No one plays as significant a role in meeting a man’s unique needs as his wife. Researchers have identified his needs, but only his wife can truly satisfy them. Some of your husband’s most basic needs in marriage are: (1) to be admired, (2) to have autonomy, and (3) to enjoy shared activity.
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. A woman’s need for admiration and appreciation, while certainly important, is rarely as strong. When a woman seeks appreciation she is more accurately wanting to be understood, to be validated. You see, there is a significant difference between men and women when it comes to being admired. Men derive their worth more from what they do, while women derive their worth more from who they are.
Look at it this way. When women do not receive admiration from their spouse, they tend to be more motivated than ever to earn it. But when a man does not receive admiration from his spouse, he begins 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.
You have no idea how damaging a critical statement is to your man’s personal power. He responds to not being admired the same way you do when he invalidates your feelings. It is demoralizing.
I counseled a woman who became confused when, after criticizing her husband, he did not try harder to earn appreciation from her. She mistakenly assumed that she could manipulate him to give more by withdrawing her appreciation. But that never works with a man. Admiration is the fuel a man needs to get going. It gives him power.
Now, before you begin heaping words of praise on your spouse, I need to give you a word of caution. Never fake your admiration. By simply saying flattering words to your husband, you can do more harm than good. To have any value, praise must genuinely reflect your feelings.
He Needs to Have Autonomy During our first year of marriage, I remember bursting into Les’s study to let him know I was home. He was beginning a grueling doctoral program, and I had just begun a new job. “How are you doing?” I asked as I slipped behind his desk and wrapped my arms around his neck.
He sat almost motionless, taking notes on a yellow pad. So I tried again: “Did you have a good day?” This time I heard a slight sound. “Mm-hmm,” he murmured. “You wouldn’t believe all the stuff that happened to me today,” I started to say. Les interrupted, “Give me a minute here, ok?”
I walked out of the room feeling terribly dejected. “Why doesn’t he welcome my caring for him?” I thought. “I would stop anything I was doing if he greeted me that way.”
Only later in our marriage did I realize what was actually going on. 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 needs for feeling good are different from a woman’s. He feels better by solving problems while she feels better by talking about problems.”
Once I understood this distinction, I was able to meet one of Les’s primary needs —to be autonomous. It is a universal male need. Whenever a man is under stress (an important deadline is approaching, he is under pressure at work, etc.), he requires a little space.
At such times he becomes absent-minded, unresponsive, absorbed, and preoccupied. 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.
I have learned from experience that if I try too early to disengage Les from his problem, I get only a small part of his attention while he continues to mull over whatever is really on his mind. It is as if he is temporarily incapable of giving me the attention I want until he has a moment to adjust to his agenda. I now know enough to say, “Is this a good time to interrupt?” and he can say, “I need another five minutes” or “I’d really like to unwind by watching the news first.”
You see, part of the need for autonomy is the man’s need to have time to regroup. Some wives complain because their husbands don’t immediately talk about their day when they come home from work. They first want to read the paper or water the lawn, anything to clear their mind before engaging in the relationship. It’s a male thing. But giving your husband space when he needs it, whether you understand it or not, will gain you a happier husband.
This idea of giving my husband autonomy was a difficult lesson for me to learn. I instinctively wanted to support him in the way that I would want to be supported. If I were in his shoes, for example, I would want to be asked lots of questions about how I was feeling. I would want to be held and pampered. But that’s a woman’s way, not a man’s….
One of the great gaps between husbands and wives is in their notions of emotional intimacy. If you are like most women, intimacy means sharing secrets, talking things over, cuddling, and so on. But a man builds intimacy differently. He connects by doing things together (remember, men focus on achievement). Working in the garden or going to a movie with his wife gives him a feeling of closeness.
Husbands place surprising importance on having their wives as recreational companions. The commercial caricature of men out in the wilderness, cold beer in hand, saying, “It doesn’t get any better than this,” is false. It can get a lot better than that when a wife joins her husband in a shared activity that he enjoys.
Les recently came home from a speaking engagement in Lake Tahoe. Before he left he was excited because he was going to fly in a day early and do some skiing on his own time. I was so happy for him. He loves to ski —fast —and when we go together I always feel like I am slowing him down. But when he came home from his trip I was shocked by his report: “Well, the powder was great and the weather was perfect, but it’s just not the same skiing without you.” Wow! All the time I thought I was a tag-along, and it turns out that he doesn’t really enjoy it without me.
Now, I’ve counseled enough women to know that you might be saying, “What do you do if your activities have little in common?” The answer: Cultivate your spheres of interest. Don’t allow you and your partner to drift apart because you can’t find something enjoyable to do together. I have seen too many marriages fizzle because a wife didn’t use her creative energies to build enjoyable moments of fun and relaxation with her husband.
Make a careful list of recreational interests your husband enjoys. Here are a few to get you started: antique collecting, any and all sports, camping, canoeing, table games, puzzles, cooking, dancing, hiking, horseback riding, jogging, movie-going, ice-skating, sailing, listening to music, swimming, traveling, walking, woodworking, and so on. Your list should be as long as possible. Next, circle those activities that you might find somewhat pleasurable. You can probably find a good half-dozen activities that you can enjoy with your husband. Your next task is to schedule these activities into your recreational time together.
If you learn to meet your husband’s need for recreational companionship, you will discover that you are not only husband and wife, but best friends too.
The above article comes from the book, Saving Your Marriage Before It Starts: Seven Questions to Ask Before and After You Marry, written by Dr Les Parrott and Dr Leslie Parrott, published by Zondervan Publishing. This book is based on the fact that marriage doesn’t have to be a gamble. As psychologist Les and marriage and family therapist Leslie, who counsel hundreds of married couples, they have learned that living happily ever after is less a mystery than a mastery of certain skills. Although married life will always have its difficulties, you will steadily and dramatically improve your relationship skills.” They’ve also written two companion workbooks —one for the man and one for the woman.
To read additional articles on this subject,
please click onto the Growthtrac.com and CBN links
and then the Familylife.com link below to read:
From the web site, Happywivesclub.com an article written by Fawn Weaver:
If you have additional tips you can share to help others in this area of marriage, or you want to share requests for prayer and/or ask others for advice, please “Join the Discussion” by adding your comments below.