- Gender and Relationships
Men Need to Feel Needed
Advice for Independent Women
Years ago, when I led group counseling for soldiers who had abused or were dependent on alcohol, one of the sessions began with me posing the question, "What would you feel if your girlfriend or wife did not need you?"
Although the question was a lead-in to the concept of alcohol dependence, the men's answers were unequivocal. Men needed to feel needed. The very question induced near panic in them. As a female soldier, I was surprised by their convictions. I wondered, "Why would men want a woman to be clingy or needy?"
Over time, I came to understand that men and women can have a different idea of what the word "need" means in a relationship.
In my first marriage, I washed laundry, fixed dinner, cleaned the kitchen, ironed his clothes every morning, and took care of the bulk of childcare, all while working full time. Sometimes my ex criticized me about the way the house looked, and I rarely heard a "thank you" or saw signs of appreciation. I resented it and believed he was taking me for granted. If asked, I'd have said that those acts were kindnesses that demonstrated my love for him, but I'd never have said he needed me to do them. After all, he was fully capable of completing those same tasks.
But I craved what was lacking: appreciation.
Men want their partners to "need" the things they do. A man wants to feel like his partner appreciates what he brings to the relationship so much that she wouldn't dream of wanting anything else. His ideal woman couldn't fathom a better life than the one he delivers, and that's why she needs him.
For women who have supported themselves financially, this can be a tricky navigation. You're used to paying your bills, taking your car in for oil changes, and knowing how to find solutions to problems.
He's accustomed to being rewarded for "doing" things - merely taking up couch space isn't worthy of reward and he knows it. But if he thinks that his efforts will be met with a "Ho-hum. Yeah, thanks. I could have done that, too," he isn't going to feel important in your life.
It's no different than the way he responds to a tasty meal you've prepared. He can follow the same recipe, but when he tells you just how tasty it is, you feel accomplished and valued.
Just because you can do something doesn't mean you can do it as well or as quickly as he does. And even if you're able to match his promptness and quality of work, he still takes a burden from your shoulders when he mows a lawn, changes the oil in your car, or fixes a leaking pipe. So let him know just how terrific he is at those things he brings to the relationship.
Let your man shine in the areas where he feels most competent and focus your energies on thanking him with in ways that let you be uniquely special to him: Words of thanks, a shoulder massage, a thoughtful gift, or a well-cooked meal will go further than your paycheck when it comes to making your man feel like a man.
Other Relationship Topics by Kathy Batesel
- Trustworthy Suggestions About Trust
Is trust something that should be earned or given freely? This article describes how to protect yourself from misplaced trust without becoming negative or jaded.
- Rules of Reciprocation
Nobody wants to feel used. Do you know if you are a "user?" Find out here if you're doing enough to let people know you care.