The #1 Thing Men Want More of is Not What You Think

The Normal BarBased on survey results from more than 70,000 respondents, the new book, The Normal Bar, provided a number of surprises. But the most surprising result I read about was when men in unhappy relationships were asked what they want most from their partners that they’re not getting. The authors/researchers expected to find that sex topped the list, but it didn’t make the top two.

Male respondents instead want more and better communication, saying their partners don’t listen to them attentively enough. Coming in second, they wanted more affection. In third place, they said they desired more sex.

Unhappy women also ranked communication at the top of their wish list, and for more affection in second place. Their third wish was for financial stability.

Remember that these were the responses from unhappy couples. Another surprise was the response from happy couples as to what they wanted more of. The number-one answer was “nothing.” In fact 35% of satisfied women and 40% of satisfied men say all their relationship needs are being met.

These results were not just true for Americans, but were true worldwide. Communication is apparently a bigger issue than most of us realize, being the most important relationship issue for many couples. Only the French reported affection as more important, which was surprising because the French were number-one in romance.


What can we take from these results to help us in our marriages? First, if your spouse is asking for better communication, don’t roll your eyes or belittle its importance. In your partner’s eyes, the way you speak to them and listen to them out may be one of their top concerns. Second, better communication may mean less talking and more listening. Reflect back what you hear to make sure you are understanding them correctly. And third, remember that it can be easy to drift apart. Make daily effort to reconnect on an emotional and physical level. Show affection and demonstrate your love with small daily efforts.

Are you giving your spouse enough time and attention? Are you talking only about the day’s agenda or about deeper issues, desires and concerns? Can you carve out time for a walk together or to have a cup of coffee in the morning or a glass of wine in the evening? Try to bring a fun topic or question to your chats, such as dreaming about a future vacation, or guessing what famous person you would each like to have over for dinner.

Communication is a skill we can all learn to improve. If communication is an area of dissatisfaction or dispute, seek out a class, a counselor or even online tips for how you can take your communication to the next level.

I’ll be providing some additional insights from the book. You can learn more by reading The Normal Bar by Chrisanna Northup, Pepper Schwartz, PhD, and James Witte, PhD. Let me know if you’re interested in having your  name added to a drawing for a free copy of the book by leaving a comment below.

Do you agree or disagree with the survey results?

Lori Lowe is the author of First Kiss to Lasting Bliss: Hope & Inspiration for Your Marriage. It tells the inspiring, true stories of couples who used adversity to improve their marriages–from overcoming drug addiction to cancer, infidelity, religious differences, family interference and infertility, among many others. It’s available at and in all e-book formats at

13 responses to “The #1 Thing Men Want More of is Not What You Think

  1. Absolutely DISAGREE. I am a Christian husband who saved my virginity 32 years until married with the expectation that I would be accordingly rewarded. As you might guess from my tone, I am extremely disillusioned and consider the “promise” of marital sex to be the biggest lie I ever fell for. Unless they have some physical/hormonal abnormality, husbands need sex just as much as wives need “communication.” (Incidentally, the typical female request for husbands to ‘just listen’ is not a request for “communication” but a request “to be listened to.” They are different things).

    I wonder if those survey results were skewed by wives who “cross-voted?!”

    • Rosemary / RomanticMarriage.Org

      Anonymous – After 28 years of marriage and a lot of time spent studying the most credible research, talking to real-life individuals and couples, and reading the blog comments of both happy and unhappy people, I believe that poor communication is definitely the foundation of most marriage problems, including lack of sex. Real communication isn’t necessarily about being a good listener, or spending a set amount of time talking each day, or making your wants and needs crystal clear to your partner. Real communication requires generosity, empathy, vulnerability and honesty. It can be facilitated by the right kind of counselor. It may not seem like it at first, but good quality counseling can make it possible for both you and your spouse to truly understand each other in a way that will make sex, affection, and communication mutually enjoyable in your marriage.

  2. I found this very interesting about men wanting more communication. I think it goes both ways and meshing styles of communication is one of the most difficult aspects of all relationships. I’d love to win a copy of the book!

    cathy underscore shouse at yahoo dot com

  3. Thanks for the insight…would love to learn more from this book. Thanks for offering a copy!

    ~eunice b
    tigergal01 @gmail .com

  4. Marlen Hernandez Mar

    I absolutely believe this survey, I’m in a happy marriage now, bur for many years struggle with communication problems. Our home church offered to us a Marriage Encounter weekend, that changed this problem. We identified, and commited to make it better, and we are happy now. There is always room for improvement and we always look for ways to make it better, so I know we can benefit from a copy of this book.Thanks for offering a copy. Marlen Mar

  5. Interesting post. I would have guessed that the #1 thing men want more of is respect. If we listened more to our husbands though, it would mean giving them respect. I know I am guilty of “zoning out” sometimes when my husband is talking about his day. It’s because I am usually multi-tasking and I do not give him my undivided attention. Thanks for the reminder that I need to listen more.

  6. I disagree with the findings as well. Also, these findings are opposite to what Shanti Feldhahn researched and presented in her book, for women only – men are not getting enough sex or respect. In either case, we all know that numbers and statistics can be skewed. My best guess for disagreeing with the findings are from my own marriage and talking to other couples who boldly come forward to share their hurt in this area.

  7. Hmm, this is a tough one. Do I have a greater desire for more sex, more communication, or more affection? More sex is nice, but it would be empty without affection. Affection would be meaningless without communication because how I can I feel cherished if I am not truly heard and understood both intellectually and emotionally. If there was a serious deficit of sex, then I would not feel cherished or understood/known. The challenge becomes that if any one of the three are missing and badly lacking, it makes the other two incomplete at best. Sex is the highest drive for me, but it is not merely sex by itself that makes sex fulfilling.The deepest longing that incorporates the three is that I want to be known, cherished, and desired. It looks primarily like a drive for sex, a longing for communication, or an ache for affection, but it is truly the desire to be loved in a personal, intimate, secure way.

  8. Nathan, Right on man!!
    I was about to reply to this article but read your reply which simply wrapped up exactly what I was about to convey.
    Dude! RIGHT ON!!
    It’s a combination. Sure my issue is LACK OF SEX but so is the lack of affection, lack of respect, lack of any form of being CHERISHED whatsoever. These things are crazy important. However, I think we have the sterotypical label of being “sex starved” because we can usually handle the lack of emotional luggage such as affection, communication, respect, and the all encompassing being cherished!

    • This is an interesting discussion, and I agree it’s likely a combination of these things that men and women are seeking more of in their relationships. Thanks for all the feedback.

  9. Pingback: How Does Your Marriage Compare? More Interesting Findings… | Marriage Gems

  10. Marlen, I drew your name for the free book, so I will message you to get your address. Congratulations and thanks to all who expressed an interest. I’m giving away another free book this week if you check the latest posts.

  11. Pingback: #1 Thing Men Want More Of…. answer will surprise you! |

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