June 6, 2011 at 11:46 AM ET
Although most won't admit it, men love to be in love. In fact, many men need to be in a relationship more than women do. This is because a good relationship is settling for a man, a place where he can share feelings that he might not be able to talk about with anyone else. In our society, women are permitted to have close, bonded relationships with their girlfriends. They talk to each other openly, and turn to one another for support easily, but men don't. Believe it or not, for many guys their love relationship is the one place where they can allow themselves to be truly intimate.
As a therapist in New York City, I've counseled many men in relationships who agree. And after interviewing men to write my first two books, Why Men Leave and What He Can't Tell You... and Needs to Say, six reasons emerged that explain what they really like about relationships. Check them out here. You might be surprised by what these guys say!
Feeling free enough to really be himself
"When I'm in a relationship, I'm a different man than when I'm not," Bob said. "When I'm out there running around with the guys, I feel part of a pack, on the hunt. Sure, it can be fun for a while. But, believe me, every one of the guys in the group is hoping to meet someone each night. And I don't just mean someone for sex. I mean someone for everything, the 'real thing.'"
When asked what "the real thing" meant to him—and his friends—Bob grinned. "It means someone who will take you for what you are. Who likes you that way. Who isn't going to start finding fault, but instead, start finding all the things about you that are terrific."
When a guy is in a relationship where he is allowed to be himself, he feels more confident. He feels lovable and worthy. Just by being there, the woman he is dating or married to reminds him that she chose him out of all the others. This kind of feeling is hard to get in any other way. It helps all aspects of his life.
Being inspired to be a better man
Andy said he loves the challenge of relationships. He knows he has to work at it in order to make a love affair last. "Relationships make me keep myself up, work out, look good, stay sharp, keep my eye on the competition. After all, I don't want her running off with some other guy. When things work out, I feel like a winner. I feel proud showing her off to my family and friends too. It's like I'm saying, look what I have. Look who I am."
For many guys like Andy, relationships are a big ego boost. They keep them on the sharp edge of life, and force them to be the best they can. In As Good As It Gets, Jack Nicholson's character says to Helen Hunt's, "You make me want to be a better man," and it is indeed a compliment.
Simply having a partner who he will see at the end of the day
For Tim, it's slightly different. Tim loves the rush of looking forward to spending a romantic weekend with the woman of his dreams. "When I'm in a relationship," Tim said, "the woman becomes the woman of my dreams. She's beautiful. She's fabulous. I think about her all week long and can't wait for us to be together on the weekend (or sometimes weeknights). It makes the whole day exciting. When things get boring or rough, I think of her and feel great.
"It's something to look forward to. It reminds me that there's a prize for me at the end of the road."
For a guy like Tim, being in a relationship fills his life with fun and joy. Seeing his girlfriend's smile or hearing her voice becomes the reward for all of his hard work. His relationship reminds him that there's more to life than the rough times, and he can enjoy himself every day.
Having the chance to make your day
Edgar said that what he loves about being in a relationship is knowing that he can make someone else happy. Knowing that he's capable of doing this makes him feel good inside.
"It's the best feeling in the world," he said, "to see my girlfriend's face light up when I walk in the door. If I know she needs me and that I can make her happy, take some of her problems away, I feel terrific, like it's all worthwhile."
This is a particularly interesting comment, because when I interviewed men for Why Men Leave, the number one reason they said they left relationships was because they felt they could not satisfy their partner or meet her needs. Not being able to make someone happy made them feel inadequate. Men need to feel as though they're doing a good job. And they need to hear the acknowledgement of that from the woman they're with. When a man feels like he can please his girlfriend or wife, it makes him feel wonderful about himself.
Enjoying the sexy returns
Lanny had something else to say. "I'll be really frank about it," he said. "I love the sex. I need it. It's important to me. When I have good sex in my relationship, I feel happy all week long. When I don't, it makes me edgy. I love to know that a woman thinks I'm sexy."
Of course both partners are nourished by a relationship that includes good sex. And sex can mean different things to people in relationships. But for many men, it simply helps them feel loved, approved, admired and acknowledged. It becomes like food that's impossible to live without.
Sharing his life with someone
What Mark loves about being in a relationship is having someone to come home to. "This may sound strange," Mark said, "but for me, it's great knowing that at the end of the day there's someone there, waiting for me. Whether that's because we're living together, or knowing that she's someone who I can call, it's comforting. That we check in with each other, go over the day, laugh at jokes and work things out. I need to have someone who cares about how things are going for me. This makes a huge difference in how I do at work."
Many men are bolstered in their work and supported in their everyday lives by simply having a partner who cares what happens to them. Someone who is there for them, to help them solve problems, big or small. This kind of care provides balance and stability. But even more importantly, it reminds men in relationships that they are not alone in a competitive workplace where it sometimes seems as though people only care about themselves.
Loving couples know that a relationship is a great gift for both partners. The men who don't seem to be able to commit because they run from one relationship to another, or avoid them altogether, might simply not be able to find the right person. A man truly needs to find someone who makes him feel safe and cared for, a woman who sees the best in him and lets him know it. When she shows that she is happy with him, he will appreciate the relationship more. After all, if she loves being in love with him, what could be more rewarding?
A version of this story originally appeared on iVillage.