Episode 12: What Women Want with Dr. Herb Goldberg

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Dr. Lori Buckley interviews Dr. Herb Goldberg, author of What Men Still Don’t Know About Women, Relationships, and Love. In this episode Dr. Goldberg tells us what women really want, and gives us steps men can take to increase their relationship & life satisfaction. Lori and Herb also discuss, and give us their individual perspective on women and sex. More details on this episode go to http://www.personallifemedia.com/podcasts/minds-of-men/episode012-herb-goldberg-what-women-want.html

Transcript

"What Women Want" with Dr. Herb Goldberg

Announcer:  This program is intended for mature audiences only.

[Music]

This is Part 1 of a two-part program.

DR. LORI BUCKLEY: Welcome to On the Minds of Men.  I’m your host, Dr. Lori Buckley. Today on the show we’re discussing men and women, the things men do to screw up relationships, and how to improve your relationships to have better sex.  Our guest today is Dr. Herb Goldberg.  He’s the gifted author of eight books, including his newest book, What Men Still Don’t Know About Women, Relationships, and Love.  Dr. Herb Goldberg is a passionate men’s advocate and Professor of Psychology at California State University of Los Angeles, where he teaches classes in psychology, psychotherapy, and human sexuality.  Dr. Goldberg has appeared on numerous talk shows, and has been featured in publications such as Los Angeles Times, Houston Chronicle, USA Today, Men’s Health, and Psychology Today.  He’s been a regular guest on CNN news programs, as well as having been interviewed several times in the past years by Charlie Rose, and hundreds of radio interviews.  Selections from his books, as well as original articles and interviews, have regularly appeared in publications such as Cosmopolitan, Glamour, Men’s Health, Mademoiselle, Psychology Today, Vogue, Women’s Day, Ladies’ Home Journal, New Woman, McCall’s, Harpers Bazaar, and Women’s Digest, among others.  Quite some accomplishments there!  And Dr. Goldberg’s written seven other books, including What Men Really Want, The Inner Male: Overcoming Roadblocks to Intimacy, and The New Male/Female Relationship, among others, which we will list on the website.  So you can see why I’m really excited and happy to have Dr. Goldberg here and be interviewing him and talking to him about such important subjects as men and women and what we can really learn from him about women, I think specifically is what you listeners want to know.  I know I’m interested to hear his take on it.

HERB GOLDBERG: Most women were raised in a kind of feminine way where they were reinforced for ‘being’, not for ‘doing’, you know, “Oh, you’re so pretty,” “Oh, you’re so cute,” “Oh, you’re so sweet,” rather than, “Oh, you can drive a truck,” you know.  I think what they want is they want to feel like they’re the center of the universe, when they’re with a man.   They really want to feel special.  They want to feel like the man is just totally focused on them, and then indirectly what goes along with that is they, they want to feel in control of the relationship…

DR. LORI BUCKLEY: [laughs] You were doing so well until that last sentence!

HERB GOLDBERG: …Their sexuality often, also starts to shut down.  They don’t see it that way, because they think they’re still very sexual, but they tend to blame the man, and they say he’s an inadequate lover, or he doesn’t take time, or they feel used and, and you know, and it gets ugly.

DR. LORI BUCKLEY: Yeah.  And the blowjobs stop.

HERB GOLDBERG: Right…  Romance is the same way.  It’s the same as a drug, with a big high at the beginning, where the going up is great, but then the coming down is painful, and very often ends with a crash… 

 

DR. LORI BUCKLEY: Welcome, Dr. Goldberg.

HERB GOLDBERG: Well hi, Lori.  Nice to be here.

DR. LORI BUCKLEY: And again, I’m just really happy to have you here.  Is it okay if I call you Herb?

HERB GOLDBERG: Absolutely.

DR. LORI BUCKLEY: Okay, great.  Well again, really happy to have you with us here today, and I did read your book!  And I think you’re brilliant.  And I love your insights about men, women, and relationships, and agree with most of what you say.  However I’m not sure we’re on the same page when it comes to women and sex.  We’re going to find out.  We’re just going to talk about that.

