Discovering Our Different Emotional Needs

Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus: The Classic Guide to Understanding the Opposite Sex - John Gray 1992

Discovering Our Different Emotional Needs

Men and women generally are unaware that they have different emotional needs. As a result they do not instinctively know how to support each other. Men typically give in relationships what men want, while women give what women want. Each mistakenly assumes that the other has the same needs and desires. As a result they both end up dissatisfied and resentful.

Both men and women feel they give and give but do not get back. They feel their love is unacknowledged and unappreciated. The truth is they are both giving love but not in the desired manner.

For example, a woman thinks she is being loving when she asks a lot of caring questions or expresses concern. As we have discussed before, this can be very annoying to a man. He may start to feel controlled and want space. She is confused, because if she were offered this kind of support she would be appreciative. Her efforts to be loving are at best ignored and at worst annoying.

Similarly, men think they are being loving, but the way they express their love may make a woman feel invalidated and unsupported. For example, when a woman gets upset, he thinks he is loving and supporting her by making comments that minimize the importance of her problems. He may say “Don’t worry, it’s not such a big deal.” Or he may completely ignore her, assuming he is giving her a lot of “space” to cool off and go into her cave. What he thinks is support makes her feel minimized, unloved, and ignored.

As we have already discussed, when a woman is upset she needs to be heard and understood. Without this insight into different male and female needs, a man doesn’t understand why his attempts to help fail.


Most of our complex emotional needs can be summarized as the need for love. Men and women each have six unique love needs that are all equally important. Men primarily need trust, acceptance, appreciation, admiration, approval, and encouragement. Women primarily need caring, understanding, respect, devotion, validation, and reassurance. The enormous task of figuring out what our partner needs is simplified greatly through understanding these twelve different kinds of love.

By reviewing this list you can easily see why your partner may not feel loved. And most important, this list can give you a direction to improve your relationships with the opposite sex when you don’t know what else to do.

The Primary Love Needs of Women and Men

Here are the different kinds of love listed side by side:

Women need to receive: 1. Caring

Men need to receive: 1. Trust

Women need to receive: 2. Understanding

Men need to receive: 2. Acceptance

Women need to receive: 3. Respect

Men need to receive: 3. Appreciation

Women need to receive: 4. Devotion

Men need to receive: 4. Admiration

Women need to receive: 5. Validation

Men need to receive: 5. Approval

Women need to receive: 6. Reassurance

Men need to receive: 6. Encouragement

Understanding Your Primary Needs

Certainly every man and woman ultimately needs all twelve kinds of love. To acknowledge the six kinds of love primarily needed by women does not imply that men do not need these kinds of love. Men also need caring, understanding, respect, devotion, validation, and reassurance. What is meant by “primary need” is that fulfilling a primary need is required before one is able fully to receive and appreciate the other kinds of love.


Fulfilling a primary need is required before one is able fully to receive and appreciate the other kinds of love.


A man becomes fully receptive to and appreciative of the six kinds of love primarily needed by women (caring, understanding, respect, devotion, validation, and reassurance) when his own primary needs are first fulfilled. Likewise a woman needs trust, acceptance, appreciation, admiration, approval, and encouragement. But before she can truly value and appreciate these kinds of love, her primary needs first must be fulfilled.

Understanding the primary kinds of love that your partner needs is a powerful secret for improving relationships on Earth. Remembering that men are from Mars will help you remember and accept that men have different primary love needs.

It’s easy for a woman to give what she needs and forget that her favorite Martian may need something else. Likewise men tend to focus on their needs, losing track of the fact that the kind of love they need is not always appropriate for or supportive of their favorite Venusian.

The most powerful and practical aspect of this new understanding of love is that these different kinds of love are reciprocal. For example, when a Martian expresses his caring and understanding, a Venusian automatically begins to reciprocate and return to him the trust and acceptance that he primarily needs. The same thing happens when a Venusian expresses her trust—a Martian automatically will begin to reciprocate with the caring she needs.

In the following six sections we will define the twelve kinds of love in practical terms and reveal their reciprocal nature.

