Lately, I have been engaged in conversation that has explored both sides of this issue -- what do men AND women really want from each other. The past couple nights, I have had great discussion with my friend about what a man wants and needs from his wife (or girlfriend -- sans sex). Tonight, we are discussing the flip side of the coin, what women want from their husbands or boyfriends (again, sans sex).
There have been many studies that say that women need emotional commitment from a man to feel satisfied in a relationship. In short, they need a man to provide more than sexual interest. They need him to care deeply, to display affection, and to be emotionally available in order to form a deep bond. For many men, emotional availability is a challenge. They can handle the caring and affection (so long as there is a sexual component), but they don't quite "get" what it means to be emotionally available to a woman. I mean, what does a woman want from a man?
For many men, being caring equates to providing a good home (financial and physical security). Sex is a pleasure that is expected, wanted, needed -- and for men -- it is something that is vital to their health and well-being. Yet, many men feel that they are doing a good job when they "bring home the bacon," so to speak. They may also be good at caring for their homes, their cars, and other things around the house so they feel that they are doing what they should to show their wives they love them. Men show caring and affection through their actions and not necessarily their words. For example, my Dad was an excellent provider for our family. He worked very hard to provide for his family of six. He worked long hours at a job, and then came home and took care of our house. He repaired things by hand, built things, and generally made sure the house was always in good running order (he still does this at 82 years of age). He wasn't emotionally available to his children -- he was physically present for them -- but he didn't engage in "heart to heart" talks. No, he spent time with his children, building things, playing games outside, fishing, or just hanging out. He didn't do a lot of talking -- to my Mother or to his children. Despite his lack of emotional communication, I would classify my father as a loving Dad. He hugged us, but he never really said "I love you." Partly, this was due to his generation, having grown up in the 30's and on a farm. Love wasn't spoken, it was demonstrated. I think this is very true for most men today. Some men are more emotionally connected to their verbal sides, but many use their actions over their words.
For women, being caring equates to doing AND saying, actions PLUS words. Since women are more verbal, and they respond more to verbal stimuli, they tend to prefer this combination when demonstrating care and love. This is why a woman will hug a man AND say "I love you." We naturally speak the words while we show what we mean. I think this is because women have an innate ability to nurture emotional well-being. Women are caring, giving, loving, and demonstrative. We find it very easy to express our emotion, and we enjoy telling people how we feel. We give gifts, we shower attention, and we clue-in on any type of emotional distress. So because women are emotionally connected, and operate in their emotional centers the majority of their days, we tend to expect emotional components to every conversation, every form of communication (including nonverbal). The crux of the gender communication gap is that men do and women say.
Women are not difficult to understand, but I think for many men, they simply do not feel safe enough to try to figure them out. They have been told for so long that they are not able to connect, willing to connect, or smart enough to connect. They have tried, many have tried, to be emotionally connected husbands, fathers, and lovers, but because so many women do not understand the differences between the genders, they have squelched any and all attempts to bond. Women have done a lot of damage to the well-being of their mates. They have turned them off, treated them like children, and berated them for not doing things the right way (or their way).
I do place a lot of blame on women. I feel that while men are not free from responsibility completely, the lion's share of blame does fall to the woman because she is naturally emotionally connected. Thus, women should know better, they should see the emotional damage they inflict.
A case in point - take two women, put them together, and let them spend time together. In a very short amount of time, they will have uncovered each others secret hurts. If they are friends, they will be emotionally supportive once those hurts are expressed. They will pour out love and affection for their friend, hugging, holding, and affirming them with words of encouragement, comfort, and consolation -- all in order to provide emotional support. This behavior is natural to women and it comes easy to them.
So why can't a woman be caring, nurturing, and supportive to her husband?
I think the reason is quite simple. Women expect men to behave like women. News Flash, Ladies! Men are men, and God made them that way. It is not to say that men cannot learn how to be emotionally connected, and I do think this is why God gave mothers the job of raising their little boys (get this, little boys). You see, little boys are very loving, sweet, and emotional. It is somewhere between that little boy age and that big boy age, that they shut their emotions off. I think this is why it is vital for Mom's of little boys to do a really good job of nurturing that emotional connection. However, after a certain point in time, Dads are needed to take over in order to finish the job of raising Godly young men.
I believe that we need men who are emotional connected, who will raise their sons to become healthy and well-adjusted young men. Dads, therefore, are a vital component to the healthy adjustment of their sons emotional availability.
So What Do Women Really Want?
I read a number of articles recently on this topic, and they all seem to hit at the same thing. Women want to feel emotionally connected to their husband. If you ask a woman if this is correct, she will say "Yea! and Amen!" But ask her what this means so that her husband understands it, and well, it gets a bit difficult. Yes, there is no "one size fits all" answer. Women have different needs, and based on the way a woman is raised, she may desire certain things more than other things.
For example, a woman who was raised as a "princess" where she got whatever she wanted, may believe that emotional connection comes through expensive gifts. Likewise, a woman who was raised in a home where her father was always doing things for her mother or the family, may see serving her as a way to connect. Furthermore, a woman who was raised without much affection, without a lot of physical touch from her parents, may feel that emotional connection comes through her husband physically spending time with her, touching her (not always in a sexual way). A woman who is highly verbal, expressive, and talks a lot, will often want a mate who will communicate with her in the same way. All of these things: giving gifts, spending time, serving through doing, physical touch, and verbal communication will help a woman feel emotionally connected to her husband.
Does this mean that a woman needs all of these things?
