By Randy Gilchrist, Psy.D. As a licensed clinical psychologist and marriage and family therapist, I’ve noticed a trend in my therapy office that goes like this:
A woman, between 25 and 40, comes in for help. She has done well in college and has a successful career. She generally keeps herself in shape and has a lot to offer the world. She has friends, ties with her family, and interesting hobbies. She seems to have everything going for her except one thing: She would like to have a man in her life—but she keeps running out of luck when it comes to meaningful and exciting relationships.
Either no one is asking her out, or she does the asking and pursuing, but has little success. This has led many women to ask me things like, “Where have all of the men gone?” and “What’s wrong with men today?” or “What’s wrong with me?”
The women I see show signs of confusion, frustration, and even depression. They ask, “How could a woman be successful in every way today except with men? Are men just insecure and intimidated today by a successful woman—especially if she earns more money? Or, have many men just lost interest in women? What is it with men today?” There are a number of possible answers to these questions and I don’t pretend to have all of them. However, I do have a few ideas that may be of help.
In today’s post-feminist world, there isn’t anywhere for a woman to go to learn about men’s wants, needs, and feelings. What she gets from TV and movies doesn’t work in the real world, and what she learned growing up is often out-dated. As a consequence, many women have become focused on defining and demanding that their needs be met. So they sometimes do not know how to switch focus in order to understand the emotional needs of the men in their lives.
I believe that this helps to explain the most common complaint I hear from men. It involves the attitudes some women exude. The story I hear goes something like this: “She has this attitude that `I make my own money, and I look good and act sexy, so that’s basically the end of my job in the relationship. Now, it’s your job to cater to my many wants, feelings, and needs with patience, giving, supportive listening, and romance.’”
Granted, it’s only a small minority of women who have this one-directional entitlement approach. But it only takes a few experiences with it for a young man to adopt relationship expectations that are limited to sex and “whatever.”
Another complaint I hear from men today is they simply want a woman to be happy and in a good mood most of the time. But they say that is tough to find. In addition, there are still a lot of traditional men out there who want to feel important to a woman, believe that they are needed, and that they are their woman’s hero.
I know, modern women often don’t want to role play this traditional stuff. But all it really takes is a smile, a thank you, and the showing of appreciation and admiration of the efforts he puts into the relationship. The secret here is that this makes a guy feel like a hero, that he has actually accomplished something. It’s not that he’s simple-minded, but that’s the way his reward system works.
However, if the man can’t ever seem to do things right or good enough in a woman’s eyes, he’ll feel inadequate, incompetent, and think that he’s doing a bad job in the relationship. If this is the case, he’s not going to feel wanted or needed and is going to be put off.
Yes, I’m a psychotherapist, so I know there are two sides to this story. But I think it’s important to hear what men are saying. Lots of today’s men are not experiencing enough positive feelings in their relationships for them to get serious about it.
So if a woman really wants a man in her life, it helps if she focuses on the few things he needs most. If he’s a good, solid guy who treats you well, fulfilling these few needs should be pretty simple. Give a him your good mood and compliments, and he’ll give you the world. Conversely, expect the world but give little, and few men will be interested in sticking around.
On the positive side, it’s important to remember that happy, healthy relationships with decent men still do occur. When you apply this formula—pick well, nurture well—you’ll be in good shape. Remember, men approach relationships like a job: If you let him know he’s doing well with some perks and praise, he’ll want to keep up the good work.
By the way, do you need a solid reference book on what makes for a good relationship? I suggest anything from the world-renown relationship and marriage expert, John Gottman. A good example of his work is The 7 Principles for Making Marriage Work.
Take care, and happy hunting!
Dr. Randy Gilchrist is a licensed clinical psychologist and marriage and family therapist in Roseville, CA. He is also the creator of The Weight Loss Mindset™ audio hypnosis program.