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Relationship Advice For Men

Dr. Justin Lehmiller
Social Psychologist, researcher at The Kinsey Institute

by Dr. Justin Lehmiller 11 min read

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Online relationship advice for men often falls into one of two categories:

  • How to "game" a one-night-stand, or
  • How to fix a broken relationship in the 11th hour

But what about guys who want to get into a healthy, committed relationship in the first place, or men with long-term partners who simply want to make things even better?

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There's just not a ton of information out there for them, and if you fall into one of these camps, we've put some helpful tips together for you.

Having a successful relationship is about two partners (or more, if you’re into consensual non-monogamy) having life goals that match up well, who want to move forward together, and who choose to share their lives.

Here is some straightforward dating advice for men who want to get into relationships and make them stronger, while not sacrificing who they are at their core.

FAQs

No, similarity in and of itself do not guarantee a successful relationship. Sometimes, relationships work better when people are different—when they complement each other.

Yes, most people like a challenge when it comes to relationships. However, don't play to hard to get or your potential partner will end up thinking you are not interested in them.

Most long-term couples will have sexual disagreements from time to time. For example, one partner wants sex, but the other doesn’t. Or maybe one partner wants a different type of sex. It is important to not take this personally, but rather talk to your partner to work through the issues together.

The best relationship tips for men are about making yourself a better person, rather than putting Band-Aids on your relationship.For example, buying your partner gifts won't help you if you're fundamentally inattentive to their emotional or physical needs. Likewise, guys who want a relationship because they think it will make them happy need to focus on being happy with themselves first.


Relationship advice for single men

Few men want to be single as they get older—but some do, and if so, there’s nothing wrong with that.

But for those men who are seeking something long-term with a stable, loving partner, changing your mindset is a great place to start.

1 - Be happy with you

If you're unhappy with your appearance, your career goals, or anything else about yourself, you need to work on these things first. Confidence—but not arrogance—tends to make you far more attractive than insecurity.

Love yourself first before trying to start a relationship

Finding love is a lot easier if you love yourself, and it's hard to love yourself if you feel constantly “less than.” Not only that, but people who are actively working toward a tangible goal of self-betterment report better mental health and overall feel more satisfied with their lives.

Self-betterment and self-love are both critical to being happy alone, as well as with a partner.

If you're not happy by yourself, you it’s going to be very difficult to find happiness with another person.

Research bears this out: people with low self-esteem find it harder to achieve relationship satisfaction.

Men who go into relationships with low self-esteem tend to draw their happiness and feelings of worth from their partner, which can be a dangerous place to be.

Codependency has ruined countless relationships.

Also, consider this: if you're extremely dependent on your relationship, you're going to be absolutely devastated if it ends.

Work on yourself before you pursue a relationship and you'll likely find things are better regardless of whether you have a partner or not.

2 - Date different types of people

Avoid the temptation to jump into a serious relationship with the very first person who swipes right on your profile.

To the extent that you can, try to go on many dates with many different kinds of people.

Some of us tend to jump into relationships with the same type of person over and over—and they keep finding that things don’t work out.

And that might be because what they think they want isn’t what they actually want—they haven’t figured out what works for them yet.

Try dating a wide variety of people not all relationships are based on similarities

For example, many of us operate under the assumption that our partners need to be similar to us—and indeed, similarity is a key factor in initial romantic attraction.

Surprisingly, however, similarity in and of itself doesn’t have much of an impact on long-term relationship success.

Sometimes, relationships work better when people are different—when they complement each other.

By dating different kinds of people, you just might find that what you thought you wanted isn’t what you actually wanted after all.

3 - Take an unbiased look at your past relationships

After a breakup, it’s usually not a good idea to perseverate on your ex because that can prevent you from moving on.

However, it can be helpful to spend a little time stepping back and objectively thinking about why it didn’t work out and what you might want to do differently next time.

What went wrong in your previous relationships? What made those relationships go wrong, and what could you have done (if anything) to fix the problem areas?

Unhappy couple sitting on a park bench


Maybe you were too clingy, or perhaps they were.

Or maybe you both evolved in different directions rather than growing together. Or perhaps neither of you vocalized what it is that you really want in bed.

If you look back from an objective perspective, however, and you see yourself committing the same errors again and again, you can learn how to prevent them.

Many men find a common thread in their relationships because we often develop relationship patterns.

However, the key to moving on and starting happier and healthier relationships is being able to identify the problem and admit it's yours, not someone else’s.

4 – Try different ways of meeting people

If you've struck out starting a relationship at your favorite local bar time and again, consider checking out some new places.