HERB GOLDBERG: Right.  We’re going to do that for sure.

DR. LORI BUCKLEY: [laughs] And I think it’ll be really fun to see maybe we’re not as far off as I think, because I have looked in another one of your books.  But it’s interesting to hear what your idea is of women and sex, and I’m wondering where you got that from.  So I’m looking forward to what I believe is going to be a very interesting and hopefully a ‘politically incorrect’ conversation with you.  Okay, now you wrote a book called What Men Really Want.

HERB GOLDBERG: Mmm, hmm.

DR. LORI BUCKLEY: So I’m going to start with the question that I believe all men would love to have the answer to, of course, the question that’s always been asked since the beginning of time, “What do women really want?”

HERB GOLDBERG: Okay.  I’m going to give you the answer, based on… not on necessarily what women think they want, but what my perception is of what they want.  I think there’s a big gap, because all of us think we want things that are, you know, that make sense, and that are sweet and lovely and everything else.  What I think women really want in relationships with men is, number one, they want ‘fusion’.  They want to be in a relationship that’s going to move closer and closer and closer.  And I think when they find that, when they find a man that they think is what I would call ‘fusion-capable’, you know, and some men look like that at the beginning when they’re very hot and romantic for a woman, then they think that they have found something special in love.  So, number one, I think they want fusion, which is a, what I would call almost a bottomless desire to get closer and closer.  Number two, going along with that, I think they want to lose themselves in a relationship.  Now I don’t think women know that.  I don’t think most women would acknowledge that.  In fact, I think most women would get angry at me for saying that.

DR. LORI BUCKLEY: [laughs] Maybe.

HERB GOLDBERG: But I think when they fall in love, part of what triggers that romantic hunger in them is a sense that they’re with a man where they can actually lose themselves.  And of course later on they’re not going to like it.  Later on they’re going to hit the wall with it, and they’re going to say, “I don’t have a self in this relationship, and I don’t feel like I’m a person here,” but initially I think they fall in love when they sense that they’re with the kind of a man where they can get lost in the relationship.  The third thing I think that they want is protection.  I think they want a man who makes them feel protected, who makes them feel safe.  And two other things that I might mention, because most women were raised in a kind of feminine way where they were reinforced for ‘being’, not for ‘doing’, you know, “Oh, you’re so pretty,” “Oh, you’re so cute,” “Oh, you’re so sweet,” rather than, “Oh, you can drive a truck,” you know.  I think what they want is they want to feel like they’re the center of the universe, when they’re with a man.  They really want to feel special.  They want to feel like the man is just totally focused on them, and then indirectly what goes along with that is they… they want to feel in control of the relationship.

DR. LORI BUCKLEY: [laughs] You were doing so well until that last sentence!

HERB GOLDBERG: That’s just my…  That’s my take on it.

DR. LORI BUCKLEY: Yeah, no, it’s good!  It’s good; I’m going to talk about that in a minute, because the things that you said, I think are really right-on.  The ‘fusion’ aspect, is that a… I mean I think it’s something that I call ‘connection’.  Is that the same?  Or is fusion more like ‘enmeshment’? Is it more of… Is ‘connection’ more of a healthy way of fusion, or are we talking about the same thing here?

HERB GOLDBERG: No, it’s not a healthy thing, because it’s bottomless, and therefore the woman is always going to be left with a feeling of frustration that her intimacy needs are not being met.  Unfortunately, most women will blame the man for it, rather than recognizing that what they’re looking for cannot be satisfied.  But fusion is the polar opposite of what, in men, you would call ‘separateness’, or ‘disconnection’.

DR. LORI BUCKLEY: Oh!

HERB GOLDBERG: Men… Masculinity moves men in the direction of disconnection, where they want to have a close relationship, but they don’t want to get close.

