The One Thing Women Want More Than Love Is The One Thing Men Find It Hard to Give

We’ve all heard that Women need to feel loved to have sex. Men need to have sex to feel loved. There seems to be some truth to here, but what does it really mean? In my article, The One Thing Men Want More Than Sex Is The One Thing Women Find It Hard to Give, I asked if it was true that, for men, sex was the most important thing in their lives.

When I was 17 years old I was sure it was true. When I was 37 years old, I suspected it might not be true. And now that I’m 73 years old, I know it’s not true. Now don’t get me wrong, sex can be wonderful at any age, but there’s something that is more important than sex, but it’s something that men have difficulty admitting and women have difficulty giving.

In this article, I want to explore the other side of the question. Is there something that women want more than love? And a broader set of questions including these. Do women want sex as much as men? Do men want love as much as women? Are there differences between women’s desires and men’s desires? Is the battle of the sexes inevitable or can there be peace and harmony between men and women, without losing our passionate connections?

In order to answer these questions, it helps to know a little bit about the field of evolutionary psychology. Evolutionary psychology seeks to reconstruct problems that our ancestors faced in their primitive environments, and the problem-solving behaviors they created to meet those challenges. Understanding our evolutionary roots helps us better understand why men and women are the way they are.

Biologists have a very simple and useful definition of what is male and what is female, whether we are fish, ferns, or human beings making our way in our African homeland. An individual can either produce many small gametes (sex cells) or fewer but larger gametes. The individuals that produce smaller gametes are called “males,” and the ones that make larger gametes are called “females.”

These obvious biological facts have huge implications for our lives. It’s easier to move the smaller gametes to the larger ones, than vice versa. As a result, males compete with other males to have access to the females. Females choose the male that she fancies the most to mate with. Female mammals, including humans, carry the baby inside their bodies, and nurse the newborn child.

To understand what women want more than love, you have to place yourself in the shoes of our female ancestors. Imagine that you live in East Africa 100,000 years ago. You are born and raised in a closely knit family and when you come of age, you hope to have a man who will be a good hunter and provider and a good protector. [Read more…]

The One Thing Men Want More Than Sex Is The One Thing Women Find It Hard to Give

How many times have we heard the phrase, “All men want is sex?” When I was 17 years old I was sure it was true. When I was 37 years old, I suspected it might not be true. And now that I’m 73 years old, I know it’s not true. Now don’t get me wrong, sex can be wonderful at any age, but there’s something that is more important than sex, but it’s something that men have difficulty admitting and women have difficulty giving.

This understanding has dawned on me slowly and became most evident to me in my men’s group. I’ve been meeting regularly with six other guys for thirty-eight years and sex has been a topic that has run through our discussions over the years. Like all guys we are somewhat competitive and we all want to be seen as successful, but we also have learned to be honest with each other. We not only talk about our sexual successes, but also our failures, fears, and confusions.

From the time I was a young I learned that wanting sex was synonymous with being a man. In high school I remember overhearing a girl I liked talking about a guy we both knew. She wasn’t complaining that he was preoccupied with sex, but that he “didn’t come on to me like other guys do.” She went on to tell her girlfriend, “He’s not being very manly.” The message was clear, “real men” want sex and if you don’t “come on” to a girl, you’re not a real man.

This early lesson was validated through the years: Always wanting sex is the mark of manliness for many. It’s better to be turned down again and again and be seen as a jerk who is totally preoccupied with sex than to want something more than sex and be seen as “less than a man.”

So, what do men want more than sex? We’ve all heard that women need to feel loved to have sex, but men need to have sex to feel loved. Let’s look more deeply at what it is exactly that men are getting when they get sex. Sure, there is the physical pleasure, but there is a deeper need that is being satisfied. I call it the need for a safe harbor.
[Read more…]

What Every Woman Needs to Know About Men

My wife, Carlin, invited me and my men’s group to share some of things about being a man with her women’s group. We’ve done this before and one of the things that helped women “get” men was the fishbowl process, where the men sit in the center and the women sit quietly around and just listen. It doesn’t take long for the men to engage each other and the female’s presence fades into the background as we talk “man-to-man.”