1. She Needs Caring and He Needs Trust

When a man shows interest in a woman’s feelings and heartfelt concern for her well-being, she feels loved and cared for. When he makes her feel special in this caring way, he succeeds in fulfilling her first primary need. Naturally she begins to trust him more. When she trusts, she becomes more open and receptive.

When a woman’s attitude is open and receptive toward a man he feels trusted. To trust a man is to believe that he is doing his best and that he wants the best for his partner. When a woman’s reactions reveal a positive belief in her man’s abilities and intentions, his first primary love need is fulfilled. Automatically he is more caring and attentive to her feelings and needs.

2. She Needs Understanding and He Needs Acceptance

When a man listens without judgment but with empathy and relatedness to a woman express her feelings, she feels heard and understood. An understanding attitude doesn’t presume to already know a person’s thoughts or feelings; instead, it gathers meaning from what is heard, and moves toward validating what is being communicated. The more a woman’s need to be heard and understood is fulfilled, the easier it is for her to give her man the acceptance he needs.

When a woman lovingly receives a man without trying to change him, he feels accepted. An accepting attitude does not reject but affirms that he is being favorably received. It does not mean the woman believes he is perfect but indicates that she is not trying to improve him, that she trusts him to make his own improvements. When a man feels accepted it is much easier for him to listen and give her the understanding she needs and deserves.

3. She Needs Respect and He Needs Appreciation

When a man responds to a woman in a way that acknowledges and prioritizes her rights, wishes, and needs, she feels respected. When his behavior takes into consideration her thoughts and feelings, she is sure to feel respected. Concrete and physical expressions of respect, like flowers and remembering anniversaries, are essential to fulfill a woman’s third primary love need. When she feels respected it is much easier for her to give her man the appreciation that he deserves.

When a woman acknowledges having received personal benefit and value from a man’s efforts and behavior, he feels appreciated. Appreciation is the natural reaction to being supported. When a man is appreciated he knows his effort is not wasted and is thus encouraged to give more. When a man is appreciated he is automatically empowered and motivated to respect his partner more.

4. She Needs Devotion and He Needs Admiration

When a man gives priority to a woman’s needs and proudly commits himself to supporting and fulfilling her, her fourth primary love need is fulfilled. A woman thrives when she feels adored and special. A man fulfills her need to be loved in this way when he makes her feelings and needs more important than his other interests—like work, study, and recreation. When a woman feels that she is number one in his life then, quite easily, she admires him.

Just as a woman needs to feel a man’s devotion, a man has a primary need to feel a woman’s admiration. To admire a man is to regard him with wonder, delight, and pleased approval. A man feels admired when she is happily amazed by his unique characteristics or talents, which may include humor, strength, persistence, integrity, honesty, romance, kindness, love, understanding, and other so-called old-fashioned virtues. When a man feels admired, he feels secure enough to devote himself to his woman and adore her.

5. She Needs Validation and He Needs Approval

When a man does not object to or argue with a woman’s feelings and wants but instead accepts and confirms their validity, a woman truly feels loved because her fifth primary need is fulfilled. A man’s validating attitude confirms a woman’s right to feel the way she does. (It is important to remember one can validate her point of view while having a different point of view.) When a man learns how to let a woman know that he has this validating attitude, he is assured of getting the approval that he primarily needs.

Deep inside, every man wants to be his woman’s hero or knight in shining armor. The signal that he has passed her tests is her approval. A woman’s approving attitude acknowledges the goodness in a man and expresses overall satisfaction with him. (Remember, giving approval to a man doesn’t always mean agreeing with him.) An approving attitude recognizes or looks for the good reasons behind what he does. When he receives the approval he needs, it becomes easier for him to validate her feelings.

6. She Needs Reassurance and He Needs Encouragement

When a man repeatedly shows that he cares, understands, respects, validates, and is devoted to his partner, her primary need to be reassured is fulfilled. A reassuring attitude tells a woman that she is continually loved.

A man commonly makes the mistake of thinking that once he has met all of a woman’s primary love needs, and she feels happy and secure, that she should know from then on that she is loved. This is not the case. To fulfill her sixth primary love need he must remember to reassure her again and again.


A man commonly makes the mistake of thinking that once he has met all of a woman’s primary love needs, and she feels happy and secure, that she should know from then on that she is loved.


