. Some of it was and then I had a really great awareness about something that I process much differently than you…yet it was your writing that helped me become aware of it. It was the part where you said you experienced comfort just knowing your partner was in the house. Because that’s not true for me, it made me realize that when I really feel comfortable is when I am confident in my ability to self-sustain (produce income, take care of myself, etc.). Over the last several years when I’ve explored letting that go (after misbelieving I’d been to selfish and closed), I’ve attempted to supplement with the comfort of a woman and found it doesn’t work for me. Instead it leaves me feeling needy and even depressed.

    THE BOTTOM LINE – Thank you for sharing your perspective! That’s where I really believe the power is. The energy behind your share is what rattled me in a positive way and stimulated me to have a new experience of myself. THANK YOU.

  13. Iben, this is so priceless…so important for men to understand.

    ““I also think the bit about how men look back for their mommies in their safe space, but then can turn away once they see their mommy is there. I think that comes across as insulting to some. First, wives and girlfriends are not mothers and we want full partners, not giant sons. Second, it’s deflating to hear that someone wants you to be in eyesight, but doesn’t really want to interact with you. They just want to know that they’re safe. Nevermind about how the woman in this story feels.”

    Where Adam says, “As men we don’t want to multitask and we don’t want to speak in the language of feelings. We’re not built to do these things optimally. We can do them, and of course, sometimes we must, yet we’re just not designed to do them very well.says, ” I say, choose to believe this at the risk of your first, second, and third divorce. We cannot expect women to work hard at understanding us and our needs if we are not willing to toss aside the “biological excuse” that we are built to meet their emotional needs. A man can choose to do so or not. Happy and sexually satisfied men know this intuitively.

    • My mother can be abusive, I never wanna meet a woman like her if I am dating someone. Fuck that. I want a woman, a life partner, not another mother and definitely not MY mother.

      • Archy,
        Sorry, your mother forms part of the template of what you want in a life partner. It can be good though, as it gives us a chance to heal our wounds of childhood through another and they with us. The more conscious we become, the healthier we can be in relationship. See my response to Alex.
        Thanks,
        Adam Sheck

  14. I too am curious… what happens when the mother figure was one that didn’t create a safe place for their son, does that then mean that they search out partners or relationships that mimic that lack of safety in their childhood which would essentially mean destructive non-functioning relationships?
    Cheers

    • Alex,
      I’ve blogged extensively on how we choose our partners on my http://www.thepassiondoctor.com website, so you can read my thoughts there. The short answer is that we absorb all of the data around us growing up and are attracted to someone who has the best AND worst qualities of our primary caregivers. Love looks like what we were exposed to, including lack of safety if that was the case. That’s what keeps psychologists like me in business, for better or worse.
      Thanks for asking,
      Adam Sheck

  15. Alexsandra says:

    Well, I have a question: who Doesn’t want to feel safety in their relationship? Ideally and hopefully that is what a relationship provides at its base, the safest environment in which to evolve- and deal with all that ‘schtuff’ that early unhelpful developmental years mucked up….but safety, like love, is a verb and something that does require communication of needs, expectations, boundaries blah blah blah- on a regular basis. Its reassuring to hear men aren’t necessarily seeking the trophy wife etc. Yet in a way those are exaggerated negative attributes of positive qualities for a relationship, too- trophy wife/partner- someone you can respect; someone to process feelings- real authentic communication; and sex- well, OK- yes yummy sex and some conscious lovemaking thrown in there, too ;-) Are we really seeking such different things? I wonder. Maybe the foundations are the same–attending to the reptilian brain needs for safety but using our mammalian brain conscious choices to see where our fight or flight reactions might not serve us and work towards- literally- towards partnering- without succumbing to our fears and wounds- with an other.
    My 2 pence. lovely to hear men speak in comments and the article. Thank you for your article Adam, and sharing yourself- really appreciate it!

    • Hi Alexsandra,

      I really liked this. “using our mammalian brain conscious choices to see where our fight or flight reactions might not serve us and work towards- literally- towards partnering- without succumbing to our fears and wounds- with an other.”

      You start with a very tenuous assumption. Do men seek “safety” in a relationship?

      From my experience coaching men, no, for the most part they don’t.