This reminded me of my first fishbowl experience nearly 50 years ago. I was at a conference for men and women and the leaders first had the women come into a circle with the men listening on the outside. I was entranced as I listened to the women talking about themselves and thought “they’re just like me and they’re oh, so different.”

When it was time to reverse roles, the women began moving out of the circle and the men moved in. The woman sitting in front of me smiled and patted the spot where she was sitting on the floor, a warm gesture of “your turn, have a seat.” I sat where she indicated, but it was like sitting on a hot stove. I literally jumped up and finally moved to another spot. All this took place in a matter of seconds as the women moved out of the circle and the men moved in.

I immediately burst into tears. As the men finally took their seats, here I was sobbing and nothing had happened yet, our sharing hadn’t even begun. The somewhat surprised leader asked, “So what’s happening with you?” Between my tears I was able to share what went on for me: [Read more…]

My Mother, My Wife, My Marriage: How Inherited Family Trauma Can Impact Our Relationships

y1a40z2ntru-tanja-heffnerOne of the greatest joys in my life is my 36-year marriage to Carlin. But it wasn’t easy for either of us getting to this time in our lives where we feel fully engaged in our relationship, feel loving and in love. Each of us was married twice before and have children from our previous marriages. Both of us wondered whether there was something in our lives that was preventing us from having the joyful, long-lasting, relationship we both wanted. Like all couples, we’ve had our ups and downs, deep connections and times where we felt estranged, periods of ease and periods where there was great deal of dis-ease.

One of the things that was very important in understanding the ups and downs in our marriage was looking honestly at the past and the impact of childhood trauma on our health, well-being, and marriage. As a therapist for more than forty years, I like to look ahead. I don’t want to get caught up in endless recriminations about what people didn’t get from their mothers or fathers or the trauma they may have experienced as children. Yet I’ve found we do need to heal the past if we’re going to have a healthy relationship that lasts. But we don’t have to take years mucking around in our troubled past. We can do it relatively quickly and easily and the effort is worth it.

Here’s why. According the new research on the science of love, understanding the wounds most of us experienced from the past is essential to having a truly healthy, loving marriage that lasts through time. I’ve found that most of the problems I have in my love life have roots that go back to unhealed wounds from my family life.

Marriage and family experts Harville Hendrix and his wife Helen LaKelly Hunt offer the following summary in their book, Making Marriage Simple: 10 Relationship-Saving Truths, “About 90 percent of the frustrations your partner has with you [and you have with your partner], are really about their [and your] issues from childhood…Love delivers us into the passionate arms of someone who will ultimately trigger the same frustrations we had with our parents, but for the best possible reason! Doing so brings our childhood wounds to the surface so they can be healed.” [Read more…]

The 5 Love Secrets Your Therapist Never Told You About

Love SecretsI’ll admit it. I’m a hopeless romantic. I cry at weddings and read Nicholas Sparks novels. I watch romantic movies and still get choked up remembering Titanic, Dirty Dancing, When Harry Met Sally, and Casablanca. I make up holidays so I can bring my wife flowers. But it’s taken me a long time to figure out how to have a romantic relationship that lasts. My first two marriages ended in divorce and Carlin and are still learning about love after being married for 36 years. Our book, The Enlightened Marriage: The 5 Transformative Stages of Relationships and Why the Best is Still to Come, is a guide for those who still believe in love, but don’t have a lot of time to waste.

We all pick our profession for a variety of reasons. I’m sure that part of the reason I wanted to become a marriage and family counselor was to better understand my family life—my parents divorced when I was five years old. My father was become increasingly more irritable, angry, and depressed. My mother was always anxious and worried and pre-occupied with death. I wanted to learn the secrets of love so that I could have a passionate, powerful, and satisfying relationship that lasted a lifetime. But to master the secrets of love, we must let go of some of our most cherished beliefs.

  • Love Secret #1: Love is not exclusive.

