“I was wrong.”
Whether it is society that determines the need for males to be in control, ortestosterone driven competitive strategies, most men have a hard time with genuine apologies or admitting their faults, even when they inwardly agree they are remiss. They may feel that admission of blame signals weakness or a lack of leadership. Sadly, this puts the responsibility on their women’s shoulders when things don’t work out. The simple willingness to admit accountability gives the female a welcome respite from feeling that she is blamed for the problem.
“I’d love to just hold you tonight.”
Very often, men pair affection with seduction, leaving their partners deprived of the non-sexual affection and nurture they need. The woman is usually the one who has to turn down a sexual advance, and worries that her man will be less affectionate without that guarantee of his own fulfillment. When a man offers affection without an underlying agenda, his partner can enjoy that comfort and worry-free nurturing without feeling the pressure to reciprocate in the immediate future.
When a woman feels down, overloaded, or just weary, she deeply appreciates that her man not only notices, but offers her whatever she needs to feel better. Most women want to please their man by thinking ahead as to would make him happy, but rarely feel that reciprocity from their men. They believe their partners have a double standard when it comes to being concerned in those ways, and still worries that she might lose his support if she doesn’t stay on top of the situation.
Her partner can make a triple checker jump here by putting aside his current desires and becoming fully available to love her when she’s down or overwhelmed. Just by verbally recognizing how much she deserves his concern, he shows that he understands and loves her when it really counts.
Being treasured by someone without having to perform is a gift that holds for a long time.
“I love you even when you’re upset.”
Many men pull away when their partners are distraught, and don’t want any part of an angry or complaining female. As a result, many women withhold their upset moods for fear of losing the love they need at that difficult moment. Her man’s reassurance that their distress won’t turn him away or make him care any less assures her that she is beloved regardless of her distress.
This response is not valid if the female partner experiences his behavior as an effort to minimize or dismiss the problem, but it is a lovely experience when she expects to be criticized and is supported instead.
“Can I help you?”
When a woman is busy with logistical requirements, whether she is making a meal, caring for someone, cleaning up a mess, or arranging for a support system, she often feels overwhelmed. A man who volunteers to help her with those tasks at that time is going to make big points.
This offer does not work as well when the woman has to ask. Asking may be hard for her for many reasons. Perhaps she is just too tired to think, unable to value herself enough, or feels the support wouldn’t be there if she did ask. The caring she feels when her male partner offers support without needing compensation or gratitude will truly melt most women’s hearts.
“You’re having a hard time babe. Let me take over.”
Many men still feel that their contribution to the household ends at the end of their work day, even when their female partner also works outside the home, or is busy with other responsibilities. A man coming home to find her harried, exhausted, or overly burdened, can take the opportunity to make her feel loved by just taking over. It even works better when he encourages her to take care of herself, like pouring her a hot bath and insisting she just take care of herself without guilt.
Even if both partners work a full day, and the female partner feels overwhelmed with what is left to do, offering to relieve her part of the deal tells her that her needs are more important than his at the time. That sacrifice, made without resentment or the need for reciprocity, is the epitome of chivalry, long touted as the direct way to a woman’s heart.
“Don’t worry, sweetheart. Everything’s going to be okay.”
Women often express their anxiety in ways that makes their men think they need to fix their problem. What they really want is just to be held and reassured that things will get worked out. Once she feels that she’s not alone and that she’s not just being seen as too dramatic, she might surprise her male partner with how competent she really is to solve her own problems.
When a man takes leadership without implying that his woman is overreacting or at fault for her own situation is a true art. It is especially effective in this kind of interaction, and very likely to evoke gratefulness, admiration, and respect in return.
“Take all the time you need to get your thoughts and feelings out. I’m not going anywhere.”
Women tend to process their feelings out loud as they go along. When they’ve had the time to completely go through their “back story”, they eventually come to their own conclusions, often far from where they started. This process can be frustrating to their male partners as they desperately try to figure out what they are supposed to do in the meantime. They may interrupt her monologue early on and demand the sum-up, or just lose interest. Women feel cherished by a partner who will stay present and listen deeply, no matter how long it takes. It feels like a precious gift to them.
“You’re worried about something, honey, and it’s obviously about me or something I’ve done. Let’s talk about whatever is bothering you. I’m open to anything you need to ask me.”
When women feel that her man has done something that would upset her were she to know about it, she may be unable to be direct in expressing her fears. Men may attempt to minimize a woman’s concern if they think the truth will get them in more trouble, even if what they’ve done is something they are okay about. Her obvious anxiety should be a signal to her man that he needs to open up the conversation and make it easy for her to share her worries. If he ignores her distress, she may express her fears in ways that justify his disconnect, further supporting her suspicions that something wrong has occurred. If instead, he gives her the opportunity to voice her concerns and answers her questions with gentle equanimity, she will feel not only heard, but deeply cared for.
The caveat is when the man is actually hiding something out of shame or not wanting to face the consequences were he to be honest, he must understand that he is saving himself at the expense of her sanity. Even if he has to face an angry or hurt partner, he still must choose to give her the right to know anything that may affect her. If he elects instead to avoid the truth and it comes out at a later time, he will have hurt her even more.
“You’ve seemed more stressed than usual in the last few days, babe, and I’m concerned. You’re normally more resilient when things are hard. It’s not like you to be down like this for so long.”
When it comes to intimate relationships, men traditionally live in the moment and women more often in the past and the future. When a man makes it a point to caringly track his partner over a period of time, it is a gift of focus that makes a woman feel cherished. This is especially true when she is deeply distressed about ongoing hurtful events in the past or upcoming future, and her male partner wants to be with her in the moment. Putting his own immediate needs aside to help resolve her concerns will make her feel that he wants to know how she feels and what is really going on.
There is often a bonus. When a woman feels her man going into the past and future with her, she feels less alone and can more easily stay in the moment with him when he needs her to.
By Randi Gunther, Ph.D