Most men are afraid to admit to their partners and themselves about what they want.

Tara Blair Ball

It can be easier to ask for anything other than nurturing.
holding handsPhoto byaranprimeonUnsplash

My husband was taught lessons most young boys from his generation were: “man up,” “crying is for sissies,” and “real men don’t ask for help!”

He was taught to be independent and self-sufficient, that asking for help was a sign of weakness. He was taught to deny how he was feeling.

Though my husband has been married before, it’s clear that he doesn’t have a lot of experience in opening up and being vulnerable. But the longer we’ve been together, the more clear it is to me that too many men today feel that physicality is the only space where they can get some of the nurturing they desperately need.

What men actually want but are terrified to admit is they too wish to be nurtured.


Physicality is the easiest way for men to compete with one another.

It’s performative.

You wonder with your pals: Whose is bigger? Who got the girl? Who got with the girl? Who got with her better? Who got with more girls? How often are you and your girl getting together?

This continues into old age for many men, hence the marketability of pills to help with that issue.

When men make it all about physicality, it seems “manly.” Way manlier than saying something like, “I just love being totally vulnerable with her.”

Yet it’s not all about physicality for men:

Men also want to relax, let go, put aside whatever “strong man” facades they’re carrying, and be nurtured.

My husband loves having his back scratched. When he asks for it, he’s not feeling like he has to perform or “prove” himself. He’s just asking for something that helps him feel comforted, and doing so is an act of vulnerability for him. If he didn’t feel safe with me, he’d worry I’d call him a “sissy” (or something worse) or say something mean like, “Scratch your own back!”

It’s easier for men to “always want to be physical” than admit that they want to feel cared for and loved by their partners.


Just like men can find it difficult admitting what they actually need, it can be difficult for women to give them that, but doing this opens up both for a deeper, more intimate relationship.

Here are the reasons why women may struggle with this:

1. Women can be nurtured-out.

As a mother, I’m constantly nurturing. I’m holding hands, giving hugs, kissing and blowing on booboos, listening, spending quality time. That can be exhausting by itself.

For my adult male partner to then ask for some nurturing can, definitely, feel like too much. I’ve snapped before, “You want your back scratched? Why don’t you scratch mine? Or, even better, watch the kids so I can actually take a shower!”

But, to be fair, some of my issues were because I hadn’t asked for help. I can’t expect or want my partner to ask for help from me if I’m not willing to do the same.

If I want to be able to give my male partner what he needs, then I need to ask for and get what I need too.

2. Women don’t want “another” child.

We hear it all the time: “I don’t need another kid.” What they’re saying is they already have however many, and they don’t need to take care of their husband too.

Women do more domestic and childcare than men. Every study supports it.

But, hear me out:

What if men acting like “kids” by not doing laundry, etc. is a result of their nurturing needs not being met?

It’s reasonable to consider.

When we’re angry and don’t express it, it comes out sideways: in verbal jabs or quips or in purposefully not doing certain tasks.

What if men really need to be nurtured and because those needs aren’t met, they act like kids in other ways?

No one wants to be responsible for a manchild and tiny human children, but women might be able to help their partners better by allowing them the space to truly be vulnerable.

3. Women can have their own expectations on what they believe a “man” should be.

The first time my husband turned me down and then asked for a back rub, I was horrified.

“Do you not find me attractive anymore?”

“No! Of course I still find you attractive,” he told me.

“Then…” I asked hesitantly. “Why don’t you want to BE with me??”

Men have done so well at telling everyone that “all they want is to be physical” that anytime a man doesn’t want it, women can take it personally. They may even question their husband’s “masculinity,” which can, in turn, make those men feel ashamed or guilty.

Women may also prefer the image of the “strong sullen” guy, the guy who doesn’t express any emotions and certainlydoesn’t need to be nurtured. This guy who’s asking for his needs to be met may be hard for them to accept, especially if their partner started out a mute stoic.

It requires a great deal of courage for both men and women to see men in this new light. It can challenge everything both parties have previously been taught, but it’s worth it to take these kinds of risks because you can lead to a truly deep and loving relationship.

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Tara Blair Ball is a Certified Relationship Coach and author of Grateful in Love: A Daily Gratitude Journal for Couples, A Couples Goals Journal, and Reclaim & Recover: Heal from Toxic Relationships with a 7-Step Guided Journal. She has a Master's from the University of Memphis and is accredited by CTAA. You can find her on Tiktok, Instagram, or YouTube at @tara.relationshipcoach.

Memphis, TN

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