Almost anywhere you go is a chance to meet new people, from the dog park to the coffee shop to volunteer events.

You don’t need to be in a setting with alcohol to make a connection.

Another benefit of meeting people outside of bars is that you already know something about them just by virtue of the setting (e.g., maybe they love dogs, dark roast coffee, or giving back to the local community).

Also, if you haven’t tried online dating yet, that’s another viable option.

Choosing the appropriate time to flirt is key to success

However, this doesn’t mean you should look for a potential partner everywhere. For example:

  • It’s generally not good practice to try and pick someone up at their place of work, such as the person serving you at a restaurant or the office receptionist.

    They are there to work, and it’s easy for sexual and romantic overtures in these settings to come across as harassment, no matter what your intentions might be.

    Also, proceed with caution when it comes to flirting in your own place of employment, too. Inter-office romances often have a way of getting complicated.

  • In addition, while the gym might seemlike a great place to find a partner, especially when so many people are wearing less clothing (and tighter-fitting clothing) than usual, keep in mind that most people are there to work out, and working out takes focus.

    It’s one thing to say hello or strike up a conversation on the way out of the gym, but interrupting someone else’s workout routine to flirt is generally poor form.

    5 – Don’t play too hard to get

    A lot of guys play a little “hard to get” when they’re dating. For example, they might wait hours—or sometimes days—to respond to a text or online message.

    Or maybe they wait a couple of days after a date to call because they don’t want to seem “desperate.”

    You might do well to drop this game, because it could very well be backfiring on you.

    Research has found that the longer people wait to reply to a message from a potential date, the less likely they are to get a response.

    Man using online dating on his phone

    Why is that? Because long delays tend to signal that you aren’t interested.

    Plus, keep in mind that your match is probably messaging other people—and if they’re more responsive than you are, they’re not going to prioritize getting back to you.

    Relationship advice for married men

    Whether you're a few months or a few decades in, nearly every long-term relationship or marriage could stand a few improvements.

    Here are a few helpful things to consider.

    1 - Learn about and value emotional labor

    Emotional labor is all the invisible stuff that happens behind the scenes in your relationship.

    It refers to the actions and behaviors that are essential to keeping everyone happy, but that often aren’t acknowledged at all or consciously recognized as work, from helping the kids with their homework to sorting the recycling to paying the bills.

    Studies show that most of these duties often fall to a single person in the household and that the other person is oblivious to how much mental energy they take.

    Emotional labor is often distributed based on traditional gender roles, with women in heterosexual relationships tending to take on more of it than their male partners.

    For couples with children, there is a ton of emotional labor involved in raising kids—and it's usually one-sided.

    Even when both parents are working full-time, one partner tends to take on a disproportionate amount of the emotional labor.

    Don't neglect your partner by not balancing relationship responsibilities

    Raising children is hard, mentally taxing, and emotionally draining work.

    When it starts to become seriously imbalanced between partners, it can lead to feelings of burnout and contempt for the partner who isn’t pulling their share, which can develop into a very serious relationship problem.

    If you notice an imbalance, talk to your partner about how you are supporting each other and how you can make a more equal distribution of work.

    Some therapists actually recommend making an emotional labor checklist in which partners divvy up responsibilities and clearly define their roles.

    2 - Never stop courting your spouse

    After a few years of marriage, the spark—those feelings of intense passion—tends to die down, and that's perfectly natural.

    It doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with you or your relationship. It’s just a function of the novelty of a new partner wearing off and us settling into routines.

    However, if you want to get the spark back or keep it going, it takes work to invigorate it with dates, flirting, and other active expressions of love and desire.

    The difference between actively expressing love and passively expressing it are profound and can make a huge difference in your relationship.

    Passive love is performative—it’s saying "Love you!"as you’re running out the door without putting any thought or feeling behind it.

    It's buying flowers on Valentine's Day out of habit or obligation rather than enthusiasm or excitement.

    You’re making token or symbolic gestures rather than genuine demonstrations of love.

    Man proposing marriage to his partner


    Active love is thinking about the perfect birthday present instead of just phoning it in, such as coordinating to have their best friend who moved out of town make a surprise appearance at the party.

    It’s surprising your spouse with flowers, a gift, or a massage randomly just because.

    Think back to what you did when you were courting them, and reintroduce that element of excitement and surprise back into your life.

    It’s also making an effort to try new things in the bedroom, whether that’s experimenting with toys, sharing your fantasies, or having sex in a new place in the house.

    Research finds that the couples who mix it up the most are the most likely to say they’re keeping passion alive.

