What Men Want

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The other day I was working on the computer in our graduate lounge when two female classmates turned to me with exacerbated looks.

“What is the deal with guys?” they asked. “What do they want? I mean, why do they act like they are all interested and then in an instant freak out and start avoiding you?”

I hemmed and hawed through a couple minutes of chair swaggering ramblings about commitment and clingy women before I confirmed what my two classmates suspected; I was a guy, and I had no clue.

Oddly enough, I have thought more about love in the last few months than I have in my entire life, and I’m more confused than ever. As an aspiring psychologist I’ve decided to do what it seems every good psychologist does when encountering something that baffles them; they come up with a theory and write a paper on it.

I’m categorizing what men want into three hierarchical levels. They form a triangle. The three levels are biological, significance and meaning. The hierarchy shows value (the higher the level the more value and the more human), and the triangle shape shows the empirical reality that most members of my gender, including myself, are more apt to hover towards the bottom with fewer individuals in the upper regions.

The biological level is Sigmund Freud’s level. This is the most obvious level and also where most men function. Mainly instinctual, we don’t really need our brains to function here. We simply want to propagate our genes. When we operate on this level women wonder why we choose the bad girls over the nice ones. Here we are attracted to what our environment has taught us to desire. It seems that our current society has re-evolved, if you will, to functioning on this level. This level holds our strongest reinforcers. Our friends and idols pat us on the back and make us feel like men when we master this realm.

What men want at the biological level:

  • We want you to look like the girl in the magazine
  • We want you to act like the James Bond girl
  • We want more than one of you
  • We don’t want responsibility or commitment
  • Of course, all this leads to the pinnacle of the biological level…sex.

The second level of significance is Alfred Adler’s level. Here men want prestige and security. They want a woman who gets them thumbs up from their buddies when she leaves the table to use the washroom. Here men will gamble on a dangerous investment because she brings such winks and inquisitions from those who hold the approval that really matters to them, their comrades. Men get in trouble here when they shop for a woman like they shop for a car.

On this level men want to feel like men, and nothing makes a guy feel more like a man than having the girl who all the guys are checking out come and sit on your lap.

Now I also mentioned that on this level men want security. It is here the biker dude turns into a softy, but also a place that things can get ugly. When that girl that was sitting on your lap sits on your buddies lap, this level mingles with the lower biological one. Intense emotions of fear, anger and jealousy bombard the once suave male. Basically, he moves in seconds from feelings of googly adoration to wanting to kill everyone. I know that seems harsh, but its true. Men experience these emotions very intensely, and they don’t know what to do with them. Barbaric reasoning overwhelms cool wisdom and we have all seen the effects. There are also men who turn emotion inward rather than lashing out. In either case, the effects on the individual are equally as devastating.

Men want security. They desire the one they love to want only them. Believe it or not, here they just want a woman who they can trust, and a woman who thinks they stole the moon. A woman can’t build a guy up enough, and there is nothing worse than a woman who makes comments that cut his ego. Basic areas of ego damaging comments are physical stature, sex, power, importance. Contrary to legend, women who are demeaning to guys aren’t an attractive challenge, they are just annoying.

What men want on the significance level:

  • Prestige
  • Approval from the guys
  • Someone they can trust
  • Someone who thinks they are superman

The highest level of the “what men want” pyramid is meaning. This is the hope for the male species. From here flow those brief moments that cause one to believe that there is something more in there than a crass, egotistical, pizza eater.

In this realm men enjoy giving more than receiving. They do things because they want to, not because they are supposed to. They find meaning in experiencing and encountering someone. More than infatuation, men in this realm just want to be with you, not to get something or to keep you from going out with your friends. They are simply content to “be,” and don’t have to be working towards some type of goal. Here their loved one’s best interests are paramount. Here Antoine Saint-Exupery’s words ring true, “Love does not consist in gazing at each other, but in looking outward together in the same direction.”

This realm is open ended, it is moving, synergy abounds. From here creativity is spurred, not isolation. Here the whole is greater than the sum. Our intellect, spirit, personality and ambition swirl and motivate us into more than just an emotional experience. Here there is no record of wrongs, no focusing on needs or fairness. In this realm a single worn out picture may sustain a sailor for months. In this realm we don’t love you because your beautiful, but you are beautiful simply because we love you. This is where love songs are written, selfless acts are committed, and men become truly human. We transcend all of what we have been conscripted to be, and become what we might and ought.

