For nearly 50 years I have been helping women understand the men in their lives and to have relationships that are more joyous and intimate. I’ve been in a men’s group that has been together for 38 years and my wife, Carlin, believe that our 37-year marriage owes a lot to the fact that I’ve been in a men’s group. Over the years, I’ve learned a lot about what men need and what we wish women knew about us.
I recently wrote, “The Man’s Guide to Women: 5 Things Women Want Men to Know About Fear, Sex, and Love.” Here are six things that men want women to know.
- Men do think about sex more often than women, but that’s not all we think about.
There’s a popular myth that men think about sex nearly constantly. This isn’t true. It goes along with another myth that men all men want is sex and that “sex” is synonymous with intercourse. In my article, “The One Thing Men Want More Than Sex,” I said that men want a Save Harbor. Sex isn’t just for making children and giving and receiving pleasure. It’s also for being fully seen, cared for, and nurtured.
Edward O. Laumann, PhD. is a professor of sociology at the University of Chicago and lead author of a major survey of sexual practices, “The Social Organization of Sexuality: Sexual Practices in the United States.” He says, “The majority of adult men under 60 think about sex at least once a day. Only about one-quarter of women say they think about it that frequently. As men and women age, each fantasize less, but men still fantasize about twice as often.”
Sex is the reason all of us are here and sex is a source of great pleasure. But sex is more than just sex. For men, sex is our safe harbor, a place we can be taken in, loved, and cherished.
- There are important differences between males and females.
David C. Page, M.D., professor of biology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), says, “There are 10 trillion cells in human body and every one of them is sex specific.” We need a tool kit that recognizes the fundamental difference on a cellular, organ, system, and person level between XY and XX.
Marianne J. Legato, M.D. is one of the world’s leading experts on women’s health. In her book, Eve’s Rib: The New Science of Gender-Specific Medicine, she says, “Everywhere we look, the two sexes are startlingly and unexpectedly different not only in their internal function but in the way they experience illness.
- Male’s experience depression differently than women.
Dr. Legato’s research on heart disease showed that women’s symptoms were different than men’s and many women died because the signs of impending heart attack weren’t recognized. The suicide rate for males is 3 to 18 times higher than it is for women. My own research has demonstrated that men experience depression differently than do women. Women often turn inward when they are depressed and appear sad. Men often act out their depression and become more irritable and angry.
Depressed women get sad. Depressed men get mad.
- The male brain is different than the female brain.
Louann Brizendine, M.D. is a professor of clinical psychiatry at the University of California, San Francisco. She is the author of The Male Brain and The Female Brain and notes some significant differences that often contribute to misunderstandings between men and women.
- The Anterior Cingulate Cortex weighs options and makes decisions. It’s the worry-wort center, and it’s larger in women and smaller in men.
- The Medial Preoptic Area is the area for sexual pursuit. It’s 2.5 times larger in the male.
- The Temporal Parietal Junction is the solution seeker. It’s more active in the male brain, comes on-line more quickly, and races toward a “fix-it-fast” solution.
- The Hippocampus is the center for emotional memory.
It’s the elephant that never forgets a fight, a romantic encounter, or what you did wrong three years ago–and won’t let you forget it either. It’s larger and more active in women and as Dr. Legato suggests in the title of one of her books, Why Men Never Remember and Women Never Forget.
- There are two things men want more than anything else.
In working with over than 30,000 men over the years, there are two things that I hear more than anything else: Men want more sex and fewer emotional conflicts and fights. A woman is more interested in sex when she feels her man tunes into her emotionally, but men often resist emotional discussions. For men, the 5 most terrifying words in the English language are: “Honey, we need to talk.”
There are two reasons for this. First, men often feel responsible when a woman is upset and their “fix it” brain turns on and wants to make the problem go away. But a woman doesn’t want to be fixed. She wants to be heard. Here’s a hilarious clip of this male/female dilemma.
The second reason is that the male brain gets overwhelmed by emotional conflict and men become “flooded.” According to John Gottman, Ph.D., marriage expert and author of The Man’s Guide To Women, “Men are far more likely than a female partner to flood during an argument. A man may rev up as if he’s facing a ferocious beast rather than an angry partner.”
As a result, in emotional encounters, men often go on the attack or shut down.
- Men tune out or become angry when they feel criticized.
Due to men’s evolutionary roots as defenders of the tribe, men are more easily triggered when they face danger. Unfortunately, a woman’s criticism can be perceived as an attack and once he becomes flooded, he closes down or gets angry, and a disagreement can quickly escalate.
Imagine that you come home after a hard day at work. You want to relax and read the paper, but your wife is anxious to talk about the conflict she is having with a co-worker. You feel caught. You want to listen to your wife, but you really need some peace and quiet to unwind. You try and do both. But soon your wife recognizes that you’re not giving her your full attention.
Then you hear the words, “You’re not listening to me.” You’re already feeling a bit overwhelmed from your own battles in the work world. Like many men, you hear her words as a criticism of you rather than what they are, a bid for attention and support from your wife. You feel your anger begin to rise and you try and keep a lid on it, but if we could see it, there would be “steam coming out of your ears” and your heart-rate is on the rise. Sound familiar?
There are two options from here. Most often the man will withdraw or get angry (his response to being flooded) and the woman will feel hurt and uncared for (Her response to feeling unheard. Another fight begins. The other option is for one or both partners to recognize his flooding and de-escalate the conflict.
My best advice for the man: Take ten deep breaths and count to ten. It’s simple, yet it works to get out of the “fight or flight” mode.
My best advice for the woman: Realize he’s not uncaring, just flooded with adrenaline. Recognize that this isn’t the right time to talk. Take a break. Schedule a time to talk later.
I look forward to your comments below. You can also join our Facebook conversation.