Similarly, a man primarily needs to be encouraged by a woman. A woman’s encouraging attitude gives hope and courage to a man by expressing confidence in his abilities and character. When a woman’s attitude expresses trust, acceptance, appreciation, admiration, and approval it encourages a man to be all that he can be. Feeling encouraged motivates him to give her the loving reassurance that she needs.

The best comes out in a man when his six primary love needs are fulfilled. But when a woman doesn’t know what he primarily needs and gives a caring love rather than a trusting love, she may unknowingly sabotage their relationship. This next story exemplifies this point.


Deep inside every man there is a hero or a knight in shining armor. More than anything, he wants to succeed in serving and protecting the woman he loves. When he feels trusted, he is able to tap into this noble part of himself. He becomes more caring. When he doesn’t feel trusted he loses some of his aliveness and energy, and after a while he can stop caring.

Imagine a knight in shining armor traveling through the countryside. Suddenly he hears a woman crying out in distress. In an instant he comes alive. Urging his horse to a gallop, he races to her castle, where she is trapped by a dragon. The noble knight pulls out his sword and slays the dragon. As a result, he is lovingly received by the princess.

As the gates open he is welcomed and celebrated by the family of the princess and the townspeople. He is invited to live in the town and is acknowledged as a hero. He and the princess fall in love.

A month later the noble knight goes off on another trip. On his way back, he hears his beloved princess crying out for help. Another dragon has attacked the castle. When the knight arrives he pulls out his sword to slay the dragon.

Before he swings, the princess cries out from the tower, “Don’t use your sword, use this noose. It will work better.”

She throws him the noose and motions to him instructions about how to use it. He hesitantly follows her instructions. He wraps it around the dragon’s neck and then pulls hard. The dragon dies and everyone rejoices.

At the celebration dinner the knight feels he didn’t really do anything. Somehow, because he used her noose and didn’t use his sword, he doesn’t quite feel worthy of the town’s trust and admiration. After the event he is slightly depressed and forgets to shine his armor.

A month later he goes on yet another trip. As he leaves with his sword, the princess reminds him to be careful and tells him to take the noose. On his way home, he sees yet another dragon attacking the castle. This time he rushes forward with his sword but hesitates, thinking maybe he should use the noose. In that moment of hesitation, the dragon breathes fire and burns his right arm. In confusion he looks up and sees his princess waving from the castle window.

“Use the poison,” she yells. “The noose doesn’t work.”

She throws him the poison, which he pours into the dragon’s mouth, and the dragon dies. Everyone rejoices and celebrates, but the knight feels ashamed.

A month later, he goes on another trip. As he leaves with his sword, the princess reminds him to be careful, and to bring the noose and the poison. He is annoyed by her suggestions but brings them just in case.

This time on his journey he hears another woman in distress. As he rushes to her call, his depression is lifted and he feels confident and alive. But as he draws his sword to slay the dragon, he again hesitates. He wonders, Should I use my sword, the noose, or the poison? What would the princess say?

For a moment he is confused. But then he remembers how he had felt before he knew the princess, back in the days when he only carried a sword. With a burst of renewed confidence he throws off the noose and poison and charges the dragon with his trusted sword. He slays the dragon and the townspeople rejoice.

The knight in shining armor never returned to his princess. He stayed in this new village and lived happily ever after. He eventually married, but only after making sure his new partner knew nothing about nooses and poisons.

Remembering that within every man is a knight in shining armor is a powerful metaphor to help you remember a man’s primary needs. Although a man may appreciate caring and assistance sometimes, too much of it will lessen his confidence or turn him off.


Without an awareness of what is important for the opposite sex, men and women don’t realize how much they may be hurting their partners. We can see that both men and women unknowingly communicate in ways that are not only counterproductive but may even be a turnoff.

Men and women get their feelings hurt most easily when they do not get the kind of primary love they need. Women generally don’t realize the ways they communicate that are unsupportive and hurtful to the male ego. A woman may try to be sensitive to a man’s feelings, but because his primary love needs are different from hers, she doesn’t instinctively anticipate his needs.

Through understanding a man’s primary love needs, a woman can be more aware and sensitive to the sources of his discontent. The following is a list of common communication mistakes women make in relation to a man’s primary love needs.

