The Man’s Guide to Women: Summary

the man's guide to women book cover

The Man’s Guide to Women (2016) is a research-backed book for men to learn more about women and relationships.
It touches on topics such as relationships, courtship, female psychology, and sex.

Bullet Summary

  • It’s men’s behavior that makes or breaks a relationship
  • Men who ATTUNE (listen / care /empathize) have the best relationships
  • Making great love starts long before bed and it’s in most parts mental

Full Summary

About The Author: John Gottman is an American researcher and clinician who focused most of his career on relationships.
He is also the author of “The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work” and “The Relationship Cure“.


The book barely starts and Gottman already delivers an eye-opener: men are the crucial factor between a great relationship and a failed relationship.

It’s not to say that women don’t count: it’s a relationship between two individuals, so sure they count.
But men and their actions are the key variables.

What’s a man to do, then?

Read on.

What do Women Really Want?

First of all, women are unique, and if she contradicts what Gottman’s love lab says, listen to her.

They do however have several traits that are likely to be shared. And the number one thing women want is this:


Trustworthiness in dating and relationships means that:

  1. You are who you say you are
  2. You do what you say you do

The authors say women want safe and dependable men and that’s why they find firefighters hot: they epitomize the role of the dependable hero.

And that’s why symbolic actions of protectiveness and concern, such as opening doors and pulling chairs actually do work.

My Note:
I think Gottman’s right, but I need to make an addendum.
Firefighters being hot is relative and varies from country to country. 

In Italy, it’s seamen who have the hot stereotype. And the seaman stereotype is “a woman in every port”. 
I’m not saying that safety is not attractive to women. It can be and it’s helpful in relationships. But danger and excitement are equally attractive, especially for short flings. Also, read the 10 types of players.

This is very important also sexually because trustworthiness and sex are linked for women.
Sex means being vulnerable for women, and fear or lack of trust will inhibit them sexually.

Women’s 2 Biggest Complaints

Women in relationships have two major complaints:

  1. He is never there for me
  2. There isn’t enough intimacy and connection

They are related complaints of women who want more intimacy but feel alone in a relationship.

Men’s 2 Biggest Complaints:

  1. Too much fighting
  2. Not enough sex

Men are also, in a way, lonely in a relationship and they want intimacy as much as women.
But men feel more intimacy through less fighting and more sex.

What Men Want: Men want to be desired and to feel like their woman adores them and approves of them.

The Biggest Relationship Fix: ATTUNEMENT

Attunement is how you increase intimacy, remove most fights and increase sex.
But first, here’s what most men do wrong:

Men’s Mistakes: Dismissing Emotions

The fights of many couples are the consequence of men dismissing women’s emotions instead of attuning to them.
You dismiss women’s emotions every time you:

  • Minimize them (or say she’s exaggerating)
  • Fix them
  • Try to distract her from them
  • Make fun of them
  • Mock them
  • Ignore them

A big mistake men do is to feel responsible for the woman’s emotions.

When they do that, they either try to fix her or become irritable as they take her feelings personally.

Men have problems, especially with negative emotions. They think dwelling on them makes matters worse and will rather avoid them altogether. This is, again, a mistake.
Acceptance is key instead. Or even better: look at emotional “crisis” as an opportunity to build trust.


Women want trustworthiness, and trustworthiness is built with emotional connection, which in turn is created with attunement.

Men who learned emotional attunement got what they ultimately wanted from their relationships: less fighting and more sex.
To understand attunement, we can use it as an acronym (A TT U N E):

  • Attend and give your undivided attention
  • Turn toward: not just a metaphor, but physically turn towards her
  • Understand: whatever she says, strive to understand. Ask questions
  • Non Defensive Listening: don’t justify or attack back
  • Empathize: understanding is intellectual, and empathizing is emotional. Feel what she’s feeling

Non-defensive listening

A special note goes to listening without defending.

Men more easily go into flight or fight, so it’s not easy for them to listen calmly. But those who were able to stay calm were men with great relationships.

Women’s Rhythms

Women change as their hormones change during their menstrual cycles.

