How to Keep a Man (Without Selling Out)
~ a guide for strong independent women ~
If you support women's equality, you may feel like many of the relationship how-to books and articles go contrary to everything you value. Much of the "How to keep your man" advice out there tells you to look like a Barbie doll, paste on a smile and prioritize his every need.
I don’t agree with any of that. However, I’ve also run across some women who have not allowed myself to be who I am; a man who is trying his best to be a great partner while remaining a man.
That’s why I want to share my experiences with you. I want to help you understand what guys like me mean when we make mistakes that might trigger red flags for you. I’m asking you to give us a chance, because we’re still the good guys.
The following are four things all independent women need to know about us men so we can be happy in love together.
1. Please Don’t Judge Us for Getting Turned On By How You Look
We’re not objectifying you; we just truly love to look at you.
Yes, society has objectified women for most of history. It’s despicable, and good men (the type you want to be with) will refuse to reduce your worth to a piece of meat. We absolutely are interested in you because of who you are — brains, talents, interests, opinions and compatible lifestyle. We love you as a complete person.
However, it’s important to recognize the fact (and it is a fact) that men and women’s brains are wired differently. And a part of that difference is that we are visually stimulated. We can’t help it. We simply can’t keep our eyes off you.
The Science of Attraction
Ogi Ogas and Sai Gaddam, authors of Billion Wicked Thoughts: What the World’s Largest Experiment Reveals About Human Desire (Amazon), men’s arousal pattern is inextricably linked to visual cues. Within seconds of viewing a lust-inspiring image, men become turned-on both physically and psychologically. It is hypothesized that this is the case because men have more neurological connections to the subcortical reward system than women.
In other words, whether we want to get turned on by visual stimuli or not, it happens. This is what works for us.
Embrace Your Sex Appeal
What does that mean for you? It means we want you to dress in a flattering manner, invest time in grooming and self-care (healthy diet and exercise), and let us see your amazing body once in a while.
Please do not misinterpret this as me saying you have to wear bling and slutty dresses. However, I am asking you to embrace your sexuality, which includes looking sexy in whatever way makes you feel confident and attractive. It also means he probably wants to catch a glimpse of your gorgeous body as you slip into the shower, or wants to have at least some low lighting on when you make love.
Again, we want this not because we want to objectify you, but because this is what turns us on. Let your man appreciate your beauty and sexuality without judging him.
2. Help Us Feel Secure if You Make More Money than We Do
I know it’s 2017. I know that with all the inequity in the world, we should be delighted that you make more money than us, and on one level we do. However, on a primal, deeper level, many of us feel threatened if you are the main breadwinner in the household.
This is especially true if you make all the money and we make none.
Societal Pressure Gets Us Down
The thing is, we probably were initially attracted to you because you are such a strong, powerful woman — and we still love that about you. However, society slams us for making less money than you (or for being completely dependent on you), even if you don’t think less of us.
Understand that Inequality Puts Us at Higher Vulnerability for Infidelity
A recent study published in the American Sociological Review determined that men who are completely economically dependent on their partners were at risk for infidelity. A woman who is 100 percent financially dependent on their partner has about a five percent chance she will cheat. Men who are married to a breadwinner face a 15 percent chance that they will cheat.
Why this vulnerability? Because many men who feel the need to prove their masculinity, and who can't do this by providing for you, will be more susceptible to admiration from another woman. (See also Why Do Men Cheat On Good Women?)
What Do We Need from You?
To quote Arethra: we need R-E-S-P-E-C-T. It’s essential that you show us an extra measure of admiration and basic respect if you are bringing home the bacon and we’re the ones frying it up in the pan. We need to know that you value our contributions and you don’t think less of us just because you’re the one with the bigger paycheck.
Shaunti Feldhahn, author of For Women Only: What You Need to Know About the Inner Lives of Men (Amazon), reports that men would rather feel unloved than disrespected. That may come as a surprise to you, but respect really does matter that much to us.
How Can You Show Respect?
A lot of women don’t realize that they treat their man in a way he considers disrespectful. The following are instances in which I’ve felt disrespected by women in past relationships, or ways I see other women (mis)treat their men:
- While at your sister’s house, you confide in her that your man made a terrible investment mistake that cost you $5,000 last year. You joke that you’d be driving a Mercedes Benz instead of your Toyota if your man just handled the finances better. When he shoots you a look that clearly says he doesn’t appreciate this, you just talk louder about it, saying maybe he’ll learn his lesson this year.
