For the longest time, men seemed to come equipped with only a handful of emotions. Things like anger, aggression, rage – you get the point – oftentimes characterized typical male behavior and responses to any and all stimuli, especially when said stimuli are negative. Nowadays, things are starting to change for the better. The world is realizing that, while we’re deeply flawed, men also have a sensitive side, one chock-full of rich emotions that extend beyond those usually associated with us – like anger. Even companies like Old Spice are rolling out scented bodywashes with lavender and other naturally-derived ingredients that have long been associated with femininity. We’ve come a long way.
Despite this progress, not all men are on board with what I like to call the “emotional revolution,” a widespread attempt to help men recognize that it is okay to express themselves in ways outside of rage and the like. For whatever reason, be it fear, hesitance, or reluctance, some men are unwilling to fully express themselves and their desires. This is especially true in the world of dating and intimate relationships, where men struggle with being fully open…or just open. I know I have. And yet, even though we don’t vocalize our truest, deepest desires and feelings consistently enough, we still have them. Surprise!
At our core, I believe most men know exactly what they want in a partner. They may even have a running list of qualities and characteristics they’re looking for. Most of us are just terrified of vocalizing what we want and 1) being laughed at or ridiculed in some capacity, 2) not having our desires taken seriously, or 3) not getting whatever it is we’re seeking. Instead, a large majority of us operate as if that’s the norm – not being allowed to articulate our wants and needs. Others of us simply don’t know how to communicate those things, while even fewer are simply disinterested in all things emotional.
So, to help those who struggle with vulnerability (or communicating their deepest desires) in the context of their relationship with a man, especially when it comes to what men want on a visceral level, I’ve put together a list of five traits men want in a partner that we never say out loud.
1) Someone who’s tender.
Tenderness is the ability to remain compassionate, gentle, and full of sympathy. It’s ushering in an environment where all present feel capable of being their truest, most authentic selves. Without this, it’s hard to create a space that ushers in genuine vulnerability. Personally, I consider myself a proud Mama’s boy, and that is due in large part to my mother’s tenderness. From her mannerisms to the way she spoke to me during my formative years, I knew I was safe around her at all times. Her tenderness was the lynchpin in establishing a healthy relationship between the two of us, one that I cherish to this very day. This is a quality I now yearn to find in my future spouse, as it’s helped me develop into an emotionally healthy, balanced young man.
2) Someone who listens “globally.”
What exactly is global listening? It’s suspending the urge to respond while someone else is talking. It’s listening to listen rather than listening to respond. All too often, when we’re engaged in conversations with others, especially when those conversations become heated and intense, we have a tendency to jump the gun, assuming we know what that person intends to say. Other times, we allow our emotions to flare up at the mention of something that doesn’t bode well with us, causing us to lash out and/or frequently interrupt that individual, regardless of how the person speaking feels – and whether or not they’re attempting to be vulnerable. Global listening makes it possible to understand where the man you’re talking to is coming from because you take the time to listen to everything they have to say while also suspending what feels like an innate need to respond. You learn more about the person and where they’re truly coming (and not where you think they’re coming from) this way. Ever felt like you don’t really know your significant other? Try global listening to see if that changes. I have a feeling you’ll be pleasantly surprised.
3) Someone who talks nicely to you.
Behind every man’s false bravado is a need to be with someone who talks to us in ways that we can digest. Talking to your partner nicely ensures that what you have to say, no matter what it is, is processed in as healthy a manner as possible. This is especially important during those moments when you may not want to talk nice. If it’s only done when you feel like it, is it really a part of who you are – or is it a part of who you are when things are easy? One is an actual personality trait; the other is closer to a feeling or emotion – it’s fleeting in nature and depends mostly on how you feel in the moment. That’s emotional instability at its finest. If you need an idea of how to talk nice to your partner, pretend you’re a kindergarten teacher and they’re one of your students. Obviously, you don’t want to patronize them by literally treating them as if they’re a toddler, but this should give you an idea of how to converse with them to optimize how receptive they are to your words.
4) Someone who respects you.
Respect is something most people believe they understand, but may not entirely. I define respect as being considerate about the desires, feelings, and traits of another person. As a man, this is one of the most important things to me; I know many men who would agree with this stance. Men want to be with someone who cares about their desires because, well, we have them. We want to have our feelings heard, even if they may seem outlandish or atypical of a male. Respect makes it possible to appreciate the differences between you and your partner without judgment or ridicule. When a man feels respected, he’s in an optimal position to give to his partner because he knows his leadership and insights are valued, leading to a desire to give as much of himself as possible.
5) Someone who fights for you.
At our cores, I believe one of the biggest insecurities people have to hurdle is the belief that they aren’t worthy of love. Where that comes from, I’m not sure. It may be a defense mechanism, the mind’s way of protecting us from a potential worst-case scenario – that no one will love us and we’ll end up navigating life in total solitude. I know I suffered from this. And yet, we all still want someone who fights for us, especially when trials and tribulations start to surface. Having someone who fights for you means they do whatever it takes to remain in a relationship with you, especially during hard times. They won’t walk away when things get tough. Rather, they fasten their seat belt and buckle up for the ride, regardless of how tumultuous it may be or prolonged said trials are. If you only stick around when things are easy, how will your significant other trust that you’ll be there through thick and thin? How do you expect them to trust you at all?
It’s worth noting that while I wrote from the perspective of a male, I believe these traits are universal; they can apply to both men’s and women’s desires in some capacity. Not all men are vocal or avid communicators, capable of opening up and clearly articulating what it is we need in a relationship. A lot of us are still evolving past our “Neanderthal states,” striving to become better versions of ourselves daily. While we may have rugged exteriors or come across as brusque, us men all have a sensitive side. Embodying these qualities outlined here will make it more likely that your significant other is at their best around you 24/7/365, making it possible to peel back more of their layers and get to the epicenter of their personality. We all want to be known and accepted for who we are at our cores; embracing these qualities makes it more likely that’ll you not only know your partner on the deepest level possible, but you’ll end up bringing out the best in them as well.
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