Tor Constantino shares the rarely spoken need in every man’s heart.
I recently wrote an article about committed relationships that listed five things that women want from men but don’t tell them.
Ironically, I’ve received several emails and personal messages since then from people asking what it is that guys want out of committed relationships or a marriage.
That’s a good question.
Depending on whom you ask you’ll get a bunch of different responses.
When it comes to what men want from a committed relationship, the tired old clichés instantly surface: sex; someone to cook and clean for them; someone they can control; a de facto mother figure; someone to share the rent and bills; companionship … etc.
And if you extend those clichés a bit further, you run into the arena of thought that guys are simply incapable of a committed relationship to begin with.
You hear complaints that all the good ones are taken; men are emotionally unavailable; guys are immature; we’re unmotivated; we’re all a bunch of boys in 30-year old bodies; we can’t commit to a job let alone a relationship; or biology has made it impossible for us to bond exclusively with one mate—evolution forces men to play the field.
None of those clichés is entirely fair or true.
However, there is one universal thing that every man in a committed relationship wants—whether he knows it or admits it.
He wants to be the hero.
Every culture and society has legends, myths, and stories about heroes. Societal norms and community pressures condition us from birth to adapt, adjust and overcome—we are shaped to be champions.
But somewhere along the path to heroic manhood we stumble, fall, lose sight of positive male role models, fail to achieve, are abandoned, abused, or don’t get the support from our fathers at a critical moment in our lives—which results in a lifelong wound to our hearts and souls.
It’s an internal wound that nearly every man carries.
It’s a wound that is most often inflicted by the man’s father or the father’s absence.
The wound causes the son to never know if he has what it takes to “be a man” (whatever that might mean to the boy) or if his father was ever proud of him.
We grow up with that wound but don’t always grow into healthy men because of it.
The wound forces us to live in denial of our need to be a hero.
The need to be a hero gets buried beneath life, time, and distractions that occupy our days.
Our buried need to be a hero explains some of the escapist distractions we rabidly pursue as men. You might balk at that assertion, but consider the following:
Millions of men spend thousands of hours and billions of dollars playing online video games—with the sole goal of competing and winning. The business models for the NFL, UFC, NHL, MLB, FIFA, NASCAR, Formula One Racing, and NBA—just to name a few—are primarily geared toward men so that we can vicariously experience surrogate victory.
In just a few weeks, more than 11 million people across this country will begin hunting big and small game—and of that number, 89 percent are male according to the latest national survey of wildlife recreation from the U.S. Census Bureau.
Millions of men will use shotguns, muzzle-loaders, crossbows, and bows with arrows to get meat for family and friends as well as a 10-point rack of antlers as a trophy—to remind them of their victory in the field.
The legalized gambling industry is also primarily aimed at men.
Research finds that men start to gamble much earlier than women in life; many studies have found that men mainly gamble for the “… excitement, the sake of feeling a rush and for the action …” (Ladd & Petry, 2002; Walker, G. J. et al. 2005); and more than 90 percent of attendees to Gamblers Anonymous meetings are men—more proof of the nature-nurture calculus that drives us to risk and win.
Whether it’s video games, sports you watch, big game hunting, gambling, the car you drive, how much you make, your bowling average, your job title—men pursue these activities to feel like winners, to consciously or unconsciously remind ourselves that we’ve got what it takes to be a man and that we are men—toward the unrecognized goal of healing an unseen wound.
We all want to be the hero in our lives—and most importantly in our relationships, whether we realize it or not.
Here’s how this heroic need might manifest itself in our committed relationships.
The Boudoir: – Without a doubt, every man wants to be the greatest lover his mate has ever had. Regardless of our physical attributes and abilities, we want to be the best when it comes to the bedroom.
The Treasury: – Guys want to be able to provide for their spouse and family. This is an ancient expectation that defines manhood and continues today. That’s not an assertion against a working mom, stay-at-home-dads, or dual-income families—not at all. It’s merely a pressure that society places on men to be a “bread winner” that is difficult to shake. Men need to know that we can provide for the needs of others as well as our own needs. Regardless of that fact, women should absolutely pursue their own professional endeavors, and we should all work toward equal pay for equal work.
The Battlement: – Men want to be able to protect the ones they love. It is an often unstated need that drives men to assume protective responsibility for those in their household and those that they love from a distance. It’s a mantle we willingly take up as we willingly lay down our lives in defense of our family if necessary.
While we might not consciously admit all of these things, make no mistake, each of us wants to be a hero in a least one of these areas.
I know that’s how I feel, and I know I’m not alone.
BONUS: If you liked this article – check out these other pieces by Tor Constantino:
Question: What is the one thing you want out of your committed relationship?