What Men Want in a Relationship: Truth or Stereotype?

“Women and men basically want the same things. Trust. Respect. Support. Love. Room to grow and a major physical attraction.” – Vantile Whitfield

By: Milena J. Wisniewska

Seriously, if we could just collectively agree to stop dividing humanity’s needs into “what men want” and “what women want,” that would be great.

The real magic happens when we realize there is no magic. 

There is no secret ingredient, no playbook that can help anyone trick their way into a relationship. 

Understanding that things men really want in a relationship are the same universal, core needs that all people have is the only way to form a successful, healthy, and happy couple. 

Once we get that, once we stop searching for differences and start focusing on our common humanity, we will build stronger, more satisfying partnerships. 

Key Takeaways

  • Both men and women seek the same core values in relationships, like respect, emotional support, and physical intimacy.
  • Trust, communication, and independence are essential for a successful relationship.
  • Confidence, compassion, and shared interests are important qualities in healthy relationships.

What Do Men Want in a Relationship?

We all have our favorite dishes — some prefer a spicy taco, others are into Buddha bowls. But we all need food to survive. 

Likewise, in relationships, while we all have unique, surface-level preferences, underneath it all, we need to feel seen, heard, and understood.

Emotional support and understanding

As Helen Keller wisely said, “The most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched. They must be felt with the heart.” 

Emotional support and genuine understanding are what truly matter in relationships. 

Research published in Frontiers in Psychology has found that men often face negative consequences for showing emotions, such as being perceived as weak or less masculine. 

This societal pressure leads many men to alter their behavior to appear more masculine. Approximately 29% of men report purposefully not showing emotion or holding back from crying to maintain their perceived masculinity​.[1]

Men want a safe haven where they can let down their guard without fearing judgment. 

When they find that emotional comfort, it’s like unlocking a secret level in Super Mario: You get to load up on the love coins and fill up your love tank. Communication flows freely, and you both can share your deepest thoughts and feelings.

So, take time to find that secret passage! Listen and validate his experiences. If he’s had a rough day at work, don’t rush to fix it. Just say, “That sounds rough; I’m here for you.” Or let him be silent instead of demanding to know what the matter is. 

Respect his unique way of decompressing. 

And when he’s unsure about a big decision, don’t push for a quick answer. Show him that you respect his decision-making process and that you’re there for him if he needs to talk it out. 

This not only boosts your emotional connection but also builds trust and respect.

By being his safe space, you make him feel valued and appreciated. This kind of support turns good relationships into great ones, bringing in more joy, security, and lasting happiness for both of you. 

So go ahead, be his rock, and watch your relationship shine!

Respect and admiration

Forget the clichés — what truly matters in a relationship is respect and admiration. 

Respect is the baseline of any relationship in life. Even Charlie Sheen, a famous womanizer, confirms that (if you want to take his word for it)

“Guys want to be respected and acknowledged. They want to feel what they contributed matters.”

I guess he forgot that respect needs to go both ways, but I digress.

Mutual respect and admiration are critical predictors of success in relationships. 

Men who feel respected are more likely to engage positively and be more committed. A University of California study published in PNAS found that men who felt respected by their partners reported higher relationship satisfaction and longevity.[2] 

Take a note from Parks and Recreation’s Leslie Knope, who constantly praises Ben’s quirks and achievements. #RelationshipGoals! 

Show that you admire him by complimenting his strategic thinking during Settlers of Catan when his sneaky trades led to your epic win against your friends. Notice and appreciate his small efforts and contributions, support his hobbies with enthusiasm, and ask for his opinion to make him feel valued. 

These gestures cultivate a respectful relationship filled with mutual admiration and awe, serving as premium insurance for a lasting and fulfilling connection.

Space and independence

Every Batman needs to retreat to his Batcave now and then, and even Wonder Woman needs to hide in her Paradise Island from time to time, whether she likes to admit it or not.

While emotional closeness is important, giving each other space and acknowledging our independence is what keeps relationships thriving. 

In his book The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work, Dr. John Gottman points out that “Marriage is something of a dance . . . . There are times when you feel drawn to your loved one and times when you feel the need to pull back and replenish your sense of autonomy.”[3]

Couples who respect each other’s need for personal space experience higher relationship satisfaction and long-term stability. 

Instead of sulking whenever he wants to go on a solo adventure, encourage him to cultivate his passions or spend time with his friends. 

Then you can enjoy Bridgerton in peace without his endless commentary.

Whether it’s playing guitar, hitting the gym, or geeking out over the latest release of Grand Theft Auto, show him that you trust him and respect his “me time.”

This respect for his independence shows trust and promotes a healthy dynamic within the relationship.

After all, absence does make the heart grow fonder.

Affection and intimacy

Who doesn’t like pillow talks and cozy cuddles? 

Men like affection and intimacy as much as women do. And it’s not only about sex.

Dr. Sue Johnson, a leading expert in the field of emotional intimacy, explains in her book Hold Me Tight that physical affection is crucial for communicating love and security in a relationship. 

