I bet you never thought of a relationship as a living and breathing organism that requires care and feeding to survive and thrive. In fact, a relationship is like the human body. Consider the body: it thrives when it is fed essential nutrients, and it dies when it’s deprived of these nutrients.
A relationship is no different. If it’s not constantly being fed its own essential nutrients, it too disintegrates. When these essential nutrients are missing, or aren’t delivered at the right frequency, conflict and fighting overtake the relationship. A relationship cannot survive in the midst of emotional starvation.
I’ve coined the expression Relationship Essential Nutrients to describe these essential ingredients.
Feeding these Relationship Essential Nutrients to each other on a daily basis is key to your relationship survival. As you will soon see, anger and fighting arise in direct proportion to how well you do or don’t feed each other.
Relationship Climate Control: Create a Cool Climate by Meeting Your Mate’s Needs
Anger and fighting are often the sad by-products of unmet needs. And, anger and fighting fade when you feed each other the right Relationship Essential Nutrients.
It’s important to realize that the nutrients differ for men and women.
Relationship Essential Nutrients for a Man
Let’s start with what a man needs from his partner.
Give Him Two A’s
To simplify, the male gender role is instrumental and task-oriented, which means that a man focuses on actions and producing results. When a man loves a woman, he is wired to move heaven and earth to make her happy.
In turn, a man needs to feel that his woman values what he does for her. In short, men need to be Admired and Appreciated for their strength, power, and achievements, as well as their efforts to protect and provide for their women and offspring. These are the two A’s.
Most relationships go sour for men because women nag and complain about what their man is not doing right. In no time, a guy feels useless as a man, which causes him to give up on his partner and find another woman who does value him. Since couples tend to shower each other with praise during the honeymoon phase, it’s easy for a man to feel seduced by the rewards of another new relationship in which he feels unconditionally appreciated. When a man gets appreciation from his partner, he doesn’t need to go looking elsewhere for it.
To have a happy relationship or marriage, the savvy woman knows that she must directly state what she wants and what pleases her rather than complain after the fact over what she didn’t get.
Now I know my women readers may be thinking: If a man loves me, he should know what I want without my having to tell him!
I’m here to tell you that nothing could be further from the truth.
Let me explain. Many people come to adult relationships dragging unhealed wounds from childhood. One common wound comes from having been raised by a mother who wasn’t properly “attuned” to your needs when you were very young, a mother who wasn’t sensitive enough to know what you needed when you were too young to speak your needs. If Mom didn’t sense and meet your needs way back when, you will come to adulthood expecting your partner to guess your needs and fill in the blanks within yourself.
This wound is one of the many possible reasons why a woman might expect her man to read her mind and guess what she wants (or she may actually state the opposite of what she wants, expecting her partner to guess what she really means). She is looking for her partner to mother her the way her own mom should have.
Now hear me, and hear me good: men are not wired to be mind readers. No man on earth can be expected to make up for missing mothering. For one thing, they don’t have breasts (unless they eat too much chicken!). Expecting them to pick up where Mother fell short is just a formula for failure.
You must get it through your head that expecting a man to read your mind is futile; it’s just not part of his job description. So if you want to break the fighting cycle and create a relationship that works, you must directly state what you want.
But there’s more. Remember we’re talking about creating a positive feeling in a man by giving him the Relationship Essential Nutrients that he needs.
Well, when a woman says what she wants and her man responds to her needs, he must receive positive feedback from his woman (remember the two A’s: admiration and appreciation).
The smart woman knows that she must encourage a man to continue doing what works for her by verbally acknowledging and appreciating his efforts (women need the same consideration, of course!). This is simple conditioning. Think of Pavlov’s dogs. Pavlov blew the whistle when he served food to his dogs, and soon the dogs associated the whistle with being fed. It didn’t take long for the dogs to salivate at the mere sound of the whistle, even when no food was offered.
People are no different from dogs. When you feed (meaning praise) a behavior that you like, the person you praise is motivated to continue that behavior, since the behavior is associated with pleasure.
