With this subtle twist, men (and women) can meet their partner’s material, emotional & sexual needs every single time.
One of the ways in which men are most misunderstood by women — and even sometimes by themselves — is the perception that men are somehow less loving, less empathetic and less interested in their partner’s needs on the whole than women.
When I was younger I used to wonder if men feel love the way women do. If they ever truly give themselves over emotionally the way we do, and if they give much time and thought to what the woman they love wants or needs the way we rack our brains about our men non-stop.
Being a mother of two boys, coaching men through their divorces, and working on creating fully honest friendship and romantic relationships in my own life, I have come to realize just how deeply and truly boys and men do love.
When a man has taken the leap of faith to give a woman his heart, time and commitment, he takes tremendous pride and joy in providing her with what she needs and wants in every realm — a proper home, sexual satisfaction, gifts that make her happy, and on and on.
None of the above should really be considered Earth-shattering news. I am sure that for some of the men reading this is may even come across as a tad annoying.
Of course we fall in. Of course we feel deeply. Of course we want to make our woman happy. What do you think we are?
Unfortunately, the stereotypes I myself wondered about persist.
In my work, what I hear from men most often is that their needs and wants are typically far more simple and linear than those of women. I don’t mean simple as in less deep, less important or lesser in any way shape or form.
When I have asked men what they need in order to feel loved, most have answered with something along the lines of appreciation, respect, sexual passion and desire (important note to women: men want to be wanted just as much as we do), friendship and understanding.
Women on the other hand, express needs as varied as granules of sand, and often they have a difficult time stating their own needs succinctly enough that I can help summarize them both briefly and comprehensively.
So how do any of those things happen when there remains a trap we all too commonly fall into in which women feel their needs go unmet and men feel their efforts go unappreciated?
These are wonderful resources — both for learning about the other gender and, even more so, for learning about yourself and the way you relate to others. But I believe there is one simple and fundamental twist that is paramount to the creation of a loving, healthy relationship for the long-run. Ready?
You must get, and remain, curious about each other.
This approach isn’t as simple as “ask your partner what he or she wants,” but rather to approach the way you learn about your partner as an investigative reporter who wants to know and understand the full, complex human being he or she is. In doing so, unless your partner is truly a narcissist, they are more likely than not to feel appreciated, loved and curious as well.
As a social worker by education and training, I find that my field’s “person-in-situation” perspective works magically well not only in clinical and professional settings, but in trust building across the spectrum of human relationships.
From a Social Systems Theory perspective, this means that we must always consider “the interconnectedness of the person and environment on the micro, mezzo and macro levels.”
The social workers’ mandate is therefore to “meet the client where they are at” could be read just as easily as “meet the child where they are at,” “meet your boyfriend/girlfriend where he/she is at,” “meet your husband/wife where he/she is at,” and so on.
All of our interactions depend not only upon who we are on a basic personality level, but on what is happening within and around us on any given day — in our immediate family and close relationships, in our casual interactions as we go about our work and errands, and in the world at large all around us.
The only way to know where another person is truly “at” then, is to ask. The twist is that then, as the one asking, we must then truly listen. And as the one asked, we must share openly and honestly. Mutual engagement in the dialogue is crucial.
Approaching this kind of give and take of internal information from a place of curiosity does several wonderful things.
- It eliminates perceptions of prejudgment from the one asking the questions.
- It lowers unnecessary defensiveness from the one being asked.
- It provides room for continual growth individually and within the relationship.
- It offers you the chance to “meet” the person you love for the first time over and over and over again, recreating that wondrous sense of mystery and discovery we mistakenly think too often we can only find again by going outside of the relationship.
Here are two examples of how this kind of curiosity works and how can you actualize it without sounding like you are reading a script or conducting an inquisition.
1) Gift-giving. Every year you try to get your wife a Christmas gift that will make her happy. You go to her favorite store and buy her something that costs at least $500 so she knows you really wanted to get her something special.
Yet each year, she gives you a half smile with her thank you and puts the gift in a drawer that seems dedicated to your similarly expensive failures. This year, before you go gift-shopping, choose a moment when you are alone together to ask the following:
“I’ve been thinking about Christmas and I was curious about something. What does gift-giving mean to you and how do you like to select presents?”
2) Talking about finances. Let’s say you worry about the household budget. You feel like your spouse doesn’t pay attention to the finances, and couldn’t care less.
You want to save for a retirement plan that includes a vacation home, but every time you ask her to stop spending so much, she gets angry and accuses you of trying control her.
Try this instead, during a moment when you are both relaxed:
“I was day dreaming a bit the other day and had an image of us in my mind that made me feel so happy. You and I were out shopping for homes in Aspen where we could spend our summers and then retire. I’ve been thinking a lot about how much I would love for us to do that, and it made me curious — is that something that would make you happy too? Or do you ever have your own day dreams about our future?”
In both of scenarios, you accomplish two things: you open from a place of vulnerability and personal sharing, and you engage her in a dialogue about what she values and finds meaningful. And there you have a foundation on which to develop conversations rooted in trust, partnership and respect.
Photo credit: Flickr/cDHHHu