She goes on to say, “In loving connection, the cuddle hormone oxytocin floods lovers’ bodies, bringing a calm joy and the sense that everything is right with the world. Our bodies are set up for this kind of connection.”[4]

Initiating and reciprocating affection isn’t just for the movies. When you make the first move, it shows you’re all in, which deepens that emotional bond. 

A study from the Kinsey Institute found that couples who indulge in regular touchy-feely moments report higher satisfaction levels. So, it’s not just a myth — science backs it up![5]

Simple gestures like grabbing his hand, sneaking in a hug while he’s making coffee, or dropping a cheeky text while he’s at work are all effective ways to turn the love dial up.

Physically and emotionally, these gestures are pure gold. They keep the relationship’s spark alive, ensuring you both feel desired and loved.

Encouragement and motivation

We seek encouragement and motivation in our partners because, whether we realize it or not, these qualities contribute significantly to the overall satisfaction and longevity of our relationships.

A study conducted by Ronald Rogge, a professor of psychology at the University of Rochester, published in the Journal of Contextual Behavioral Science, found that couples who demonstrate flexibility and support for each other’s personal growth tend to have more fulfilling and lasting relationships​.[6]

When he’s knee-deep in his carpentry project, a well-timed “You’re killing it, babe!” can make all the difference between getting that new bookshelf and swearing off DIY projects forever.

Celebrate his victories, no matter how small.

Even if it’s just fixing that stubborn, leaky faucet. 

He will appreciate having someone who believes in his potential and cheers on his goals, no matter how outlandish. Being his #1 cheerleader can have a profound impact on his confidence, aspirations, and success — which ultimately benefits you too.

This positive reinforcement transforms your relationship into a dream team. 

Loyalty and commitment

Research published in Epidemiol Health has found that loyalty and commitment were among the most important factors that led to stable, long-term marriages.[7]

In his book Principia Amoris: The New Science of Love, John Gottman describes three phases of love. The first phase is falling in love, the second is building trust, and in the third phase, couples

build commitment and loyalty . . . The third phase of love is about cherishing what one has and nurturing gratitude . . . one tries to get needs met in this relationship and to meet the partner’s needs as well. One moves toward commitment.[8]

Loyalty is staying committed to your partner, keeping their trust, and standing by them through life’s ups and downs. These are nonnegotiable in any serious relationship. 

You can show loyalty and commitment by keeping promises, such as never missing Friday date night, and by being honest, even if you “accidentally” ate his kung pao chicken leftovers. 

But also by keeping his secrets, standing by him when he’s feeling low, and sticking around when you hit a rough patch. 

When he knows that he can count on you, trust you, and see that you are dedicated to him, he can blossom like a daisy in the springtime. 

Open and honest communication

Open and honest communication is the key to building trust, solving conflicts, and really getting to know each other.

Being open means both partners can share their thoughts and feelings without worrying about being judged. This kind of transparency builds trust, understanding, and connection between you and your partner.

Remember the “No questions asked” agreement in How I Met Your Mother? It allowed them to request a favor without needing to explain why. Like, when Marshall had to help Ted dispose of a ventriloquist dummy he accidentally broke. No questions asked! 

Marshall could have used the “No questions asked” agreement to avoid a fight with Lily about accepting the judge role, but he didn’t. 

Their relationship was all about transparency and honesty. Marshall and Lily always shared everything, even the tough stuff, which made their bond strong and helped them tackle life’s challenges together. 

Be like them! 

Make a point to share your thoughts and feelings openly, and give him a nudge to do the same. Sure, it can be tough, but so is a spin class. You push through it anyway because you know it’s good for you

Shared interests and experiences

Shared interests and activities are often what spark the initial connection. “Wait, you also love fantasy novels and tennis? Awesome! Let’s hang out!” 

But in the long run, spending quality time together, taking interest in each other’s hobbies, and creating new experiences is what really keeps a relationship (and the two of you) alive.

An article published in the Harvard Gazette advises that “couples should try to adopt ways to fortify their relationships for life’s long haul. For instance, couples benefit from shared goals and activities, which will help pull them along a shared life path.”[9] 

Basically, doing stuff together helps create rituals and traditions that build emotional intimacy and trust. This deepens your bond and keeps the relationship strong over time.

So, be adventurous! Plan a surprise date to a kintsugi class, suggest a tantra weekend retreat, or take a six-week Acroyoga course. 

You might find a new hobby you love, make some unforgettable memories, and discover new sides of each other along the way.

Appreciation and gratitude

You might have heard that it’s not the happy people who are grateful but the grateful people who are happy. And it’s true. 

Harvard Health Publishing confirms, “Gratitude helps people feel more positive emotions, relish good experiences, improve their health, deal with adversity, and build strong relationships.”[10]

Appreciation and gratitude aren’t just a sprinkle of basil on your life’s spaghetti; they’re the salt of your relationship.

