In all my years as a counselor, I continue to see that the differences between spouses cause us the most conflict. On the surface, we just think our spouse is being difficult on purpose. But in reality, we each have very specific needs that aren’t being met, which leads to fighting. It’s only when couples understand that there is a deeper meaning behind those differences that they learn to adjust how they think about their spouse. In turn, their attitudes and actions moving forward make the relationship close, connected, and happy.
The books for women only and for men only by Shaunti and Jeff Feldhahn are excellent resources to help couples understand the “why” behind their differences so they can take the necessary actions that lead to improved generosity and grace toward each other.
In today’s blog, we will explore what they mean by “a man’s greatest need.”
What a husband needs — R.E.S.P.E.C.T!
One of the most important differences between men and women is a need for respect vs. a need for love. One of the interesting findings the Feldhahns had was that men would rather feel unloved than inadequate or disrespected. Granted, these findings aren’t 100% true across the board for all men. But for the most part — even into the 80% range — most men would agree this is accurate: When there is conflict, my wife feels unloved, whereas I feel disrespected.
So … why the sharp difference?
For starters, the need for respect and affirmation is deep wiring in a man’s DNA. It’s simply the way we were created.
We crave respect – We live for it.
We want more of it. Being respected makes us feel good. The importance of being shown respect is, in a man’s eyes, the same as showing him love. Respect and Love — you might as well be talking about the same thing! Because he certainly is!
So if a man truly sees respect as a sign of love, it’s necessary for the relationship that the wife gives him the respect he craves. Doing so opens his thinking and feelings, eliminates defensiveness, and helps him express himself better so that he can hear, accept, and react appropriately to what’s really happening during a difficult conversation.
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Six key needs that the Feldhahns found through their research about men:
- Respect his judgment — He needs to know that you respect his knowledge, opinions, and decisions.
- Affirm his abilities — Men love figuring things out for themselves. Your husband needs to believe you think he can do it. Men may not always want to hear a specific admiration in public, but they certainly don’t want to be criticized in public.
- Respect what he accomplishes — Men want to know that they’re good at what they do. Make sure the attitude or words you express show him that. Often, men feel nothing they do is good enough. Hearing disappointment from their wife equals failure.
- Show respect in communication — Men hear disrespect when they hear disappointment, a negative or sarcastic comment about something they’ve done, or when you say something about their character.
- Respect him in public — No one wants to be criticized or have their character demeaned in public. When this happens for a man, it brings out the inner feelings of inadequacy. They simply don’t feel good enough.
- Assume the best (i.e. Respect) — When a woman reminds a man what he needs to do or asks if he’s done something yet, it often sounds to a man like they are incapable of remembering things and need to be prodded. To them, it’s also a sign of distrust.
Do you want to get your hands on more books like the Feldhahns? Visit our resources page.
All we are saying here is that a man wants his wife to appreciate and support him in the way that he needs her to. The key is to look for what matters most to your man in terms of respect, admiration, or adequacy. He doesn’t necessarily need to hear you tell him that you respect him, but he probably needs to hear things like you are proud of him, that you trust him, or that you appreciate how he supports you.
The bottom line is that men can choose to express love to a woman even when they don’t feel it at that moment.
Conversely, a woman can demonstrate respect toward her husband even if she’s not feeling it.
This is a mutual understanding of each other’s needs.
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Did we leave anything out? How are you trying to be more mindful of your husband’s need for respect? And how is that benefiting your marital journey together? Please send us a quick email and help us keep this conversation going at Mike@MikeandSusanDawson.com.