      I believe that “emotional safety” is critical for most women in a relationship and that a man has a responsibility to *help* create the environment for that. We know that many women require this to feel open, trustful, sensual, and sexual toward him. For her to get there, she usually needs a consistently supportive, respectful, non-judgmental, approving, and appreciative man.

      Him? He wants adoration, respect, acceptance, emotional affection, and lots of physical affection. He doesn’t have much need for “safety” if he has these things. It is THESE things make him feel safe and certain that things are going well for him. And unfortunately for many men, if the sex is good, the world is good. Job done.

      Out of the 6 basic emotional needs (certainty, variety, significance, love/connection, contribution, growth), I see that men rarely pick certainty (safety) as the top 3. Women, on the other hand, often have certainty in their top 3.

      We DO share a lot of common needs with each other. I think the problems arise when a person tries to give those gifts in ways THEY like instead of ways their partner needs. (i.e. 5 Love Languages)
      It takes honest communication to figure it out. My girlfriend and I BOTH prefer physical touch as our primary love language. BUT, the way she wants this from me is vastly different than how I want it from her. We both know it and enjoy providing it the ways we each want it.

      This may launch another debate about how “we really are exactly the same and want/need the same things”. Some people think even if that’s not true, it SHOULD be true. You already know where I stand.

      True harmony comes from acknowledging, appreciating, and respecting all of the special nuances of each other’s personalities, desires, talents, and fears. Hostility comes from the pressure that we must hide our true selves in order fit into somebody else’s standard of acceptability, correctness, or gender neutrality.

      • Steve

        Have you been close enough to men to know what emotional needs are not met when men commit sucide or attempt to commit. Sucide ? The young and the oldes are vulnerable.

      • Great comment Steve…I agree on many levels. Particularly: ‘I think the problems arise when a person tries to give those gifts in ways THEY like instead of ways their partner needs.”

        Looked at another way, when we recognize that we project onto others our own needs/wants/emotions, one could see the way that their partner is treating them and understand that that is they way they want to be treated. It takes real consideration of the other person and being unselfish, wanting to understand another’s needs and give, not just receive.

        • Carlo,
          I completely agree with you on this. I do an exercise with most couples that I’m working with on “caring behaviors” to define what makes each member feel special and loved and then share that with their partner, as a remedy to the projections.
          Adam Sheck

      • Steve,
        I would suggest a distinction between men seeking “safety” versus a safe place to recharge. I can’t speak for the men you have coached, yet the majority of men I have conducted psychotherapy with over the last twenty plus years have issues (some society imposed) around admitting vulnerability and the need for a safe place and express shame for having needs in general. The deeper we have worked, the more these issues have come to the forefront.
        Thanks for sharing,
        Adam Sheck

      • Aquarious says:

        Pretty good list but what about freedom? Men say that they don’t like women who keep tabs on them, and they don’t want to be nagged about the things that their partners think they ought to be doing.

        Here is another good list of things men want in a relationship:http://blog.californiapsychics.com/blog/2013/12/5-things-men-want-in-a-relationship.html

      • Steve, as usual I believe you are on the mark especially about the tenuousness of Adam’s suggestion that men seek a “safety cave” from women. I would agree with yours and John Gray’s listing of male needs as respect, acceptance, emotional and physical affection. As Alexsandra said, “who doesn’t want safety in their relationship?” I would suggest that the real motivation for relationship is even deeper.
        Firstly, as Heather mentions, this isn’t the 1950’s. It has only recently that humans lived in nuclear families. In fact most of the world still lives communally. Traditionally a man returns home to an extended family or tribe, not just a wife. It is the job of that community to provide the respect and acceptance you mention as prime motivators for men. What we consider normal in the west is seen as barren and empty to a majority of the world.

        But more importantly, I do not think we can discuss what men need without consideration of the counterbalancing desires of women. We are engendered primarily as embodied yang (assertive energy) and yin (receptive energy). Each of us has access to both energies, but the “creative tension” is achieved by creating an imbalance yearning for harmony (yes, this works in gay and lesbian relationships as well).

