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men misunderstand, neglect, or ignore what works and doesn’t work
for the women they’re in partnership with (or are
considering being in partnership with). What follows describes some
areas of concern regarding what women need from men in relational
contexts, and what can be done about each. None of this is meant to
imply that women don’t also have work to do in these and other areas to
deepen their relationships with men.
• Listen to her without trying to figure out solutions for what’s going on, and listen with your whole being.
Your job isn’t to fix it, but to genuinely take in and resonate with
what she’s feeling. Stay alive and fully present in your listening,
doing so not as a duty but as an act of intimate interest and care. And
don’t be passive in this! If your interest wanes or it’s not good
timing, don’t pretend to be listening. Either refocus or let her know in
a non-shaming way that you’d like to continue the conversation later on
when you can be more present.
• Get more emotionally literate and attuned.
Become a student of emotion and emotional expression, learning the lessons by heart rather than trying to get good grades.
• Don’t give in to any neediness you feel, including sexually.
Instead, separate your neediness from its desperation and
manipulativeness, until you’re in touch with the raw need (and emotional
pain) that you’re letting morph into neediness. Remember that neediness
and sensitivity are not synonymous.
• Give her more real and unsolicited appreciation, including for “small” things.
Don’t assume that she’s necessarily fine with not getting this, just
because she’s not saying anything about it. And don’t make her ask for
• Cut through your tentativeness.
If you’re touching her, don’t do it gingerly, as if asking a question
or trying to see if she approves. No walking on eggshells — and no going
to the other extreme (being pushy or aggressive). When you feel
tentative, clearly say so, and tell her what’s going on for you
• Do what it takes to be trustworthy, being a safe place for her, protective but not possessive.
This is not about being on your best behavior, but about working on
yourself deeply enough to be incapable of betrayal or any sort of abuse.
• Neither let the little boy in you run the show nor push him away.
Get to know him very well, and make sure she knows him well, too. Keep
him close to you, but not so close that his take on things becomes
yours. If your relationship with him remains unhealed, you’ll be
crippled in your capacity for healthy adult relationship.
• Stop making excuses for your crappy behavior.
And don’t run from whatever shame it might induce in you; stay with
your remorse and make amends as soon as possible. Explore the roots of
such behavior — instead of just promising not to do it again — and
include her in your exploration.
• Give her some unexpected affection and caring, and not just now and then.
Don’t make her earn your affection and caring.
• Cherish her, daily. This means, in part, not taking her for granted.
Keep your gratitude for her and for being with her alive and well.
• Meet her fully.
Choose to see her as she is, rather than her surface presentation or
Don’t pull back from her when she expresses herself fully
(assuming, of course, that she does so nonabusively).
• Stop treating her like something to fix when she’s upset.
Put away your repair tools, doing whatever you can to be a
compassionate and grounding presence for her at such times, focusing not
on her content but her energy, keeping a solid but flexible boundary
around her and you as her feelings pour forth. Sometimes all she wants
is for you to hold her.
• Instead of trying to create closeness through getting sexual,
establish (or re-establish) closeness first, and then — if it’s mutually natural — move into the s*xual. Let s*x be a deeply embodied expression of already-present loving connection. Let your connection with her be the aphrodisiac.
• Stop saying “Accept me as I am” when you actually mean “Accept my sloppy or unkind behavior.”
Accepting you is not the same as excusing you or letting you off the hook when you’ve been disrespectful, rude, neglectful, or abusive.
• Initiate more when it comes to addressing relationship difficulties.
Don’t wait for her to bring this up; share the responsibility for doing
so. If you’re feeling cut off from her, don’t blame her for this, but
instead share your feelings regarding being thus disconnected, and do so
• Don’t leave your unresolved wounds and conditioning unattended.
Work on yourself, and keep working on yourself. Dig deep, feel more,
come more alive, doing whatever healing work is needed, without making
her push you into doing so.
• Stop trying to turn her on by quickly going for or overfocusing on her erogenous zones.
Slow down. Attune to the whole woman, not splitting her into s*xy and
not-s*xy parts, or buttons to be pushed. Let her presence have your full
attention, and you may find that her entire being can be an erogenous
• Don’t neglect personal hygiene.
Stale sweat is rarely a turn-on. Same with bad breath, food stuck
between your teeth, and unwashed body parts. Some women may not bring
this up, not wanting to hurt you, but not doing so just keeps their
aversion in place, with you staying unaware of why she seems a bit
reluctant to physically engage with you.
• Don’t compare her to your previous partners/lovers.
Comparisons here can set up unwanted and messy triangulations, impaling both her and you.
• Stop overemphasizing the visual in sexual functioning.
Getting too caught up in how she looks keeps you insufficiently focused
on the rest of her. By all means appreciate her appearance, but also
stay attuned to her energetically — which is much more about feeling
• If you and she have children, don’t assume that helping out is enough.
Avoid the attitude that they primarily are her responsibility and that
you are “babysitting” them when you’re with them. Truly co-parent. Be
aware of what and how much she is doing to take care of them, and step
in more, without her having to ask. Don’t undervalue how much energy and
attention she is putting into their upbringing. When the kids are
little, does she have to ask you to look after them so she can simply
take a shower? You may not think about asking to take a nap or shower
while she handles the kids; don’t make her ask.
• Look deeply enough at her to see more than her surface presentation.
See her vulnerability, her wounds, her uncertainty, her subtle signals.
Notice when her facial expression and energy don’t match her words.
Sense what she may not be saying. Sense her feeling you seeing her.
you’re doing something for her in the hopes of having sex with her,
while acting as if this isn’t the case, admit this not just to yourself
but also to her, explore what’s motivating you to do this, and STOP.
An example: You’re giving her a massage to increase the odds of having
s*x with her; she can feel this no matter how “clean” your massage
strokes are, and will be much less at ease than if you were giving her
massage for no other reason than your love and care for her. Another
example: A woman comes home to a beautiful dinner just made by her
husband, followed by a special bath drawn by him, with everything
carefully and esthetically placed, and she feels a growing unhappiness,
knowing that she’ll be expected to be s*xual with him afterwards. Don’t pressure her with your mounting expectations.
• Be vulnerable without losing your spine.
• Treat these points not as” shoulds” but as invitations. Persist in this, not to be a “good” partner, but a full partner.