What Men Want: Relationships

wmw auroBOOK REVIEW:

Self-help books are one of my great pleasures. I read all kinds; success manuals, time management tomes, style bibles, stress reducers, exercise and weight-lifting guides. Much of it is total guff (self help people LOVE lists – the Seven Rules to Time Management, the Twenty Laws of Manifesting Wealth etc etc) but you occasionally get a nugget of insight you can use. Like “Eat That Frog” by Brian Tracy on procrastination (do the most important thing first in your day).

Besides, you get more of what you focus on, I believe, so constantly looking at various ideas to help you do more, be more and achieve higher will help you get there, by osmosis, even if the individual bits of advice don’t work.

So here in the What Men Want series (that perennially annoys those self-identified feminists who, in the face of all basic logic, believe it is unfeminist for a woman to wish to please a man) – a book review.

His Needs, Her Needs has sold 3 million copies and is an unusual relationship book.


Instead of telling you the normal relationship stuff like “active listening” etc, it has an interesting thesis: that men and women have a “hierarchy of needs” that they are looking to have met. If you meet your partner’s needs in these five areas you will have a great relationship.

There are caveats, so don’t all jump on him if the 5 needs aren’t your personal top five needs; the author advocates finding out your own top five from a basic list and ensuring you get them met. But, like all relationship books, it necessarily generalises on MOST men and MOST women.

Women’s Top Five Needs are:

1. Affection
2. Conversation
3. Trust/Honesty
4. Financial support/a provider
5. Good father/ family commitment.

Men’s top 5 needs are

1. Sexual fulfillment
2. Recreational companionship/ playmate (non Playboy sense) – doing activities together
3. An attractive or well groomed spouse
4. Peace and quiet /domestic support/ tranquil home
5. Admiration.

Clearly, this is not a politically correct list, but I believe there is an awful lot to this. The chapters under each heading go into details – how women talk more than men and men express affection through doing stuff together – he wants you to ski with him, go to movies with him, walk the dogs together etc – that in “financial support” he is not saying women marry men for their money, but reflecting the reality that most childcare still devolves on women, working women tend to earn less than men, most women are at maximum stress levels and need support – and in “attractive or well groomed spouse” he is reflecting a reality of male thoughts on a partner bothering to look well for him, reflecting on him etc..

It may seem very controversial to put “Sexual fulfillment” at the top of masculine needs, Clearly both men and women need to feel loved first. You note that “loved” is not listed here. The author’s thesis is that these are different ways in which the sexes receive the feeling of being loved.

A man who is sexually rejected or deprived will feel rejected *as a man* and *as a person* and not merely sexually. There is no division. Before you all start screaming, of course, if the woman is disabled, depressed or traumatised there are exceptions, but without these serious reasons, men want to be desired and not merely to desire others themselves.

It might be a bit uncomfortable, but I think there is an awful lot to be said for this list. The top 5 needs for women aren’t my own personally, but I think I’m somewhat different from most.

It never really struck me until it was pointed out what a massive male need it is to have a woman as an active companion. He wants a permanent friend and whereas women will “grab a coffee” together, men pretty much never do that. They meet for tennis/bowling/a play/ a movie. Just imagine three men sitting in a cafe over tea and cakes chatting. It’s an amusing image, no? Yet women do it all the time.

With his life partner a man wants a woman who will throw herself into it. Skiing (which I hate) I do because Peter likes it. Walking the dogs late nights not a favourite either, but he likes the companionship. Plays, listen, I am a homebody who likes reading and posting and other solitary pursuits but I go to them and enjoy them because he wants me to. And reciprocally, he does masses of stuff he isn’t particularly into for my sake.

Each of the needs has a chapter exploring it in depth and it is honest, not the normal psychobabble. A man does judge himself against other men and does feel proud when his wife is elegant. A woman has a deep need to feel her man is not playing her, that she can totally trust him. A man needs admiration – not necessarily Nancy Reagan type adoring looks all the time, but yes, he wants to be proud of you and you to be proud of him. He doesn’t receive the daily compliments women get “You look great”, “Nice dress”, “I love you hair”. Often his wife is his primary or sole source of expressed admiration. We all need a fan. And as the book points out, this isn’t a tip to massage his ego “oh sweetie aren’t you clever” – it’s advice to go for a man you actually, genuinely admire. Men can tell the difference; it’s on their sexual radar.

In sum, I think this is one of the most useful relationship books I’ve ever read, because it doesn’t lie about what men need as opposed to what modern society would like them to need.