DR. LORI BUCKLEY: Okay, so that’s a problem, if we’re talking about relationships.

HERB GOLDBERG: Right, and women have the exact opposite.  They crave fusion while men crave disconnection.  Now men wouldn’t acknowledge that any more than women would, but I write in this area of what I call ‘the gender unconscious’, or ‘the gender undertow’, and this is what I think lies underneath, and this also helps us understand why so many relationships between men and women start off so romantically and end with such rage and frustration.

DR. LORI BUCKLEY: And we certainly can’t… You know I can’t argue with you on that.  We know that that is a fact.  I’m just wondering about the… And I know we really want to talk about women here, but I’m just… Do men really want to be disconnected, or is it more of a reaction to something that’s difficult for them?

HERB GOLDBERG: No, I don’t think men really want to be disconnected, just like I don’t think any women really want fusion on a conscious level.

DR. LORI BUCKLEY: Uh huh.

HERB GOLDBERG: I’m not talking… I’m talking about the gap between what you want, and what you think you want and what you really want, or what you want and what you need on a deeper level, and I think men get very uncomfortable if they have to get close.  Their anxiety starts to build.  And so eventually they try it and they want it, but they often fail at it because… And then they disconnect.  They may disconnect in lots of ways that they’re completely in denial of.  You know, they’re not present in the relationship, their mind is distracted, they have one eye on the computer or on the sports channel or thinking about what they have to do next or on their stock portfolio or whatever.  So they don’t think they want disconnection…

DR. LORI BUCKLEY: Right, right.

HERB GOLDBERG: …but when pushed to be really close, they find lots of ways to disconnect.  And women know that.

DR. LORI BUCKLEY: They behave in the… That’s true.  I’m with you on that one!  Absolutely.

HERB GOLDBERG: Women pick up on that, and that’s when the fights start, because the women try to share that information with the guy, and the guy thinks she’s crazy, you know, “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

DR. LORI BUCKLEY: Right.  And it’s the opposite of what you’re saying that women want, which is this ‘fusion’, which is to be, to want more, to be closer.  And you know, I love what you say about the beginning of the relationship.  I call it ‘the bait-and-switch’, that men do.  And you’re right that women start out, and men, when they start out in relationships, I think we all are what Chris Rock refers to as ‘our representative’, when we’re this person who is not the same person that you are going to marry.  It changes, and so when women start dating men, and this is… I hear this from women all the time, you know men are so romantic, so attentive; they really, they listen and hang onto every word; they do all those lovely gestures of things that we want; they’re affectionate and loving and thoughtful, and we think, “I found this perfect man, the man of my dreams,” we marry him, and you know, we look at the bed next to us, and, “Who is that… Who is that monster who’s not giving us what we thought we were getting?”

HERB GOLDBERG: Yeah, I think, number one, I think it’s important to take the element that there’s no intention on men’s part to do those things.

DR. LORI BUCKLEY: Right.

HERB GOLDBERG: And I think men perceive women the exact same way, that women do a ‘bait-and-switch’.

DR. LORI BUCKLEY: Right.

HERB GOLDBERG: When they first meet the woman, she behaves in a way that says, you know, she’s very independent, and she gives them all these lovely messages, “Oh, you can have a separate life, and don’t worry about me, and you don’t have to…  You know, I don’t want you to give up your friendships, and I want you to continue doing all the things and I’ll help pay the bills, and I’ll work,” and women are very sexy at the beginning.

DR. LORI BUCKLEY: Lots of oral sex at the beginning of the relationship.

HERB GOLDBERG: Lots of oral sex, lots of sex, period.

DR. LORI BUCKLEY: Right! [laughs]

HERB GOLDBERG: And they seem to be really enthusiastic about the sex, and then later on, when the marriage comes, it becomes a completely different story on every level.

DR. LORI BUCKLEY: Right.

