Men have their work cut out for them now more than ever.
Women are literally crying for men to get their sh*t together.
With added pressure from the powerful #MeToo movement, and the ever-present label of “toxic masculinity,” men today are facing some hard questions. And, it’s long overdue that we attempt to get at the root cause of the problem within our own gender.
Without going into a long history of the root of the masculinity problem, let’s examine what women want. Then we can decide if we are up to the task that real love demands.
If men want to be “worthy” of a good woman, it’s not rocket science. It’s actually quite simple.
In fact, I polled my social media channels and asked women one question:
Hetero-women: What are you wanting from us men in the context of an intimate, monogamous partnership?
Over 200 women responded.
I got emotional reading them.
So, guys, listen up and take notes.
In your current or past partnership(s), have you brought these to the table? Where did you fall down? What are you currently avoiding? How many of these are you delivering on?
While I read through hundreds of responses, themes emerged and things were repeated over and over and over again.
The list below is a summary of what women said they want from us men:
1. I want your willingness.
This was by far the loudest response women had for us men.
The responses varied from person to person. The summary was the word “willingness.” Many women just wrote the word willingness and many followed that up with phrases like:
Willingness to grow and face yourself.
Willingness to fight with me.
Willingness to listen deeply to me.
Willingness to open your heart and be emotionally available.
Willingness to share your own vulnerability.
Willingness to repair after we are disconnected.
Willingness to own your part.
Willingness to ask for help and hire a therapist or coach.
“Willingness (and initiative!) to be vulnerable with someone other than just me! My partner is wonderful! But I don’t want to be the entirety of his emotional support system!” ~ Theresa
Women also used phrases like:
Show up. And keep showing up (this one was used a lot).
Be into growing and developing yourself.
Be into personal growth.
Work on our challenges when they come up.
What is the opposite of willingness? Resistance and defensiveness. What does this suggest about us men? That we get scared. Scared? Yes, most men get afraid during intimacy and then posture over it, which pisses off women even more and causes them to not trust us.
“Willingness to do conflict well, enthusiasm about life together, fun laughter, positive attitude toward sexuality, protection, love.” ~ Kaylen
Do you want to continue to show up as a man scared of intimacy, afraid of meeting her needs? Scared to confront your own past that is showing up in this relationship? Scared to do the inner work required to have a great partnership? Do you want to remain scared of feeling trapped in an intimate partnership, or do you want to face this fear?
She wants us to face our fears, be willing to meet her halfway, and do the work.
Do the work? Yes, relationships are work. Work on your relationship, work on your issues. Be willing to put in genuine effort, over and over.
Stop running away from the work, brothers. It only makes things worse for you and your woman when you do.
2. I want you to be emotionally available, open, and vulnerable.
This one is big. Women get tired of doing the emotional labor for men. Women are holding so much in this modern era. Professional careers, mothering, and a tremendous willingness to feel. Most women grew up being emotional sponges in their environment and felt for the whole family. While it’s their responsibility to change that, we men can help when we also do some feeling. Becoming emotionally intelligent is huge in a partnership.
From the responses gathered here, you will see that at the end of the day, women don’t want you to buy sh*t for them (although that is sometimes true)—they want your damn heart. Your heart is your vulnerability, your humanity.
“An emotionally present and supportive man.” ~ Batya
When you keep repeating “I’m fine,” you keep eroding the trust in your relationship. We all know you’re not fine. You’re a huge f*cking mess sometimes, a ball of stress and shame, and it comes out sideways in your irritability.
And, no, it’s not your fault that you are emotionally constipated like I was. As a boy, you were conditioned out of those difficult feelings. I get it. Been there. But you’re no longer a boy. You’re a grown man, and it’s time to learn how to feel. The benefits are outrageous in an intimate relationship. And I’d argue they are required if you want to have a deep relationship, hot sex, and a long-term lover who will give back tenfold if you show up with your heart.