This is just a general guideline, as it varies widely from woman to woman:

  • First 2 weeks of the menstrual cycle women are friendlier, more talkative, and more relaxed
  • Second 2 weeks they can be more stressed, irritable, and craving lone time
  • During ovulation, women can be more emotional and interested in sex.
  • PMS (premenstrual syndrome) can last one day or a full 2 weeks. Can include depression, anxiety, irritability, emotional sensitivity

You can help smooth things out by:

  • Listening to her feelings (which are real)
  • Avoid blaming PMS
  • Get familiar with her cycle (not every woman has a 28 days cycle)
  • Remember that women constantly change, so:
  • Don’t take her moods personally: they often have nothing to do with you
  • Know that your woman of last week will be a different one from this week

My Note:
The authors also recommend you avoid telling her to cut caffeine and exercise more -which helps with PMS-.
But I disagree here. If she can do something to help the relationship, she should.

Hormones and Sex

Men have sex centers in their brains which are twice the size of women.

And men think about sex on average six times more frequently than women.

But while men peak in the sexual drive during teenage years and early adulthood, women don’t hit their sexual stride until their thirties.
Sexual drive for the two genders indeed aligns more closely in the forties and fifties.

Alpha VS Beta: The Cycle Effect

Women are more attracted to aggressive alpha men when ovulating and more attracted to kinder and nurturing men when not (beta).

The authors say that heroes adapt their behavior to be both alpha and beta depending on their woman’s cycle.

My Note:
The authors are all well-learned folks, but their alpha/beta designation seems wrong here.
Betas are second in command, often very close to alphas.

Associating aggression with alphas and nurturing to beta doesn’t seem quite right to me.

Women and Fear

While men go through most of their daily life without experiencing fear, that’s not the case for women.

It was actually eye-opening for me to read the example in the book:

A marriage counselor asked a room full of couples when was the last time they were afraid.
Men were astonished to see their spouses were afraid or feeling uneasy on a daily basis. Including when walking in the parking lot to get to that same seminar room.

Stress Response In Men and Women

Men get less fearful in high-stress situations.

Women get more fearful instead and are also more likely to get mini-traumatized and be even more afraid of similar situations in the future.

An example is a near-car crash where the man chases the other driver and the woman gets more and more afraid.

Holding Hands During Fearful Situations

An experiment in MRI scan showed that holding hands with their husbands completely erased fear in happily married women.
It slightly decreased fear in unhappily married women. And it had no consequences when holding hands was a stranger.

Women & Attraction

Women look for confidence, intelligence, and high social status.

High social status is highly contextual, though.

So you can be a nobody at work but have high social status on a night out playing board games (also read: relativity of social status and small pond syndrome).

The authors say that the expertise you demonstrate in an area of interest is what attracts women. So if you collect stamps, be highly knowledgeable about stamps.

Romancing a Woman

The authors say that women remember the first kiss more than anything else.
Even more, than losing their virginity.

An example of a memorable kiss:

Is She Girlfriend Material?

The author recommends you take note of how she treats her pets, friends, and family.

That will give you a good idea of how she will treat you in the relationship.
Some more warning signs:

  • Does she complain often?
  • Pattern of friendships
  • How she treats service personnel and strangers
  • Is she considered self-centered?

Also read: 17 early signs of low-value women.

Choose your partner carefully. Your relationship is 90 percent of the joy or sorrow in your life

Making Love to a Woman

The Man’s Guide to Women has a whole chapter on making love.
I invite you to get the book for that.

But here are a few droplets of wisdom that no other sex book will tell you about women’s mindsets:

Beauty for Women is a Matter of Survival

There’s constant pressure on her from society and more and more from the media from any direction.

A woman’s self-identity is tied to her body. She doesn’t see herself separately from her body, so her self-worth is often tied to it.

While men are judged by their performance and abilities, women are judged today by the same standards PLUS how good they look and how they dress in the process.

So here’s what a hero does:

  • Comments on how great she looks
  • Answer “you look good in everything” when she asks if she looks fat
  • Does NOT make funny jokes about her eating
  • Let her know he’s attracted to her
  • Appreciates her body in and out of bed

When heroes do that, they also get much better sex.

The Mental Side of Sex

Good sex and lovemaking start before bed.

A woman’s anatomy is actually only a small percentage of what turns her on and gives her pleasure.

And, the authors say, the greatest sex organ of a woman is her mind.
It’s a myth that if a woman doesn’t reach an orgasm the man is not a good lover. Ultimately, say the authors, a woman is responsible for her own sexual pleasure.
She must first allow herself to reach an orgasm with you.

