I recently had a conversation with some family members about what men really want. One person said, they just get married so they can have sex reliably. There is some truth to that. Being physically intimate with our partner is the defining difference between just being roommates or friends, and being romantic life partners.
But, it’s often not the ultimate reason we want someone to walk together through life with us. Not even for most men.
What we all want, and perhaps especially men, is to feel respected and seen as trustworthy and capable. ( Yep, this is Key #4 from 5 Ways To Improve Things When Your Partner's The Problem)
What softens a man’s heart and paves the way to emotional intimacy is giving him your respect, trust, and confidence, so he feels safe and capable when around you.
For many reasons in this day and age, we women don’t always feel or show respect in a way they can receive. (Some on why, and how to make it easier here.)
We also can tend to become very critical of our man over time. This can be even more true if you are a highly sensitive person, because of a variety of reasons related to our trait.
Nit-pickiness, “helpful” suggestions, telling him what to do ( i/e. “ Don’t put that there! It goes in the other drawer!”), and anything that has even a hint of condescension can trigger them.
If you use harsh tones or have critical words for him, he may go “underground”, hiding out and avoiding you. Or, because offense can seem like the best defense, he might be quick to anger over trivial things, or say hurtful things to you out of the blue.
This is often a sign he is simply hurt and feeling rejected himself.
Though socialized “out” of men (which just means they may not easily show it, or show it in the same way women do) men are just as easily hurt as we are.
Despite our misleading belief that men are “tough” or numb, when he feels disrespected it takes a toll on him. The result is he feels ill-at ease and not nearly as loving towards you.
Then neither of you gets the love you crave. Because, of course, deep down he craves love just like you do.
In my own relationship I’ve noticed that when I point out something that I didn’t think was done the right way, my man is put on the defensive. He tries to justify how he meant well, and it usually comes out with a tone. You know the one: aggravated, edgy. Because he feels misunderstood. His tone feels harsh —even angry— to me. I end up feeling rejected myself. (I bet you can relate.)
It’s a totally different scenario when I show up in a more respectful way. Instead of being divided over our differences, we feel like a team working together to find our way forward.
When I asked a large bunch of people what their 3 most important desires were in a relationship, respect was at the top.
But listen up: respect may not be exactly what you think. It’s easy to get confused about it. It’s not about giving yourself up, being meek, or “bowing down to him”. It's not just something we give to authority figures.
More than anything respect is about accepting another human as they are.
The dictionary defines it like this: to have due regard for the feelings, wishes, rights, or traditions of…To avoid harming or interfering with…
Here are some subtleties of how to be respectful with your partner:
~Honor his choices for his life, both big and small, even if you don’t like or agree with them.
~Accept that he does things and thinks differently than you, instead of telling him what and how to do things and trying to change him. (That leaves him feeling incapable and not-accepted, which hurts and angers.)
~ Listen to him without interrupting or making helpful suggestions or giving tips. Hear out his ideas.You don’t have to like or agree with them.
~ Apologize when you did criticize, take over, contradict, dismiss, become bossy or controlling.
~Find ways to celebrate and appreciate him. Acknowledge when he does something you like with a thank you or a positive comment.
~Expect him to do things well, and act accordingly. This will make him feel trusted and capable. It will give him the confidence he needs to fulfill your positive expectations.
If you really want to feel close to your parter, instead of lonely and often worried about having a fight, it is essential for him to feel respected, trusted, and capable.
The reality is it’s not as easy as it sounds. We all have our own “stuff” that can make being respectful hard. It can take some real work on yourself to do so.
But as you make changes in the way you interact with him you will make it possible for him to feel good about himself and loving towards you.
Then he’ll feel safe to let his guard down, be kinder, and share his most personal thoughts and ideas with you. It’s in those moments that tenderness comes in and you'll find intimacy and real connection again.
It can feel humbling to see how we are contributing to the icky dynamics in our relationship, but that same awareness is what allows us to start changing things to our liking.
In what ways have you been less-than-respectful in your relationship? What will you try to do differently now? Comment below.