My wife Ashley and I have been working with married couples for years and our interactions with husbands and wives from all over the world have taught us a lot about what makes a marriage work and the unique needs of men and of women.
We’ve written and spoken extensively about the need for consistent sex in marriage (including our book The Naked Marriage). A lot has been written specifically about a man’s need and desire for sexual fulfillment and how it might be his biggest need. As a man, I can certainly attest to the need and desire for sex but I’m convinced that there are some things that are even bigger needs than sex. Every man is unique, so I’m always reluctant to outline a “one-size-fits-all” list, but I do strongly believe that every man needs every item on this list, but often we don’t know how to ask for it.
If you’re a woman reading this, I hope this provides some perspective and clarity about what your husband is thinking and feeling even if he struggles to verbalize it. If you’re a mom, this could also give you insight into the thoughts and struggles your sons might be having.
If you’re a man reading this, please prioritize all of these. Don’t take shortcuts and try to create a life without these things. Don’t let your pride get in the way. You can “survive” without some of these, but living a full life and reaching your full potential will require all of them.
Seven things all men need (but might never say out loud) are (in no particular order)…
1. He needs to feel RESPECTED
I cannot overestimate a man’s need for respect. If he feels respected, he’ll believe he can do anything and he will face each day with unlimited energy and optimism, BUT if he doesn’t feel respected, he will struggle to find the will to put one foot in front of the other. He’ll stumble through life on autopilot. Respect is like oxygen for a man. He’ll suffocate without it.
#2 doesn’t happen easily, but it needs to be a priority for every man…
2. He needs to be in healthy FRIENDSHIPS with other men
Modern research has pointed that as men age, they tend to become more and more disconnected from male friends. Women tend to do a better job staying connected and cultivating ongoing friendships. There’s an alarming trend toward isolation for many men. Men NEED meaningful friendships with other men, but we’re not always willing to put in the time and effort to make it a priority. There’s no substitute for the accountability, camaraderie and encouragement that can happen with a group of close, longtime friends. Make it a priority.
#3 reveals an important need related to a man’s work…
3. He needs to do work that CHALLENGES him and INSPIRES him
All men want a job where they feel challenged and inspired daily. Many jobs don’t fulfill this need. A lot of guys grind it out in jobs they don’t like to provide for their families and there’s responsibility and even nobility in that, but even if it’s outside the career, a man needs to find work that challenges and inspires him. It can come through serving or volunteering or creating, but he needs the freedom to pursue it. He wants to craft something with his hands and his life that will create a legacy.
#4 is the one biggest need for married men (and it might surprise you)…
4. He needs to know that his wife is HAPPY
A married man will never be happier than he perceives his wife to be. When a man feels like his wife is happy and secure, he will be at his best. If he feels like he’s powerless to make her happy, then he will often struggle to find happiness, peace, or success in any part of his life. The old adage, “Happy wife, happy life” is truer for a man than most people realize.
#5 reveals one of his biggest needs that can also cause misunderstanding and arguments in a marriage…
5. He needs time for quiet REFLECTION (but this can’t become an excuse to totally disconnect and push loved ones away)
A man needs to reflect. He needs to process things. He needs to decompress from the chaos of life through being in nature or just sitting in his favorite chair and doing nothing at all. The reflection time renews our minds, clarifies our goals, recharges our bodies, and replenishes our souls. This is an actual need, BUT some men take this need way too far by becoming disconnected from their family. Men, I get that you need this, but if you’re in a season of life with kids in the home, your family needs you to be present and engaged even more than you need the quiet time. I’d encourage you to get up early and have some time to start the day with stillness, but then by engaged the rest of the day for those who need you and love you.
#6 reveals one of the biggest struggles most men face…
6. He needs to let go of his ANGER
Most men struggle with anger issues. It’s how we process emotions. We internalize things and then when it bubbles to the surface, it doesn’t take the form of sadness or tears nearly as often as it manifests itself as anger (and often towards the people we love the most). Men need to make peace with the past. We need to forgive those who have wounded us and not allow rage or revenge to dominate our thoughts. We need to embrace peace.
I believe this is only made possible when a man does #7…
7. He needs to embrace God’s GRACE
As a follower of Christ, I believe that we are all meant to know and love God through a saving relationship with His son, Jesus. In my own life, embracing God’s grace and growing in my faith through studying the Bible and prayer have changed my life more than anything else. I can’t imagine where I’d be without my faith. I don’t want to imagine it. No matter where you’ve been or what you’ve done or what’s been done to you, God’s grace is bigger and it is available to us all. You don’t have to agree with me on this point (I know I have readers from all faith backgrounds and some who choose a life without faith and I welcome everyone here), but I believe every life reaches its full potential when we place our lives in God’s hands.