I know my women readers may be thinking at this point: Why should I have to reward him for doing what he’s supposed to do? Well, think about how a baby learns to walk. He’s supposed to walk, true, but he’ll never learn how if his parents don’t praise his efforts with smiles and cheers.
Grown-ups are no different.
Since all humans seek praise, when a woman offers adequate admiration and appreciation, she is fueling a man to continue doing what she likes. In fact, the praise that a woman offers her man is actually a gift that she gives to herself!
The point is, men will go to the ends of the earth and slay countless dragons to please the women they love. As long as a man feels that he is pleasing his woman, he’ll never stop. When praise stops, a man loses all motivation to continue trying. What’s the point if his efforts only fall on deaf ears or blind eyes?
Can you see the vicious cycle that occurs in many distressed relationships? A woman doesn’t say what she wants. Then she nags and complains when her guy doesn’t read her mind. He then feels hurt, angry, and unmotivated to do for her. In turn, she becomes angrier and nags and complains even more, which makes him feel still more demoralized and unmotivated. Finally, he stops trying altogether, which fuels a downward spiral that ends in more fighting, cheating, and breakups.
In addition to admiration and appreciation, what else does a man need? Variety!
Like most male animals, human males are biologically programmed to impregnate as many healthy females as possible in order to produce the largest number of offspring. This wiring ensures the survival of the species. In short, men are built for variety, not monogamy.
Choosing one woman goes against a man’s biological programming. When a man does choose to settle down, or chooses to come back to a relationship, he must feel that his woman is so amazing that she possesses all the best aspects of every woman rolled into one. When he gets this feeling, he doesn’t need multiple women because he feels that all women are embodied in the one he loves. When a woman is unpredictable and funny, and keeps her man guessing, she is actually fueling his need for excitement and variety.
When the craving for variety is satisfied within the relationship, most “normal” men are content to remain in a monogamous relationship (excluding the players, Don Juans, Casanovas), and commitment and intimacy phobics who can’t be faithful due to their own emotional problems, buried rage toward women, or hidden homosexuality).
In addition to needing variety, men are also wired to choose the most desirable, healthy, and attractive females to ensure sturdy offspring. This explains why in both the animal and human kingdoms males compete against other males for the best females. In fact, men are wired to fight to the death in order to win a desirable female from other males who are also competing for her hand or rump!
Men are also drawn to a woman who conveys that she’s smart and resourceful. On a primitive biological level, men know that these traits, when passed on, ensure the best offspring.
So remember, men are wired to move mountains and slay dragons in order to win desirable females away from other competing males. In turn, it’s the woman’s job to (1) praise her man’s efforts, and (2) let him know that she’s worth fighting to keep.
Relationship Essential Nutrients for a Woman
Now that we know what the Essential Nutrients for men are, it’s time to discuss what women need to be happy in relationships.
If men are wired to be protectors and providers, a woman is biologically programmed to find a mate who will provide for and protect her and her offspring. Yes, it’s that simple for a woman.
Don’t be fooled. Even if a woman earns a good living and doesn’t need a man to take care of her financially, her biological programming doesn’t know this. This is why, as I said earlier, women choose life partners who are even more financially successful than they are. Women have a biologically programmed need to feel safe, protected, and secure. This need is fueled by a primitive, biologically based, survival-of-the-species imperative to choose men who will never abandon their women and offspring.
The need to be sure that a man will never abandon her and her offspring explains why a woman requires frequent reassurances in words and actions of her man’s devotion. A woman needs to feel that she is first in her man’s world, that he listens to her, takes her feelings to heart, and shows her in words and deeds that he values her above all others—all of which provide a deep feeling of security that he’ll never leave.
Known to millions as “Dr. Love,” Jamie Turndorf, Ph.D., has been seen on numerous TV shows and is the “go-to” relationship expert on CNN, CBS, FOX, VH1, WebMD, and MSNBC.
She has been delighting audiences for three decades with her engaging blend of professional expertise and humor, and her remarkable ability to translate clinical psychobabble into easy-to-understand concepts that transform lives. Her conflict-resolution and communication methods help people turn clashes with spouses, partners, family members, or friends into deeper connections.
Download a free sample chapter of “Kiss Your Fights Good-bye” at askdrlove.com