A few years ago, I had life-changing conversation with my girlfriend.
We were talking about how we wanted to be loved, and I told her I wanted to be someone’s favorite thing, a masterpiece adored.
I smiled gently, and looked at her.
“Oh, God. I definitely don’t want to be loved like that!”
My jaw dropped in shock, but after a bit of thought I realized there is always more to learn. It was a nice reminder the truly educated never graduate.
The truth is that a lack of understanding often causes chaos and confusion, creating strain, stress, and distress in ourselves and our relationships. However, what if there was an easy way to close the divide between men and women? If we could improve how we express and understand each other’s needs, could we bridge the gap between us?
I started thinking about my own relationships and wondered, “If women could completely convey what they wished men understood about them, what would they say?”
I decided to try and start that conversation.
With the help of a few friends, I asked more than 400 women about the one thing they wished men understood about them.
This is a summary of what I learned, as told from their perspective:
A true partnership is a place for growth with open arms and hands that hold us, all of us, in a safe space to share our truth, but sometimes this is hard to do.
If you don’t know the right answer, question, and if you don’t know the right question, listen.
Also, gents, a helpful hint: Sometimes listening IS the right answer – listening to understand, not respond, listening to connect and not correct.
All ways that feelings are felt are important, valuable, appropriate, and acceptable.
Let’s repeat: All ways that feelings are felt are important, valuable, appropriate, and acceptable.
We are allowed to feel however we are feeling. We are under no obligation to feel differently. Our feelings do not disqualify us from being beautiful, respected, whole, or enough. Emotion is not a sign of weakness, it’s a sign of life, and our fire inside burns bright no matter the moment or month.
Let us rage.
Let us singe and sear every fear and failure we’ve ever faced, and if you want us to fire up, tell us to calm down.
I fucking dare you.
We don’t need you to solve us, or be Superman, or come up with some kind of super-duper mega master plan. We don’t need a remedy or reward, and we definitely don’t need a hero. We don’t need to be helped and we don’t want to be fixed. We need to be heard and we just want to vent, to connect, to have our words be received with a simple, “I get it.”
Understand without trying to repair, and if you really must prepare an appropriate plan of action, choose compassion.
Soft laughter is what we’re after – loving curiosity, kindness, and gentleness with no intent, or maybe just a hug. Sometimes we just want a hug. No words. Just a hug wrapped in love that whispers, “I am here for you just as you are,” an embrace that states, “It’s okay, and you will be too.”
Also, you need to change your mental constructs surrounding menstrual conduct because our periods are not dirty, disgusting, or degrading. Shaming us for something we cannot control is the real shameful blow, not a monthly flow that comes and goes.
We don’t choose to bear the pain it brings, and even though it won’t stand out like a broken leg and you can’t see it like a splinter, it’s real, and it’s there, and it’s not going to disappear.
And that’s not the only thing that flows; our moods do too, sometimes for no reason, and you can ask what’s wrong but if we don’t know then how about this: Please let it go.
To navigate the wakes and waves that lap at our hearts, you need a row boat, not a speed boat, and as all good soldiers know as fact: “Slow is smooth, and smooth is fast.”
Take your time.
Proceed with tender goals, speak your mind, and show your soul.
Lust for us and share with us and show us that you care enough to let your guard down. Smash your walls down. Let your cheeks drown in tears of truth that flood down your face.
Show us it’s okay to break apart and share your heart and take the parts of who you are and open up. Let us in.
Because vulnerability is sexy.
Like, really, really super sexy.
It’s also a pre-requisite to connecting.
And, honestly, honesty is the best gift you can give a woman.
Honesty at all costs, and all thoughts, ugly or not, if shared openly and vulnerably, are beautiful. The only ugly thought is the one that isn’t said, the one locked away to become a magnet for pain, and lack, and shame.
Tell us the whole story, not just the parts you think we want to hear, and it’s okay to be scared, but fear is easier when we share so don’t shut us out.
Speak fiercely with a gentle heart.
We’ll do the same.
We know the pains that haunt us, hurt us, so hold our hand and have our back while we confront old ghosts and comfort hopes, dreams, and so many other things that fill us with grace and grit.
Treat us with respect, with honor, with soft hands made strong by trust.
Don’t be threatened by strength. You may need to lean on us one day, and it’s better if our foundation is firm. It’s better if we have withstood storms, both stand tall, and refuse to fall but if you do, remember we’re a team, a perfectly imperfect pod with two peas, and what that means is we have your back. We’re strong enough to be leaned upon and if you need help, just ask.
Let us help, because we can, and do not mistake delicateness for weakness. Do not confuse fragility for frailty. Do not treat us as less. We deserve respect and to be treated as equals, but different.
Just because we are resilient, confident, and independent, does not mean that we don’t have needs.
And just because we have needs, does not mean that we are weak.
We are bold and badass warrior women, not timid children searching for a daddy.
We are tender like a lightning strike; capable, not quitters; vigilant, not victims.
We’re your lover, not your mother. We want to be swooned and impressed, so get up and get dressed and sweep us off our feet. Make the effort.
For God’s sake, please, make the effort.
We want to feel taken care of sometimes. So take control, but stay in control of your outbursts and intentions. Be supportive. Be encouraging. Build us up. Don’t wear us down.
Overall, we don’t want a life half-lived, half-assed, or half-hearted. We don’t want to go through the motions just to fulfil some outdated notion of what this ‘us’ is supposed to be. We don’t want superficial, surface-level, unemotional, uninteresting, unexceptional, average, ordinary connection.
We want passion in action.
We want love like fire rages. (We long to be consumed.)
We want stares that give our soul a sunburn. (We demand at least a tan.)
We want your words tattooed on the goosebumps you gift our skin.
We hope to always want you and we long to feel enough, so give the space and truth and love we need to keep answering the question of us.