In the twenty-five years that I have been a couples’ therapist I have noted the things that couples come in wanting from each other and are not getting. These things can be healthy and attainable but their absence are often the source of conflict and hurt feelings.
- Acceptance (as they are)
- (found) Attractive
- Listened to (without being given advise)
- Ongoing connection
If you notice the things that men want from their women (or could be men) partners are things that can be healthy in a measured way. They can also be very unrealistic, especially as the relationship moves beyond the “Honeymoon phase” which typically last only the first eighteen or so months.
When we find that we are not in total agreement and the other person’s flaws become manifest that is when the work of being in relationship starts. That is the part that most men are ill prepared to deal with because of the way we raise boys to be more competitive and achievement focused and not relationship focused.
And looking at the list for men those are also all the things that we needed to get from our mothers when we were young. As happens with all couples we start enclosed in a “love bubble” and we feel like we are really being seen and loved for who we are. This moment fades, the reality of the conditional love shows up and most men feel resentment and betrayal at the loss of that adoration. Again, this is when the work of being in relationship begins. It is a disappointment but one that can get worked through to get to all the good things that can come.
Adored is OK at the start but is bound to fade, at least on a daily basis. Realistically it will be an occasional experience.
Appreciation is a valid adult need as well as a kid need. It’s absence in the relationship is a source of conflict and hurt feelings.
Acceptance (as you are) is a huge one for men. It is a legitimate desire to be accepted as you are and important to be open to improving yourself as a partner and a human being. It can be toxic to have your partner marry you “as is” with an unspoken agenda that they will make you the man they really want to be with.
Admiration is also one of those things that is healthy and realistic to get on occasion but not to the degree that the little boy inside (the inner child) may want. It can easily show up as a source of anger and resentment that damages the relationship.
Approval is a less healthy want. If someone is approving of us it means that they are in some way superior or hold more power than us. A healthier desire would be to have your partner’s support. It is more a peer to peer exchange and involves self-validation and acknowledgement.
The things on the women’s list they are that I often hear as complaints because that are not being tended to by their men (or possibly women) partners. And because of the way we raise boys with a lack of focus on relationships men are often blind to what they are not providing.
Attunement can simply mean taking the time to sit still (often daunting for men) focus on their partner and be fully present.
Found attractive meaning not taking your partner for granted and paying attention and complimenting them not just on their appearance but noticing their intelligence, wisdom or accomplishments.
Listened to (without being given advise) This is often a stereotype and comes out of how we raise boys to be logical, problem solvers that misses the closeness that can come from being attentive and fully present as they share their thoughts and feelings.
Feeling understood is self- explanatory and hard to define. It is about a feeling that comes when we are listened to, not judged but accepted as we are.
Ongoing connection means that women want their partners to keep their connection alive by paying attention, checking in about how they are doing and how things are going in the relationship regularly and consistently. This is the opposite of the intermittent connection and tending to the other that comes from guilt by missing an anniversary, forgetting to get the groceries, etc. Bringing home flowers or taking care of errands before the other can ask are ways of tending the garden of Love.
In conclusion couples counseling is a good place to work on making peace with your own unmet child needs that show up in your relationship. Finding ways to be our own source of comfort and support will go a long way in bring our relationship into balance and harmony.