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23 December 2010 @ 02:10 am
I'll tell you a secret....  
I've had a couple conversations with fellows in the past few weeks around the idea that women are insanely difficult to please. Gentlemen, let me share with you a little secret - women really want three things in a successful relationship: Safety, respect, and love.

Safety - Physical safety is the simplest to explain - abuse is not acceptable, ever - but the emotional aspect is critically important as well. Emotional abuse is at least as scarring as physical abuse and even passive-aggressive behavior can destabilize a relationship. Without stability and trust, it is difficult to plan for a joint future, to consider something as being permanent. If she needs to self-censor or is afraid that your acceptance is conditional, you will not have a deeply honest relationship. Without honesty and open communication, it is impossible to openly discuss ideas, decisions, and feelings. Relationships so constrained will be stunted and will fail to mature and grow. Simply put - if she does not feel physically and emotionally safe with you, there are parts of her life and heart that will not be open to you and the relationship will be weak and almost certain to fail.

Respect - You may have different opinions (you may even strenuously  disagree), you may have different goals, priorities, hobbies, likes and dislikes, but an undercurrent of respect must always remain. If you are dismissive of your partner, they will feel belittled and disrespected and that only breeds mutual dislike. (I'm not saying you can't tease your partner a bit about their peccadillos - it's part of the fun of knowing someone well to be able to occasionally tweak them about, say, their need to have like items neatly aligned with one another.) However, disrespect of who they are or what they truly believe in is a cancer that eat a relationship from the center out. You don't necessarily need to value something as highly as they do, but if it is important to them, you do need to honor the role it plays in their life. These sorts of choices often are important parts of a person's identity and if you cannot accept them at least as part of who your partner is, then perhaps you need to consider whether you are in a healthy relationship - long term disrespect will destroy the relationship eventually, anyway.

Love - Any long-term friendship or relationship has in it a component of love. I'm not necessarily talking ooey-gooey schmoopy lovey-dovey crap, although that does it for some people. I'm talking about the feeling of true partnership - that your partner has your back and is willing to compromise with you, sacrifice for you, and accept your assistance when it is offered in turn. It's knowing that your partner thinks of you, if not always before their own interests, at least as an important part of the decision making process and does not see this as a terrible burden. (To be honest, the give-and-take is rarely truly effortless, but should be a willing compromise to ensure mutual happiness.) It's knowing that someone considers you a source of joy in their lives and are willing to fight for you, alongside you, and with you, as occasion warrants. It's contentment and belonging and sharing. It's being able to talk for hours or comfortably engage in companionable silence. It's being not only respected, but known, valued, and cherished.

(Side note regarding flowers: Guys - girls don't want flowers. They want to know that you are thinking of them and want to make them happy. Spending five minutes and five dollars to get them a flower will send a positive message, but for some girls, bringing a chunk of weird cheese, a wind-up toy, or a shiny new notebook and a pen may be even better choices. If it's someone you live with, it could be doing the dishes you know they made or washing the kitchen floor if that is a job she dislikes. The point is that you know her, you thought of her, and you took the time to make/do/buy something to make her happy.) 

Anyway, it's not simple, but it's not all that complicated either. It's sort of an abbreviated Hierarchy of Needs - the baseline needs being met, a strong, stable relationship can contribute strongly to the middle tiers, allowing the individuals to grow and access the upper tiers.

Certainly, there are many other factors that contribute to whether a particular relationship between particular individuals will be a success or not, but there's your answer to the baseline requirements just about every woman is looking for... the details of any particular relationship, you'll have to work out with the lady in question. (See Safety, above.)

I'm sure much of this applies in reverse as well, but I'm not really privy to that point of view... ;)
Current Mood: contemplativecontemplative
Kareinakareina on December 23rd, 2010 10:17 am (UTC)
That is very well said!
eithni: sofonisbaeithni on December 23rd, 2010 10:21 am (UTC)
Thanks. :)
lady_annora on December 23rd, 2010 11:06 am (UTC)
I do like getting flowers, but I agree with you that it is a "thinking of you" thing. I chuckled about your washing the kitchen floor comment because I've told my husband several times in the past that him washing the kitchen floor is BETTER than bringing me flowers.
reneekytokorpireneekytokorpi on December 23rd, 2010 12:40 pm (UTC)
Yes. Just, yes. :)

