Men, Their Needs, and What It Has to Do With Affairs
I’d like to preface this article by stating that this article is intended to focus on the needs and roles of men in marriage. Women have important needs in marriage, but that is not the focus of this article.
Laura Schlessinger wrote a controversial book called The Care and Feeding of Husbands. Well, she tends to be a controversial figure in this field because of her bold views and I won’t debate them here, but why this book was so controversial is because it was offensive to feminist women who don’t want to cater to their husbands. (I’m sure I may get some of those responses here as well!)
Men’s needs in marriage differ from women’s needs. We are often attuned to what women need in our culture today and men have had to work hard to better understand the needs of women. But how much do women understand what men truly need. In a culture where women have worked so hard to achieve equality (a work still in progress, but we’ve come a long way), and women have more power of choice in their lives and don’t depend on men for financial survival, what is happening to men in marriage?
Willard Harvey, in his book His Needs/Her Needs, states the five top needs of men in marriage. Those five needs are admiration, physical attractiveness, recreational companionship, sexual fulfillment and domestic support. The need that is often most neglected and that I want to focus on here is the need for admiration.
Women in our culture have become independent and self-sufficient. This is a wonderful thing, but men are suffering in many marriages because of it. Many have lost their place in their marriage. Men want to feel useful, purposeful and admired for their use and purpose. When women are too independent and don’t “need” their partner for anything, men can become lost in where their place is. I see problems occur when women become critical toward their partner because he is not fulfilling emotional needs or needs for help around the home. Men put forth effort and it isn’t recognized or it is criticized as not being good enough.
Affairs occur for many different reasons and I am only touching on one of them here. When a lot of couples come to me for help after an affair, I see this pattern occurring. The husband is not feeling admired in the relationship and he becomes vulnerable when a woman at work, or female friend shows that admiration. Men bear responsibility here as well, they have a choice and certainly an affair doesn’t have to be one of them. But in examining what makes marriage successful, we have to be aware of and acknowledge the needs of both partners.
Many women who come into my counseling office don’t take men’s need for sex seriously. They dismiss it as him “caring about one thing” or having a “one track mind”. But for many men, it is through sex that they feel emotionally connected, admired and desired. Typically women are the opposite, they need to feel emotionally connected (usually through thoughtful acts and conversation) before they want to or are inspired to engage in sex. So if a woman is not feeling emotionally fulfilled in her marriage, she will often stop having sex. This is one need in marriage that is not acceptable to get met elsewhere. In order to be successful at preventing affairs, we have to be aware of and able to navigate this difference between needs among men and women.
Criticism is the worst offender. That’s true for all of us. But it goes right to the core of the man’s need for admiration. So the first step is working toward eliminating criticism of your partner. Notice and acknowledge his efforts. Even though a woman does not need a man for survival, she certainly needs him for the relationship to survive. So what does admiration look like in a marriage? This is a question best asked to the man in your life. I think many men might answer that feeling desired, sexual fulfillment, being responsive sexually, acknowledging the efforts and contributions he makes, and through actions showing him why he’s the man you chose to spend your life with. These gestures go along way toward preventing affairs.
response - Dana Vince - Feb 16th 2011
I'm surprised by the responses on here to my article. It states several times throughout that women have needs in marriage too but that was not going to be addressed in this particular article. The last respondent lashing out at me is unfortunate. I certainly don't dismiss the work that women have done to earn equality in this world. I even mention it in the article! But being exposed to couple after couple where men's needs are misunderstood, I felt a need to address it. I am neither young nor naive, and just because there was a time when women were not adequately acknowledged, doesn't mean we need to carry that bitterness forward and permit us to treat others with the same disregard. We need to come to a point where we get away from making women more important because we used to be inferior to men. Both are EQUALLY important. And this article was not at all intended to minimize the needs of women, but to bring to light the needs of men. And if you read the end of the article, you will see I am not stating that men need a child like pat on the back, or that we should absolve him of responsibility for his own choices in the marriage, I am talking about being attentive and recognizing his efforts, desires, and needs. Not a whole lot different than a woman wanting to feel her man thinks she beautiful and tells her so.
men - - Dec 2nd 2010
Men are exactly that aren't they?...'Men', not little boys that require applause and gold stars for their acheivements.
Many women go through life putting their needs and wishes aside and putting their children and partners first whilst maintaining their career/family life/and home, without even a thought or expectation for someone to comment on how well they might have done in addition to the fact that even in today's age women face numerous and unfair challenges not often met by men.
time to grow up - leona - Dec 1st 2010
I agree that men and women may focus on different needs in a marriage but asking women to 'admire" their husbands so that they can, hopefully, prevent their husbands meeting that need outside the marriage puts the responsibility for the state of the marriage back in the hands of women. How about men taking responsibility for themselves for their emotional states and the state of the relationship. If they need admiration then they can do something so that their wives/partners give it naturally (not as stroking to keep hubbie home). If they need more sex then they can meet the emotional needs of their wives and, believe, me then they will get as much as they need. I think an underlying, implicit message in this article takes us back decades in saying mothers & wives need to take care of others including adult men. It also disempowers men and suggests that they cannot articulate their needs, nor create an environment in their relationships to have their needs met. Are they so lacking in agency or intelligence. I don't think so. But so long as women are encouraged to rescue then we have enmeshing and non-adult behaviours being built into the relationship. All that said - I do agree about criticism. There's plenty of evidence that it undermines. Focusing on strengths is the way to go and we can do that honestly, with integrity because that serves the relationship and is an adult-to-adult interaction. Good topic to discuss in changing and challenging times. Thanks.
Good Article - Dave - Dec 1st 2010
Well, one can barely breathe the words "men have needs" without offending someone in the room. This is a sad outgrowth of complex social issues. Unfortunate social issues that yes, have taken a significant toll on women. We simply will never arrive until we get better at honoring both our happiness and the happiness of others. Hey, I know it sounds obvious, why don't we do it?
Affairs as result of lack of admiration for men - Emily - Nov 30th 2010
I must comment on the absurdity of this article, clearly written by a very young woman, regardless of her education. I am a 60 year-old retired college professor. I became a feminist when I first heard Gloria Steinam speak. Admiration? Ask professional women in my age group what admiration of success by one's husband means/meant. I can tell you that those of us with even the best husbands received very little admiration for our professional success, trucking kids just about everywhere and making sure the house was cleaned and Xmas presents were purchased. I have one of the really good husbands, but I have spent our life together making sure that I praised HIS accompishments. He enjoyed faculty social events.