How To Be A Man In A Relationship — 21 Healthy Ways

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Author Edwin Louis Cole once said, “Being a male is a matter of birth. Being a man is a matter of choice.” But what exactly did he mean by that? How to be a man in a relationship? Does that mean paying the bills? Or pulling out the chair for your partner? Or opening the car door for them?

Don’t worry, we’re here to answer these and myriad other questions you may have about being a strong man in a relationship. Today, we’re in consultation with psychologist Nandita Rambhia (MSc. Psychology), who specializes in CBT, REBT, and couple’s counseling. Let’s talk about wholesome masculinity.

What Does It Mean To Be A Man In A Relationship?

A Reddit user wrote, “In general, I think phrases like “be the man,” “man up in the relationship,” etc. are unhelpful and confusing because they are too vague and everyone has a different interpretation of their meaning.”

Adding to that, here are some interesting findings:

  • Young men equate ideal manhood with physical strength, (hetero)sexual prowess, providing for the family, and ‘manly’ activities such as consuming alcohol 
  • Men face difficulty in expressing certain emotions
  • Labeling people can limit individual potential and affect relationships

Hence, a strong man in a relationship is no longer a sigma male, or the so-called epitome of strength, courage, and honor. The new-age man in a relationship gives respect, talks about his fears and feelings, and makes his partner feel safe. 

A real man protects his partner’s dreams as enthusiastically as he protects his own. He doesn’t play video games while his partner is busy cooking in the kitchen every day. He spends quality time with his partner. Let’s find out in greater detail what it means to take charge in a relationship as a man.

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How To Be A Man In A Relationship?

Relationship expert Ridhi Golechha says, “Men and women deal with pain differently. Men end up suppressing their emotional pain, which makes it more intense. They put on a fake mask of courage and are not able to receive the empathy that somebody who shows vulnerability is able to receive. Also, men use other channels to direct their pain (like anger, revenge, aggression, or physical abuse).”

Related Reading: The 10 Biggest Turn-Offs For Women

Can you relate to what she said? Do you shy away from having hard conversations? If yes, then don’t worry, we’ve got your back. Here are some tips on how to navigate being the man in the relationship:

1. Show your vulnerable side

This era is all about redefining masculinity. Nandita says, “The ‘men don’t cry’ syndrome has been ingrained into guys by their family and society around them. A man needs to be aware where it has come from, so it becomes easier for him to ditch that label. It’s a regular and, sometimes, an important human experience to be vulnerable and cry.”

A man on Reddit wrote, “Age 15: your dad tells you to “be a man” for the thousandth time and you suck up your emotions, wipe your tears, and vow never to show your fear or frustration to anyone. Age 45: your marriage is on the rocks because you never share with your wife the feelings that are making you stressed, making you short-tempered, making you drink too much.”

2. Be a partner, not a parent

A man decides everything, always and forever? Wrong! Man up in the relationship by taking the passenger seat. Not all women want an alpha male. Here’s what women on Reddit said on what it means to take charge in a relationship as a man:

  • “I want a partner that treats me like an equal, not someone I would have to obey like I’m a child”
  • “The concept of being “led” makes me nauseous. I’m an individual with my own thoughts and desires. I need a partner, not a parent”
  • “I want to be with someone who respects me in our relationship. We’ll lead at different times”

Nandita advises, “If you want to step up as a man in a relationship, keep your ego aside and let your partner take charge. It’s easier for a confident man/high-value man to keep his ego aside and give up the driver’s seat, since he is not insecure.”

3. Crack jokes and look at the lighter side of things

A woman totally loves a man who can make her laugh. Authenticity is hands down one of the qualities of a good man. Do not pretend to be funny or make an exaggerated attempt at humor, or be sexist or queerphobic as a guise for ‘humor.’ If your vibe matches hers, you’re sure to have her attention.

The following are the results of a study conducted with 3,000 married couples from five countries:

  • Both husbands and wives were found to be happier with a humorous partner
  • This trait was reported to be more important for the marital satisfaction of the wives 
  • The research says “spouses may also take humorousness as a sign of motivation to be amusing, kind, understanding, and dependable — as a sign of commitment”

4. A man in a relationship gives genuine compliments

Nandita says, “A real man compliments his partner’s mind. Find the good points in your partner and appreciate the small things. Most women can easily differentiate between a genuine compliment and fake flattery, so beware.”

Related Reading: 50 Cute Things To Say To Your Girlfriend Every Day

Here are some examples of compliments you can use:

  • “I’m so proud of you and your work ethic”
  • “I love watching you play with children. Your playful side is so attractive”
  • “I really appreciate you driving me around today when I was experiencing social anxiety”

5. Respect your partner’s privacy

Being in a happy relationship doesn’t mean that you have to be together all the time. Your SO may want to spend time with friends, engage with family, pursue a hobby, or unwind by reading their favorite book. They may want to spend some time alone and that’s absolutely normal.