Mistakes women commonly make: 1. She tries to improve his behavior or help him by offering unsolicited advice.

Why he doesn’t feel loved: 1. He feels unloved because she doesn’t trust him anymore.

Mistakes women commonly make: 2. She tries to change or control his behavior by sharing her upset or negative feelings. (It is OK to share feelings but not when they attempt to manipulate or punish.)

Why he doesn’t feel loved: 2. He feels unloved because she doesn’t accept him as he is.

Mistakes women commonly make: 3. She doesn’t acknowledge what he does for her but complains about what he has not done.

Why he doesn’t feel loved: 3. He feels taken for granted and unloved because she doesn’t appreciate what he does.

Mistakes women commonly make: 4. She corrects his behavior and tells him what to do, as if he were a child.

Why he doesn’t feel loved: 4. He feels unloved because he does not feel admired.

Mistakes women commonly make: 5. She expresses her upset feelings indirectly with rhetorical questions like “How could you do that?”

Why he doesn’t feel loved: 5. He feels unloved because he feels she has taken away her approval of him. He no longer feels like the good guy.

Mistakes women commonly make: 6. When he makes decisions or takes initiatives she corrects or criticizes him.

Why he doesn’t feel loved: 6. He feels unloved because she does not encourage him to do things on his own.

Just as women easily make mistakes when they don’t understand what men primarily need, men also make mistakes. Men generally don’t recognize the ways they communicate that are disrespectful and unsupportive to women. A man may even know that she is unhappy with him, but unless he understands why she feels unloved and what she needs he cannot change his approach.

Through understanding a woman’s primary needs, a man can be more sensitive to and respectful of her needs. The following is a list of communication mistakes men make in relation to a woman’s primary emotional needs.

Mistakes men make: 1. He doesn’t listen, gets easily distracted, doesn’t ask interested or concerned questions.

Why she doesn’t feel loved: 1. She feels unloved because he is not attentive or showing that he cares.

Mistakes men make: 2. He takes her feelings literally and corrects her. He thinks she is asking for solutions so he gives advice.

Why she doesn’t feel loved: 2. She feels unloved because he doesn’t understand her.

Mistakes men make: 3. He listens but then gets angry and blames her for upsetting him or for bringing him down.

Why she doesn’t feel loved: 3. She feels unloved because he doesn’t respect her feelings.

Mistakes men make: 4. He minimizes the importance of her feelings and needs. He makes children or work more important.

Why she doesn’t feel loved: 4. She feels unloved because he is not devoted to her and doesn’t honor her as special.

Mistakes men make: 5. When she is upset, he explains why he is right and why she should not be upset.

Why she doesn’t feel loved: 5. She feels unloved because he doesn’t validate her feelings but instead makes her feel wrong and unsupported.

Mistakes men make: 6. After listening he says nothing or just walks away.

Why she doesn’t feel loved: 6. She feels insecure because she doesn’t get the reassurance she needs.


Love often fails because people instinctively give what they want. Because a woman’s primary love needs are to be cared for, understood, and so forth, she automatically gives her man a lot of caring and understanding. To a man this caring support often feels as though she doesn’t trust him. Being trusted is his primary need, not being cared for.

Then, when he doesn’t respond positively to her caring she can’t understand why he doesn’t appreciate her brand of support. He, of course, is giving his own brand of love, which isn’t what she needs. So they are caught in a loop of failing to fulfill each other’s needs.

Beth complained, saying, “I just can’t keep giving and not getting back. Arthur doesn’t appreciate what I give. I love him, but he doesn’t love me.”

Arthur complained, saying, “Nothing I do is ever good enough. I don’t know what to do. I’ve tried everything and she still doesn’t love me. I love her, but it’s just not working.”

Beth and Arthur have been married for eight years. They both felt like giving up because they didn’t feel loved. Ironically, they both claimed to be giving more love than they were getting back. Beth believed she was giving more, while Arthur thought he was giving the most. In truth they were both giving, but neither was getting what they wanted or needed.

They did love each other, but because they didn’t understand their partner’s primary needs their love wasn’t getting through. Beth was giving what she needed to receive while Arthur was giving what he wanted. Gradually they burned out.

