We know you’re mystified at times to truly understand what women want.
You want to please her, keep her happy, console her (and that often goes wrong, eh?) and, yes, keep her satisfied. Whether you are a man or a woman in a relationship with a woman, or a woman yourself, we want you to hit the mark. We want you to know what women want, or rather, what your woman wants.
We’re combining researched-based, scientific findings from the two leading couples-therapy experts. Thus, you’re getting the factual results of decades of study by the top people in their field.
We’re taking the knowledge to help you deeply understand what women want (and, also, what men want, because the title was totally a trick) from Sue Johnson, Ph.D., the leading creator of Emotionally Focused Couple Therapy, and psychologists John and Julie Gottman, creators of the Gottman method and the famous Love Lab.
So, let’s introduce you to Everywoman — she’ll be your guide to help you understand Your Woman. And, Your Woman may be different — so we’ll help you in finding out the needs, wants and desires of Your Woman at the end of this piece.
The Science Behind What Women Want
If I were to speak as “Everywoman” to help you understand me and the path to staying connected, this is what I would say.
Above all, you matter a great deal to me. When I fell in love, we formed a bond that is so powerful for me. You’re my go-to for everything important to me — for sharing my feelings, to comfort me when I’m upset and to help me weather the tough stuff that life delivers from time to time. You help me be my best self.
Scientifically speaking, my brain goes haywire when I believe I can’t reach you emotionally, or when you don’t turn to me or respond when I need you. Over time, humans have evolved to find comfort in a significant other (yep, that’s you!).
Dr. Johnson writes, “The most functional way to regulate difficult emotions in love relationships is to share them. Our hearts and brains are set up to use our partners to help us find our balance in the midst of distress and fear. We are designed to deal with emotions in concert with another — not by ourselves.”
I deeply want us to stay connected — even at the times when I’m upset with you. And, when we’re not getting along, it’s usually because I don’t feel that all-important closeness.
I know, too, that when I’m upset, you may feel overwhelmed and not know how to best respond. Your brain becomes flooded with emotion — and your response may be along those lines of Fight, Flight or Freeze. I know our bond is important to you, too. (A note: As you read this, you may think,, “Hey, I want this, too!” The needs of men and women in their love relationships sometimes aren’t that different. More on this later.)
Let’s get started on what women want — the three areas where we need you most.
Can I Count on You?
I need to trust that you are emotionally connected to me. By trusting, I need to know you’ll do what you say you’ll do, will follow through on commitments and let me know, if, for any reason, you can’t.
At the heart of trusting you is being able to maintain our emotional connection. Here’s what Dr. Gottman has found in his years of studying couples:
- Give undivided attention when I need you. No phones, iPads, etc. I need eye contact — my brain actually connects to you this way, so turn toward me when we talk and put down your phone.
- Understand me. Even if my viewpoint or feelings don’t make sense to you, please ask me questions. Be curious — I love it when you are! I feel important and connected to you when you care about my thoughts and feelings and seek to understand me on a deeper level.
- Listen without defending or interrupting. OK, I know I do this too. So, let’s work together to listen to each other before responding. You may not agree with me, but Dr. Gottman points out that my feelings are my reality, and I deeply need you to share my world. This doesn’t mean agreeing, but being able to see my world so I don’t feel alone in it. When I’m upset, you’re the one person in this world who calms me. Really. When I don’t feel alone with my problems, I can handle them so much more easily. The empathy you show me when you listen, focus on me and are curious — no one can give me that like you can. Think of all the times you have been there for me — it’s magical how I can calm down and find peace.
- This one is important (and a common response by a lot of guys): Don’t try to “fix” the problem I’m sharing with you or start to give me advice. Just listen. Then ask, “How can I help?” I’ll tell you if I want ideas or just to download a painful or difficult situation. “Being heard” by you calms me! And, by the way, it’s way easier for you because you don’t have to work hard to try to solve my problems. Your listening and attention are often all that I want and need.
Be Accessible to Me.
Because you mean so much to me, it’s incredibly reassuring that I know you’ll be there when I need you. It’s not just what women want, it’s what keeps me close to you.
“Being there for me” means that I’ll have the emotional availability listed above. Dr. Sue Johnson describes what happens to people when they are totally disconnected and in conflict with their partners at times of need as a “primal panic”.
I know you can’t instantly always be available to me. However, if you let me know you’ll connect with me later, I can ease that panic. I’ll be more able to let stuff go, give you the benefit of the doubt, and not jump to the worst conclusion about our relationship.
I need to know we can connect emotionally. This means that I can get your attention easily when needed.
This has become more difficult for couples lately. We’re so easily distracted by and drawn into our electronic devices — checking our phones and email repeatedly, staying too long on video games and spending more time watching videos and shows. And, we’re also trying to meet our kids’ needs, too.
Sometimes we argue about this. I get upset if I don’t feel I come first with you — particularly when I need you. I don’t want to feel shut out or lonely. I need to know I matter most.
Please understand: It’s not that I want all your attention all the time. But when I need time with you, I want to become your main focus.
Be Responsive to Me
I want to be assured you value me and will stay close. We work to keep alive the emotional connection we had when we first met and fell in love.
What this means is:
- I feel confident that when we’re apart, we’re still feeling close. You think about me, reach out to me when you can
- I fully know you care about my feelings — what brings me happiness, what’s hurtful and any fears I may have
- I can take “emotional risks” with you — I can share deep feelings and you’ll try your best to understand
What Does Your Woman Truly Want?
This is going to sound really simplistic but it’s the real key to her heart and mind.
Ask her! We promise she’ll try to tell you. You can show her this article (she’ll be delighted you’re trying to learn) and ask her to tell you her thoughts. You’ll be beginning a very important discussion and one that can continue as your explore not only what she wants but also what you most want and need from her.
But Men Want All this, Too!
Dr. Johnson says the three main items above are essential for healthy, loving relationships — for men as well as women, gay or straight. Men also want the same close, secure bond with their partner – though some women may be more likely to be expressive about their emotional needs. As you talk with your partner about what she wants, you open the dialogue to share how you also want to feel close, and what’s most important for nurturing your desire to be important, loved, and valued.
To learn more about what women want, (and what humans want), you can read:
By Dr. Sue Johnson: Love Sense: The revolutionary new science of romantic relationships. New York: Little, Brown 2013.
By Drs. John & Julie Gottman: The Man’s Guide to Women: Scientifically proven secrets from the “Love Lab” about what women really want. New York: Rodale, 2016.
To learn more about how we help couples understand using Emotionally Focused Therapy, click here, and you might also want to check out our post about Communication in Relationships