What Men Want
A couple of years back my husband and I asked our lists what they wanted from their spouse (guys emailed me and gals emailed Paul). I received dozens and dozens of emails from guys, tabulated their answers and presented the info by subject. I was deeply impressed with many of their thoughtful comments. I’d like to share the series here as it is worth rereading from time to time.
WORK WITH ME TO BUILD OUR MARRIAGE
Several men talked about how they wanted to read marriage books with their wives or about their interest in going to marriage conferences. Their biggest concern was that their wives saw this not as an interest in building their marriage, but as a personal complaint that they were failing as a wife or that their marriage was “bad.”
Looking for ways to build your marriage is about learning new things, finding new ways to invest in your marriage, learning to communicate better, etc. Even the best marriages can always grow better and a husband’s interest in growing with you in marriage is a good thing.
I encourage you to see any attempt by your husband to build your marriage as a sign that he loves you and wants to continually grow in your marriage relationship.
Generous tip: Ask yourself, has my husband suggested something recently? A book? A getaway for the two of us? Take his idea seriously, remind him of it and make plans to do it!
A surprising number of men wanted their wives to romance them. They wanted to be surprised by little gifts, love notes, and signs of affection. The words “I love you” were very important, especially when they are spoken first, rather than spoken in response to their own “I love you.”
As a spin-off, a number of men said they needed more touch. This was not in respect to sex, but just an overall need for hugs, pats, snuggling, holding hands, etc. I guess guys can get touch hungry too!
Generous tip: Create the habit of touching your husband often. Hold his hand when you are sitting with him. Touch his shoulder or back when you walk by. Give him lots of little hugs and kisses. Rub his shoulders when he is sitting at the computer. Oh, and be sure to say, “I love you.”
Touch seems to be as essential as sunlight. Diane Ackerman
UNDERSTAND THAT I JUGGLE WORK & HOME RESPONSIBILITIES
Several of the guys shared about the pull between work and home. They voiced the need for understanding over the conflict between work and family needs. They want to make time for family, but their job is what supports their family and it needs to have appropriate attention. It’s not always easy to take time off for family things or call from work (when they do call, please realize that they may have to keep it short or that they may be interrupted). Basically it was a plea for understanding that their day is complicated too and they need to invest in their work.
A spin off of that was a need for a warm welcome and not having to face responsibilities or troubles the moment they get home. Some even wanted/needed a bit of quiet time when they first got home from work to make the jump from work to family.
Jeanette’s generous tip: I have found that my man feels loved, wanted, needed and accepted when I walk out and meet him in the driveway when he gets home from work. I don’t really ask how his day was or tell him about mine. I just say, “Hi, honey. I’m glad you’re home.” And give him a kiss and hug. I let him lead in any conversation or if I perceive he had a wearisome day, I might tell him an anecdote about the kids or the pets or something like that. It is amazing how welcomed and loved it seems to make him feel.
I don’t do it every day so that it doesn’t become just a routine. If I am really busy when I hear him pull up, I just shout that dad is home and one or more of the 4 boys goes out to greet him. It could be the 20 year old or the 6 year old or any and all of them in between. We have done this for years and it lets dad know that we feel incomplete without him among us.
HELP ME HAVE A PLACE IN THE FAMILY, RESPECT & CARE
Because men generally do not have as much contact with their children as moms usually do, they can feel on the outside of family life. They would really appreciate any help in staying in touch with the kids (like telling them about what is going on with their lives and doing what you can to help them stay connected). Guys understand that women are better at that “relationship stuff” and they do lean on us to help them build their relationships with their children. (A funny story: when my sister-in-law was a little girl and rather “creative” in her art work, her mother would always whisper to her dad, as he walked in the door, what her art work was about. That way Dad could say, “Oh, honey, what a lovely giraffe!” She always felt so special that her dad understood her art work. In later years, I’m sure she appreciated her mom and dad for understanding a little girls heart and her need for Daddy’s appreciation.)
There is also a need for respect from the family. Men have an innate need for respect and a need to be respected as a father and head of the family. Encouraging your kids to respect their father is a great gift.
Another stressor for them is they often feel ignored. Kids tend to get the lion share of the attention (which is understandable given the level of care they need), but our guys need a little attention too. Making time for him personally and encouraging family time can fill that need.
Generous tip: Consider having a date night and a family night. You might not be able to do this weekly, but try to set up time for you as a couple and for your family. Use that time to build him up.