HERB GOLDBERG: And all of a sudden, they don’t want to be all that independent anymore.  And now they want to be taken care of.  And all of a sudden they start criticizing the man for the kinds of… His friends, or the things he does, or they ask him, “Where are you going?” or, “Where were you?” or, “Why did you talk to that woman over there?”  And then their sexuality often, also starts to shut down.  They don’t see it that way, because they think they’re still very sexual, but they tend to blame the man, and they say he’s an inadequate lover, or he doesn’t take time, or they feel used and, and you know, and it gets ugly.

DR. LORI BUCKLEY: Yeah.  And the blowjobs stop.

HERB GOLDBERG: Right.

DR. LORI BUCKLEY: And I hear that from men.  They feel too, exactly what you said, it is a ‘bait-and-switch’ on both ends.

HERB GOLDBERG: The same thing is true, with the men too.  They’ll love oral sex at the beginning; they’ll be going down on the woman.

DR. LORI BUCKLEY: Right.

HERB GOLDBERG: And they’ll spend a half hour doing that, but once they get married they don’t want to go near it.

DR. LORI BUCKLEY: Usually, yeah, you’re right.

HERB GOLDBERG: All of a sudden it’s like it’s something dirty, or they recoil from it.

DR. LORI BUCKLEY: Yeah.

HERB GOLDBERG: So, yeah, it’s a…  I wrote a lot about this in the book called The New Male/Female Relationship, which I wrote many years ago, where the traditional relationship turns relationships upside-down, meaning the best comes first, and then it’s all a gradual downhill until it finally explodes in the end.  And I created a model in that book, called ‘the transcendent relationship’, where in real relationships between men and women, they would start slowly and they would struggle, because men and women are so different, and they have so many issues.  Romance hides those issues, but the reality is a good relationship would start slow and ragged, and build to a point where the man and woman really start to like each other, feel close to each other, and the sex would actually improve, rather than start out great and then decline.

DR. LORI BUCKLEY: Yeah, and wouldn’t it be nice if it were that way?  And there are some relationships like that, people who knew each other, maybe as friends first, or worked together; they had a different kind of relationship that developed into something else.

HERB GOLDBERG: And people who’ve done a lot of work on themselves.

DR. LORI BUCKLEY: Right, right.

HERB GOLDBERG: And they’re not addicted to the defensiveness that’s involved in these high romantic beginnings.

DR. LORI BUCKLEY: Yeah.  Although, you know there’s something really addictive and really pleasurable about that high, that initial… you know the dopamine, the norepinephrine that goes in our brains and that gives us that same kind of a high like if we were doing drugs.  People… we know that there are people addicted to that, your serial monogamists.

HERB GOLDBERG: Well, exactly, exactly.  I mean, yeah.  I mean, sure, obviously it’s incredibly compelling.  I mean it’s just like getting drunk.

DR. LORI BUCKLEY: Yeah.

HERB GOLDBERG: Everybody wants to get drunk.  They just don’t like the brain damage and the damage to their nervous system and the hangovers later on.

DR. LORI BUCKLEY: Yeah.

HERB GOLDBERG: They want the ‘up’, but they don’t want the ‘down’.  And romance is the same way.  It’s the same as a drug, with a big high at the beginning, where the going up is great, but then the coming down is painful, and very often ends with a crash.

DR. LORI BUCKLEY: So do you think it’s possible… and I think I know your answer, but I want to hear what you have to say about this.  I hope I know your answer.  Do you think it’s possible for couples to have a “healthy” relationship, and we’ll talk about what that means, and also have some of that excitement and romance, and you know, that passion that comes along with those relationships that start out kind of upside-down?  Can that happen towards the end?

HERB GOLDBERG: I think, yes.  I think couples who have healthy relationships will find that the romance builds, that it’s not necessarily there at a great intensity at the beginning, but that it builds with time, and the relationship actually gets more romantic, gets more romantic with time.  Yes, I think that’s certainly possible. 

