Those of you who insist that there are no differences between the sexes should probably stop reading this right now.
I regard men and women as equal but different and I'm going to be talking about how understanding these differences will foster better male-female relationships.
Getting our needs met in romantic relationships isn't as difficult as we might think. It's as simple as becoming aware of three crucial factors:
1. Men and women have needs that are specific to their gender. What we want from our partners isn't necessarily what they want from us.
2. Men and women communicate differently and we must tailor the way we express ourselves to suit these differences.
3. It all comes down to the right choice of partner. We can understand the differences between the sexes and learn how to communicate effectively, but we can't create a healthy relationship if our partners are incapable of being loving, responsive and respectful.
So, what do men really want in a relationship? In general, they want to feel useful and appreciated for what they have to offer women.
A man wants the woman he's with to make him feel good about himself; he wants to be desired as a man and respected for his accomplishments.
What men can't tolerate is to feel belittled. To shame a man is to alienate his affections, perhaps permanently.
Men also hate to feel controlled. They want to feel like they've come to a decision on their own. Men despise being nagged and will tune a woman out if they feel like this is happening.
Finally, men don't want endless conversations about the relationship. Most men will be happy to discuss the issues that come up between them and their partner, but they won't want to go on and on about them.
It should also be noted that whereas the average woman usually wants to talk about things as they arise, the average man may need to sit with the issue for a while, until they feel ready to discuss it.
So, what do women want? We want to be heard and understood. A woman wants to know that her man cares and is trying his best to make her happy. The relationship should make us feel loved and good about ourselves.
What women don't want is to feel insecure. We want to know that our men are committed to us. We feel disappointed when men are inconsistent or non-committal and we feel rejected when our partners are overly-flirtatious with other women.
Women need their men to respond in a reasonable manner to their requests. It's enormously frustrating to try talking to a man and to hit a brick wall.
The brains of men and women are wired differently, especially around communication styles. Men usually need things laid out to them in a straightforward, logical way. Also, they prefer to deal with one issue at a time.
Whereas women are natural multitaskers, even in their conversations, men can lose the narrative thread if we bring up too many points in one discussion.
Just as a woman usually needs to be in the right mood for physical intimacy, a man usually needs to be in the right frame of mind for a serious talk. If we respect this need on their part, we're much more likely to be heard.
No matter how sensitive we are to the differences between men and women, we must see that if we don't take responsibility for our own behaviour, our relationships aren't going to work.
A man might hate being nagged, but if he refuses to be an adult in his relationship and won't participate equally in the household chores or child-rearing, he'll alienate his partner's affection.
If he wants a loving and supportive wife, he needs to be a loving and supportive husband, and a major way of doing this is to be an equal partner in the family life.
If a man is frustrated because his partner is less than enthusiastic about intimacy, he might want to look at how he's been behaving toward her. Intimacy is the last thing on the mind of a hurt, angry woman.
If the man is overly-critical, compares his partner unfavorably to other women or neglects her emotionally, he's creating a cold war in the bedroom and it's up to him to thaw it out.
The same goes for how a woman treats her man. If she wants him to listen to her, she can't barrage him with a to-do list the minute he wakes up in the morning or walks through the door at the end of the day.
If she respects his need for some time and space, he'll be that much more inclined to give her his full attention when it really counts.
Men, like women, need to feel loved and affirmed. If a woman is critical or rejecting, she can't then expect her man to respond to her in a loving way.
If a woman badgers her man continuously with unreasonable demands, he'll become unresponsive to her valid needs. It's up to her to see that while kindness and respect will bring out the best in her man, an aggressive attitude will foster coldness and resistance on his part.
Let's say, however, that you've done everything to be responsible, understanding and respectful towards your partner but that things aren't working out. It could mean that the person you're with isn't capable of meeting your needs.
You can't make someone into a good partner; they have to want to do it on their own. Sometimes couples therapy can help sort out the issues between two people, but if your partner continues to refuse to behave in a sensitive and caring manner, the best choice is usually to cut your losses and walk away.
If we stop wasting our time trying to change our partners into something they can't or won't be, we'll be free to pursue a relationship with someone who is capable of meeting our needs.
When we're with a loving and respectful partner, our comprehension of the different needs and communication styles of the two sexes will result in both people being happy and fulfilled.
Follow Marcia Sirota on Twitter: www.twitter.com/@rcinstitute