Men and women in general have key differences in how the brain processes and stores information. Women (or feminine energy individuals) are able to process data from both the left and right lobes of the brain simultaneously. The right lobe of the brain is feeling, non-verbal, receptive, creative and sensuous, which results in women being able to merge feelings with thoughts more easily. Men (or masculine energy individuals) will mostly process data from the left lobe of the brain first. The left lobe of the brain is logical, action-orientated and problem-solving. Men will generally operate either from the left lobe or right lobe of the brain at any one point, not both together. This means they have the ability to just use the logical part of their brain and maybe why many are able to compartmentalize more easily. This and other gender-specific hormones, create differences in the top emotional needs of men and women. Therefore many people will not instinctively know how to support a partner of a different gender, as they are offering support that they would want rather than what their partner might need. These gender differences are discussed further in Brain Differences Between Genders by Gregory L. Jantz on Psychology Today:
"In part, because of differences in processing these chemicals, males on average tend to be less inclined to sit still for as long as females and tend to be more physically impulsive and aggressive. Additionally, males process less of the bonding chemical oxytocin than females. Overall, a major takeaway of chemistry differences is to realize that our boys at times need different strategies for stress release than our girls."
Much has been written on the subject of gender differences in relationships, and there is still more research to be done to enable us to understand the effects fully. One popular and easy to read book on the subject is Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus by John Gray. In this book the top 6 primary emotional needs of men are explored:
A man needs to feel that his partner trusts that he is doing his best and wants the best for his partner. If a partner is able to respond in open and receptive ways to caring or affectionate gestures, than a man will feel trusted. Choice plays an important role here too. If you have chosen a man with similar moral values and beliefs, than it will be easier to build a mutual atmosphere of trust in the relationship. Evan Marc Katz describes his personal experience in How Can I Learn To Trust A Man And Give Him Freedom:
"Some women would be driven nuts by me, but that doesn’t mean that there’s anything wrong with me. You may think I’m disrespectful. My wife doesn’t. She thinks I’m normal and she loves the fact that I can be myself around her without any fear of retribution. And because she’s so accepting of me – a trait I’ve found very hard to find – I love her in a way that few men openly love their wives.
Acceptance is the most powerful tool in making a man feel loyal to you.
Now that does NOT mean accepting behavior that is inherently unacceptable.
Wherever you draw the line becomes the line"
This is a big one for men, they need to be accepted without feeling like a partner is trying to change them. He needs to feel accepted for who he is, imperfections and all rather than what a partner wants him to be. Most people will grow and make improvements themselves if you leave them the space to do it. Part of the successful navigation of being in a relationship is working out ways to accommodate the fundamental differences in character that are part of each person's personality.
A man needs to feel that his partner sees and appreciates his efforts. Men like to feel needed, it creates feelings of significance and power which boost testosterone and make them feel good. Men like to feel like they are winning, if they feel like they can't win by making their partner happy, then they will lose the motivation to try. Focus on the little things as well as the big things. This could be thanking him often for small simple things he does, but also big things, like the qualities that made you fall in love with him.
Admiration gives a man a sense of security from the relationship and again boosts his testosterone. Generally, men receive less day to day compliments than women so little compliments here and there help make him feel admired. Compliments also help keep the atmosphere positive and well away from criticism and contempt which are predictors of relationship breakdown. On the Huffington Post blog, Dave Wygant looks at this further in What A Man Desires From Love:
"Men want a woman who supports them.
Every man out there has been in a relationship with a woman who has busted his balls and micro managed him to death.
Every man has been down that road. He might’ve been down that road with his mother, or a girlfriend, or a wife. Who knows. But no man wants to go down that road again.
A lot of men have had unhealthy relationships with their mother. Their mother adored them and put them on a pedestal, in an unhealthy way. So there was this unhealthy mommy / little boy relationship. If you think about the way people are wired, a woman wants to marry a father figure who makes them feel like a princess. A man wants to marry a mother figure who makes him feel like a king. It goes back to the roles we are playing out. Primal roles that have been around since we were cavemen, and through medieval times."
Respect is very important in relationships for both genders. No one like to be belittled, treated badly, talked down to, made jealous etc. In particular, men like to feel that their partners value and respect their judgement. Partner's can demonstrate this by actively asking for opinions, fully listening without criticism, and respect for each individual to make their own decisions. Men also like to feel respected for their abilities, which often means just leaving them to figure something out on their own, and not questioning if they have the ability to do it before they have tried.
Encouragement has the power to stop a man withdrawing and emotionally shutting down. Men want to feel that a partner is in their corner and not against them. Often couples can get into power battles, where each partner is trying to score points and gain an advantage over the other. Encouragement helps a couple work together as a team. If he is having problems in work or other areas of his life, ask how you can support him and follow through with the support rather than blaming him for any mistakes he has made. Unless he has asked specifically for advice, avoid given unsolicited advice and offer your encouragement instead. Listen fully when he does open up and talk to you, this will help him feel trusted and accepted. Physical touch is also an important method to help show men encouragement. Men do not generally get as much physical touch in their day to day lives. A reassuring touch from a partner does not have to be sexual. Sexual and non-sexual touch like holding hands, neck rubs etc is equally important.
When both partners are focused on meeting each other's differing emotional needs, the relationship will be equally satisfying. To compare the top 6 emotional needs of women read the article here.
John Gray, Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus - First released 1 January 1992
Gregory L. Jantz, Brain Differences Between Genders - https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/hope-relationships/201402/brain-differences-between-genders
Dave Wygant, What A Man Desires From Love - https://www.huffingtonpost.com/david-wygant/what-a-man-desires-from-l_b_9254138.html
Evan Marc Katz, How Can I Learn To Trust A Man And Give Him Freedom - http://www.evanmarckatz.com/blog/understanding-men/how-can-i-learn-to-trust-a-man-and-give-him-freedom/