DR. LORI BUCKLEY: So I was hoping that’s what you’d say.  Now we get to a really big question.  I’m just going to ask it.  I started out with, “What do women want?”  I don’t think you can get much bigger than that, but maybe this is.  And that is, “How do we do that?  Where do we begin?”

HERB GOLDBERG: Well that’s sort of what I’ve devoted a lot of my writing career to explore.  But I think the absolute beginning is for men and women to take responsibility for the compulsions of their gender that undermine the relationship.  In other words, I think women need to recognize what they do that is offensive to men, and that is defensive behaviors that they’re not in touch with, but they need to get in touch with.  And men need to do the same thing.  Men need to see, not what they intend, but how they’re experienced, and I think in fact, if I was going to give a simple formula the key to a good relationship is to have your beginning point as being how you’re experienced by your partner, and not what you think you’re putting out to your partner.  Because both people in the beginning of a relationship see themselves as loving.  They see themselves as really wanting to make the relationship work, but their partner is experiencing something different.  You know you’re in a potentially healthy relationship if you’re with a partner where you van talk about that, and talk about it honestly.

DR. LORI BUCKLEY: Yeah, communication.  And I think what you’re talking about is knowing yourself and knowing, really about the, not only the subconscious gender stereotypes that we fall into.  But there are so many things that go into, you know, our past, whether it’s our past with our parents or in past relationships that also get in the way.  So for, to know that, I would recommend therapy.  That’s always a great way to do it.  Is there any other way to really get to know…

HERB GOLDBERG: Therapy sometimes is a good way to do it, and sometimes not.  It all depends on whether the therapist themselves understand these kinds of issues.  And also, unfortunately a lot of therapists have biases to, you know.  And you know it’s easy even for a therapist to fall into that blind spot, where they see women as being the ‘love connection’ and they see men as being the ‘love spoiler’.  And that’s true of a lot of therapists, unfortunately, who even do couples therapy.  They really kind of identify with the woman, who seems like she just wants love and closeness, and the guy is the jerk, you know the guy is a jerk who’s always… who’s getting drunk or who’s cheating, or who’s pulling away, or who’s a workaholic, or who doesn’t have his priorities straight.  And that’s a gross over-simplification of the issue.

DR. LORI BUCKLEY: Yeah.  I would definitely agree.  So if you are going to go to therapy to discover who you are, make sure it is…

HERB GOLDBERG: …With somebody who understands these issues, and works with them well.

DR. LORI BUCKLEY: Yeah.  Does gender make a difference?

HERB GOLDBERG: It can.  It can.  I think particularly if the woman is… if the therapist is a woman, very often she will see things from the woman’s point of view, unless she’s had a lot of therapy, and really good therapy, herself, so that she has free herself from this.

DR. LORI BUCKLEY: Yeah, or has taken the time to really understand men.

HERB GOLDBERG: But I think men therapists actually tend to see it also from the woman’s point of view, because you know, I as a therapist, I understand that completely.  In most couples therapy, it’s really the w…  It’s really most of the time the woman who carries the therapy, and so the therapist is often, maybe even more favorably disposed to the woman because she’s a better therapy client.  She opens up more; she talks more about her feelings; she’s less resistant; whereas the guy is dragging his heels, “This is a waste of time; this is bunch of bullshit; this is a waste of money; I’m not getting anything out of this; this is going too slow.”  So when a therapist hears that, who do you think he’s going to be more empathetic towards?  He’s going to be empathetic towards the woman, who seems more inclined to participate.

DR. LORI BUCKLEY: Yeah, I would agree with that, actually.  I think, from my clinical work, I find it to be much more beneficial for the male when he is in individual therapy, because sometimes the woman can, uhm, take over the therapy session.  And so that can be a little bit challenging.  But me, I think, maybe, I don’t know if it’s something that’s changing, maybe just sort of the stigma of psychotherapy by itself is decreasing, I’m not sure, but it seems to me like a lot more men are now seeking out therapy.

HERB GOLDBERG: Well, that’s good news.

