With Love and Gratitude

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The Top 4 Romantic Wishes of Men and Women

Can these be the secrets to lifelong loyalty?

Robert Indiana, Yale Digital Commons
Why should men and women try to please one another? For love’s sake. The world of love can be an easily solved mystery of emotional giving and receiving best depicted in a quote from Dr. Leo Buscaglia: "What love we've given we will have forever. What love we fail to give is lost for all eternity."  

In my own research, I have found that women are a slightly more faithful group, as confirmed by talks with sociologist W. Bradford Wilcox, Ph.D., director of the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia. He says that just 14 percent of ever-married women reported an extramarital affair over their lifetime as compared to 22 percent of men.

So, yes, women do want commitment—but that’s not all.

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Dr. Wilcox and his colleague Steven L. Nock wrote in Social Forces:

..."in examining women's marital quality and men's emotional investments in marriage, we find that dyadic commitment to institutional ideals about marriage and women's contentment with the division of household tasks are more critical. We also show that men's marital emotion work is a very important determinant of women's marital quality. We conclude by noting that "her" marriage is happiest when it combines elements of the new and old: that is, gender equity and normative commitment to the institution of marriage. What's Love Got To Do With It?(1)

WHAT WOMEN WANT

1. Loving devotion in a committed relationship.  This is a very simple wish in which action speaks louder than words. A devoted man is respectful with time shared, respectful of her work, her friends, her family and their togetherness. After reading the words of Dr. Wilcox, this seems logical.

Essentially women believe in a "we" relationship rather than an "I" relationship, as Randi Gunther, Ph.D. notes:

“We" is a state of mind and heart. It means that wherever one partner is, the other is present in their thoughts. Partners who consider themselves a "we" act that way. When you talk to partners who live with and in the heart of their beloved, you experience that commitment in every way they present themselves. They communicate a pride in belonging to their partner. It's a powerful feeling of "us" over anyone or anything else.

2. Thoughtful, honest behavior. One of our top wishes is emotional honesty.  Women like men who stay in touch and are honest about their thoughts and whereabouts. And women require truthfulness: If a guy slips up he should say so, without crafting a carefully worded email. Essentially, if you slip up, you should fess up and not be embarrassed to do so.

Nicole M. Else-Quest, Department of Psychology at the University of Maryland, gathered 300 studies to compare women's and men's self-conscious emotions. In terms of pride and embarassment for women and men these are relatively equal. (2)

3. Generosity of spirit. Women appreciate men who are not only good money managers, but are also generous in spirit. Giving men value women; in talking to men it is refreshing to find how many really do enjoy coming up with gifts that they know will be appreciated. These men also understand reciprocity—that giving a woman pleasure will result in her desire to give pleasure to him. 

The late sexologist Carol Botwin says withholding traits carry over into sex and dooms relationships as noted in her book, Love Crisis: Hit-and-run Lovers, Jugglers, Sexual Stingies." 

4. Satisfying sex.  Our definitions of satisfying sex ranges from romantic to wild and crazy. With 75 million readers of romance novels, the fantasy of being courted has not lost its attraction. And yes, it is sheer romance when two people experience the power of love by transcending all obstacles.

 

WHAT MEN WANT

1. Sex. Anytime, planned or spontaneous. One young man once complained to me: "Sometimes my girlfriend is in the kitchen and she looks so sexy in a cute domestic way. So I go over to her and try to be romantic and she says, 'Not now, I'm cooking.' That's almost as bad as 'Not tonight, dear.'" Also keep in mind that as women and men sexual desires change somewhat. Since the advent of Viagra, men's sexual desires remain at peak for longer periods of time, whereas many women may experience a diminished sexual drive at menopause.  

Edward O. Laumann, Ph.D. a professor of sociology at the University of Chicago was lead author of a major survey of sexual practices, The Social Organization of Sexuality: Sexual Practices in the United States.  In earlier interviews he told me that at a certain stage, "men trade up for younger women." This often relates to sexual desire and he noted that this is the reason so many woman will die alone in nursing homes, while men will be in the arms of a woman. Sex makes for happy seniors, Providence Journal (November Gerontological Society of America Report)

 

2. Freedom. Many men desire to feel free and call the shots. They do not want to be boxed in by the questions, "Are we going out this weekend?" or "Why didn't you call?" If they do not answer phone messages, texts, or emails right away, perhaps it is because they feel that they are exempt. Should women quietly sulk; accept the answer, "I wasn't in the mood"; or decide that the partner is not worth the effort? That depends. 

3. Forgiveness. The majority of young and middle-age men whom I have interviewed say that forgiveness is "huge" to them, and that grudges are wedges in their relationships. When these issues arise, they're ready to have the "relationship talk."

Sonja Lyubomirsky - Imperfect Pearls, talks of the forgiveness factor that takes some pondering.  She is associate editor of the Journal of Positive Psychology and a psychology professor at UC Riverside.

4. Appreciation. Men really do want to be respected and appreciated. For many, this means they need a lot of stroking. Their partners should be aware that praise and gratitude work wonders, emotionally and physically, as long as it's truthful. And along with the truth, men have told me, partners should "tell us what you want instead of nagging. Nagging makes us feel unappreciated." 

How Couples Find Long-Term Happiness

Studies of long-term committed couples show that there are almost always ups and down within the phases of a relationship. Starting out with a positive attitude and trying to negotiate the differences are good ways to seek and maintain a relationship balance.

 

From the research of Marcel Zentner, Ph.D., of the University of Geneva, we learned that "Men and women who continue to maintain that their partner is attractive, funny, kind, and ideal for them in just about every way remain content with each other." Matched ideals. And in addition, they maintained positive illusions.Ideal mate personality concepts and compatibility in close relationships: a longitudinal analysis. (3)

Once you understand what your partner wants and can be honest about what you want, then you might better evaluate how to proceed in the world of love and loyalty. And keep in mind that every so often, love needs a boost.

Love on-line and off-line Here is an interesting report from the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences regarding the survival of marriages of couples who meet online verses those who meet in a more traditional manner. Can this mean that those who meet on-line spend more time getting to know their partner?

. . .in a nationally representative sample of 19,131 respondents who married between 2005 and 2012. Results indicate that more than one-third of marriages in America now begin on-line. In addition, marriages that began on-line, when compared with those that began through traditional off-line venues, were slightly less likely to result in a marital break-up (separation or divorce) and were associated with slightly higher marital satisfaction among those respondents who remained married." Marital satisfaction and break-ups differ across on-line and off-line" (4)

References:

1. Wilcox, W.B., Nock, S.V, (2006) "What's Love Got to Do with It? Equality, Equity, Commitment and Women's Marital Quality." Social Forces,  84 (3):1321-45

2. Else-Quest, N. M., Higgins, A., Allison, C., & Morton, L. C.  (2012). Gender differences in self-conscious emotional experience: A meta-analysis.  Psychological Bulletin, 138, 947-981

3 .Zentner, M.A., (2005) APA's Journal of Personality and Social Psychology (Vol89No2)

4. Cacioppo, J., Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, (2013) 110 (25) 10135-10140. 

Copyright 2014 Rita Watson

Rita Watson, MPH, is an Associate Fellow at Yale's Ezra Stiles College and a columnist for The Providence Journal.

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