While it may be totally foreign to most of us, the male need for respect and affirmation—especially from his woman—is so hardwired and so critical that most men would rather feel unloved than disrespected or inadequate. If you’re wondering what men really want, the answer is pretty clear. iSpecialist Shaunti Feldhahn says what a man needs the most from his wife is respect, but not just general, run of the mill, respect. Husbands crave respect in these 5 areas.
1. Respect For His judgment
The men were really touchy about this. What men really want is for the women in their life to respect their knowledge, opinions, and decisions—what I would call his judgment. No one wanted a silent wallflower (nor would I advocate that!), but 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 these days, but what it really comes down to is their need for us to defer to them sometimes. Several men confessed that they felt like their opinions and decisions were actively valued in every area of their lives except at home.
2. Respect For 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 gadget is fun. Problem is, we want to help them—and guess how they interpret that. You got it: distrust.
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. 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 of being trusted. No contest.
3. Respect in Communication
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.
The disconnect: 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. Let me give you two common examples of how a man might hear something negative when the woman never intended it.
Hearing disrespect: Not long ago, I was asking Jeff and one of his married colleagues about the dynamic of men wanting to do things for themselves. This man said, “If something breaks in the house, I want to try to take a crack at it before I call an expert. If my wife says, ‘Well, you’re really not a fix-it-type person,’ I feel so insulted. She’s not rude about it or anything, but it’s like she doesn’t respect me enough to believe that I can figure it out if I put my mind to it, even if it takes me a while.”
Hearing disappointment: I asked men what would go through their minds if their wife or significant other reminded them that the kitchen wall was damaged and it still had to be fixed. More than one-third of these men took that reminder as nagging or as an accusation of laziness or mistrust.
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 the women who are supposed to love their men most. 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.” Consider this statement, which I have heard from many men: “My wife says things about me in public that she considers teasing. I consider them torture.”
Showing public respect goes a long way: Just as your man will be hurt and angry if you disrespect him in public, he will think you are the most wonderful woman in the world if you publicly build him up. Trust me—from the men I’ve talked to, that will be the equivalent of his coming home to you with a dozen roses and a surprise date night without the kids. He will feel adored.
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 we assume something bad about the man we love. See if any of these assumptions ring 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.
We assume, “He’s choosing not to help”: One experienced female marriage counselor gave me this example: “If my husband doesn’t help with the kids or the cleaning, I shouldn’t assume that he sees it and is choosing not to help. I should start with the assumption that he doesn’t see it.”
We assume, “It’s because of him.”: Finally, sometimes something is not his fault—it’s ours. Sometimes we assign unloving motives to our men that could actually be traced back to something we have inadvertently said or done.
Used with permission from the book For Women Only by Shaunti Feldhahn
Which of these forms of respect is most difficult for you to show your husband?