        Yang energy, which is usually associated with the male gender, flows outwards into the environment. Yang is assertive, curious, decisive and violent if necessary and appropriate. The task of yang is to create breath in human relationships – order, hierarchies, defenses, alliances, etc. to give the human spirit the sanctuary that Adam suggests. Yin energy, usually considered feminine, is receptive, open, emotional, mysterious and deep. The task of yin is to bring depth, both physically and spiritually to a relationship. Marianne Williamson said, “The spiritualization process in men as well as women is a feminization process.” Our lives acquire meaning and direction through receptivity of human consciousness allowing Spirit to infuse our mortal lives.

        We are familiar with Maslow’s hierarchy of needs which also can be correlated to the chakras in our bodies. By building on the foundation of needs, we can become more productive, alive and creative. I would contend that longing for harmony and balance is the prime motivating factor in human relationships. I also propose that a balance of breath and depth are necessary to achieve any sense of peace and comfort in our lives. We must marshal our yang energies to create the sanctuary for our sacred yin energy to safely emerge. If we become too yang, then we lose connection with our spiritual core and we become power hungry and violent. If we do not create a personal sanctuary then our yin energy is scattered, diffuse and weakly expressed in the world.

        Instinctively we seek in our relationships a dynamic balance of yang and yin energies that ebb and flow with our environment. With a sense of balance at its core, gender roles become fluid and each partner instinctively knows what is required at any moment of time. Yes, safety is the basis for all human life, but as Maslow shows, this is just the foundation upon which we build our relationships and our lives.

    • Alexsandra,
      Thanks for your kind words as well as your deep thoughts on this topic. I would agree we all want to feel safe and that need is met in different ways for different people. My article is about a key way that men’s needs are met. The work of couples counseling in my experience is to help each partner self-regulate so that they an be less reactive and more loving and empathic with their partner, thus being more able and willing to meet each other’s needs as well as have their own needs met.
      Adam Sheck

  16. I think this is absolutely true. From my experience men want someone that is like a mother figure in their lives. It all depends on how you were raised. If you were in a close family then yes, thats what your intent will be when you start to look for a significant other. There have been tons of TV episodes written about this very subject. Thanks.

    • T.,
      I know that people don’t like the idea that we marry our mother, marry our father, psychologically speaking, yet there is more than a grain of truth to it in my psychological experience. It doesn’t mean we have to be at the effect of it in perpetuity, yet if we refuse to become aware of our psychological inclinations, we definitely will act out on them unconsciously.
      Thanks for sharing,
      Adam Sheck

  17. Hi Adam

    You write : “issues (some society imposed) around admitting
    vulnerability and the need for a safe place and express shame for having needs in general.”

    Is these problems part of why we have higher sucide rate among men than women in the west?
    I understand it is more complicated but is this issue an important port of the high sucide rates among the youngest and the oldest men?

    • Iben,
      The highest suicide rates have always been adolescents and men in the second half of life and the latest data released last week shows an increase in rates for middle-aged men as well. It IS too complex an issue for me to speculate upon here, though the economic situation is certainly a factor I’d imagine. I will think about it and write something, as it is particularly relevant to my followers at http://www.menafterfifty.com.
      Thanks for bringing it up.
      Adam

  18. Eva Maria Nova says:

    Adam, I knew somehow that you would help me figure out why for Heaven’s sake I ate that apple ;))

    When I first read your article it sounded very much like an excuse so I had to read it once again.

    I guess there’s nothing like our personal experience about a certain issue …
    That being said, I’ll lean over my 30 years(and still)’living’ relationship with my man which is from where my point of view will take its basic flow.

    The very fact of every man psyche in whatever relationship or context we put it, it’s his freedom.
    Men’s comprehension of freedom is totally different from what we women are used or induced to think,… and understand sometimes.
    It’s a long process and not at all an easy thing as to how to build an attitude and ability to catch the line which integrates two individuals,different(meaning unique)from every point of view.

    When I say freedom I think about emotional freedom which is essential to every human being.
    The more emotionally mature we grow, the more space and meaning we give to it.

    What I understood in this half-century of mine is that men (or most of them)are scared to death from suffering.
    That being said they are not quite comfortable with making promising, commitments and everything which may bring them (reversely in a way)remain short of any kind of expectations.

    They would rather enjoy a relationship which presents itself as a challenge.
    They would rather get into a relationship they may build upon and not only, but one which will help them (re)create themselves upon a stable ground.

