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With staunch feminists on one side and misogynists on the other, the debate of who needs who is endless. Should there be such a divide between men and women or is it only the result of a patriarchal culture?
Perhaps the question “do women need men” is more subtle.
The illusion of women depending on men
What is “need”? As recently as the 1900s, women had the right to vote and work. Before that, they needed a man to be housed and fed, whether that man was their husband or father.
These days, women are in a much better position. They can live independently but as any woman will tell you, equality isn’t here. This Guardian article on women being far less equal than men demonstrates that women are underrepresented in boardrooms and that the gender pay gap is very real.
Nevertheless, do women need men culturally and socially? We all know that a patriarchal society oppresses women but also unnecessarily pressures men. As thisarticle on the victims of a patriarchal society points out, the oppressed always suffer, no matter who they are.
People don’t just have financial and professional needs. We also have emotional, spiritual and mental needs. The paradox is that the more you grow as an individual, the more you know how to meet your needs.
And yet, we need connections and relationships to grow to the stage where we can transcend the ego and the foibles of everyday life. So, can women live without men? Perhaps frustratingly, it depends on the person and the context and only you can answer the question yourself.
1. Financial maintenance
The question “why women need men” was traditionally about financial security because the man was the breadwinner. As mentioned, women can now source their own income in most Western and many Eastern countries but still often need to fight prejudice and discrimination.
If you look at why couples get together, whether heterosexual or homosexual, there’s a definite benefit gained from pooling your resources with someone else. But do women need men? Not for survival anymore.
2. Emotional needs
Do women need men to provide affection, empathy and intimacy? To some women, that answer is a simple yes. Whether that yes is the right decision or influenced by society’s expectations is virtually impossible to answer.
Then again, there’s nothing wrong with coming together with the opposite sex. Together, you can create a life of discovery, growth and intimacy. This study on well-being in romantic couples shows that healthy relationships strongly contribute to well-being.
Nevertheless, many single women don’t need men and are happy meeting their emotional needs through friends and family.
3. Physical aid
We can’t deny that men are physically stronger and the question “why women need men” has often been answered with that point. Although, most Western societies no longer live in an agricultural or hunting world where physical role division is necessary.
As any good ergonomist will also tell you, we have tools to compensate for strength. Moreover, over-exerting ourselves is bad for anyone, man or woman.
4. Solely for romance
Let’s also not forget that today’s Western beliefs are built around individualism. It’s almost looked down upon to ask for help. So, replying yes to the question “do women need men” feels like a weakness to many women.
How many women have sacrificed having a family for a career or vice versa? Sadly, such questions of whether women need men or not lead us to think in an “either/or” mindset. Why can’t we have romance and independence?
Women don’t need men from a dependence point of view, meaning they’re somehow lacking. The more integrative view is that we all need each other and we all have something to offer.
The fantasy of men depending on women
All this ongoing debate of equal rights and oppressors versus the oppressed is more about the limitations of our society. To attempt to step away from societal bias, it’s more relevant to consider our human needs and how interdependent we are in meeting them.
Psychologist Abraham Maslow is famous for his pyramid of needs, although this Scientific American article on who created the iconic pyramid tells you that Maslow didn’t actually talk about pyramids. Our needs and personal growth journeys in meeting those needs are far more interlinked.
Moreover, Maslow didn’t specify anything about what a woman needs but he did talk about what humans need. We are motivated by our needs for belonging, self-esteem, status and recognition, among others.
In his book “A Way of Being,” Psychologist Carl Rogers refers to two of his colleagues, Liang and Buber, who state that “we need to have our existence confirmed by another.” That doesn’t necessarily translate into “women need men,” though. That ‘other’ could be anyone.
It does mean that we need each other in one way or another. But do women need men? Or does a man need a woman? The traditional roles of the wife at home and husband at work are being discarded, so what remains instead?
As Carl Rogers further states, every being, from humans to amoeba, is driven by “an underlying flow of movement toward constructive fulfillment of its inherent possibilities.” To the majority of people, that process works through relationships.
So, do women need men? In a sense, yes, but it isn’t the man versus woman difference that’s important and nor is it about being enslaved to a partner. It’s about freedom of choice and honoring our individuality within a relationship.
1. Emotional crutch
Traditionally, men were matter-of-fact and women were emotional. Then times changed and men were expected to get in touch with their feminine side.
It’s a good thing for men to discover their inner balance. Women shouldn’t use this as an excuse to lean too heavily on them. Of course, we should expect our partners to support and validate us, but it isn’t their full-time job. They’re human too.
Do women need men to be there for them and vice versa? Yes, a partnership is about encouraging and comforting each other. Nevertheless, a healthy couple also has family and friends to balance all their needs.
2. Household management
Several generations ago, the question “do women need men” was answered with yes because people believed that men gave women a purpose. The idea was that women should feel fulfilled by spending their days doing housework, cooking and looking after the children.
As this CNBC article on gender pay summarizes, neither men nor women feel comfortable when women earn more. They might even lie to others because of deep-rooted beliefs that women need a breadwinner, even if logic cries out differently.
