And no, ladies, it is not “I love you,” though I do subscribe to the theory that you should never be the first to say those three little words either, even if you’re certain he feels the same. Nothing will make him reevaluate his feelings faster. (But that’s another blog post.)
I’m talking about “I need you.” I don’t care if you’ve been married 20 years, do not say those three little words. There is plenty of truth to the idea that men need to feel needed, now more than ever. (They are still coping with adjustment to the upheaval of sex roles in the last few decades, trying to figure out if they still have a purpose in life if their wives make more money than they do or their girlfriends know how to change a flat tire.) But that is all going on in the subconscious brain that most of them never visit. Saying “I need you” is still about as good as cursing at them. In fact, it may be worse.
Just in case you’re scratching your head at this dichotomy, let me enlighten you. It’s kind of like when you say to your husband, “Can you please take out the trash?” And he sits there in front of the TV another 45 minutes (at least) until he gets up and does it. It’s his way of asserting that he’s not doing something just because you asked him or, worse, told him to. Men still think they are and must be the great initiators.
I don’t care how progressive your beau is. Deep down in his Neanderthal brain, he does not want a woman telling him what to do, particularly not the woman he has it in his head he’s supposed to be taking care of, and that’s you.
Subtlety is required when dealing with the male brain.
Want him to take out the trash? Then you put the full and tied up trash bag in the middle of the kitchen where he has to trip over it while getting munchies out of the cupboard. Unless he’s a complete moron, he’ll get the hint, take out the trash, and feel like it was his idea. (Don’t worry, his brain will never go so far as to analyze why the trash was sitting in the middle of the kitchen in the first place.) Oh, and this works well with vacuum cleaners, too.
So back to “I need you.” Let’s say you’re in an emotional crisis, and you’d really, really like him, at the very least, to hold you and stroke your hair, tell you how much he adores you, and that everything will be okay. You absolutely do not tell him, “I’m going through hell right now, and I need you.” He will run from you as fast as he can.
Because anytime a man feels so directly and acutely needed without any mental preparation time, he panics. He can’t help it. Emotional sustenance is not in his native skill set. This doesn’t mean he can’t do it. But it’s kind of like handing him a piece of paper that says, “If you don’t want to lose your job, you have 10 minutes to prepare a speech on why Sarah Palin would be a good President, and it has to be convincing.”
And while I’m still all for the idea of “skip the guy, and go to your girlfriends, who actually know how to deal with shit,” I realize there are times when, for whatever crazy reason, you really want the man in your life to rescue you. (Yeah, we’re not over the gender role crud entirely either.)
So how do you get him to come to your rescue when he doesn’t really want to be called upon to rescue you but still has the need to rescue you so long as you’re not telling him to rescue you and he feels like he saw all by himself you were in distress and came to your aid of his own manly accord?
No doubt about it. This is a tough one. Because unless your S.O. happens to be a rare and progressive man who doesn’t freak and run into his cave to hide every time you say the words, “I’m sad,” or “I feel like,” it can be very tricky getting him to give you what you need when you’re in crisis.
So you have to play to his native tendencies, and one thing men hate worse than anything is to see a woman cry. They have absolutely no idea what to do with a crying woman and will pretty much do anything within their power to keep you from crying. But start crying, and they will bolt. So here’s the key: as long as you stay on the verge of crying, he will do anything at all to make you feel loved, cared for, and tended to. And this doesn’t apply just to your husband or boyfriend. It applies to the service manager at the automobile dealer and the president of the local bank, too.
By the way, if this looks like manipulation to you, I’ll tell you what a wise friend of mine once told me, “Doing what you need to do to get what you need and want is not manipulation; it is motivation.”
So start motivating your guy to give you what you need.
When he successfully navigates the neediness waters, praise him profusely, even if he does it clumsily. It’s a start. Tell him how much it meant to you that he held your hand through a crisis. Let him know he saved the day. Men still have hero worship complexes. They want and need to be knights in shining armor, and they have increasingly few opportunities to fulfill this biological/social compulsion. The more opportunities you give them to come to your aid, when they feel like they’ve come to your aid without you demanding or begging for it, the more confident they will feel in their role as provider of comfort and support.
You get what you need; he gets what he needs.
Because unless he’s a completely selfish, moronic idiot, he really does love coming to your rescue, particularly if he feels like he saw the problem coming and ran in to sweep you off your feet and carry you into the sunset before anything really bad happened. It gives his ego a massive boost. And he needs that boost because, as a modern woman, you’re so incredibly competent most of the time that he finds it difficult to see where he fits into the puzzle. Evolution has not caught up with him yet. He still thinks of himself as provider and rescuer in a world where women can provide for and rescue themselves.