What men want on the meaning level:

  • To give selflessly
  • Someone to serve
  • Someone who shares mutual purpose
  • Someone to sacrifice for
  • Shared creativity, intellect, spirit, ambition
  • Maturity
  • Someone who loves on the same level

Does one need to have the lower levels before attaining the higher ones? No. They are continuous and work interchangable. In fact, the more one lives in the meaning level, the more the lower levels fade. This may naturally happen with age, but can be accomplished through conscious endeavor. The more a man trusts and seeks to give selflessly to a woman the less he needs her to look like a cover girl. Unfortunately this is not an easy transcension. It seems that more than ever, both biology and environment have teamed up against men. We are trained to live at the low end of the scale and women have keenly adapted to manipulate us at that same level, which makes moving beyond it even more difficult.

I realize that this paints a dreary picture of the male race. The silver lining is this; men really do desire to love at the highest level. The problem is that not enough of us realize it, nor are we challenged to find it. Our ability to love seems one of the many casualties of our current western culture.

How does a women find such a man? This is perhaps an article for the future, but in the meantime heed this advice; treat us how we ought and should be, not how we are. By this I mean, please stop training us to live off the bottom.

26 thoughts on “What Men Want

  1. mario borg

    I just wanted to say ‘thank you’ for such a simple yet complex and insightful explanation of what could be going wrong in our male lives. much indebted. mario

  2. Patricia

    This was a great article. Thank you for the wonderful diagram…I think I understand them (men) better now :)

  3. DIana

    this article is well done and honest- i agree with you that women have to stop tailoring to men’s ‘basic’ love needs in order for men to love us the way we want to be loved- with meaning.

  4. Laura

    Yes, I think this was an excellently written article about men. Especially as most women think that the lower levels are REQUIRED in order to obtain the higher levels (which is what most women want); as this is what society propogates.

    I noticed in my own life that the times when I have gotten the most genuine adoration from men is in fact when I was not “trying” at all – and perhaps completely the opposite of the “cover girl”.

    I think that the more women try to be a “cover girl” or a “perfect woman”, the less men want them.

    Actually I think men want a girl who is confident in her own life and whose life they can share, rather than feeling like they have to “give her” some of their own life.

    I think if society put more value into developing intellectual, creative and moral accomplishments then men AND women would get more of what they want. But instead women are made to feel like the only way they can be “worth it” is through glossy hair :P

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  6. jessie

    I have to say i absolutely loved your theory for the given topic!! It was personal, yet you remained uninvolved. Informative yet left one thinking.


  7. JOY

    How unfortunate and sad that some men even when they demonstrate a higher evolved level of what they want (meaning) in their relationships with women run away from the possibility of developing a meaningful solid loving relationship, just when intimacy has started to unfold.
    It takes spiritual commitment to love, and as you said a conscious endeavor to sacrafice and love a woman. I feel God heals us (our own personal wounding ) when we are in union of two. Although women can stop enabling men from living off the bottom levels, it is up to the man to want to create awareness and openess to being challenged by a woman and value her contributions in creating a healthy relationship, where honesty , open communication and love prevail.

  8. Amy

    I found this article VERY interesting. I am seeing a man who has shared his goals and what he SAYS he wants is at the higher end of the pyramid but also seems to have discovered this is not an automatic progression……VERY interesting indeed.. I indicated at the outset that I wouldn’t be catering to his base level needs and so that seems to be different than he is used to and I believe has given him a quandry..

  9. Aura

    What a fantastic article! I very much agree with the idea you delivered. The world is overcrowded with men AND women on the “biological” level, especially within the younger population. This does not apply to everyone obviously, as there are many cheating 50-year-olds out there as well as mature 20-year-olds. I absolutely believe that it is NOT essential to achive the “biological” level in order to reach the “meaning” one.

    I am currently 22 years old and I started dating my current boyfriend about 5 years ago. He never appealed to me as the stereotypical lover kind and wasn’t sexually attractive… which is why I rejected even going out with him at the time. Sadly back then I believed I “deserved” someone more interesting. I daresay I was a bit ashamed of presenting him to friends. But eventually he won me over with his amazing personality and unconditional selflessness. He convinced me I didn’t need the first two levels, and every day that passes I am ever more certain of that! To be in a strong, indestructable, meaningful relationship is the most spectacular feeling. And the sex is just spectacular because we are so connected on the emotional aspect, which creates chemistry and burning passion to want to experience the greatest act of intimancy there is. It’s based on trust and honesty and most importantly, the desire to GIVE… which is much more powerful than the need to receive.

    We are still a couple, although I recently moved to a completely different country with my parents. For a few years we’re living on a long distance relationship. This has been the greatest challenge EVER, but now I am certain I love him as much as I say I do, because I stay months away from him at a time, and I have never been tempted to cheat. In a few years we will live together and I look forward to a bright future beside him.

    Thanks once again for your worthy article! Best of luck to everyone in finding their soul mate!

  10. A. Nonymous

    Fantastic, excellent article!