How household chores are allocated depends on the couple and their views on relationships.
Traditionally, what women need from men is security, along with commitment. Although, the same is true of men. Interestingly, as this study on solo fathers and mothers shows, those who actively choose to become single parents are equally likely to have positive well-being.
Unfortunately, the study further confirms that there is insufficient data on single fathers to fully understand the type of stigma they face and how it impacts them. Nevertheless, both men and women can enjoy stability alone and in a partnership.
The question of “will women still need men in some distant future” depends on our personal journeys and how we develop. When talking about fulfillment, Maslow also referred to self-actualization, and the even more elusive self-transcendence, as our innate drivers in this life.
Psychology professor Dr. Edward Hoffman, who was also Maslow’s biographer, mentions in hisarticle on friends and romance of self-actualizing people that they also have deep relationships. The difference is self-actualized people do not need others to meet their emotional well-being.
Hoffman elaborates further in his paper on the social world of self-actualizing people that such people are free of neurotic needs for validation. So their relationships are more caring and authentic. They are more yielding and accepting of each other and the word “need” is no longer relevant.
So, do women need men? Yes, for the following five key reasons.
Nevertheless, if you reach the 1% of self-actualized people, you’ll appreciate others for who they are, regardless of gender. Those relationships then become immersed in the fabric of your experience of the universe with your own relationship with yourself as the counterbalance.
1. Growth and fulfillment
In relationships, what women need from men is mutual growth. Again, Maslow and many other psychologists since him see marriage as a place to learn about ourselves.
Our triggers are tested and our needs are either met or ignored. How we learn to cope and manage our conflicts leads us to self-discovery and, eventually, fulfillment. This, of course, assumes neither person has a mental illness, creating a toxic environment.
To answer the question, “do women need men” it seems that we need each other to learn and grow together.
Relationship coach, Maya Diamond, takes this one step further and specifies that we should all work on our emotional responsiveness. Watch her video to understand what blocks you, including stress and parental overwhelm, with some tips for working through this:
A woman needs a man to procreate. Nonetheless, gene cloning and other medical advances could make this need disappear.
Whether you agree that this will negate the question “do women need men” depends on your views and morals. Or as this Scientific American article on whether making babies is the meaning of life says, there are other ways to find purpose.
3. Need for intimacy
Both men and women need a sense of belonging and intimacy. For the majority of people, that’s through relationships.
Don’t forget that intimacy isn’t necessarily sexual. You can be just as fulfilled by sharing your inner thoughts and desires with a close friend or family member. Moreover, getting a massage or hugging your friends more often will give you that extra physical touch we all crave.
Traditionally, women want men to be heroes and save them from pain. This view is an intriguing blend of patriarchal views with neurotic needs for control and validation that most people have deep down.
Add to that the deluge of messages from the media telling us that we should have the perfect family, job and life, and it’s a wonder any of us get out of bed in the morning. Sometimes it’s easier to succumb to those pressures.
5. Fill a gap
Women don’t need men to open doors for them anymore but do women need men to help meet some of their needs? A healthy relationship where people support each other’s growth and accept their flaws is a wonderful positive journey.
In contrast, you have those who haven’t healed from their past and bring too much emotional baggage to their relationships. Those women don’t need a man but a therapist or a coach.
If you are in constant conflict with dark mood swings, don’t hesitate to seek help. Everyone can reach their fulfillment and we leverage relationships to do so, including with our guides and therapists.
Commonly asked questions
What does a woman need from a man?
What a woman needs from a man is a sense of belonging, support, and validation. Women don’t need a man to do things for them today but to partner with them to face life’s challenges better.
The question “do women need men” depends on your views on life. Regardless, everyone knows that healthy relationships improve our overall well-being. They help us grow, teach us conflict management and show us who we are.
What can be a man’s role in a woman’s life?
Can women live without men? Yes, as any single woman or lesbian couple will tell you.
Nonetheless, we can live together in harmony and rise above the gender differences that society imposes on us. It isn’t so much that a woman needs a man to give her a roof over her head. It’s more that it’s good to have a partner in problem-solving through life.
Do women need men? Yes, if those men are willing to compromise, share household chores and generally team up with women to find the best way forward for both people. After all, a shared life is deeply fulfilling and far more efficient.
With all this psychological, social and cultural complexity, how do we answer the question, “do women need men”? Like everything in life, there isn’t a clear-cut answer.
We need relationships with others. They give us a sense of belonging and admiration, but we also need one with ourselves. The more we grow, the less we need others but we still appreciate the depth of connection with people.
The question now is, how can we keep developing empathy to see the good that each of us has to offer? In growing with our partners, sometimes aided by therapy, we leave our neuroses behind and naturally become more empathic.
Then, it won’t be a question of who needs who or will women still need men. We will finally just enjoy the experience of deep relationships built on an appreciation of each other and awe of being in this world, in this moment, together.
The Marriage.com Editorial Team is a group of experienced relationship writers, experts, and mental health professionals. We provide practical and research-backed advice on relationships. Our content is thoroughly reviewed by experts Read more to ensure that we offer high-quality and reliable relationship advice. Read less
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