The wise woman builds her house, but with her own hands the foolish one tears hers down. Proverbs 14:1 NIV
LOVE ME, LOVE MY SEXUALITY
Well, ladies, we knew this one was going to make the list. A man’s sexuality is an integral part of who he is. When his sexuality is appreciated and satisfied, he feels genuinely loved and deeply satisfied.
The single most mentioned thing from the men was “desire me sexually” followed by “please initiate sex” (which is very much the same thing because initiating means you desire him).
Here are a few other mentions:
* validate my sexuality as normal and good
* appreciate my sexuality and sexual ability
* be bold, be specific (we often miss those subtle hints)
* surprise me!
* flirt with me, dress up for me, be confident in your sexuality
* please don’t tease me and then not follow through
* when you need to say no, say no kindly
* please be willing to be creative in the bedroom (this was everything from “please don’t think I’m into porn because I want to try something new,” to desiring creativity to deal with physical problems and limitations), for many men creativity is a normal, good part of sex, not a comment about dissatisfaction
Many men also wanted women to know that sex is not just physical for them. They deeply love their wives and sex is a way to be intimate with the woman they love.
For many women, sex presents a problem. Our societal and family messages have left us ill-prepared to enjoy sex and our busyness often leaves us exhausted physically. And given that many of us have been sexually abused in one form or another … well, you get the picture. Sex is a huge struggle for many of us and it is one of the more important things to our husbands. (the enemy is having a good laugh over this one). :(
I strongly recommend fighting this battle with passion and determination. God designed both men and women to enjoy sex and it is a source of deep intimacy in a marriage. Even though many of us struggle with it, we need to see that as God’s intent and seek healing and new insight so that we can join our husband’s in enjoying this wonderful gift from God.
There are a number of good books about married sexuality, some written to women specifically.
Please also pray about your priorities. We have 24 hours in each day and we need to invest time in the people and activities that are truly important.
Generous tip: Think of three different ways to invite your husband to have sex (and try them out on him over the next week). For example, there is the “honey, could you help me with this curtain rod” (or whatever excuse you can think of to get him into the bedroom) followed by an ambush. There is also the direct approach, “honey, you have on too many clothes.” You could write up an invitation or call him on his cell phone when you know he is on the way home.
I want a wife who understands the depth of my desire and need to have a full and fulfilling sexual relationship with her and her only. a generous husband
WALK WITH ME IN CHRIST
A number of men were very hungry to have a spiritual partner in their walk with the Lord, they especially wanted prayer (to pray with their wives and to have their wives pray for them).
Their other comment was that they needed their wife to encourage them in their walk, but that they were often discouraged by their wife’s spiritual standards for them. They needed understanding as they mature and criticism was particularly hurtful.
My thinking on this is that men have a unique struggle here. They have not always had good role models in this area, so they are not often prepared to take on the role of spiritual leader in the home. They are having to learn “on the job” and often without any real help or instruction. Let’s pray for our guys and be especially careful to encourage them, celebrate their successes and sympathize with their struggles.
Generous tip: Ask your husband each morning if there is something that he needs prayer for. Be his prayer partner for the challenges he faces in life. If he responds with the same question, start with simple requests and be sure to encourage him when there are answers to prayer.
Pray. It isn’t a sign of weakness; it is your strength. Orville Kelly
Men asked for respect in a number of forms. Respecting their leadership and decision making ranked fairly high, but there were also more subtle requests for respect such as “please don’t talk about our disagreements with other people” or “take into account my personal preferences when making choices and decisions.” It was a fairly complex list of things that all pointed to needing respect.
The thing that stood out to me the most was the need to be spoken to and treated respectfully both privately and publicly. Criticism, ridicule and snide remarks were deeply wounding and tended to shut men down emotionally.
I think sometimes we get overwhelmed by our day and forget that our guys are human too and have days that are just as challenging. They need the same kind words and encouragement that we desire. They are stronger physically and I think sometimes we assume they are tough all the way through, but that is not so. Unkind words and attitudes can wound them deeply and tear at their personal sense of worth, which is deeply grounded in a need for respect.
Generous tip: Make a point of saying something each day that shows that you respect, trust, and/or admire you husband. Try to say it in front of others when you reasonably can.
Good Book Resource: Love and Respect by Dr. Emerson Eggerich
This is a pretty basic need. We all need to be appreciated, to feel loved and of worth. So gals, appreciate what your husband does around the house, how hard he works at his job, and how well he does (fill in the blank). Let him know how much you appreciate his looks, his masculinity, his talents, his character, etc.