So, hit him with a “Thanks for being my rock, even when I’m a category 5 hurricane,” or send a surprise text, “You make doing the laundry feel like a treasure hunt.”

These little gestures aren’t just sweet; they make him feel like the LeBron James of your team. 

Make it your daily mission to remind him that you appreciate him for who he is, not just for fixing stuff and opening jars.

Emotional maturity and conflict resolution

Conflicts are like taxes — you can avoid them for a while, but eventually, they’ll catch up with you, often with added interest. So it is better to tackle them head-on. 

Relationships are about finding someone who pushes through disagreements instead of flipping out. Adulting is way easier when your partner doesn’t go full Mr. Hyde on you the second you say something they don’t like.

Emotional maturity and solid problem-solving are the antivirus software for any relationship. 

By mastering the art of listening, empathizing, and occasionally letting go of being right, you can transform potential drama into growth spurts.

Remember, conflict is part of life, not a death sentence. Approach it as a team sport, not a gladiator duel.

There’s no right or wrong in a relationship, just different points of view

Lead by example! Be that kind of partner, and make sure your partner is self-aware enough to be that for you, too. 

Conclusion

At the end of the day, what men want in a relationship is no different from what women seek: trust, respect, emotional support, and a whole lot of love. 

There’s no secret ingredient, just the right mix of common values and mutual understanding. 

So, forget the whole Mars and Venus nonsense. Embrace your shared humanity, listen with your heart, and enjoy the beautiful dance of getting to know another person who happens to be male. 

Relationships aren’t about playing games or altering your behavior to “attract the perfect guy”; they’re about being your truest, most authentic self and finding someone who sees you and loves you like this. .

If you want to read more about topics about being in a relationship check out our page here.

FAQs

What makes a man happy in a relationship?

What makes a man happy in a relationship is a partner who is supportive, understanding, and appreciative. A positive attitude, shared laughter, and quality time together enhance his happiness by creating a joyful and harmonious environment. These elements foster a deep sense of connection and contentment.

What makes a man feel loved?

What makes a man feel loved is physical affection, such as hugs, kisses, and intimate moments, which reinforce closeness and comfort. Additionally, words of affirmation, acts of service, and thoughtful gestures show appreciation and make him feel valued. These expressions of love and care create a deep emotional bond and reinforce his sense of being cherished.

What does a man desire most from a woman?

What a man desires most from a woman is a deep emotional connection and a true sense of partnership. This connection is built on respect, loyalty, and affection, fulfilling his need for love and companionship. When these elements are present, they create a strong, fulfilling relationship where both partners feel valued and supported.

What makes a man feel connected to a woman?

What makes a man feel connected to a woman is shared experiences and common interests. These create lasting memories and foster a sense of unity. Meaningful conversations deepen understanding and build emotional intimacy. Vulnerability and trust are crucial, allowing both partners to express their true selves without fear of judgment, which strengthens the bond and creates a profound sense of connection.

References

1. MacArthur, H. J. (2019) Beliefs about emotion are tied to beliefs about gender: The case of men’s crying in competitive sports. Frontiers in Psychology, 10. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2019.02765

2. Joel, S., Eastwick, P. W., Allison, C. J., & Wolf, S. (2020). Machine learning uncovers the most robust self-report predictors of relationship quality across 43 longitudinal couples studies. PNAS, 117(32), 19061–19071. https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1917036117

3. Gottman J. (2023). The seven principles for making marriage work. Orion Spring.

4. Johnson S. (2008). Hold me tight: Seven conversations for a lifetime of love. Little, Brown Spark.

5. Lehmiller, J. (2018, February 20). The power of touch: Why physical intimacy promotes relationship health. Kinsey Institute. https://blogs.iu.edu/kinseyinstitute/2018/02/20/the-power-of-touch-why-physical-intimacy-promotes-relationship-health/

6. Daks, J. S., & Rogge, R. D. (2020). Examining the correlates of psychological flexibility in romantic relationship and family dynamics: A meta-analysis. Journal of Contextual Behavioral Science, 18. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jcbs.2020.09.010

7. Karimi, R., Bakhtiyari, M., Masjedi Arani, A. (2019). Protective factors of marital stability in long-term marriage globally: A systematic review. Epidemiol Health, 41. https://doi.org/10.4178/epih.e2019023

8. Gottman J. (2014). Principia amoris: The new science of love. Routledge.

9. Powell, A. (2018, February 13). When love and science double date. The Harvard Gazette. https://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2018/02/scientists-find-a-few-surprises-in-their-study-of-love/

10. Harvard Health Publishing. (2021, August 14). Giving thanks can make you happier. Harvard Medical School. https://www.health.harvard.edu/healthbeat/giving-thanks-can-make-you-happier

Author

  • Milena J. Wisniewska

    Milena might not be a relationship professor, but she's definitely been through it all, learned her lessons, and is here to spill the tea. She combines the wisdom of renowned relationship specialists with her own romantic adventures to offer relatable and practical advice.

    View all posts

Leave a Comment