We all understand that we can have many “loved ones.” We can love our children, our parents, even friends and relatives we rarely see, in addition to our spouse or lover. But we believe that love is limited to a small group and that we can have only one “great love of our lives.” Often when we’re single we long for that special someone who we will fall madly in love with and love forever. [Read more…]

Third Time’s The Charm: One Man’s Love Story of His 36 Year Marriage

real-lasting-loveGrowing up I had a confused understanding of love and marriage. We had a cute little house in the San Fernando Valley, but my father was often away and my mother constantly worried. When he was home his emotions vacillated greatly (later I learned he suffered from bipolar or manic-depressive disorder). One minute he was joyful and rode me around on his shoulders. The next minute he was irritable, angry, and depressed.

I was an independent kid and during the summers I would take the bus into Hollywood and sit alone at Grauman’s Chinese Theater and watch romantic movies–Love is a Many Splendored Thing, Three Coins in a Foundation, The African Queen, and From Here to Eternity. I practiced love lines I heard in the movies like this one by Montgomery Clift to Elizabeth Taylor: “I guess I loved you before I ever saw you.”

I met my first wife at U.C. Santa Barbara. I was a senior and she was a freshman. She reminded me of Janis Joplin—Cute, wild, creative, edgy, dangerous. We went to Monterey on our honey-moon, not knowing the Monterey Pop Festival was going on. No rooms were to be had anywhere in Monterey, but we found a room in Carmel when I was able to talk the landlady into taking us in since we were newly married. She knew the organizers and was able to help get us tickets.

The music reflected our hopes, dreams, longings, craziness, and the times: [Read more…]

5 Steps to Becoming a Love Warrior

love-wariorA few days ago my friend John gave me a copy of the book, Love Warrior by Glennon Doyle Melton. “I just got this,” he told me, “but you need to read it first.” I wasn’t sure why he had given it to me, but I opened the cover to these words:

 Just when Glennon Doyle Melton was beginning to feel she had it all figured out—three happy children, doting spouse, and a writing career so successful that her first book catapulted to the top of the New York Times bestseller list—her husband revealed his infidelity and she was forced to realize that nothing was as it seemed.

I thought, “Oh no, another tragic love story.” As a marriage and family therapist for more than 40 years I’ve heard more than my share. My book, The Enlightened Marriage: The 5 Transformative Stages of Relationships and Why the Best is Still to Come, was just out and I was ready for a break from the roller-coaster we call love. But I started reading and I got hooked. This is no ordinary love story and it resonated with my own struggles with addictions, mental illness, eating disorders, infidelity, open marriage, telling the truth, and looking for love in all the wrong places.

It also resonated with me as a writer. After the success of my book, Looking for Love in All the Wrong Places: Overcoming Romantic and Sexual Addictions, I was sure I’d finally made it to the big time. My next book, The Warrior’s Journey Home: Healing Men, Healing the Planet, had been bought by Bantam Books, a division of Random House, and I was sure it would be a world-wide best-seller. But my editor left the company before the book was published and The Warrior’s Journey Home was left in limbo. When it was finally published by a small California publisher, New Harbinger, it had missed the market and didn’t sell well.

Glennon’s book resonates with me because, at its core, it’s about becoming a spiritual warrior. At a time in our history where we seem to be on the brink of blowing ourselves up with one war after the other, we need to find a new way to become warriors and a new way to overcome the fears that keep us from having real, lasting love. [Read more…]

The One Thing We Need That Will Either Make or Break Your Relationship

make-or-break-picThis is a special year for me and I’d like to share it with you. I’m 72 this year. My wife Carlin and I have been together for 36 years. She teaches a class called “The Perks of Aging” where she explores the upsides of getting older. I’m continually reminded of the challenges of aging. I’m just recovering from a leg injury that has kept me from enjoying my usual physical activities. I had a small cancer removed from my nose and I look a bit weird with a nose bandage. And there are more serious challenges. A number of friends our age are dealing with life-threatening illnesses.

One of the upsides of aging is having a successful, long-term relationship. As a marriage and family counselor I’ve always been disturbed by the statistics that tell us that around 50% of first marriages end in divorce. I was a part of that statistical group when my ten year marriage ended. Like most people I went through the grieving process, got back out there eventually, fell in love again, and re-married. That marriage lasted less than three years. I joined another discouraging statistical group. 66% of second marriages end in divorce.

Before giving it another try I decided there were some things I needed to learn. I was determined not to be one of the 73% of third marriages that failed. I read everything I could on what makes a successful marriage. I interviewed couples. More importantly I went back through my relationship history, all the way back to the family I grew up in, and began to see a pattern that I was subconsciously repeating.