I'll definitely agree about the Hierarchy of Needs statement; until I had a stable relationship this last year, I wasn't able to reach up and mature and become more of an adult... I was always focused on the scared, the hurt, the drama. Instead I was very insecure and nervous and, well, childish. Not that this is magically fixed, but I've noticed (and my parents have been relieved to notice) huge strides in the right direction!
Sara: Heartlostvirtue on December 23rd, 2010 01:08 pm (UTC)
I agree entirely, and feel very fortunate indeed.
Amanda Marksdottir: Jean Greyragnvaeig on December 23rd, 2010 02:47 pm (UTC)
Yup, in a nutshell. For our first Valentine's day, smarriveurr brought me a dozen, long-stemmed, red lagers, and this is the best relationship I've ever had.

I'd also like to add another example. Some women care how you dress. This is not because they expect you to be trendy, but because they want to know that you care about her opinion of you and thus put effort into presenting yourself to her. I've had a problem explaining this to geeky men.
eithni: darkladyeithni on December 23rd, 2010 08:42 pm (UTC)
Yup. You don't need to look like you stepped out of The Gap, but you do need to be clean and reasonably put-together. The bar is not very high, but there is a bar.
Uncle Mikeybelmikey on December 23rd, 2010 03:14 pm (UTC)

This is made of truth, awesome, and win.

And so are you.

Looking forward to seeing you tomorrow!
carrot_khan on December 23rd, 2010 03:28 pm (UTC)
Washing dishes always trumps flowers, although flowers on a Wed for a "just because" are pretty neat too.
eithnieithni on December 23rd, 2010 08:45 pm (UTC)
Yeah, I'm not saying flowers are not neat and pretty, and desirable, it's just that some guys fixate on the need to provide flowers, which misses the point. You need to make her feel that she is loved - if you can do that with flowers, great, but giving flowers will not necessarily make her feel loved or automatically grant forgiveness for that dumbass thing you did.
Gwynethgwyneth1362 on December 23rd, 2010 04:38 pm (UTC)
First - I agree with everything you've said.

Second - I think you are oversimplifying - sure, that at heart is probably what everyone wants. But so few people are actually able to express it, especially in the beginning of a relationship. And not only men and women, but individuals have very different basic needs, and frequently we both expect the other to automatically know that, because we base it on what our own needs are first. It takes a certain amount of building the relationship to get to the point where they know one another well enough to translate.

Until then, men think women are crazy. Women think men "just don't understand." And they both think the other is difficult.
ego_id_non_feciego_id_non_feci on December 23rd, 2010 05:48 pm (UTC)
Plus, there are some women out there who ARE JUST CRAZY. I've met them, and I've watched them mess up their relationships one by one. While it might come down to basic needs being met (and I agree- you can't build the damn pyramid without fulfilling every single one of the base needs you so succinctly described), a lot of people aren't self-aware enough to identify the base-cause of their weird emotions and random needs. So they focus on their random need (I need you to text me every day), instead of the base need (I need to know I'm important to you and you aren't planning to run off). Which makes the man in the relationship jump through hoops to meet this crazy woman's needs (or not).

And, you figure, being with one woman who is just plain crazy will skew your idea of other women. Jack still has moments when he reacts to me not as he knows me, but as he's seen other women act in a similar circumstance. I probably still react to him not as I know he is, but as I've seen other men act. So that muddles the waters and requires lots of flexibility on the part of the other partner.

I love what you wrote, Jean- it very nicely describes the conversations Jack and I had when we started out, not so much about my needs or his needs, but about the kind of base we wanted for our relationship. Honesty was the catchphrase- painful honesty, if necessary. And kindness.

And granted that we're only two years in and still have many possible self-destruct options available to us, but still, it feels like a good relationship and it follows your rules, so it kinda proves your point.

In conclusion, I like what you wrote, I think it is very true, but I don't disagree with the men who say we're crazy and inscrutable. We can be.
eithni: darkladyeithni on December 23rd, 2010 08:59 pm (UTC)
Yup. But WHY are we crazy? Usually it is because previous relationships (familial, friendships, or romantic) have fucked them up in the head. analyze their dysfunction, and it almost always leads back to a major trauma in one of these categories. When I look at my Crazy, it almost always leads back to one of my needs being fucked with by my dad when I was a kid.

