By Catriona Boffard

Clinical Sexologist
& Psychotherapist

The age-old, stereotypical statement overheard in a
group of women often goes something like “he just doesn’t get it” or “why can’t
men just understand what we need?” Unfortunately, men (and women) aren’t
mindreaders, but the fundamental differences between men and women can get in
the way of happy and successful relationships. So, how exactly do we overcome
this and what is it that women REALLY want? We try to find out!

The general consensus is that “men are from Mars and
women are from Venus.” Men and women are inherently different, yes, but when it
comes down to it, we are actually all ‘made up of the same parts, organized in
different ways’ [to really get a thorough understanding of women sexually, read
more of Emily Nagoski’s work. You won’t regret it!].

let’s break it down on what women really want, right from relationship dynamics
to sex:

want to feel heard… but really, truly heard

Active listening
doesn’t just involve nodding and responding with an ‘uhhuh’ while you keep
watching TV. The first step in active listening is eye contact (basic right?).
Then, it requires verbal and non-verbal cues of acknowledgment. The next step
is something that actually doesn’t come easily to men or women – validation and

What this means is
that instead of the usual ‘how do we fix this’ approach that is inherent in
most men’s wiring; it’s an approach of listening and trying to really come to
grips with how she might feel. For example, if she tells you she’s having trouble
with a co-worker, it’s unlikely that she wants you to fix it. What would
probably make her feel a lot better is if she heard things from you like “that
sounds tough” and “I would also feel that way.”

This means you give her patience, understanding and kindness too. You let her feel her feelings (even if you don’t get them) and you acknowledge them and try to put yourself in her shoes. Unfortunately, this is not a skill we’re taught at school, and in my work with men and women, I often spend a lot of time teaching men how to offer empathy to their girls.

want to feel like they matter

This one may require a
little detective work, as every woman is different in the way that she feels
that she matters to a man. So, what worked for your ex may not work for your
current lady. For example, one woman may feel like she matters to you when you
tell her you’ll do the washing up after dinner, and another when you tell her
that you’ve canceled a late work meeting so you could spend the evening with her
instead. Ask her what makes her feel appreciated and that she matters to you,
and then do it consistently! It might be something you can say rather than do.

A really great way to
figure this out together is to do the 5 Languages of Love test, which is
available online [created by Dr. Gary Chapman]. Most couples talk in a
completely different language, so it often requires a little more effort to
speak your partner’s language when it’s not your default. Doing little things
for her to show her you appreciate her, in her language, goes a very long way.

want to feel wanted in ways other than sex

This is a massive one
for most women. Of course there is a great deal of importance in adult
relationships placed on sex for a couple, but what so often happens is that one
partner initiates sex to feel close whereas the other partner pulls away
because they don’t ‘need’ sex to feel close, and they would prefer simple
touches and affection rather than anything sexual. I’ve seen couples over and
over where the girl won’t even be affectionate because she’s worried he’ll
think she’s keen for sex – even when she’s desperate for affection. Sex becomes
this experience that creates difficult territory in the relationship. So, put
energy into making her feel special outside of the bedroom, consistently.
Foreplay is actually any intimate experience that takes place between couples.
This could be you placing your arm around her in a movie, or you telling a
group of people you’re with something you appreciate about her. A little goes a
long way outside of the bedroom, and she needs to feel wanted by you for other
reasons aside from just sex!

want you to make the effort

At the beginning of a
relationship, we’re all about the effort. Effort in making time to see each
other, effort in planning special things to do, effort in complimenting each
other and being on our ‘best behavior’ (i.e. not farting in front of her). But
when we start to get comfortable and domestic life with all its routines is
established, we slowly fall out of making this effort. We stop complimenting
each other, we stop dressing up for dinners out, and we start to show our real
selves more and more. This, unfortunately, does not do anything for desire and
feeling wanted. Relationships take effort, and they always will.

Happy couples are constantly working on their relationships and doing small things consistently. And this includes making an effort to make each other feel special and wanted. Tell her you want to plan date nights and take her out or compliment her regularly so she doesn’t get suspicious of a compliment out of the blue and think it’s out of character for you. Make her feel like she matters to you all the time; not just when she asks or it’s a special occasion.

want to feel like equals

In relationships,
women want to feel like an equal, like they matter and their opinion matters as
much as their man’s does. They want to be included, asked their opinion and
given the opportunity to engage. So in a group, ask her what she thinks and
don’t dismiss it. Women want to know that you respect them and value what their
input, so make sure that if you’re in a group of men, you’re the one standing
up for her!

A very interesting
fact, however, is that research has found that most women prefer to have their
partners be dominant in bed, and to play a more submissive role. This is of course
not true for every woman, but for most women, they prefer to feel that their
male partner is in charge, and taking control. Research shows that women enjoy
the fantasy and experience of being dominated. But before suddenly taking on
this role, start slow and ask her what turns her on or what she would like.
Asking will also go a long way in helping her feel that her sexual needs matter
to you.

want vulnerability

“Men don’t cry” is a
very outdated, stereotypical thing to say. Men do cry – they are human
beings too after all. Men and women may experience emotion in a different way
but that doesn’t mean a man constantly has to live up to the “macho” ideal
others place on him. Showing emotion to your girl is important and helpful –
assuming that the emotion you’re showing her isn’t destructive or abusive. When
you’re sad, tell her and let her know how she can help. If you’re feeling
stressed out or anxious, reach for her and get her to support you. Connecting
on this level is a way of developing deeper emotional intimacy.

want moral integrity

Unlike many cultures
around the world where men have multiple partners or wives and it’s seen as the
norm, or even in cultures where infidelity is expected, American culture is not
one of them! Having a girl [or 3!] on the side while calling your main squeeze
‘the One’ is not something any woman appreciates. Women want to know that they
matter enough to you that you respect them. And what that means is that if you
agree to be exclusive and deem yourselves in a relationship, that it means it’s
just the two of you.

No flirting with others on the side, no swiping right on the sly. Respect is fundamental to any successful and happy relationship. Without it, couples may be in constant conflict and struggle to get the relationship to go anywhere. It leaves room for abuse and toxicity to develop. If you’ve discussed dating other people or having an open relationship, then go right ahead. But for most girls, they want to be your only one.

want to know you can own your sh*t

Moral integrity also
includes honesty, trustworthiness and responsibility for your own actions. If
you’ve done something, own it. Take responsibility for it. Ask how you can make
it up to her rather than apologizing and then negating it with “but you did
this…” If she’s upset and telling you you’ve done something that would probably
also be upsetting to say, your sister or best girlfriend, own it! She wants to
know you can own it, but also that you’ve really gotten what she’s upset about.

So instead of just
apologizing, try to follow the apology with your understanding of why she’s
upset. For example, “I’m sorry you’re mad” isn’t going to go down well. “I’m
sorry you’re mad. I should’ve let you know I was running late because I know
you worry” will help repair things in the moment and help her feel you respect
her and recognize why she’s upset.

don’t want to feel pressured during sex

Women often tell me
that they feel they should be having orgasms and wanting sex more. And when I ask
why, they often say it’s because their partner wants them to. Pressure,
expectations and sex are the worst possible combination. As soon as we feel
pressured to do something or be something sexually, it causes anxiety, and
anxiety decreases our ability to function sexually.

This is particularly
true for women during sex, and when she feels like she can’t achieve something
(e.g. an orgasm) she will feel worse about herself and the situation. Approach
sex as something you’re excited to share with her; no matter the ending. Make
it an experience that feels exciting, not full of expectations and anxiety.
Tell her that her sexual needs matter to you, but that she doesn’t need to feel
that anything is expected.

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