You may have found yourself complaining that no matter what you do for your woman, it’s never good enough. We’ve heard that from single men, married men, men of all ages. Yet, all too often, no matter what men may do for women, a crucial element is missing.

At the heart of what a man needs to know about a woman is that she wants, even needs to feel special. Special for being who she really is, special in the eyes of the man she loves. But, what exactly does feeling special mean?

Men have told us over and over that what they find maddening is that feeling special means something different for each woman. They say, “If I only knew what she meant, I’d do it. I’d be it. I’d buy it. Whatever.” While that would make things easy, romance and marriage would suffer terribly as a result because that kind of doing, being, and buying would just be a performance.

So what does special mean to a woman?

To help make the meaning of “being special” clear, we first want to ask you a question. Do you like it when a woman assumes things about you? Probably, if what she assumes aligns with what you think about yourself. But what if it doesn’t? Then what? Wouldn’t you want to correct her misperception, her misunderstanding? Yet you know darn well that you could correct her, but if she wasn’t willing to be curious about you, didn’t genuinely want to know who you are, then nothing would change.

So, in reverse, curiosity is crucial to your woman feeling special.

Think about it, are you sincerely curious about the woman you are with — or, for that matter, women in general? Are you as curious about your wife (or your date) as you are about other things in your life? Do you want to know who she is, especially when you don’t understand her?

Here’s an even more basic question. Do you know how to be curious about her? Sure, you’ve got to ask questions. But do you really want to hear the answers? Do you take the time and care to listen sincerely? Listening doesn’t mean paying attention to your response. Listening that lets her know she’s special requires you to take in what she thinks and feels and then letting her know that you really heard her.

She’s not you.

A key to remember that will deepen and sweeten your relationship is that the woman you are with is not you. Simple enough, right? After all, you’re a man, and she’s a woman. What could be more obvious? Unfortunately, in many many relationships, that’s as far as it goes.

Far more important is that she is a unique person in her own right, different from all other women. Don’t lump her into a Mars/Venus muddle. That just makes her like every other female, and that’s a sure-fire recipe for more disappointment and misunderstanding.

She is not every other woman. She is who she is, uniquely one-of-a-kind and, in that way, very special. You don’t have to do anything to make her special. She already is. But if you can’t recognize that reality as the baseline for how you relate to her, then no gift, no card, no expensive night out will ever make a difference. In fact, it will only dig a much deeper gulf between you. Remember, she’s not you. Find out who she is.

Not there for you but there with you

In our workshops, we ask couples to do a basic exercise. They sit across from each other and take turns expressing what they love about their partner. What we usually hear follows a predictable pattern.

He’ll say something like: “I love you because I feel good being with you.” Or, “I love you because you turn me on.” Or, “I love you because you make me laugh.” Can you see the problem? These are not about her. They are about him. He feels good. He’s turned on. He laughs.

What if he said: “I love you because you are so insightful. You really have a gift for seeing things in people.” Or, I love you because you’re so adventurous. You really are bold.” Or, “Your sense of color makes what you wear really complement who you are.” These are about her. And when she knows you care enough to notice, she will feel special.

Sure, her insight may impress you, and being impressed is about you. The same is true for the kick you get out of her willingness to try things or how proud you feel when you’re out with her. But if you can’t tell her about her in her own right, then it’s only about you, and that’s a drag.

Remember. She’s not there for you. She’s there with you.

Learn from her

Your woman also wants to know that she is someone you are willing and wanting to learn from. If you admire her point of view on things, the way she formulates her experience of being alive, her thoughts and opinions, she will feel that you are equals.** It’s not only that you care for her, but that you value her even if you weren’t together.** So it’s not just your relationship that makes her attractive. She’s attractive to you as a person. Period.

One of our favorite stories was told to us by a woman in New York City. She accepted a first date with a man who took her to a very up-scale restaurant. He was good looking, dressed well, and understood wines — perhaps a catch.

However, during the two hours they spent together, he never asked her one question. She knew about wines. Tried to tell him. She was up on politics. Didn’t matter. She was even a die-hard Yankees fan. So what. The whole evening was about him. Nothing got through.

Before the main course was served, she placed thirty dollars on the table, told him, kindly, that it wasn’t working out, took a cab home, and spent the rest of the evening reading a novel she was thoroughly enjoying. There was nothing he could learn. And, other than sex, it’s a wonder he even went out with anyone.

Real intimacy

Most people associate the word intimacy with sex. But real intimacy is so much more than that. It’s about being open, sincerely wanting to know about, understand, learn from, care for, enjoy, like, and love the person you’re with — for who she really is. That’s why we’re so passionate in our new book, The Smart Couple’s Guide to the Wedding of Your Dreams, about the groom being fully involved with the bride in planning their wedding. But no matter the occasion, or even at the end of the day, don’t miss out on being emotionally intimate with the woman you love.

Of course, your woman has to receive and value what you give her. And she must reciprocate because there’s no such thing as one-way intimacy. So offering genuine emotional intimacy, the real thing, is the foundation of treating your woman as special. That’s how she’ll know you really care about her. And so will you.

Used by permission.

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This article was written by: Judith Sherven (PhD) and James Sniechowski (PhD)

Photo Credit: Jared Sluyter