What Women Desperately Need To Know About What Makes Men Happy

Make this a win-win scenario.

Last updated on Mar 11, 2024

Couple showing each other affection Edward Eyer | Pexels

If you want to know what your partner wants to be truly happy in their relationship, the answer lies in one thing: communication. For example, if you've been in a relationship for a while now, you might feel like neither of you has much to say to the other these days. Bickering becomes a frequent pastime, and it seems they are only interested in being with you when they have physical intimacy in mind. When this happens, when — and how — can you start a conversation about it?


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Here's what women desperately need to know about what makes men happy:

1. Accept and appreciate out loud all things they do for you and your family

Don't: Criticize them. Most tense issues between the two of you can be discussed without criticism.

See their eyes light up when you tell them you appreciate that they get up and go to work every day, regardless that you’re doing the same). What’s important to them is you know the reason they do much of what they do is to make you happy.



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2. Be affectionate 

Don't: Complain that they are not affectionate.

You might complain the only time they are affectionate is when they want physical intimacy. Some people look to connect emotionally by inviting their partners into an intimate encounter. If you’re not in the mood, build a bridge between where you are and being open to touching. This could be a hot bath, a conversation, a foot rub, or a walk together. If you are not feeling affectionate or intimate, you can propose an alternative that is connecting and making good on the rain check.

3. Be the person anyone would want to be with

Do: Listen to what they have to say, show interest, propose a fun activity, and be complimentary.

Don't: Bring up issues loaded with negativity when you’re having fun or some relaxing time together.


If you refer to things on their "to-do" list that haven’t been done, a pet peeve, or your best advice on how they could lose weight, they'll feel pounced on. Emotional isolation will seem very appealing.

couple spending a special moment together

Photo: GaudiLab via Shutterstock

4. Ask if this is a good time for them to listen to something important you have to tell them.

Do: Be a safe person for them to be in conversation with. Be vulnerable. Let them know you realize they may not have intended to offend you.


Don't: Ambush them. Don’t try to talk to them when you’re angry. Don’t lay out your self-improvement program for them. They'll only hear, "Here’s how you’ve failed."

If you unload on them while you’re angry, their ears will close. Wait until you’ve identified your more vulnerable feelings that triggered the anger first. They can more likely hear that you’re hurt, and feel ignored or unimportant.

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"Babe, can we talk?" are among the most dreaded words in any language to the vast majority of people.

They hear only, "I’m in trouble." And so begins an unfortunate cycle that is repeated over and over again in homes, restaurants, and parks around the globe. Your partner will feel like they're in trouble when these words are spoken. What many people don’t always know about themselves is why. The secret is that happiness in relationships depends on whether their partners are happy — and specifically happy with them.

What your partner wants to feel emotionally is connected just as much as you do. Unfortunately, too often, these attempts to communicate and connect backfire. And it's so confusing and puzzling to both of you. They clean off your car in every snowstorm, share the chores, approach you for intimacy, work hard to be a good provider, and make sure all the insurance premiums are paid.

You tell them you want to spend more time with them, to improve the communication between the two of you, and want them to suggest some fun things to do together. However, they disappear into stony silence. "What goes so wrong?" you both ask.




What is wrong is they feel they have tried so hard to show their love and affection — and you’re not satisfied! Instead, they are in the doghouse again. What puzzles you is you tell them what you want, but they are not inspired. When you tell them what you want, they hear how they have fallen short. They feel they have failed in their job as a partner and retreat in shame, usually disguised as anger or withdrawal. Meanwhile, you feel misunderstood and deserted.

In their book, How to Improve Your Marriage Without Talking About It, Dr. Pat Love and Dr. Steven Stosny state there are strong differences afoot, set in motion by biology at birth and solidified by socialization. We’re taught how to avoid shame and fear according to our social roles.

What I often hear from women "How do I cope with this person I love? How can I connect with them?" The answer isn’t complicated. But, it does require looking at effective communication skills through a different lens. The first step is to define what you mean by effective communication.


Remember, you and your spouse have different communication styles.

So, when you say, "We need better communication skills," you usually mean, ”I want you to understand me."​ And they want this just as much. This is communicated by doing things for our partners in the hope of making them happy. When these efforts aren’t noticed and put in the "I feel loved" column, they feel they haven’t been "heard," much less understood.

One thing to help is to learn how to hear the language of your partner. You might think, "Changing the lightbulbs is great, but that’s not what makes me feel loved." However, recognizing this is their effort to love and care for you can be a game-changer. When they feel acknowledged and appreciated for these practical efforts, they are more likely to stay present with you, and emotional isolation feels less beckoning. If you disrupt the cycle of misunderstanding and missed cues, the communication has a much better chance of being open. They are, then, likely to be able to hear and understand you.



Do you want to facilitate a dramatic shift towards a far more enjoyable relationship?


Tough as it is, changing this cycle requires you to temporarily set aside your frustrations and build a bridge between you. Knowing your neurobiological differences makes a world of difference. In his book, Wired for Love, Dr. Stan Tatkin states that partners who become experts on each other can learn what pleases and soothes their partners. Herein lies a critical key to a satisfying relationship. If you understand the differences in your neurobiology, those familiar arguments and blocks can fade and dissolve. As challenging as it may be, keep your sights on the big prize of a closer relationship if you want to learn how to communicate effectively.



These suggestions most likely won’t feel easy to do. Yet, they work. Remember, this is a win-win scenario. When couples feel connected, there are fewer problems. With understanding and respect for your differences, it’s possible to change this cycle of their feeling they have failed and your feeling misunderstood and abandoned. When people feel they’re successful partners and their partners feel understood, there are a few problems you can’t tackle together.

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Deborah Fox, MSW is a couples therapist and Certified Therapist providing individual, couple, and group psychotherapy, as well as clinical consultation and group seminars.