    I have learned through time that I truly needed to learn to know and appreciate a bit more the fact “how he wants to be loved”.
    It doesn’t deprive at all my own wish, will or capability for how I want, need or feel I should express my love in a certain moment.
    Sometimes we(women) need to see through their eyes, feel through their hearts and probably try to think through their brains so as to properly complement and be fully implemented in the unity,… for the sake of the unity.
    Giving a man a possibility to always hold the vibe he wants to experience while exploring his limitless emotional world is essential.
    Giving him a hand in creating his emotional integrity is crucial.
    But,don’t ever pretend to be his whole life, unless you give it a try for becoming the best part of it ;))

    … and one final hint ;

    Don’t ever put him on a pedestal ;))
    Nothing suffocates him more than being put on a throne !

    They want to be taken as they are,.. not as we wish them to be.
    So, let them flow,… effortlessly.

    That’s how I keep the pace,… thus far.

  19. James Stanuszek says:

    I have come to the cross-roads in a second marriage falling apart out of what I have come to understand now is my wife’s inability to or unwillingness to understand my need for the “safe place” to recharge myself. I work a full time job and have been diligently doing my best to met my obligations from my prior marriage all the while my wife didn’t work, had no “need” of my financial support to keep her at the level of living standards she established for herself prior to our meeting, dating and getting married.

    Keeping in mind also during this time, my mother had been diagnosed with Stage 4 pancreatic cancer which place an additional layer of difficulty on top of those I was doing my best to handle with the resources I had available to me.

    I have come to also understand she re-engaged contact with her childhood crush and had stepped outside our marriage to have her “want’s” met through contact with him and I have ceremoniously have been flung aside like an odd pair of shoes that in her mind, look good at the time but no longer has a desire for in lieu of the new pair she has “dreamed up” as perfect pair to have….

    Be that as it may, it is evident that she is stuck in the realm of Gone With The Wind / fantasy world/soap opera/Disney Princess ideas of what relationships. Don’t get me wrong, romantic spontaneity is good and purposeful planned alone time helps but ultimately, it does come down to each partners willingness to step into “how can I make him/her feel good about us being together and that they matter to me” actions.

  20. I liked this article. As a woman, it makes me sad that so many women don’t “get” it. I’ve seen many women become the traditional needy, naggy, unsupportive housewife types…. When their husband arrives home, if he does something she perceives as “wrong” – he hears about it. If he can’t read her mind, all of a sudden it’s his fault. If there is a problem, it’s his fault. Complain, complain, complain…. It’s as though these women treat their men as children instead of adult men. This treatment creates a stressful environment which ultimately leads to the breakdown of the marriage. As women, we are responsible for making the home comfortable and stress free – especially if our man is coming home after a long day of work while we have been home all day tending to the house and children, etc… (Of course, this article wouldn’t apply to abusive men). Call me old fashioned, but I love giving my guy a foot massage when he’s been on his feet all day. I enjoy whipping up a delicious meal. I want him to enjoy a made bed with clean sheets and a clean house. I make sure there are candles and laundry is done. I even help as much as I can with his business. I take pride in what I do and don’t sit on my lazy butt watching “housewives of whatever…” We are both extremely happy because we have a PARTNERSHIP. If a need isn’t being met on either end then we are free to tell the other and do so in a non-confrontational manner. We almost always meet each others needs. We are a natural fit for each other. If you find that you are having to spend a lot of time “training” your significant other to meet your needs (or they are having to spend a lot of time training you), then you probably aren’t truly meant for each other.

  21. Celeste1965 says:

    I still don’t know what men want after 17 years of marriage to an abusive controlling man. I stuck with it for over a decade after the abuse started. Hindsight is 20/20, and I am moving forward one day at a time. Divorce was the only option for me, and an awful experience.
    From my personal experience, men say they aren’t that complicated and that they want the simple things: Love, Trust, Respect, Loyalty….a Soft Place to Fall….
    I found the opposite to be true with my ex husband. He demanded these things from me but didn’t give anywhere near as good as he got.
    Its just sad.

