“A man’s highest need is to feel respect, whereas a woman’s highest need is to feel loved.” Marriage expert and researcher Shaunti Feldhahn came to that conclusion after a scientific study into what men really need. But she first came to that realization while on a singles retreat before she got married. “This retreat speaker said the same thing that I said in the book and asked the men on the survey—which is to recognize that, for women, the highest need, in general, is to feel loved and cherished. But the highest need for a man is to feel his wife’s respect and trust and admiration and honor.”
Shaunti says we can lavish lots of love on our husbands and that’s great, but, as she says, “if we don’t also show that we respect them—and maybe criticize them in public or question their decisions all the time—they’re going to feel disrespected, and then they won’t feel loved.” Do you ever think about how to respect your husband? Look at these 5 respect needs of men.
1. Respect his judgment
A man deeply needs the woman in his life to respect his knowledge, opinions, and decisions—what I would call his judgment… many men wished their mate wouldn’t question their knowledge or argue with their decisions all the time. It’s a touchy (and difficult) thing in these liberated days, but what it really comes down to is their need for us to defer to them.
Several men confessed that they felt like their opinions and decisions were actively valued in every area of their lives except at home. Some men felt that their comrades at work trusted their judgment more than their own wives did. Also, while a man’s partners or colleagues will rarely tell him what to do (they ask him or collaborate on the decision instead), more than one wife has made the mistake of ordering her husband around like one of the kids.
2. Respect his abilities
Another strong theme that emerged was that men want—even need—to figure things out for themselves. And if they can, they feel like they have conquered something and are affirmed as men. For some reason, spending hours figuring out how to put together the new DVD player is fun. Problem is, we want to help them—and guess how they interpret that? You got it: distrust. (It’s a wonder any relationships work and that the human race didn’t die out millennia ago!) And, of course, our attention is not all benign. Sometimes we truly don’t have confidence that our man can figure something out on his own.
The little things equal one big clue
We don’t realize that the act of forcing ourselves to trust our men in little things means so much to them, but it does. It’s not a big deal to us, so we don’t get that it’s a big deal to them. We don’t get that our responses to these little choices to trust or not trust—or, at least, act like we do!—are interpreted as signs of our overall trust and respect for them as men.
A man might think of it like this: If she doesn’t trust me in something as small as finding my way along a road, why would she trust me in something important, like being a good breadwinner or a good father? If she doesn’t respect me in this small thing, she probably doesn’t really respect me at all.
The next time your husband stubbornly drives in circles, ask yourself what is more important—being on time to the party or his feeling trusted. No contest.
Women hold an incredible power in the way we communicate with our men (both husbands and sons) to build them up or to tear them down, to encourage or to exasperate. Some things just push a man’s buttons. This goes beyond what we say—such as questioning a man’s judgment or his abilities—and into how we say it (and where we say it, which is the subject of the next section).
In my interviews, a large number of men said something like this: When my wife says something disrespectful, I often think, I can’t believe she doesn’t know how that makes me feel! I had to reassure these men over and over that their wives probably didn’t mean to disrespect them and were likely just clueless.
4. Respect in public
Now we come to one of the most important points of the book. There appears to be an epidemic of public disrespect for men, and the biggest culprit is not the television, movies, or other media, but the women who are supposed to love their men most.
The most fragile thing on the planet
Dozens of men told me how painful it is when their wives criticize them in public, put them down, or even question their judgment in front of others. One man on the survey said that the one thing he wished he could tell his wife was that “at a minimum, she should be supportive of me in public.” That wish was repeated dozens of times on the survey—it was one of the strongest themes that emerged.
Consider this statement, which I have heard (in essence) from many men: “My wife says things about me in public that she considers teasing. I consider them torture.”
Be respectful even when he’s absent
Having seen how important public respect is to men (it is almost impossible to overstate), I have become incredibly sensitive to how often we might talk negatively about them behind their backs. The effects are much the same even when a man isn’t present: The women’s disrespect of her husband becomes even more deeply embedded as she harps on it, and those in listening range may begin to feel the same!
5. Respect in our assumptions
Unfortunately, in one area men have every right to read something into what we say—and that is when we have jumped to negative conclusions about them. When we really examine our communication, we’ll be astounded at how often it assumes something bad about the man we love. See if this assumption rings a bell.
We assume, “He needs to be reminded”
To us, repeatedly asking “Have you done it yet?” is probably not a big deal. But inherent in the question is our assumption that the guy needs the reminder—that he is either incapable of remembering on his own or that he remembers just fine but needs our prodding to do the job. What they are accurately hearing is, “I don’t trust you.”
Just realize that his reason for not doing it may be different from yours. Remember, half the men in the survey indicated that sometimes they just have different priorities. Or, they could just be unable to handle one more thing. One man with a stressful job noted that he sometimes feels like a computer that will crash if he tries to load one more thing onto it. For him, procrastinating on something his wife wants him to do at home is his warning sign that he will emotionally crash if he tries it.
Shaunti has more great insight into the respect needs of men. This article on how to read your husband’s “disrespect barometer” is great.
So, is it difficult or easy for you to show respect to your husband?