Dr. Val Farmer
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Rural Mental Health & Family Relationships

What Do Women Really Want In Their Marriages?

April 15, 2005

In order to provide equal time to the article I wrote on men’s needs in marriage, I am including this valuable piece of advice that men should read, re-read, fold up and put in their wallets. If you do, life will go better. Guaranteed.

Husbands, do you wonder if your wife is ever satisfied with you? What do women really want anyway? By asking and then genuinely listening to your wife, here are some things you might hear.

1. Show emotions. Women want their husbands to know that the expression of emotions is OK. They want more emotional expression, more honesty, more feelings from the heart. Be willing to share your innermost thoughts and feelings with her - your joys, fears, doubts, worries and struggles. Don't let her have to pull feelings from you like a dentist pulls teeth. Intimacy created by deep communication is the type of intimacy that brings contentment to her marriage and makes sexual intimacies more meaningful.

2. Don’t give lip service. Women don’t like their husbands agreeing or placating them and then not following through. They want their ideas and concerns taken seriously. Women want validation that their feelings are important and their ideas have value.

Women don’t like being put in the position of repeatedly requesting something and then being expected to be grateful when their husbands finally honor their request. To them it feels like begging and being rewarded - as if they were some sort of pet.

3. Recognize that differences of opinion aren’t fights. Many wives have trouble getting issues talked about because husbands react defensively, angrily or withdraw because of an emotional edge to the discussion. It is hard to get a legitimate discussion going about important issues. It feels like control when a husband won’t address their concerns.

4. Understand family obligations. Women express concerns that their husbands be sympathetic and supportive of efforts to keep family ties with parents and siblings strong. Take an interest in family life. Attend your children’s activities. Support, participate and join in enthusiastically in family celebrations and holiday traditions.

5. Negotiate work and parenting responsibilities. Fairness in family and household work is important. Resentments build easily if the workload in the family is one-sided. Your attitude about work in the home is about as important as the work itself. Women want a feeling of partnership and teamwork.

6. Show appreciation. Show appreciation and personal interest. Notice and compliment her for the many things she does to make your life and family life pleasant. Wives give a lot of unselfish love and service in the home and to the family. Her contributions need to be valued and recognized in a timely way. Women hate to be taken for granted.

7. Be generous with your time, attention and resources. Be sensitive to her needs and put her first, ahead of your favorite hobbies, and leisure pursuits. Be helpful by sharing in the household work and by being actively involved with the children. Nurture her. Make her load lighter. Being stingy or being too tight with the money without recognizing her needs doesn’t feel like love.

Tune in to her needs and try to please her. Your willingness to go out of your way for her will influence her willingness to recognize your needs. Give love to get love.

8. Be a responsive listener. Listen hard to understand your wife's feelings. Be careful not to give advice when all she wants is a sounding board.

Control your temper. Learn to solve problems without frequent expressions of anger. Having a track record for solving differences creates the trust necessary for other forms of intimacy to develop.

9. Be a friend. Do things together. Don't habitually put her in a domestic or mother role or the sexual partner role. Be interested in the details of her life. Cultivate shared interests, goals, conversation and genuine companionship. Do things together.

10. Be sensitive when it comes to affection and sex. Women want to share affection without feeling obligated to respond with sex. Many women want to be more affectionate and loving in their marriage. They shut down, however, when they feel their husbands interpret any flirtation, affectionate touch, warmth, holding, cuddling, or banter on their part as an immediate invitation to roving hands and attempts at full-fledged lovemaking.

Female desire depends more on the context of a relationship. Much more depends on her mood, energy level, good feelings, absence of conflict and an element of romance than a direct physiological response to touch. Women don’t want their lack of interest to be interpreted as rejection. Don't keep a scorecard on how often she responds. This kind of pressure and guilt isn't helpful.

A minority of women feel frustrated when their husbands don’t show interest in love-making or affection. It is a challenge to their femininity and frustrates to their own need to feel loved, desired or attractive in their husband’s eyes.

Ask the question, "What do you really want?" and you’ll probably hear more than you bargained for. By not asking the question, you will hear the answer come out in various ways as she attempts to tell you whether you want to hear it or not.

When it comes to women, there is always more to learn.