And as for myself, I am a fairly meat and potatoes sort of girl. I like strong men, alpha males, and would not be happy with any man I didn’t both desire and admire. I need to look up to him and long for him. In essence I don’t believe in settling, I think you should marry your fantasy. Settling leads to a mundane and miserable life, with that aching thought that there is always more out there.

Give it a read – challenge your preconceptions. I hate the trope that we are all just looking for a “best friend”. I have two best friends (one male, one female) and I wouldn’t want to marry either of them. A spouse is a lot more than that, and attraction and electricity matter immensely.


photo by auro


  1. Elettaria · June 1, 2013

    “A man who is sexually rejected or deprived will feel rejected *as a man* and *as a person* and not merely sexually. There is no division. Before you all start screaming, of course, if the woman is disabled, depressed or traumatised there are exceptions, but without these serious reasons, men want to be desired and not merely to desire others themselves.”

    What would you suggest a woman do about her sexual relationship if she is disabled, then?

    • louisemensch · June 1, 2013

      You can’t generalize. It depends on her disability. I can imagine that various disabilities might not permit an ordinary sexual relationship and other ways of expressing desire might have to be found; the sentence is expressing that there are valid reasons to reject men sexually within the context of a relationship, but that they are serious ones. We aren’t talking about having a quarrel and giving his dinner to the dog, but ongoing sexual rejection here. Of course no woman must feel obligated to have sex with her man on any given night – but she is obligated to not only have sex with him regularly, but to actively desire to do so, over the course of the relationship, unless there are significant emotional or physical blockages.

      • insearchofmornings · June 1, 2013

        And if a woman can’t have sex regularly for one or more of those reasons, what are they meant to do about the relationship? Should she refrain from relationships if she can’t provide regular sex?

      • louisemensch · June 1, 2013

        She should let the guy know upfront; but it is going to be a very unusual man, probably with issues of his own, who will be willing to enter into a relationship where he is regularly sexually rejected.

        She should ask herself if it’s fair to the man to be placed in that situation. But anything between two fully consenting adults is OK, as long as there is full, informed consent.

  2. Elettaria · June 1, 2013

    Thank you for discussing this with me. I’m a disabled woman, so it’s an important issue for me.

    As you observe, these things vary. What would you say about the following situation, for instance:

    Night A – woman has the physical energy for sex but is not in the mood.

    Night B – woman is in the mood for sex, but too fatigued.

    Also do you have any thoughts on the other aspects of relationships you mentioned above, such as putting on a nice dress and make-up, or joining in activities, with regard to disability?

  3. louisemensch · June 1, 2013

    I would say that’s fine, but what if on nights A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H – Y she is similarly incapacitated?

    What is the man in the relationship supposed to do? Suck it up? Ignore his need for sexual fulfillment?

    “Not in the mood”, you see, I think confers on her an obligation to sleep with him because in a true relationship both partners regularly have to sacrifice their wants and wishes for that of the other. If she knows that many nights she will be physically incapable of sex, she should recognise that her man is undergoing major deprivation out of love for her, and therefore if she IS capable one night but “not in the mood”, she should do it, because if she loves him she will want to honour his physical *and emotional* need for sex with the woman he loves.

    Who knows, if she begins sexual activity her loving partner may be able to get her in the mood when she wasn’t that into it to start off with.

    As to make-up, activities, nice dress, I see no reason why a disabled woman shouldn’t be able to do some or all of these, depending on her disability. Her man has already accepted this by BEING in the relationship, so therefore, there must be some things they can do together – and she has a wardrobe like any other woman and can look her best / worst like any other woman.

    A man dates a woman because he finds her attractive the way she is when he asks her out. Sticking to her best self presentationally is a sign of respect and love for him. Again, not every day and all the time (she has the flu!) but as a general rule.

  4. Peter Ellis · June 1, 2013

    Speaking *as* a man: horseshit. Different people have different sets of needs, and it’s important to be sure they’re aligned within a couple, or at least negotiate about the areas where they don’t align. Buying into crass sterotypes doesn’t help the process.

  5. MRadclyffe · June 4, 2013

    OMG why are you asking this woman, of all women, for advice?! She has no clue about any other needs than her own. She has been more than desultory in comments about disabled people, and her “wisdom” here shows only that she is uninformed, bigoted and woefully old-fashioned.
    Mensch, if you really can’t say anything nice them for God’s sake, STFU!

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