    Act like you're trying to woo them as if you were still dating and you'll likely find your relationship on much better footing—and the sex will probably be more passionate, too.

    3 - Do not lose yourself in your relationship

    The longer a couple is together, the more they tend to merge—"two become one,” as they say.

    This is a natural part of living with another person, and it might sound like a romantic idea.

    However, if you end up losing your goals, dreams, passions, and desires in the process, that’s a problem.

    Many people do whatever it takes to make their partners happy, without considering whether they themselvesare happy.

    Certainly, some degree of self-sacrifice in a relationship is a wonderful and important thing—you should want to make your partner happy, and they should want to make you happy, too.

    But you can’t sacrifice constantly at the expense of your own happiness, especially if your partner isn’t making similar self-sacrifices.

    Remember who you are and don’t lose sight of the things you want to accomplish in your life and the things that you truly enjoy.

    The best relationships tend to be a solid blend of closeness and intimacy, while also allowing for some degree of independence and autonomy—time and space for each partner to be themselves and to explore themselves.

    4 – Provide the type of support your partner wants

    There are two main types of support you can provide your partner: practical support and emotional support.

    Practical support is when you offer solutions to problems, whereas emotional support is when you simply listen and validate the other person’s feelings.

    Both types of support are great, and we all need a little of each sometimes. So one isn’t inherently better than the other.

    However, some people prefer to receive one type of support over the other more often than not.

    It’s not uncommon for partners to have different support preferences, where one person wants a partner who listens and the other wants a partner who provides solutions.

    Make sure to balance practical and emotional support for your partner

    This type of mismatch can lead to relationship conflict because the partner who wants to be heard doesn’t feel validated—they feel as though their partner is constantly trying to “fix” them.

    By contrast, the partner who wants help feels like they aren’t getting it.

    For this reason it’s important to have a conversation to determine the ways that each of you typically wants to be supported—and to find a mutually agreeable way to offer that kind of support.

    5 – Don’t take sexual disagreements personally

    Most long-term couples will have sexual disagreements from time to time. For example, one partner wants sex, but the other doesn’t.

    Or maybe one partner wants a different type of sex.

    This is called a sexual desire discrepancy, and it’s actually one of the most common relationship problems.

    When this happens, it’s important not to take things personally.

    For instance, if you want sex but your partner doesn’t, don’t immediately look at this as a sign of rejection or that your partner isn’t into you.

    There are a lot of reasons why they might not want sex that have nothing to do with how they feel about you—maybe they’re anxious about something happening at work or stressed because of something going on with the kids.

    If it becomes a persistent problem, again, avoid the temptation to take it as a personal insult and, instead, sit down and have a conversation about what’s going on in your sex life.

    Approach it with the goal of listening to one another—trying to really understand how the other person feels. Don’t approach it as a confrontation or “airing of grievances.”

    Sexually frustrated couple sitting on bed.


    There’s a good chance that the problem might stem from one of the other issues we discussed above—imbalanced emotional labor, lack of surprise/novelty, loss of independence, or problematic communication patterns.

    And, if it is, you’ll be well on your way to addressing it.

    But if you find that you can’t solve it together, it’s time to consult a sex therapist for some professional help.

    Takeaways for every man in a relationship

    The best relationship tips for men are about making yourself a better person, rather than putting Band-Aids on your relationship.

    For example, buying your partner gifts won't help you if you're fundamentally inattentive to their emotional or physical needs.

    Likewise, guys who want a relationship because they think it will make them happy need to focus on being happy with themselves first.

    Having another person's love feels great, but remember that it’s important to be in a relationship where there’s more than love—both of you should be elevating each other’s pursuits, goals, and desires.

    Happy couple kissing in front of sunset

    Good relationships are about constantly building and growing together.

    Embrace self-improvement, never stop courting your partner, and work to even out the distribution of emotional labor.

    For a relationship to thrive, it’s important to recognize your significant other as your partner, your equal. Actively love them and treat them with respect.

    Related Articles:

    Dr. Justin Lehmiller
    Dr. Justin Lehmiller

    Dr. Justin Lehmiller is a social psychologist and Research Fellow at The Kinsey Institute. He is author of the blog Sex and Psychology and the popular book Tell Me What You Want: The Science of Sexual Desire and How It Can Help You Improve Your Sex Life. He is also a prolific researcher who has published more than 50 academic works, including a textbook titled The Psychology of Human Sexuality that is used in college classrooms around the world. Dr. Lehmiller is one of the media's go-to experts on sex and has been interviewed by The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, and CNN; he has also appeared on dozens of radio, podcast, and television programs.