I know a lot of people don't take the time to assess these needs in themselves or their partner, that's why I'm sharing - it's like my Kindergarten Analogy, but for relationships. I'm glad you and Jack got it worked out - some of your behaviors were actually the basis for a few of my thoughts in the Love section.
Jonya 'Sorcha'spot1111 on December 23rd, 2010 09:41 pm (UTC)
It is so neat to hear that people are having these sorts of conversations. Keep Talking! I did everything the painful way - I did. And so did Van.
I was a young wife in the era and place where women were told to wrap up in plastic wrap, put a bow at a strategic place, and greet him at the door. And I didn't have a real-life model or confidante. Weird memories this conversation is bringing up, lol.
So this is a point I'd like to make. We drag behind us not only our own history but also to some degree we drag around pieces of the generations behind us.
eithni: darkladyeithni on December 23rd, 2010 08:50 pm (UTC)
Oh, it's definitely an oversimplification, but it's sort of like my Kindergarten analogy - if you look closely, most problems track back to one of these principles. In the discussions with these guys, almost every one was a failure of Safety. If a girl does not feel safe, she acts in was that are inscrutable to guys. Insert spiral of yuck here.

I know it took me 30+ years to understand some of these needs, and that they are not always evident, which is why I'm sharing the secret. Maybe it will help some guys to step back and think whether the behavior they are seeing is crazy or whether there is a need not being met. However, considering there is only one guy who has commented, maybe not. :P
Jonya 'Sorcha'spot1111 on December 23rd, 2010 09:14 pm (UTC)
It's taken me 30+ years of a relationship to understand some of these needs, even my own needs. I keep growing, spiritually, emotionally and mentally, and I am not the same person I was when I first met him. Neither is he. And we both had a very different understanding of what was needed in our relationship when we started than we do now. I guess the point is simply to enjoy the journey - there's no telling where it will take you.

There were times when I thought I should leave, and times he wanted to leave, and we didn't talk or compromise or any of the cool things people do these days. It wasn't in the model of my childhood and certainly not in his!

This is a lovely, well-written essay. Thank you. I know you are writing it towards life partners but this is also just a really good blueprint of how to treat friends. Well, your life partner should also be one of your best friends, if not the bestest one, in my opinion. But the paragraph about love is spot-on the advice I've given my children about friendship, as they've grown up through the teen years and into adulthood.
whymcwhymc on December 23rd, 2010 09:13 pm (UTC)
I think that you make a critical point here - I'd absolutely agree that everyone comes equipped with a hierarchy of needs, but the structure of that hierarchy is different in different people, and, I'd guess, tends to change over time, as we move through our lives. Communication can fix this... but communication is difficult and terrifying. Revealing a need, especially when that need comes all wrapped up with memories of personal trauma, is tantamount to revealing a weakness in one's personal armor, and most of us are instinctively unwilling to make ourselves vulnerable in such a fashion.
eithni: darkladyeithni on December 23rd, 2010 09:14 pm (UTC)
Yup. Which is why safety is the first need cited.
cayswann: yellow-streakcayswann on December 23rd, 2010 07:10 pm (UTC)
For some reason, my sweetie adores giving me flowers: http://www.cayswann.com/v/Friends/2010/flowers_treats/ ... I don't =NEED= flowers, but seeing the joy on my sweetie's face makes it worth *accepting* them. And the photos are part of the joy... snapshots are memories frozen in time for visiting again later.
eithni: darkladyeithni on December 23rd, 2010 09:01 pm (UTC)
Like I commented above, I'm not saying flowers are not neat and pretty, and desirable, it's just that some guys fixate on the need to provide flowers, which misses the point. You need to make her feel that she is loved - if you can do that with flowers, great, but giving flowers will not necessarily make her feel loved or automatically grant forgiveness for that dumbass thing you did. If giving and receiving flowers is something meaningful for you, that's fine, it's just not the panacea some guys want it to be.
cleopatramwi: Black Swancleopatramwi on December 24th, 2010 12:26 am (UTC)
Mmm, thanks so much for posting this!