Nope. Husbands need to find out what triggers are key to opening up that connection. Usually, it is one of these primary areas. The important thing is this: women know what they want, and they are best able to communicate those wants to their husbands. Really, women communicate well so the fact that they choose not to tell their husbands what they want and need is unfortunate. I am sure there are some psychological issues in play too. The woman may not want to hurt her husband or risk losing his affection if she is too bold in this area. But in my view, most men (intentional men) would welcome such information. Think of it this way: you go to a new job and you are given two choices. Choice A is to be trained by your employer so that you can learn how to do the job correctly. Choice B is to learn on your own through observation only, with no instruction manual or no questions allowed. Which would be easier? Choice A, of course! It makes sense. No matter how difficult the issue, if you spell it out, it makes it pretty easy to understand it.
My list of what women want from their husbands is short and sweet. It begins and ends with emotional connection. Women want a husband who will demonstrate his care through words and actions. The amount of each is dependent on the husband and his wife. If the woman is highly verbal, she will expect more conversation from her mate. If she is physical, she will welcome physical touch. If she likes gifts, she is going to want gifts. The same goes with service or quality time. But remember, that all of these approaches will not succeed without some measure of talk. Men need to talk to their wives, and they need to listen when their wives speak to them.
Biblically-speaking, I want a man who is a man. I know that sounds weird, but what I really am saying is that I want a man who understands his manhood well. I don't want a man who acts like a woman. If I wanted another woman friend, I know where to find them. I prefer men who think, act, and speak like men. I appreciate the gender differences, and I love men who aren't afraid to be themselves (warts and all). I love the way men do things, think things, and approach life, in general. I just appreciate their uniqueness and genuineness. Lastly, I want a man who wants a woman, a real woman, you know. Many men want fake women, women who look good on the outside, but have very little of substance on the inside. A man who recognizes the wonderful gifts and abilities of a woman is a special man in my book.
So for me personally, what I want from a husband is as follows:
- Emotional availability, which means being available emotionally. Men can show their emotions with me and I love it! I love to see a man get emotional. It can be passion for a sports team or the sincere heartfelt emotion expressed over a loss (job, person, thing, etc.). This shows me that the man is well-connected to his emotional center. I don't need a guy weeping or gushing tears at every little thing, but a little emotion goes a long way with me.
- Physical touch is important to me. This is a wide range of touch, everything from the hug to the sensual expression of desire, want, and intention. Physical touch says to me "I love you, and I want you" in nonverbal ways.
- Quality time is also important to me. I love spending time with a man. I love men, in general, just because they are so darn cute, but spending time with a man is something I enjoy. I like man things, doing man stuff, and while I am not 100% a tomboy anymore, I still enjoy a lot of man-like adventures. I also like to spend quiet time with a man, so men who read, study, or just like to hang out, are a go-to for me.
In a husband, the key triggers for successfully communicating love to me would be to be open and honest about what is going on inside of him. He doesn't have to share everything with me, but I would love a man who was able to say "I've been thinking about this" or "I have been wondering about..."
Marriage to me is the sharing of life -- the doing part of living together. Men and women marry for many reasons, but the primary reason should be to "do life" together. This means that they are choosing to spend time with one another -- like a lot of time -- and that they want to know one another (in the biblical sense as well as in other ways). It is not just so that they can have sex whenever they want or as much as they want. No, it means that they want to be with each other, they prefer each other, they desire each other -- sexually, physically, spiritually, emotionally, mentally, intellectually, etc. They want to KNOW the other person so well, that they want to spend the rest of their lives learning, knowing, and enjoying life together!
Thus any man who would share his life with me, choose to share his life with me, is essentially saying to me that he wants to be with me. This presumes desire, attraction, and want. This then becomes a given, so that means that what must come next is genuine interest. If a man and a woman cannot share interests outside the bedroom and children (creating and raising them), then the relationship functions like a two-legged stool (three, but one leg is missing). You see, mutual interest is vital to a good relationship. Consider it this way, out of a normal 24 hour day, how much time will you be spending with your mate (alone)? Eight hours is devoted to sleeping next to him or her, while eight hours is lost at work (unless you work together), so that leaves eight hours remaining of the day. If there are children at home, now the time that remains is divided by the number of children you have because you need to spend quality time with each child. Dinner, chores, and evening time may only end up being 3-4 hours before you have to turn in each night. Before you know it, you are spending 1-2 hours, maybe if you are lucky, each night with your mate. You are spending less than 15 hours out of a 168 hours each week in quality time with your spouse. Factor that over the course of a year, 8760 hours available, and only 780 hours are spent with the person with whom you have committed your life. So much time is spent away from the home and the family -- so what remains must be intentionally spent, intentionally communicated to demonstrate love.
I think this is why so many marriages are in trouble today. If the little time that exists each night is given to isolation, the husband and the wife, end up living together, but not "doing life" as a team. They are divided by the hustle and bustle of the busyness of life. In a proper Biblical model, the family should function with Mom and Dad as one individual. The children are under the parents, and the Lord is placed over the parents. This means that Mom and Dad time need to be placed as a priority over family time. Husbands and wives need to spend time together, to recharge, to refresh, and to reconnect spiritually, physically, mentally, emotionally, and sexually. A well-connected couple will demonstrate proper relationships to their children, and the children will come to learn that this setup is normal. The children are not centered in the relationship but they are under their parents.
In closing, what most women want is a husband who loves them, listens to them, and spends quality time with them. Loving them is demonstrated through various means, listening to them engages their verbal communication need, and spending quality time simply sends nonverbal messages that says "I am choosing you over all the rest." A good man is one who recognizes that his wife has needs that are different than his own, and he seeks intentionally to do whatever is necessary to meet those needs. If a man applies himself to understanding his wife in this way, I can say for certain, that a man will find his needs are met in full.