Having the privilege of listening to women reveal their struggles and dreams over the past forty years as a clinical psychologist, and also guarded legally by "privileged communication," I would like to offer a few of my personal and professional insights from the many women who have taught me what they really want from a man.
Always a difficult subject to target because the age range of women create different criteria. There is a difference between young women, middle aged women, and elderly women, in their thoughts and desires about what they want from men.
I will try to make some type of composite of the three age groups. What is it that a mature woman really wants from a man? I believe she wants a man, "who can be vulnerable without being defensive."
So what does that mean?
Let's answer it with a question. What is it like to be a man in America? You may recall this song by Whitesnake: "Here I Go Again."
"An' here I go again on my own
Goin' down the only road I've ever known,
Like a hobo I was born to walk alone
'Cause I know what it means
To walk along the lonely street of dreams."
The typical man was reared to be strong and not vulnerable. To be strong was culturally indoctrinated at a young age. If you fell off your bicycle, the first question your buddies asked was, "Did you cry?"
I, personally, have always had three rules in my life that I have successfully and faithfully kept. Three rules that, for better or worse, I still try to keep which shows how very strong this cultural indoctrination was instilled in me. Rule #1: "Don't cry. Rule #2: Don't cry, and Rule #3: Don't cry." (Nothing to be proud of.)
An American tragedy is that men have traditionally equated vulnerability with weakness and even shame. As a result, men have typically kept women at bay by not revealing the very substance of deep, emotional love. Superficial love with the emphasis on sexual fulfillment has been the result, leaving an emptiness in many women.
Brene Brown, in her book titled, "Daring Greatly," describes vulnerability as not a weakness, but rather the courage to engage another human being and dare to, ". . . show up and let ourselves be seen." To connect with another human being is what love is about. That requires courage to take the risk of being hurt or even rejected in the process, but the other option of playing safe and not taking risks, leads to disconnection, and a lack of meaning and purpose in our life.
Vulnerability, the act of letting the object of your love know what is truly in your heart; the good, the bad, and the ugly, is the very heart and core of the human experience of emotional connection. For the mature woman, if the man in your life refuses to have the courage to be vulnerable, you may end up wondering who this man really is. Do you really know him? Does he really know himself?
When a man sees vulnerability as weakness and shame and walks away from it for fear that she will lose respect for him, he is walking away from the very thing that gives meaning and purpose to our life. It is the American tragedy of what men struggle with. Men have it backwards, but they don't know it. The mature woman does not lose respect for the man who has the courage to dare to be vulnerable, but rather gains respect, admiration, and love.
To be very clear, vulnerability means taking a risk. To love means taking a risk. It leaves us emotionally exposed. We can certainly get hurt, and hurt deeply. However, what is the other option? A relationship that is mediocre at best?
The second half of the statement of what mature women want: ". . . without being defensive," is also very important. It requires the object of your love to listen and not try to change the subject, e.g., "I was disappointed when you didn't take time to listen to me when I told you how hurt I was about what your mother said about how I took care of little Bobby." The man than saying, "What about the time you mother did the same thing?" Being defensive prevents the problem from ever being resolved. To listen and try to understand what is being said without feeling attacked and defending your position is critical to a great relationship.
Perhaps the best advice I can ever give a couple is this. "Adore each other. Resolve anger before it builds walls and pushes the love out." Great relationships revolve around this concept to adore each other. That's another article for the future. For now, focus on being vulnerable. It's what gives meaning and purpose to our life.