And, yes, there is a time and a place to not feel, to shut those feelings down. No one is saying you can’t do that. But if you stay shut down and closed in your partnership, it’s death. Your relationship will literally die, and you’ll be responsible for that. Ouch.
Bottom line? Feel, bro. Feel.
3. I want your presence.
Duh, right? But not so fast.
What exactly is presence? When a woman says, “I just want you to be present,” a guy can easily respond with, “I’m right here, what more do you want?”
So, fellas, she’s not talking about your body and you just sitting there next to her. She’s talking about putting your full awareness and attention on her. You know what I’m talking about?
There’s a huge difference between going to dinner together and you sitting across from her where you are thinking about work (and hoping to take a leak so you can check your phone) versus you really being there, completely focused on her, what she’s saying, how she’s saying it. When you are present, she feels you, right there with her, and to her that feels safe and amazing.
“Physical, emotional, sexual presence…emotional awareness…awareness of their own shadows/childhood wounds and ability to see when they are coming into play…articulate and transparent communication skills.” ~ Keri
Presence is a continuum and can be quite difficult to cultivate. If a man grew up as a boy dissociating away on video games or books in a family where human connection and eye contact were not a thing, presence can be a bit of a mystery as an adult because men have programmed themselves to be “in their head,” out of their heart, living the world from a very logical, left-brain place.
“Emotional Availability. Genuine attention (not looking at me over your phone). A vision for our future together.” ~ Krystal
Plus, your sex life will improve the more present you can become. The more your sexual challenges will go away, the more present you can be.
And if you are a dad? Great fatherhood is built on a foundation of great presence from father to child. Put away the phone with your kids and watch their world change as their eyes light up and you play games with them in the here and now because that is the world they live in. And present, involved dads are sexy to some women.
4. I want your honesty.
I was surprised by this response. While it makes sense, it might also imply that many women have been burned by us men to the point that they are asked to value “honesty” as something that sadly is not a given in modern romance. I find this sad, but it also makes sense. Of course, both partners want full honesty and trust.
“Honesty, to feel secure, to feel heard and have him communicate back, to show emotion, to balance work and life outside of work, be supportive!” ~ Lisa
While many good men think they are very honest, there’s one place where men struggle to be honest, and that is with themselves. For example, when men say “I’m fine,” and they feel stressed or angry, this incongruity erodes trust over time—because your words, felt experience, and actions do not line up.
5. I want to feel safe with you.
Emotional and physical safety is a must if an intimate partnership is to be a place of fulfillment and nourishment. Without safety, both parties remain on guard and are less likely to open their hearts. The ongoing interpersonal stress literally creates more stress in the pair bond and can deteriorate health and wellness over time.
“Emotional safety, reliability, and super hot sex.” ~ Shelly
Safety should be a bedrock of any good partnership. A partnership is very much like a home; it’s a safe harbor and it’s a launching pad. A partnership is that place you go to when life kicks your ass, and it’s that place you leap from when you feel supported, like your partner has your back.
6. I want you to be self-aware.
Building off number one above, women were very outspoken that they want us men to be aware of our own issues, emotions, and challenges. They want us to be asking hard questions about our own life, fulfillment, and path. They want us to have our own dreams and goals that inspire us. They want to know that when things get tough or challenging, we will look inside ourselves, own our part, and take responsibility for the ways in which we are blaming, afraid, or feel shut down or ashamed.
“A partner/teammate with honest intentions who is interested in becoming the best version of themselves as possible through personal growth and lifelong learning. Self-awareness and curiosity. Someone who values responsibility and emotional intelligence; someone who owns their sh*t and understands that they are the cultivator of their own feelings.” ~ Kristen
As the great Indian philosopher Krishnamurti said, self-awareness is the cornerstone of freedom.
For us men to really get this, we have to double down on number one: Be willing. Especially when you get angry, hurt, shut down, or are avoiding.
What if all you had to do was to be willing? From the countless men I know, this moves the needle most.
Be willing. Then work on learning how to do the rest.