Many people give up when relationships become too difficult. Relationships become easier when we understand our partner’s primary needs. Without giving more but by giving what is required we do not burn out. This understanding of the twelve different kinds of love finally explains why our sincere loving attempts fail. To fulfill your partner, you need to learn how to give the love he or she primarily needs.


The number one way a man can succeed in fulfilling a woman’s primary love needs is through communication. As we have discussed before, communication is particularly important on Venus. By learning to listen to a woman’s feelings, a man can effectively shower a woman with caring, understanding, respect, devotion, validation, and reassurance.

One of the biggest problems men have with listening to women is that they become frustrated or angry because they forget that women are from Venus and that they are supposed to communicate differently. The chart below outlines some ways to remember these differences and makes some suggestions about what to do.

How to Listen Without Getting Angry

What to remember: 1. Remember anger comes from not understanding her point of view, and this is never her fault.

What to do and what not to do: 1. Take responsibility to understand. Don’t blame her for upsetting you. Start again trying to understand.

What to remember: 2. Remember that feelings don’t always make sense right away, but they’re still valid and need empathy.

What to do and what not to do: 2. Breathe deeply, don’t say anything! Relax and let go of trying to control. Try to imagine how you would feel if you saw the world through her eyes.

What to remember: 3. Remember that anger may come from not knowing what to do to make things better. Even if she doesn’t immediately feel better, your listening and understanding are helping.

What to do and what not to do: 3. Don’t blame her for not feeling better from your solutions. How can she feel better when solutions are not what she needs? Resist the urge to offer solutions.

What to remember: 4. Remember you don’t have to agree to understand her point of view or to be appreciated as a good listener.

What to do and what not to do: 4. If you wish to express a differing point of view make sure she is finished and then rephrase her point of view before giving your own. Do not raise your voice.

What to remember: 5. Remember you don’t fully have to understand her point of view to succeed in being a good listener.

What to do and what not to do: 5. Let her know you don’t understand but want to. Take responsibility for not understanding; don’t judge her or imply she can’t be understood.

What to remember: 6. Remember you are not responsible for how she feels. She may sound as though she is blaming you, but she is really needing to be understood.

What to do and what not to do: 6. Refrain from defending yourself until she feels that you understand and care. Then it is OK gently to explain yourself or to apologize.

What to remember: 7. Remember that if she makes you really angry she is probably mistrusting you. Deep inside her is a scared little girl who is afraid of opening up and being hurt and who needs your kindness and compassion.

What to do and what not to do: 7. Don’t argue with her feelings and opinions. Take time out and discuss things later when there is less emotional charge. Practice the Love Letter technique as described in chapter 11.

When a man can listen to a woman’s feelings without getting angry and frustrated, he gives her a wonderful gift. He makes it safe for her to express herself. The more she is able to express herself, the more she feels heard and understood, and the more she is able to give a man the loving trust, acceptance, appreciation, admiration, approval, and encouragement that he needs.


Just as men need to learn the art of listening to fulfill a woman’s primary love needs, women need to learn the art of empowerment. When a woman enlists the support of a man, she empowers him to be all that he can be. A man feels empowered when he is trusted, accepted, appreciated, admired, approved of, and encouraged.

Like in our story of the knight in shining armor, many women try to help their man by improving him but unknowingly weaken or hurt him. Any attempt to change him takes away the loving trust, acceptance, appreciation, admiration, approval, and encouragement that are his primary needs.

The secret of empowering a man is never to try to change him or improve him. Certainly you may want him to change—just don’t act on that desire. Only if he directly and specifically asks for advice is he open to assistance in changing.


The secret of empowering a man is never to try to change him or improve him.


Give Trust and Not Advice

On Venus, it is considered a loving gesture to offer advice. But on Mars it is not. Women need to remember that Martians do not offer advice unless it is directly requested. A way of showing love is to trust another Martian to solve his problems on his own.

This doesn’t mean a woman has to squash her feelings. It’s OK for her to feel frustrated or even angry, as long as she doesn’t try to change him. Any attempt to change him is unsupportive and counterproductive.