My parents divorced when I was five years old. My father had been suffering from bipolar depression, which eventually lead to his attempted suicide. My mother suffered from constant worry and anxiety. Getting a better understanding of my relationship roots helped me heal some of the old wounds. Therapy was helpful, even for a therapist like me who thought he had all the answers.

After 36 years of learning and growing together, Carlin and I share what we learned in my new book, The Enlightened Marriage: The 5 Transformative Stages of Relationships and Why the Best is Still to Come, and a new course, The Enlightened Marriage Master Class. It’s not easy to capture the core practices that can turn good marriages into great ones and get shaky ones back on track, but I’ve found that there are eight effective ways you can connect with your lover and fix problems in any relationship. Here they are: [Read more…]

How to Know if It’s Time to Go: 10 Signs You Should Leave Your Relationship

I’ve been helping men and women improve their love lives for more than 40 years. Most everyone I know wants a long-term committed relationship. But most everyone finds it difficult to achieve. We know that around 50% of first marriages end in divorce and 75-80% of men and women who have a failed first marriage will remarry, usually within five years. But 66% of second marriages and 73% of third marriages end in divorce.

Too many relationships fail when they could be saved. Most couples have a faulty love map and so get lost on their way to finding real, lasting love. In my book, The Enlightened Marriage: The 5 Transformative Stages of Relationships and Why the Best is Still to Come, I describe five stages for having the joyful, intimate, juicy, sexy, comfortable, adventurous, relationship most people long to have:

  1. Falling in Love
  2. Deepening Love and Making a Life Together
  3. Disillusionment and Incompatibility
  4. Real, Lasting Love
  5. Finding Your Calling as a Couple

Stage 3 is the most misunderstood stage and without guidance too many relationships falter and go under at this time. I’ve developed an on-line program to help people get through to real, lasting love. I’ve learned that most marriages can be saved, but some are beyond repair. Here are the signs that your relationship is unlikely to be healed:

  1. Love has turned to hate.

Many couples will tell me there are times they feel like killing their spouse, but they still love them. Others say love has been lost, but they still care and want love to return. But if love has turned to hate, the relationship may need to end.

  1. Blame and shame rule the relationship.

Care and respect are key components of a good marriage. Troubled relationships often fall into blaming the other partner and putting them down or calling them names. [Read more…]

Love 4.0: Five Surprising Discoveries About Love That Can Save Your Relationship

3320409558_0b46b90f4c_zWe all know the feeling. When we least expect it, we fall in love. Our hearts pound and we only have eyes for that special someone. We’re ecstatic and alive in the presence of our loved one. When we’re apart we experience agonies of longing. We obsess about every detail of our time together and our nights are full of dreams of togetherness. This is love 1.0.

If we’re lucky, the one we fall in love with is “a keeper.” We hope its “love” we’re feeling and not “love addiction.” In my article “Is It Love or Love Addiction?” I offer twenty-one ways to distinguish the two. Love nourishes our lives, love addiction leaves us feeling depressed and can even cause our hearts to function improperly. If it’s love, not love addiction, we experience of comfort and joy of Love 2.0 as we build a life together.

But even the best relationships have trouble in Stage 3 when we go through disillusionments and wonder “Who is this person I’m with?” The things that used to be so endearing to us, now feel like irritations that drive us up the wall. We wonder where our loving partner went and why they’ve turned into Mr. Hyde or the Wicked Witch of the West. Many people bail out of relationships during this stage, but it’s really love 3.0, which I describe in my book The Enlightened Marriage: The 5 Stages of Relationships Why the Best is Still to Come.

We want to believe that our love is real and everlasting when we fall in love in Stage 1 and we start a life together in Stage 2, but if we’re honest with ourselves we realize that we haven’t fallen in love with a real person, but with the hopes, desires, and illusions we project onto them. We aren’t seeing the whole person, but the ideal that captures all our dreams of that perfect mate that will love us like we’ve never been loved before and make up for the wounds we have experienced in our past love lives, going back to the family we grew up in. We’re, inevitably, disappointed and often feel betrayed. [Read more…]