- You’re driving to a restaurant and your man takes the scenic route. Instead of tolerating the extra three minutes on the road, you snipe, “Why didn’t you take the faster route?” When he defends his choice, you argue with him that he obviously thinks nothing of wasting your time.
- Your man is struggling to figure out how to fix something. You sigh, nudge him out of the way and fix it yourself. When done, you make a snide comment about how easy that was. That may get laughs on a sit com, but it can result in a break up in real life.
If you show your man respect, he’ll be a loyal partner to the end. He may even cook you an out-of-this-world gourmet dinner complete with homemade crème brule to celebrate your next promotion. Bring on the champagne and chocolate-dipped strawberries!
3. We Sometimes Struggle to Communicate
Once again, we’re wired differently than you are. It’s not that we want to be lousy communicators. We just need help learning how to communicate effectively and sensitively.
A recent study of 1,000 adolescents confirms something women have known for centuries: your brains are wired for better articulation of ideas than our brains are. The research concluded that men’s brains had more neurological connections within hemispheres, while women’s brains were more connected between hemispheres. This is why men’s brains are typically better optimized for motor skills, and women’s brains are better optimized for combining analytical and intuitive thinking and communicating those ideas.
How Does This Play Out?
Let’s say I’m out to dinner with my wife and she brings up a topic I don’t know that much about or haven’t thought about yet. As she talks, I may need extra time to think through how I feel about the issue at hand. I may ask questions, but I might not contribute a great deal to the conversation. Am I trying to be unsociable? No! I just need more time to think about things than she does. You may be more able to process information and respond to new ideas verbally than your man, but it’s doesn’t mean he’s not interested or doesn’t want to hear your thoughts.
Here’s another common scenario: many times men are criticized for not verbally expressing love or admiration. You may need to tell your man that you need him to articulate his love for you and even give him examples of what makes you feel special. Give him some time to learn this skill, and pay attention to the ways he shows you his love through physical affection, attention and body language. Men are wired to be more physical, and women are wired to be more verbal.
We’re often even worse when under fire. If you’re upset with us, we may not be able to respond adequately in the moment. You might think we don’t care because we aren’t answering you or engaging in a verbal argument, but trust me: we’re trying to digest everything you’ve said. We’re scrambling inside our heads, even if we haven’t said much.
What Can You Do?
Be patient with us when we make a communication faux pas. We’d appreciate it if you give us the benefit of the doubt when we fall silent or ask for time to think. We’ll be less likely to say something stupid and hurtful if you give us time to think things through before we speak.
4. We’re a Lot More Sensitive than You Probably Know
Believe it or not, studies report that we fall harder in love, and tend to be more romantic about relationships than women. While most women have a very pragmatic list of what they want in a relationship and what they will and will not tolerate, men simply fall in love — hard and fast.
This means we’re also prone to idolizing you, daydreaming of a perfect life with you and struggling when reality doesn’t match our fantasies. We can’t wait to see you after a long hard day of work because you are the person who makes our cares melt away, especially if you’re willing to do something fun with us that takes our minds off the stresses of the day. We view you as our bright patch of sunshine in the midst of a dreary, rainy day.
But after we’ve slayed the dragons at work (or with the kids, if you work and we stay home), we can sometimes lean on you too hard. We have bought into the idea that you’re going to make it all better, and that can feel like an unfair burden after a while. It’s flattering at first, but it can be stressful over the long-term.
Keeping It Real — And Equal
When you start to feel like your man is expecting the impossible of you, remind yourself that his real need is relief from the stresses of the day. Instead of fighting with him, try to find solutions to the problem such as ordering take out (nobody has to cook), hiring a babysitting (both of you get a break from the kids) or sending him out for a night with his friends (then you don’t have provide entertainment). If you stand your ground but still help him solve his problem, you’ll both be happier.
Give Us a Chance
I know it can be hard to stand up for what you believe in and figure out the marriage do's and don’ts. Take some time to ponder the ways men are fundamentally different than women. Now that you know what’s going on in our heads, you’ll realize we’re not trying to be difficult. We’re looking for unconditional love, just like you are.
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