Whatever is on your holiday gift list for your husband, there’s really just one thing that he desperately wants from you.
It’s not for you to lose weight, to cook more meals at home or to surprise him with some “mind-blowing” sex tip from a magazine.
What he wants from you is admiration. He wants to look in your eyes and believe that he is important, special, and necessary in your life. That’s it.
Men have a deep need to be needed, to feel like they are doing their job as your partner. While some couples are letting go of the assumption that the husband should be the primary breadwinner, boys are still raised to take care of people, to be confident, to be “the strong one.”
They get these messages from an early age. And what they come away with is the belief that their worth depends on being of some value in your life.
It might help you understand where your husband is coming from if you consider what women are taught about the importance of our physical appearance. Even if our parents didn’t raise us to believe we “have to” be pretty, even if we live our lives based on very different values and priorities, expectations about women and beauty are so pervasive in our culture that it’s difficult not to be affected by them to some degree. Being told we’re ugly can hurt in a way that other insults do not.
That’s how men feel about being useless.
‘Why Should I Stroke His Ego?’
Some of you might be thinking things like this:
“Why do I have to prop him up?”
“So now I have to flatter him all the time?”
“It’s not my job to give him self-esteem!”
Let’s be clear. It is your job to boost him — and it’s his job to boost you. You both signed on to care for each other emotionally. Expressing sincere admiration is part of that. We all have the need to feel valued and appreciated. Sometimes we overlook the fact that men have this need too because there’s still the societal expectation that men are supposed to be self-sufficient.
The keyword here is sincere admiration. We’re not talking about flattery, fawning and fake enthusiasm. But your marriage will be better when you make an effort to notice your husband’s contributions and to praise them.
Whether or not you realize it, research shows that for many husbands, their wife is the main source of emotional support in their lives. How you look at your husband has a huge impact on how he feels about himself.
When he feels valued in your eyes, he’ll feel good about himself and much closer to you. That can lead him to give you some of the things you’ve been needing emotionally too.
The Most Vulnerable Times
It’s especially important to understand your husband’s need to feel useful and admired by you when he’s going through a circumstance that could make him feel useless and not very admirable.
For example, a job loss or layoff is painful for anyone, but can be especially difficult for men. If you respond by panicking and “managing” his job search, you could be magnifying his shame and guilt. On the other hand, reminding him of the special value he has to you and expressing confidence in his abilities, regardless of his paycheck, can help him come through the crisis more quickly.
A Holiday Wish
Think of some of the ways your husband makes the holiday season a little brighter for you. Is he always patient with your talkative dad during your family gatherings? Does he go out of his way to create special moments for the kids? Does he give you gifts that melt your heart? Let him know how much it all means to you.
You’ll find many more insights that will help you understand your husband and deepen your relationship with him in my book Strong Women, Strong Love.
I wish you both much joy and closeness this holiday season and into the coming year!