Words are great, but actions can speak pretty loudly too. Ask for his help when you need it. Ask for his opinions or for ideas. Make room for him to do things for you and with you, and appreciate him for his help.
And when all is said and done, be sure to say “thank you.”
Generous tip: Look for opportunities to say “thank you” to your husband. Be specific about what you are thanking him for and say it with an appreciative tone in your voice.
There is more hunger for love and appreciation in this world than for bread. Mother Teresa
BE MY FRIEND & COMPANION
A number of men talked about wanting their wife to be their companion in life, to connect daily, to relax and spend time together. The need for emotional and relational connection was high and there was a real desire to know what their wife thinks, wants, doesn’t want, etc. They wanted to share their dreams, pray and talk through their personal wounds, and just generally be close, intimate friends for life.
One facet of this was a strong desire to meet on equal terms, to appreciate and accept each other, to enjoy and work with each other, differences and all, in a way that respects each others uniqueness.
What tended to throw a spanner in the works, was rejection. When a husband felt that his feelings, dreams, etc. where not welcomed (or at least listened to), then it was easy to withdraw. It’s hard to connect and share from your heart when you feel your thoughts are not accepted.
Generous tip: make up a “report” on your husband. What does he like, not like, dream of, need, desire, etc. Pray over your report and ask the Lord to help you be a companion and friend to this man. Ask God to help you understand him and relate to him in ways that take into account both of your natures.
Who finds a faithful friend, finds a treasure. Jewish saying
BELIEVE MY COMPLIMENTS AND WORDS OF LOVE
Many men felt that their words of love and appreciation were not accepted. Most of them acknowledged that it seemed to be more about their wife’s self-image rather than because they were unbelievable.
That said, there was a lot of grief expressed over the level of self-hatred and self-doubt that women routinely express. The men felt that their words were not received and that grieved them because 1) they want to communicate their love and appreciation and 2) they hate to see their wives berate and belittle themselves (especially given that they see them as lovable, beautiful women!).
I’m not entirely sure what the solution is, but learning to say, “thank you” would be a wonderful gift to give your husband when he compliments you.
Any of you that are struggling with poor self-image, I encourage you to seek God’s truth about your worth and ask Him to help you build standards that are in keeping with His Word, rather than what the world has to offer.
Generous tip: The next time your husband compliments you, take a deep breath, smile and say, “thank you.” Just, “thank you.” Nothing more. Don’t follow up with reasons why you are not perfect or why whatever it is you are being complimented over is not quite perfect, or whatever. Just, “thank you.” (Bite your tongue if you have to!)
LET’S LEARN TO COMMUNICATE
While reading the emails, I was constantly reminded that guys think and communicate differently than we do. The guys were absolutely charming, working to explain their thoughts in ways that I might understand. Bless them for their effort and thoughtfulness. They did a terrific job!
The guys are very aware that men and women communicate differently and they really desire to be able to communicate well with their wives. Several of them offered some insight into the world of male communication as a way of helping to bridge the gap.
Some helpful hints from the guys for learning to speak “man talk”:
1) be willing to communicate (guys really cannot read out minds! imagine that)
2) talk plainly and be willing to spell things out specifically (guys tend to deal with things in tangible, measurable terms)
3) honesty is a must (if you don’t care where you have dinner, that’s fine, but if you have a preference, please speak up)
4) try to have some “cut to the chase” sentences now and then (going over all the details tends to lose them, they want something that gives them the heart of what you are saying in a sentence or two)
5) when you change subjects be clear about it (verbal gymnastics can be confusing)
6) courtesy is important (let them finish their own sentences and let them finish their thoughts without too much interruption)
Also understand that most guys just don’t have it in them to have a talking marathon. They care, but too much talk can burn them out. I have it on the best of authority that guys sometimes just like to be quiet and there is nothing wrong with them!
And, if all else fails, sound out a few grunts (a la Tim the Toolman). It won’t communicate anything specific, but it will make him feel appreciated that you took the time to learn a few words of “man speak.”
All silliness aside, we really do have gender differences when it comes to communicating. I encourage you to take the time to learn how to listen and speak so the you can really understand each other. Read books on communication and then practice what you read. Ask your husband to work with you on this because it is really important. Your ability to communicate directly effects the quality of your marriage.
Generous tip: Practice a couple of communication skills this week. 1) Ask your husband a question, listen to his answer and then see if you can restate what he said back to him (ask him if you got it right). 2) See if you can take something you’ve been thinking about and state it in two or three sentences (if he wants to talk about it more then he can, but if not he has the gist of what you want to communicate).