Okay, this is awkward, but I’m writing this post mostly for the ladies. I thought I’d give you a little glimpse into the minds of the guys you know. Well, at least into my mind and the minds of my friends! And I know what you’re thinking: Oh, great. Another article telling us what men want and how we’re not giving it to them. Haven’t I read this article before? Like, a thousand times? It seems like articles about “what men want in a relationship” always end with me being disappointed or confused. I’ve been told that men just need their space, but sometimes they want to talk. I’ve read that men aren’t always thinking about sex, but they’d also prefer more of it. I even read that men can actually enjoy Nicholas Sparks movies, but if they cry too much there might be an underlying issue.
Well, I’ve got good news for you. This is definitely not that article. The truth is much more vulnerable than that. It’s actually been a really tough one for me to write. What men both desperately need and truly want in order to have a great relationship with women, friends, kids, colleagues, family—boils down to one thing. And it turns out, it’s pretty simple.
First off, let’s acknowledge that men are human. And no, this isn’t the beginning of an excuse about why men have a penchant for leaving their underwear lying around (“It’s called nesting!”). No, men are human, and, like all humans, were created for a reason, for a purpose. And our Creator God knows what makes us tick. What did He have in mind when He pondered our existence and the way we’d interact with others?
God made us to be needed. In the person of Jesus, God modeled a relationship that required trust and cooperation. Jesus was God in the flesh and yet He still spent intentional time in prayerful devotion to God, returning to His source. And we are made in God’s image. So, it’s only natural that we need to be needed. It’s important to men that our work is important, that it matters. We want to feel that we’ve contributed at the end of the day, that we’ve provided something good and desirable for those we care about. And it’s bigger than mowing the lawn or doing the dishes. We want to know that we’re needed to help those we care about feel safe and loved. Even in the midst of a busy season at work, when I feel pulled in a million directions, hearing the words “I need you at home” can cut through the noise and remind me what’s most important. We ultimately want to be needed for who we are, not for what we do.
Our Heavenly Father also made us to be known. God knows everything about us and delights in all of those things that make us so uniquely us. Is it any great mystery then that when someone asks us questions about ourselves we perk up? We love feeling that our true self is known—and not just what team we have tattooed somewhere we’re embarrassed to say, or the fact that we still like to play that one board game with our friends from college. No, we also have a deep desire to share our hurts, and burdens, and pains, and secrets. Men may not know how to express it, or ask for it, but it’s what we want, what we need. We might need the gentle reminder that God uses people to be His hands and feet. The comfort and reassurance we’ve been praying for might just come in the form of a hug from our neighbor, a kind word from our friend, a quiet but understanding moment with our spouse.
So, what do being needed and known boil down to? What do men really want and need in a relationship—any relationship? Ultimately, it’s real connection we both want and need. God desired connection to be such a crucial, necessary part of life that He was willing to let His own Son die on a cross so that we could have an unimpeded, eternal relationship with him. That’s how important connection is. It starts with what God modeled for us through His Son, and it surges through us in the form of the Holy Spirit, begging to be let loose on those around us.
Why can it be so hard for the guys you know and love to find real, meaningful, authentic, honest, raw friendships—and to be more authentic and real in the relationships they treasure? This brings me back to the whole “us being human and all” point I made earlier. Connection is scary. It takes vulnerability. It means we need to learn to reject the lies that tell us to always keep our cool. To never let anyone see us sweat—let alone cry. To always win. To do more, be more, achieve more. These lies are ridiculous and plague both women and men, for sure. I’m just saying that for a long time, these ideas have been overly enforced amongst males. We pick up from culture (and sometimes are even directly taught!) that being “manly” means keeping most of your relationships at arm’s length, not sharing much, and certainly not showing emotional “weakness.” Garbage! Emotional connection through transparency and sharing our lives with others is exactly what we need.
And yes, being needed and truly known may sound far too simple, not complex enough to adequately capture what men want in a relationship. But it’s true and it’s important. It’s a starting point. What’s next is the fun of getting to know someone, for real.
Want to give a gift to the guys you know? Let them know how much you love the real them. Not the front. But the person they are—emotions and all! Help them to branch out and just do the scary work of making true friends. I’m not saying you should go shame them for having been stoic or something! But I am saying they might need a little nudge, permission even, to open up and start really living the way God created them to live.
Isn’t there just something beautiful about a life that can’t be fully lived alone?