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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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 

About Dr. Adam Sheck

Dr. Adam Sheck is a licensed Psychologist, Couples Counselor and Relationship Coach, supporting couples and singles in connecting to their passion and purpose at thepassiondoctor.com. In addition to podcasting on iTunes, his newest focus is supporting clients getting over the grief of a relationship ending at brokenheartscanheal.com. You can find him on Facebook when he's not busy writing for The Good Men Project.


  1. Thank you for this thought provoking article. I hope to come back to this website tomorrow when I have more time to follow up.
    But for now I what to add these thoughts… this topic is probably something I really need to consider i.e. what is it that I really want in a relationship. My recently ended past LTR started intense, I continued to seek intensity but she wanted what I think you stated men wanted, Now we are both middle aged so I think roles change once we hit age 50.
    I am now for the 1st time in a calm quiet relationship where she said she would “mother me”. I recoiled from that statement and considered it was due to the fact that she is a foreigner (filipina), and that I would change her attitude. Past LTR was with a very independent American/ Puerto Rican latina who was fiercely pro women’s lib and had a interesting career and lifestyle. I fell in love with her intensely. Now in this too calm relationship something is missing but it is easy and I’m more productive in my own life. So I’m confused but your concepts I think will point me in a direction that will allow me to understand what I’m experiencing Do I want (& also what does she want) intensity or safety from a LTR/ marriage? Ideally both, is that possible? In any event I’m so glad I read this article, I can now look back at my past relationships with a more understanding thought process. Like the song says “I luv being in love” , “Sober” :Little Big Town

  2. 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.

  3. 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?

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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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