What do women want? This question has boggled the minds of men from time immemorial. Men struggle to grasp the answer for the same reason women have trouble understanding men: Men and women are wired sufficiently different that neither can completely comprehend the way the other thinks.
With this in mind, we offer the following thoughts for husbands trying to understand the female mind.
Men are wired to think in terms of sex, stuff and solving problems. Women are wired for relationships and connection with other people. Thus, women are far better than men at perceiving both nonverbal signals and slight shifts in tone of voice.
They also typically have larger vocabularies and use words to explore, express and resolve their feelings far more than men. While no single-sentence formula will ever explain either gender, a great deal of what makes women tick can be understood when viewed from the perspective of relationships.
When your wife talks about her relationships with others (family members, co-workers or neighbors), she's not presenting a “problem” for you to “fix.” She's talking it out to better understand what's happening and how she feels about it. This helps her deal with the relationship. Talking out the problem is the female version of “fixing” the problem.
By talking to you, she's also seeking affirmation and empathy from you. Listening and understanding her feelings (and maybe giving her a hug at the end) strengthens the bond between you.
Women want to feel connected. Doing things that make your world overlap with hers is important.
Calling her during the day just to say “Hi,” thinking of her when something happens and telling her about it later, bringing her small gifts (even things with no real intrinsic value, like a stone with an unusual design), and commenting on the fact she looks really good in the outfit she's wearing are all ways that tell her that you're connected to her.
The desire to connect also shows up in the high value women place on beauty. Being attractive attracts others, and that leads to connection. No matter how critical a wife may be of how she looks, she wants you to see her as the beauty in your life. When your wife dresses up and asks, “How do I look?” if you answer, “Fine,” she thinks you see her as only satisfactory, not a beauty.
Your willingness to help with the kids and housework also reflects an element of her desire to connect. Leaving your wife with all the work isn't just exhausting, it also makes her feel like you're not connected as a team. Worse yet, when you don't help, she may feel you don't care about her and what's important in her world. To her, that's a sign of disconnection.
Being abandoned is the ultimate form of disconnection. Men often think they're sacrificing by working long hours to provide more, but women often end up feeling abandoned. They'd gladly trade the extra amenities for more time in conversation or cuddling. They want to be your first love, not a distant second after your job … or hunting, sports or your buddies.
Louann Brizendine, author of “The Female Brain,” explains that a woman's constantly changing hormone levels also need to be accounted for. Day-to-day changes in estrogen, testosterone and progesterone effect how she sees both herself and you.
Your wife is probably very aware of these changes. And what she wants is simple: That no matter how she feels, she wants you to love her unconditionally, accept her unconditionally and be there for her no matter what.
©2012, All Rights Reserved. James Sheridan’s website is www.marriagedoneright.com. This column is the personal opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views or opinion of The News-Sentinel.