Taking my mom’s advice, I carefully constructed my relationship persona as "low maintenance." This was in sharp contrast to my true personality, which was loud, opinionated, and confident. But when I got around the guy I was dating, I would clam up and try to be accommodating. "If you want a boy to like you, let him do all the talking" was burned into my psyche.
I saw this backfire over and over again in my relationships and my girlfriends’ relationships. I watched my girlfriends give without expecting anything in return, only to have their partners take advantage of them. I saw men chase after "demanding" women and I was dumbfounded. I watched my own marriage fall apart as I grew more conciliatory and my husband more distant.
I remember reading the title of the book Why Men Love Bitches with frustration. I knew I was missing something fundamental, but I felt certain that being a bitch wasn’t going to get me what I really wanted, which was love, security, and connection.
Eventually, I figured it out: It’s not bitchiness or being demanding that draws men to these women. Men are drawn to women who are full of desire—women who want, unapologetically.
More than one man has told me, "I want to give you everything in the world." I always thought it was just one of those things men say.
Now when a man says that, I believe him. I’ve seen enough evidence in my own life and through working with male clients to know that men love making women happy—they thrive on providing service to us, fulfilling our wants and needs. Ironically, many women are uncomfortable acknowledging that we even have wants and needs, let alone expressing them. But if we take away their ability to provide a service to us, they lose their sense of value in the relationship and have to seek it elsewhere.
This doesn't necessarily mean cheating. Often, it simply means investing more in alternate activities and pursuits—work, volunteering, or social engagements that give them that sense of purpose and relevance that we all need. But regardless, it results in increased distance and decreased satisfaction for both parties in the relationship.
When I was stuck in this cycle of asking for less and getting less, I never would've believed wanting unabashedly was my ticket out of relationship hell and the key to unlocking a man's undying adoration and loyalty. Our desires as women are powerful. So, how do we take them back?
Take my own relationship as an example. When we first got together, my partner sat me down and said, "I want to give you everything you’ve ever wanted in the world: attention, money, travel, support. All I need from you is that you appreciate me." I admit, this was swoon-worthy. I quickly got on board with appreciating him on the daily. After all, he sends me texts like this: "I want to cook you breakfast every day for the rest of your life." What’s not to love about that?!
I learned quickly that the greatest challenge in our relationship wasn’t, "How much is he willing to give me? Does he give me enough?" and was instead, "How willing am I to want things and to allow someone else to give them to me?" When things aren't going well in a relationship, it’s easy to blame our partner. "He doesn't pay enough attention to me; he never helps out around the house; our relationship is getting boring and he’s not attractive anymore." This is easy to talk about. What’s far more challenging—and requires much more vulnerability—is to explore what we're doing (or not doing) that's negatively affecting the relationship.