    “A woman can’t build a guy up enough, and there is nothing worse than a woman who makes comments that cut his ego.”

    That had to be the best advice in the whole article. So many women don’t get that a man’s ego _needs_ to be fed, not crushed.

  11. Ada

    And where is the text about men who make comments that cut her ego, e.g. women are not able to follow men intelectually (while they are able to get a Nobel Prise); women are too emotional and cannot be logical, they are weak, they are…etc.
    This is intertwined, mutually disturbed, in some way men determined a woman’s role in a society by placing her on that level, and not letting her be who she really is. There are too many constraints, and at the moment men rule the world, they should make a change, and not expect from women to do something. We will do it in the next matriarchal society.

  12. Sue for you in OC

    wow, that was a stupid article. I’ve found PLENTY of men who are at the highest level. That would be your mom and dad if they are still together, your grandparents who just celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary. the neighbors who can’t stop loving each other, the young couple who somehow made it ten years…

    people just have to look and have morals. but now I have to say that it’s the WOMEN who are stupid and powerfully manipulative because how else are these fat good for nothings getting children left and right?! yes, I’m referring to the white women.

    And it’s just a bit frustrating when I see my parents and others have a sucessful relationship yet I can’t even get a second date it seems.

    oh well.

    What’s so bad about me wanting what others have to? like the little toddlers and kids running around, experiencing “milestones” and growing up watching them so wonderfully and proudly?! why can’t I have that??! Don’t guys want the same thing? I don’t get why it’s almost never in the guy’s interest? you say? to play house??! Maybe I’m looking around in the wrong places.

    you know what I’m talking about. that wonderful suburbian dwelling and in it are the mom the dad, the child and the baby with a dog or other type of pet. just like when I was small. the people in my doll house seems so perfect. it was really nice…I guess. And I guess guys, I have learned from the internet are nothing but sex maniacs who disrespect women. Not so good of a lesson.

    where’s my prince charming? tje one who will pay for me on dates. the one who will wisper sweet nothings in my ear and tell me that he loves me and that he wants to spend the rest of his life with yours truly and I have a ring on my finger. a promise ring. I get to be the wife with the flowers every now and then especially on anniversaries. I get to be the scoccer mom. I get to be like that June Cleaver thing I see on TV. I get to be Army wife.

    guys?? what’s wrong??!

    I guess I’ll just have to give up on that. it’s fine. Some women can do mother hood single handed ly anyway.

  13. Marvin Barrett

    Interesting Article.

    I tend to agree with most of it, more specifically I agree with most of the points you made on the significance and meaning level but disagreed with largely with the biological side of things. Although, I do believe there are some men out there that would be more fitting to, I’m not sure if that would apply to the majority of men.

    However, it does make for an interesting debate. Thanks for sharing.

  14. Shawna Graham

    I have never heard it put this way, best thing I have read on the subject, very eye opening. I see where I have gone wrong.

  15. jessica

    All people want to be in the psychological mind of flow/ just being. The place where whatever chemicals are present/relaxation achieved still alert and engaged though Content within oneself. It’s simply Experiencing life. It could be in a high energy activity, or simply looking out at nature.

    Though there are specifics of what men want.. and yes I do think they want to procreate. Women do too. That is not necessarily anything specific to be significant though.

    A better topic is how can men procreate the most likely? Well… that is simple and ties into the topic you’ve recently pondered. LOVE. If they TRULY LOVE a woman, she will lovingly want to nurture him, provide life for him.

    Man provides love. Woman provides nurture.

    There is a book. Men are from mars women are from venus. THink.. women are from earth… men are from space. They come on this planet… and share different ways of living. Different thoughts, emotions, vibrations. Then the earth, the women decide.. hmmm I like this way of living.. it feels good. He is loving , happy, kind , does not waste… or … let’s just hope it stays there.

    Women are life. WOMEN ARE LIFE. And men want to create life through women. They are both such beautiful important roles. Both of equal respect and responsibility.

    Want to understand men… what do they want? They just want to procreate. So be a good man. Be the best man you can be. IT’s worth it.

    Mother nature is a mirror. A reflector, an energy absorber and reactor. Give her good energy she gives good energy back, give her bad energy… sometimes she absorbs and forgives. Understands…. man = human.

    Though deep down. Man, woman, …. is divine.

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  17. JamieJamie

    Jessica, the picture you paint of the connection between a man and a woman is very serene. Has that been your expereince in relationships?

  18. Claire ColvinClaire Colvin

    Hi Mark, It’s important to remember that June Cleaver was a work of fiction, she’s going to be really hard to find. If I go out looking for a guy who’s just like the hero in a romantic comedy I will likewise be disappointed. Are there certain aspects of June’s character that appeal to you? Focussing on those might help you find what you’re looking for.

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