What Motivates Men?

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Men love to provide for their wives. They see themselves primarily as Providers. In fact, there was a time when the primary determinant of a man’s self-worth was how well he was able to provide for his family. Maybe this is still that time.

He’s motivated to provide for his family.

You may have noticed that one of the first things a man tells someone is what he does for a living. His job, career, or profession is a major part of his identity. As old-fashioned as it sounds, most men still don’t like being taken care of financially by a woman. It’s not “a pride thing.” It’s just who they are … it’s in their DNA.

As a 21st-Century woman, you probably believe that you can make it on your own. Unlike women before us (e.g., Elinor Dashwood in Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility), most of us have ample opportunity for employment that fits our skills and training. There are other reasons we struggle financially, but the oppression we face in society is most certainly not what it used to be.

In fact, our social standing changed significantly in wartime … specifically during World War II. Our men were shipped overseas to fight, and we were left at home to run the country. When the guys returned home, we seemed to be saying to them, “What do we need you for?”

In this country, women have been running the show for a long time now. However, we also must realize the huge price we pay in doing so. Life isn’t anything like it was in Jane Austen’s day. Women have gained a tremendous amount of freedom, and rightly so. But have we gone too far in our quest for equality?

It’s not just that we miss being protected, guided, and held by our man. It’s also that, when women wear the pants, we lose something essential of who we are created to be … at all levels, intellectual, emotional, relational, physical, etc. In a word, we force ourselves to operate in “survival mode” and may never have the opportunity to thrive!

God designed women to be adaptable, which is a good thing. We have what it takes to rally when needed, but we can only do it for the short term. As a way of life, it can destroy us.

One of the ways men are better equipped to lead is because of their naturally higher testosterone levels. When women need to “step it up,” they must rely on adrenaline, which is only a short-term solution – for any human being. If we rely on it long term, we destroy our bodies.

But that’s not to say men don’t run on adrenaline far too often as well. However, it’s not their first resource in the drive to survive. If not psychosocially and emotionally emasculated – which may decrease testosterone levels – men have what it takes to go farther and faster than a woman does before their bodies begin to overuse their sympathetic nervous system for day-to-day survival.

In addition, there’s actually a body of research that provides evidence that, in order for women to survive in business, they must have the ability take on masculine qualities … especially when it comes to communication. In other words, they have to learn to walk and to talk and to act like a man, or they will fail in a Man’s World.

And that isn’t to say that women can’t be good providers. Many of us have had to be the sole providers for our families. But women need to stay connected with and value their feminine qualities, and not try to become men. The converse is also true. Men need to be tender and sensitive and caring, but with the unique style that men have. We should not try to make our men into women.

He is motivated by solving problems.

Men are wonderful Problem-solvers. Whenever you have a problem, he loves to be able to solve it for you. It brings him great satisfaction. It enhances his masculine sense of self. He loves it … if you take his advice, that is.

But that isn’t always what we’re wanting, is it? Sometimes we just want him to listen and provide empathy. We can probably solve the problem by ourselves. If he jumps in and starts to tell us what we should do, we get angry … usually because he hasn’t heard the whole story.

And let’s face it: We easily turn a simple story into a long and drawn-out affair. It’s just what we do.

My friend rambled on telling a story to her husband. It wasn’t long before he tuned out. She obviously – and obliviously – doesn’t know this simple fact: that men listen in sentences (looking for a problem to solve or a purpose for relating the information), whereas women talk in paragraphs (sometimes volumes). My friend’s poor husband was frustrated, and so was she.

As women, this kind of conversation is natural to us. That’s how we connect with one another. Remember, when we were kids we knew someone was our best friend because we shared our secrets with one another. We do it with all our women friends, and they don’t get annoyed. They counter with more stories, and we enjoy getting to know one another in that way.

But he’s not a woman.

And he’s never going to be a woman. We’re thankful for that, yes? Most men don’t derive pleasure from feminine banter. It can wear them out … quicker than we realize. Men use fewer words, but more about that later …

Bottom line: There is a simpler way. Before you start talking, give him the bottom line. Is there a problem you need his help with? Or is the current problem that you just need someone to tell a story to?

If you let him know that you just want to share something with him – pleasant or unpleasant – just because he’s your Best Friend … that you just want him to listen and be interested in you … that you don’t want him to fix any particular problem … that you’ll only talk for five minutes, he’ll most likely be happy to do that for you.

But only for five minutes – really.

Why do men get worn out by our long stories? Because they’re working so hard to try to find the bottom line. And they look for the bottom line at the end of each sentence. But then we start a new sentence, and he still has the previous sentence in his head, and the new sentence doesn’t seem to follow the previous sentence … and he glazes over. Poor guy.

Just remember that his problem-solving is another way he shows you that he cares for you. He doesn’t want to see you anxious or hurting or distressed or angry … especially angry at him. Which leads us to his next purpose …

He’s motivated by knowing he is pleasing you.

My last point here is one that so many women don’t completely grasp. Most men I meet – even the ones who are coming to counseling to work through some very difficult relationship issues – simply want their wives to be happy. Their bottom line is that they desperately want to please their wives, but they just can’t seem to figure out how to do it. Sadly, most men would be willing to settle for an end to the arguing.

Men hate conflict. Many shut down in an attempt to slow it down …or to avoid it altogether. We call that stonewalling, and it invariably has exactly the opposite effect than the one he’s hoping to achieve. (See Chapter 25.)

So men often give in to their wives just to bring an end to the argument. When he gives in to you, he gives up the Power he needs in order to be your Protector, Provider, and Problem-solver just for the sake of ending the argument.

It’s emasculating.

Although he should never just do whatever you say just to make you happy, he shouldn’t tune you out either. Men in successful marriages are open to their wives’ feedback. But when either person becomes a doormat, it creates different problems. You’re a couple, dancing as one, remember? Both people matter.

Please believe him when he says he really wants to see you actively, joyously happy … especially with him. When that happens, you both win, and you both get to participate in the Dance of Romance. You win because you’re happy, and he wins because he got something right. You won’t believe what this does for a guy … to be able to see his woman smile. So let him know when he gets it right … with a smile.

Helping You Get What You Want
A Wise Woman’s Guide to Men & Marriage