  22. Many thoughts and questions..I totally understand the need for a man to refresh after his day, but in this day so does a woman and I realize we are wired so differently. I saw this need for a refresh in my dad and in my own failed marriage, although at the time I didn’t realize it’s importance. I do now and want to provide that in a new relationship if that is what he really wants. Men, I have just found someone of interest, with common ideas as mine and I don’t want to blow it. Do I pursue or wait on him to see if he is as interested? Additionally, this starts a whole new topic but it is a distance relationship, so what does a man want when the relationship begins from afar and is slow to start? I realize the lack of emotion from most men, so do I get bent if I don’t see it? He is affectionate, and very sexual, does this equate to emotion for a man? Thoughts?

  23. Hi, I have been with my fiancee since march 16th 2012 but yet broke up on september 11th 2012 and got back together on janunry 10th and have been together since then. I’m scared that he’s going to cheat like he always did he has a record of cheating, and a record of lying. I’v gave him sex and as much love as i can. i love this man i don’t know what else to do!

  24. This is the very reason why at OcFilm we created a documentary movie on What Men Really Want. It’s so easy to misinterpret what men are looking for. Too many places in media online and offline that talks about men just wanting this, what’s obvious and expected of their nature but seriously there is more to it. I do agree with what you stated in this blog post. It’s NOT JUST sex and stuff like that. It’s like having a peaceful home for the heart.

  25. This article rings so true and really makes me feel it’s time to give up on my relationship. My boyfriend treats our apartment as a place for switching off and re-charging & I am just apart of the furniture. He has no interest in making any plans or interacting with me. Everything of interest for him is outside of our relationship. No travel plans, no outings, only the occasional meal out. I am suggest new things we could do together, places we could go and I get treated like I am a total bitch. Yesterday I asked him to walk 100 metres down the road and read books in the park this Saturday. He exploded at me because he has plans for Saturday night and just wants to relax on his day off. I couldn’t understand why he still wanted to be with me even though he has no interest in sharing the world with him. Not understanding has made me want to stay and figure it out. I have this need for security too but it doesn’t mean the other person has to be so passive. This article makes me realise it’s not going to change. I’m a human beanbag.

  26. Jodie Gummow says:

    The main problem I have with this article is this premise that men don’t want their relationship to feel like a second job – NEWSFLASH: it IS a second job. If it isn’t treated accordingly and not approached the way we maintain and the effort made as in any work job, relationship dies. UNLESS, the female partner is willing to accept “slackery,” due to her own self-worth issues. So, I do think this article is a little of a cop out and an insult to feminism in that it it clearly sending out a patriarchal, archaic subtext i.e.: men just want to come home to a woman who won’t say a lot, where he doesn’t have to do anything and she will look pretty and he can have his peace. We may as well go back to the ’50s. I’m not saying what this author is saying isn’t true – I think there are lot of men who have this mentality – but I think that if we accept this mindset of what men apparently want or if we as women give it too much weight, then we are doing men a huge disservice, re-enforcing awful gender stereotypes and moving backwards rather than forwards in contemporary society. Instead we should be saying: Step up and be better than your predecessors! Here’s a different perspective on positive male traits: http://www.alternet.org/gender/praise-beta-male

  27. My greatest challenge with this article is the consideration of only external realities. Any grown person knows that going out into the world is hard work. However, there doesn’t appear to be any consideration that women have to face the same harsh world and then are expected to come home and create a “safe haven” for their man. Practically speaking, the house needs to be clean, meals need to be prepared, things break, children need to be cared for, laundry needs to be done. How can all of this get done, if both partners retreat to unwind?

    If this is what a man wants then he has the responsibility to co-create the safe haven. I am not his mommy, I am his partner. If we both had the same attitude of retreating to our respective parts of the house for a couple of hours then nothing gets done. Coming home to a nasty house and ill-behaved hungry children is not a safe haven for anyone.

    If you want peace when you get home, than be an adult and do what needs to be done — without waiting to be asked; without acting as if you are doing your wife a favor by “helping” her out like taking care of the home and children is her job. I have had men tell me they don’t see the sock sitting on the floor in middle of the room but will notice if there is a layer of dust on their Camaro. And, yet if the house wasn’t clean and food wasn’t in the refrigerator, they would negatively judge their partner.

    I suppose this would have been a much stronger post for me, if there had been some acknowledgment of these realities and this patriarchal notion had been challenged. Instead it came off as “boys will be boys” which to me is not the definition of a “good man”.