So, make sure you don’t invade their privacy, by barging in on sleepovers with friends or always swinging by their place after work. Talking about healthy relationships, psychologist Jaseena Backer says, “This space should be comfortable enough for the partners and not big enough for the entry of a third party.” 

6. How to be a man in a relationship? Be a giver in bed

Let’s be honest – women enjoy sex as much as men do. So, what does a woman want in a partner physically? A woman wants a man who is sensitive and accepting of her sexual desires and needs. So, don’t make it all about you and do some research on what women want during sex.

Studies indicate that 80% of straight women fake their orgasms during sex. So, talk to your partner about what she’s comfortable with instead of drawing your own conclusions. A good relationship is like a fun adventure where you get to explore each other’s bodies and push the boundaries of pleasure, with consent. 

7. Stay faithful to your partner

Looking for tips on how to be a good man in a relationship? Nandita emphasizes, “Reliability and trust build over time. Make sure you’re not hiding any kind of information intentionally from your partner. Try being as honest as possible.”

A shocking research points out that couples lie to each other three times a week. Of course, this includes big ones like cheating but also seemingly harmless white lies such as “I will surely come home on time today.” So, be as transparent as you can (before it ends up destroying your relationship).

8. Make their day with thoughtful gestures

If you want to know how to be romantic in a relationship as a man, here are some tips for you by men on Reddit:

  • Do little things to make your girlfriend happy. Make them breakfast, do their laundry, write them a love note, and pack it with their lunch
  • Buy cool, surprisingly fitting gifts
  • Find out your love languages and implement that. I like physical touch and my wife happens to like doing that, so it’s easy for her to make me feel loved, and vice-versa
am i the problem in my relationship quiz

9. Set reminders for important dates in order to be a thoughtful partner

Is forgetting anniversaries and other important occasions your biggest character flaw? Don’t let your partner do all the emotional labor of remembering these milestones. 

Related Reading: The 11 Most Common Relationship Mistakes You Actually Can AVOID

Nandita says, “Maturing as a man means learning how to prioritize. My dear man, of course work is important but if you really want to remember birthdays, be tech-savvy and set reminders on phones/emails in advance. Take some time off and fill in the important dates.”

10. Become best friends with your SO

Being best friends with your spouse or romantic partner is a privilege indeed. You must work toward building a friendship. Sometimes, what many women want is a buddy who makes them feel comfortable and can be trusted with all thoughts and emotions, without feeling judged. 

A study was conducted on 801 adults across the United States on the question: “Do you consider your partner to be your best friend or do you call somebody else your best friend?” Among adults in a romantic relationship, the vast majority (83%) considered their current partner to be their best friend. Among those who were married, the rate was even higher.

11. Argue logically and gently

Looking for tips on how to be more manly? You don’t need to be a physical aggressor. Gone are the days of toxic masculinity. Mature men find ways to fight respectfully. Here are some tips by Nandita on how to regain masculinity in a relationship, if you’ve been trying to recover from the whole ‘macho man’ cover: 

  • Don’t see conflicts as a threat to your identity
  • Look at arguments logically
  • Try to find a solution-oriented approach instead of just defending yourself 
  • Don’t raise your voice and listen to the other person

12. Be a man in the relationship by showing accountability

Being a man in a relationship means finding ways to show accountability. Be a better man and apologize if you did something wrong. For example, “I am sorry I couldn’t take our pet out for a walk today. Thank you for walking him. I am grateful.”

A man on Reddit wrote, “My dad took pretty seriously the idea of teaching my brother and I about manhood. He gave me a poster he had made that listed 4 qualities of a real man. A real man accepts responsibility, leads courageously, is not passive, and looks for the greater reward.” Later, in another poster, he mentioned that it’s important to be a one-woman man and live for a cause greater than oneself.

13. Stand up for yourself

Another tip on how to be a confident man in a relationship is taking care of your own well-being too. A man on Reddit wrote, “I realized that in the final months of my three-year relationship, I stopped standing up to my girlfriend and let her make all the decisions to “keep the peace” and never spoke up when something bothered me.”

Another man in the same thread wrote, “It’s a matter of self-respect. You need to learn how to love yourself before you can love someone else. Never give up what makes you, you.” 

what women want from men
What women want from men

14. Be a good listener

Nandita says, “Empathy and emotional maturity are good man qualities. Whenever your partner tells you something, step back and try to step into their shoes. To be empathetic, you have to be a good listener. A mature man listens to the emotions attached to the words.”

Related Reading: Are Men Turned Off By Feminists?

One study conducted in 2003 showed that there are two different types of listening: “listening to understand” and “listening to respond.” Those who “listen to understand” have greater satisfaction in their interpersonal relationships than others. While people may think they might be listening to understand, what they’re really doing is waiting to respond.

