This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus" by John Gray. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.
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What do men and women need when it comes to love? How do they express their love needs?
Everybody needs love, regardless of gender. But men and women express love differently, which can make romantic partners feel like they love more than they are loved. Understanding the differences in the way men and women express love is key to an emotionally fulfilling relationship.
Read about the primary love needs of men versus women.
Love Needs: Men Versus Women
Many times, both a man and a woman in a relationship feel as though they give more love than they receive. But the truth is that they are both giving love, but not in their partner’s desired manner.
Awareness of your partner’s love needs will guide you in how to show your love and support in the way they most want to receive them.
The Twelve Types of Love
There are 12 types of love.
- Men primarily need trust, acceptance, appreciation, admiration, approval, and encouragement. On Mars, every man instinctively knew to show their love for each other in these primary ways.
- Women primarily need caring, understanding, respect, devotion, validation, and reassurance. On Venus, every woman instinctively knew to show their love for each other in these primary ways.
It is important to note that both men and women need all 12 types of love. But men and women each have six primary needs that must be fulfilled in order to truly feel loved and give love in return.
Understanding your partner’s love needs and how they relate to your own is a critical aspect of any relationship. Once you learn to give love the way your partner wants to receive it (details below), your relationship will blossom.
The most practical aspect of the six primary love needs of men and women is that they are reciprocal. Giving and receiving love the right way keeps both partners fulfilled. Here are some examples:
- Men need acceptance, women need understanding: A woman can fulfill a man’s need for accepting love by allowing a man to be himself and not trying to change him. Once a man feels accepted for who he is, he is more likely to show understanding the next time his partner does offer advice.
- Men need appreciation, women need respect: A man can fulfill a woman’s need for respect by making a gesture of love, like bringing home flowers. Once a woman feels respected, she will naturally want to show her gratitude for her partner.
- Men need admiration, women need devotion: A woman can fulfill a man’s need for admiring love by showing her amazement at his best characteristics. Once a man feels admired, he will be secure enough to devote himself to the relationship.
Fulfilling a Man’s Primary Needs
The most effective way for a woman to fulfill a man’s love needs is to empower him. Showing your man that you love him the way he is makes him feel trusted, accepted, appreciated, admired, approved of, and encouraged.
The most ineffective way to show love to a man is to try and change him. Because men are naturally focused on achievement, your male partner is extremely sensitive to feeling like a failure. Though you might think that you are showing support to your partner by helping him improve, it feels to him like you are saying “I want you to change because you aren’t good enough.”
Here are some ways to fulfill your male partner’s primary love needs of acceptance, trust, appreciation, approval, admiration, and encouragement:
- Remember that he will feel rejected if you try to change him.
- Be patient and trust that he will learn lessons in his own time.
- Reflect on whether you are expressing negative feelings in an effort to change his behavior.
- Allow your partner to ask for advice when he wants it.
- Refrain from making decisions on behalf of your partner.
When you empower a man, without suggesting any changes, you fulfill his primary love needs.
Fulfilling a Woman’s Primary Needs
The most effective way for a man to fulfill a woman’s love needs is to communicate with her. Listening is a way to shower a woman with caring, understanding, respect, devotion, validation, and reassurance.
The most ineffective way to show love to a woman is to invalidate her feelings when she tries to communicate. Because women are naturally focused on connection, your female partner is extremely sensitive to feeling invalidated or unheard. Though you might think you are showing support to your partner by helping her brush off her negative feelings, it feels to her like you are saying “I don’t care about what you are feeling because I don’t care about you.”
Here are some ways to avoid invalidating your female partner’s feelings while listening to her:
- Remember that anger is a result of misunderstanding.
- Breathe deeply and let go of trying to control her feelings.
- Reflect on whether your resistance might be coming from your inability to help.
- Allow your partner to finish speaking before offering a different opinion.
- Refrain from feeling blamed. Don’t jump to your own defense.
When you listen to and communicate with a woman, without jumping to anger, you fulfill her primary love needs.
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Here's what you'll find in our full Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus summary:
- Why it feels like men and women come from two different planets
- How to navigate the gender-based differences in communication
- The 6 things that men and women need in a loving relationship