When a woman loves a man, she often begins trying to improve their relationship. In her exuberance she makes him a target for her improvements. She begins a gradual process of slowly rehabilitating him.

Why Men Resist Change

In myriad ways she tries to change him or improve him. She thinks her attempts to change him are loving, but he feels controlled, manipulated, rejected, and unloved. He will stubbornly reject her because he feels she is rejecting him. When a woman tries to change a man, he is not getting the loving trust and acceptance he actually needs to change and grow.

When I ask a room filled with hundreds of women and men they all have had the same experience: the more a woman tries to change a man, the more he resists.

The problem is that when a man resists her attempts to improve him, she misinterprets his response. She mistakenly thinks he is not willing to change, probably because he does not love her enough. The truth is, however, that he is resistant to changing because he believes he is not being loved enough. When a man feels loved, trusted, accepted, appreciated, and so forth, automatically he begins to change, grow, and improve.

Two Kinds of Men/One Kind of Behavior

There are two kinds of men. One will become incredibly defensive and stubborn when a woman tries to change him, while the other will agree to change but later will forget and revert back to the old behavior. A man either actively resists or passively resists.

When a man does not feel loved just the way he is, he will either consciously or unconsciously repeat the behavior that is not being accepted. He feels an inner compulsion to repeat the behavior until he feels loved and accepted.

For a man to improve himself he needs to feel loved in an accepting way. Otherwise he defends himself and stays the same. He needs to feel accepted just the way he is, and then he, on his own, will look for ways to improve.

Men Don’t Want to Be Improved

Just as men want to explain why women shouldn’t be upset, women want to explain why men shouldn’t behave the way they do. Just as men mistakenly want to “fix” women, women mistakenly try to “improve” men.

Men see the world through Martian eyes. Their motto is “don’t fix it, if it isn’t broken.” When a woman attempts to change a man, he receives the message that she thinks he is broken. This hurts a man and makes him very defensive. He doesn’t feel loved and accepted.


The best way to help a man grow is to let go of trying to change him in any way.


A man needs to be accepted regardless of his imperfections. To accept a person’s imperfections is not easy, especially when we see how he could become better. It does, however, become easier when we understand that the best way to help him grow is to let go of trying to change him in any way.

The following chart lists ways a woman can support a man in growing and changing by giving up trying to change him in any way.

How to Give Up Trying to Change a Man

What she needs to remember: 1. Remember: don’t ask him too many questions when he is upset or he will feel you are trying to change him.

What she can do: 1. Ignore that he is upset unless he wants to talk to you about it. Show some initial concern, but not too much, as an invitation to talk.

What she needs to remember: 2. Remember: trying to improve him in give up any way. He needs your love, not rejection, to grow.

What she can do: 2. Trust him to grow on his own. Honestly share feelings but without the demand that he change.

What she needs to remember: 3. Remember: when you offer unsolicited advice he may feel mistrusted, controlled, or rejected.

What she can do: 3. Practice patience and trust that he will learn on his own what he needs to learn. Wait until he asks for your advice.

What she needs to remember: 4. Remember: when a man becomes stubborn and resists change he is not feeling loved; he is afraid to admit his mistakes for fear of not being loved.

What she can do: 4. Practice showing him that he doesn’t have to be perfect to deserve your love Practice forgiveness. (See chapter 11.)

What she needs to remember: 5. Remember: if you make sacrifices hoping he will do the same for you then he will feel pressured to change.

What she can do: 5. Practice doing things for yourself and not depending on him to make you happy.

What she needs to remember: 6. Remember: you can share negative feelings without trying to change him. When he feels accepted it is easier for him to listen.

What she can do: 6. When sharing feelings, let him know that you are not trying to tell him what to do but that you want him to take your feelings into consideration.

What she needs to remember: 7. Remember: if you give him directions and make decisions for him he will feel corrected and controlled.

What she can do: 7. Relax and surrender. Practice accepting imperfection. Make his feelings more important than perfection and don’t lecture or correct him.

As men and women learn to support each other in the ways that are most important for their own unique needs, change and growth will become automatic. With a greater awareness of your partner’s six primary needs you can redirect your loving support according to their needs and make your relationships dramatically easier and more fulfilling.