The differences between men and women are significant, so much so that those inherent gender-based qualities often cause the greatest tension in a marriage relationship. Knowing the key needs of the opposite sex allows a person to understand his or her spouse better, and therefore operate with more patience and peace.
A few weeks ago, we talked about the three things that every husband should know about his wife. Today, we’re examining the flipside: the three things that every wife should know about her husband.
No one plays as significant a role in meeting a man’s unique needs as his wife. Researchers have identified his needs, but only a wife can truly satisfy them.
He needs to be admired.
Being appreciated is a man’s primary need. He measures his worth through his achievements, big and small, and needs them to be recognized by his wife. A woman’s need for admiration and appreciation, while certainly important, is rarely as strong. Men derive their worth more from what they do, while women derive their worth more from who they are.
When a man does not receive admiration from his spouse, he beings to lose motivation to try. Without a feeling of being admired, a man’s energy is drained. He soon feels inadequate and incapable of giving support. Without being admired, men lose their will to give.
A critical statement is damaging to your man’s personal power. It is demoralizing. You cannot manipulate your husband to give more by withdrawing your appreciation. That never works. Admiration is the fuel a man needs to keep going.
He needs to have autonomy.
Men and women cope differently with stress. According to John Gray, author of Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus, men, when faced with stress, “become increasingly focused and withdrawn, while women become increasingly overwhelmed and emotionally involved. At these times a man’s need for feeling good are different from a woman’s. He feels better by solving problems while she feels better by talking about the problems.”
Once a woman understands this, she can meet one of her husband’s primary needs–to be autonomous. When a man is under stress, he needs a little space. At such times he might seem absent-minded or unresponsive. Unlike women, men typically don’t want to talk about the situation; they don’t want to be held or comforted–not until they have had time to themselves.
Part of the need for autonomy is the man’s need to have time to regroup. For example, when he comes home from work he might want to read the paper or watch TV, anything to clear his mind before engaging in the relationship. It’s a male thing. Giving your husband space when he needs it, whether you understand it or not, will gain you a happier husband.
He needs to have shared activity.
One of the great gaps between husbands and wives is in their notions of emotional intimacy. For women, intimacy means sharing secrets, talking, cuddling, and so on. But a man builds intimacy differently. He connects by doing things together (remember, men focus on achievement). Husbands place surprising importance on having their wives as recreational companions.
Women often wonder, “But what if our activities have little in common?” The answer: Cultivate your spheres of interest. Don’t allow a rift in the relationship simply because you can’t find something enjoyable to do together. Make a careful list of recreational interests your husband enjoys, and circle those items that you’d find pleasurable too.
If you learn to meet your man’s need for recreational companionship, you’ll discover that you are not only husband and wife, but best friends too.
Distinctions in gender are undeniable, and to ignore the gender gap is to risk putting your marriage on the brink of disaster. Learn the unique needs and tendencies of the other gender, and even appreciate those contrasts. There is an inherent completeness when a man and woman marry. Our partner makes up for what we lack.
When a woman understands and appreciates her husband’s needs to be admired, to have autonomy, and to have shared activity, she can then love him practically. In response, he will prosper and the relationship will grow.
This is all adapted from our book Saving Your Marriage Before It Starts, and the new and revamped version will release October 27.