15. How to be a man in a relationship? Ditch the gender roles

A Reddit user wrote, “A big thing I notice less successful couples doing is falling into gender roles at home … they view things as ‘mine’ and hers. Don’t do that; it’s ‘ours.’ You might put more work or they may put the money into something, but it’s not a possession thing. You both own and are responsible for it.”

According to a recent survey in the US, working women spend almost twice as much time as working men on household chores and caring for children. So, if you want to call yourself a ‘real’ man, here’s what you can do:

  • Start contributing to the running of the house equally and do the laundry and dishes
  • Recognize your male privilege if your partner is a woman. Learn more about it through books and articles or resources on intersectional feminism 
  • Be empathetic toward her experiences of sexism and harassment, and don’t be a ‘not all men’ kind of guy
  • If your partner is nonbinary or a man, again, you need to unlearn traditional gender roles, norms, and binaries

16. Keep the contact going

A man on Reddit wrote, “Touch her. Whether it’s … holding her hand in a grocery store, putting your arm around her on the couch and sitting beside her or stroking her hair when she falls asleep before you. Just keep the contact going.”

Nandita mentions, “If you have always been cold and distant, take baby steps to increase physical intimacy. Start from a place where you want to please your partner. If your partner wants to cuddle in the night or be touchy-feely, take the following steps:

  • Express that you’re going to try but it’s a difficult task for you
  • Explain why it’s difficult
  • You can slowly build up the time you spend with each other like this
  • Take your partner into confidence and ask them to help break the distance”

17. Ask questions

How can you step up as a man in a relationship? Nandita answers, “You’ve got to be genuinely curious about your partner in many different facets. Ask them ice breaker questions and show interest in their life. The more you ask them, the more they will open up to you.” This way, there will be less room for ambiguity.

A Reddit user wrote, “Perhaps it would be helpful to ask your girlfriend what she specifically wants. For example, if she says she dislikes indecisive behavior, does that just mean she wants you to have your own opinions, or to tell her where you are both going on a date without consultation?”

18. Drop the mask

Nandita says, “Most men put on masks in relationships when they want to hide their true selves or when they are insecure about their personality. So, think and introspect deeply:

Related Reading: 11 Signs Of Low Self-Esteem Behaviors In A Relationship

  • Which part of your personality are you insecure about?
  • What do you not want to show to the outside world? 
  • How can you work on those aspects or become comfortable with yourself?”

19. Don’t keep a scorecard

The Ideal Partner Survey found that 90% of women rated kindness as the most desirable quality of a good man. Here’s how you can be a kind and good partner:

  • Don’t keep a scorecard of how much you do for them
  • Don’t expect sex just because you were kind to your partner; that’s the bare minimum
  • Avoid projecting your trust issues from past relationships on your partner
  • Take a deep breath or take a walk before reacting impulsively
on gender stereotypes and more

20. Step out of your comfort zone

Nandita explains, “Jealousy and possessiveness are natural instincts but must be kept in check. They usually come in when either you are insecure about yourself or when you don’t trust your partner enough.

“It’s a double-edged sword, you gotta be confident about your love and relationship with your partner. That confidence will help you be less possessive and clingy, but you also have to trust your partner.” Trust exercises can be your savior. Or try these:

  • Giving your partner benefit of doubt 
  • Showing them less attractive parts of yourself
  • Doing activities together (that are way out of your comfort zone)

21. Use the “I” language

A Reddit user gives advice on being a man in a relationship, “Communicate. Don’t just talk, but communicate what you want BEFORE you get frustrated.” Communication also means making an attempt to not shift blame. 

Psychologist Jayant Sundaresan elaborates, “There’s a very simple thing you can do to avoid blame-shifting. Rather than starting with “you,” begin with “I.” Don’t say, “You forgot our anniversary, who does that?” Say, “I felt very hurt because you forgot our anniversary.” Explain how their actions made you feel – you will get your point across easily and this approach resolves issues more effectively.” 

Key Pointers

  • Real men support their partner mentally and emotionally
  • Making inappropriate remarks or sexist jokes is the work of cowardly men
  • Being the man in the relationship means giving the partner an equal say in meaningful decisions
  • If one partner puts more work than the other, it’s a red flag and the full-time commitment won’t last
  • Surprise your partner by ordering their favorite meal or cracking a good punch line to make them laugh
  • Not taking out time for family and friends is a common mistake that young men make
  • To be a better partner, make the tough decision to unlearn life lessons taught about toxic masculinity in your childhood

Finally, it may feel weird to take advice from total strangers like us but we raised some valid points, right? So, do your own thing but also try seeing the world from our lens. If you ever get stuck, you can take guidance from an experienced professional. Should you need help, our counselors from Bonobology’s panel are always here for you. 

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