DR. LORI BUCKLEY: Yeah.

HERB GOLDBERG: Especially if they’re staying with it.

DR. LORI BUCKLEY: Right.  Yeah, and I think it’s really a wonderful thing.  But other than therapy, is there anything else that people can do, men or women, although obviously we’re talking to men here, but… that they can do to really discover more about themselves and some of these stereotype things that are getting in the way of relationships?

HERB GOLDBERG: Well I think there’s a lot that they can do if they want to.  Number one, I think just like women have always done, they need to read the books that have been written on the subject.

DR. LORI BUCKLEY: Right.  Your new book is a great one to read!

HERB GOLDBERG: I think my new book would be a good one for them.  Actually, my reputation was basically as a writer for men, originally, although I don’t…  I… What Men Really Want was written for women.  But I think they need to do a lot of reading.  They need to go to the workshops.  They need to listen.  They need to go places to listen to what women have to say.  I think being in a men’s group can be helpful, and just doing things to internalize themselves.  Some men could do that by keeping a journal, but really putting an emphasis on identifying their personal experience.

DR. LORI BUCKLEY: Yeah, I think those are great suggestions.  And what’s nice about having a book to read is you can read it, and take your time, and really figure out more about yourself, and I think that’s a good foundation, even if you do decide to go to therapy, or a men’s group, or a workshop.  Having that knowledge going in gives you, I think, a heads-up where you’re going to get more out of it, when you have a better understanding of who you are.

HERB GOLDBERG: Sure.

DR. LORI BUCKLEY: I want to ask you a little bit about… that you write in your book, and this is specifically about men, about ‘externalization and disconnection’.  Can you talk a little bit about that, Herb?

HERB GOLDBERG: Right.  Well that’s part of my whole theoretical framework of what I call the defense mechanisms that operate in gender.  And for men, externalization really means that from the time they’re very young, their socialization pushes them away from their inner personal self, almost exclusively towards achievement performance.  All their reinforcement is received by their ability to perform, to succeed, to compete, to win, to avoid failure.

DR. LORI BUCKLEY: In the ‘doing’, unlike the women as in the ‘being’.

HERB GOLDBERG: Absolutely.  The football hero, the smartest in the class, the strongest guy, the best at this, the best at that…  So they become externalized.  In the process of externalizing, they start to lose their capacity for personal relating, and personal relating gets substituted by a kind of objectification, a disconnection.  People become objects, and you get close to somebody because you need something from them, or you want something from them.

DR. LORI BUCKLEY: Such as women.

HERB GOLDBERG: Well, women are part of it, but they relate to each other in the same way.

DR. LORI BUCKLEY: Oh, is this when they talk about football and…

HERB GOLDBERG: But I mean even in business, men use each other.  They don’t care about each other, most of the time.  They use each other.  They become friendly with a man who can do something for them, or who will buy their product, or who will buy their services.  But all of this is in denial.  It’s unconscious.  Men don’t see themselves that way.  And then they move in the direction of disconnection, where they objectify everything, and their capacity for empathy, their capacity for sharing on a personal level, often even disappears.  Some men can’t even talk about what they’re feeling, because they don’t know.  They have no idea.  They know what they think.  And then in the end stage of this progression from external to disconnection is oblivion.  And you see that in men, as they get older.  They absolutely completely lose their capacity for a genuine or an authentic personal connection, and the only ones that they have left are the ones that they can buy.

DR. LORI BUCKLEY: We have run out of time.  So we’re gong to have to continue this interview with Dr. Herb Goldberg next week.  But you don’t want to miss next week’s show.  Make sure to tune in.  We’re going to be talking about women and sex.  And Dr. Herb Goldberg and I have a little bit of a difference of opinion about that.  So women really like sex?  Well that’s what we’re going to be talking about next week.  Thank you again for listening.  This is your host, Dr. Lori Buckley.

This concludes Part 1.  The interview will be continued in the next episode of this show.

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