  28. Something less boring says:

    I found your article to be a bit depressing. Certainly, most people, regardless of gender, would like to feel safe and comfortable in their primary relationships but there seems to be so much emphasis on this; home as a refuge and relationship for security. How about creativity and intellectual stimulation? How about being with someone who is passionate about their life and the excitement of watching them exist for themselves and not as an extension of oneself? How about living in gratitude for the the fragile human who you are sharing your life with, understanding that every relationship will eventually end. Even if you commit for life, someone will die. With THAT awareness, living each day with gratitude and going beyond gender expectations. I have been married for over ten years and I adore my husband who is sometimes way more sensitive and in need of emotional support than I am. We are both in the field of psychology and pursue creative work. There is nothing more exciting than getting over yourself and celebrating your sweetheart for being themselves. Yes, attachment is important but it is the ability to evolve and go beyond one’s own needs and beyond attachment where truly exciting, sustainable relationships thrive.

  29. I found this article to be quite insightful. I have a male friend that listens to me speak about my thoughts men. His response is usually, “we arealwaysgoing to disappoint you”!. Lol. So, I decided to learn more about the way men operate in order to understand our differences and one day have a successful relationship.

    Everything you’ve said makes total sense and I’ve seen it play out before without consciously knowing it. I’m excited for this new information and putting it into practice.

    I read some women get upset over this article in the comments and wanted to add my perspective.
    As a woman who loves men, I have a desire to meet their needs. The men I chose to date share in my enthusiasm to meet my needs. It balances our energies. It gives an opportunity to explore our authenticity. It is not a play on power or modes of manipulations. It’s about pleasure, selflessness, and expression. It’s a dance. When you love another person their happiness and safety are important. I’m telling the person I love., “Come home, it’s where you belong. You are safe with me.” I see nothing wrong with this type of interaction.

  30. JOSE ROT says:

    Well, I´m passing by a sad and hard divorce. And now I read this, I can´t believe it, you steal my words, – What do you want ?, my ex asked
    – I just wanna come home, sit, listen some music with you by my side. Rest, feel peace, smoke some cigarretes with you, a beer, that you laugh of my stupidity jokes, (like before)
    But, well every head is an universe, and of course I am NOT an angel from the sky. Anyway Thanks for this kind of article, thanks because right now I need some empathy.

  31. Hi Archy

    You write about women :
    “They don’t think they fully understand that presence is soothing, it’s a comfort thing and nearly universal to all humans ”

    My guess is that all women here understand that presence are soothing. That is not the point.

    At least for me ,reading Adams article triggers memories of all loneliness I have felt with men that “loved” me , ” desired ” me but USED me as base camp or as Oreoxps expresses so well:

    “I also think the bit about how men look back for their mommies in their safe space, but then can turn away once they see their mommy is there. I think that comes across as insulting to some. First, wives and girlfriends are not mothers and we want full partners, not giant sons. Second, it’s deflating to hear that someone wants you to be in eyesight, but doesn’t really want to interact with you. They just want to know that they’re safe. Nevermind about how the woman in this story feels.”

    I would not treat my CAT that way.

  32. FlyingKal says:

    i Iben,

    I an agrre that Dr. Scheck’s wordings and generalization about men and women in this article might at times be called heavy-handed or clumsy-footed.
    But if we cut that cr@p away from the article…
    What if we flip the question around? What do you really want in a relationship?

  33. I meant to say I don’t think they realized HE meant presence was soothing, from what I got from the article it appeared to be just saying that her being around even if quiet is soothing, not that she SHOULD always be quiet.

  34. Iben,
    It’s interesting that because I suggest a childhood antecedent for current behavior, the assumption is that the partner has to take on that role and play the victim to it. There seems to be a lot of victim mentality assumptions in many of the comments.

    We ARE motivated by early childhood events. AND we do have a cerebral cortex that allows us to make choices. Both partners get to make choices to have their needs met in a relationship.

    For the most part, no one is a victim of their past unless they choose to stay unconscious. My work with couples is all about developing a conscious relationship.

    When we wake up, we have choice.

  35. Hi Flyingkale

    If you give me time I will answer your question. But sometimes threads close after a while.
    If that happens here before I get the time to answer , then ask me again on another thread.

    I need time. It takes some deep honest thinking.

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