My Note:
Indeed I have experience with women who’ve never had orgasms and it’s not easy to get them to peak. They seem to reach the orgasm point but never actually get there. With women who did experience orgasms, it’s instead easy to give them multiple orgasms.
Indeed, the authors say, it takes a modicum of skills to pleasure her if she’s experiencing desire.
I once experienced a woman in a trance-like state once back home after a long day together. She had multiple orgasms… While we were still on the bed… Dressed (!)

The greatest sex organ of a woman is her mind

Handling Conflicts

First of all, makeup sex is a myth: fighting puts a damper on women’s desire.
Women’s anger has its roots in three different categories:

  • Powerlessness
  • Injustice
  • Other people’s irresponsibility

Research in the Love Lab shows that most of the time conflicts start without a reason.
And when it happens, women want a good listener because women’s goal is to be better understood by their partners.

Men & Conflicts

Men are more likely to get aggressive, passive-aggressive, or seek revenge when they are angry.

Men get emotionally flooded and overwhelmed during conflict situations: they feel the shock of the attack and the need to defend themselves.

Those who can reduce heart rate while staying present tend to respond better and have better relationships.

To avoid flooding, there are three strategies:

  • Breath deeply
  • Count to 10
  • Take a break (WITHOUT thinking about your wife, but taking your mind off)

Your main job as a man is to learn to calm down when she has strong feelings or criticisms. It’s not about bending over, say the authors, it takes lots of strength to really listen while staying detached.

Men can’t differentiate between a spear and a verbal spear

Women & Conflicts

Women are on average better at managing conflict, and that’s one of the reasons they don’t understand men stonewalling or leaving mid-conflict.

They are less likely to express anger directly, stay angry longer, and become more resentful.
Since women are more likely to use indirect ways to express anger, they are also more likely to simply stay silent.

Women Need Friends

While men need a woman to live longer, it’s friendships with other women that determine women’s longevity.

Breast cancer patients also showed that the survival rate was highly correlated with the number of friends, and not on whether or not they had a spouse.

just as a note, women do get health benefits from marriages, but only if the marriage is good. Men get benefits anyway.

Women have a natural inclination for friends. They make friends more naturally than men, like while shopping or having a manicure done.

Confidantes and Genders
In a study of blue-collar marriages, their spouses were the only confidantes for men and men spoke to their wives about almost anything.
But their wives had many topics they didn’t talk about with their husbands and preferred other women instead.

Men’s Jealousy

Some men are jealous -and feel threatened- by their spouses’ girlfriends, and it was a major cause of domestic violence.

In the case of male friends though they might have a reason to worry.
The authors say that friendships slip into affairs when the woman complains to him about her relationship (read: how to sleep with women with a boyfriend).

Stages of Love

Love has three stages:

  1. Limerence: the period of butterflies (but not necessary nor sufficient for lifetime love)
  2. Trust: women make sure he’s responsible for children (a couple of years)
  3. Loyalty: you’ve chosen commitment, the relationship transcends the two of you and becomes a thing of beauty

Limerence, the period of crazy love, is not the right time to make decisions about long-term commitment.
But the couples who don’t experience it sometimes feel as if something is missing. And wonder if they’ve done the right choice.

Importantly, the authors say that any other relationship type beyond monogamy in stage two is a threat to the relationship. Once you enter stage three, there’s a sense of purpose in the relationship. Couples feel like they have created something bigger than their mere sum.

How do you know if she’s the one?

Research has shown that similar interests matter little.

Feelings compatibility matters, though.
That’s about how you express affection and love (read the 5 love languages), how you express feelings, if at all. People have different ways of expressing feelings: passionate and all over or uncomfortable and shying away from feelings.

If you are mismatched there, it rarely works out.

Here’s an example of a more rational woman withholding emotions VS one who makes no effort and bursts at the seam:

If meta-emotion works, here’s what matters next: how does it feel being together?
If she makes you feel happy, appreciated and that you can be yourself, then she is the right one for you.

Marriage Is Important to Relationship Health

Turns out, marriage is more than a piece of paper.

The longer a couple lives together without getting married, the less they behave like a couple. They were also less likely to support each other and more likely to leave if someone better came along.

Overall, The Man’s Guide for Women makes the case that marriage is good.

Women and Children

The main message here is that women do put their children first once they become mothers.

They tend to build social networks that will help them support their babies, and the father is a central piece in such a network. She needs you, and countless studies show countless benefits for children who grow up with an active father.

Heroes bond with their children as well instead of being jealous. And help raise healthy children in a happy family.

How to Stay Together For a Lifetime

Heroes are always curious about her and never stop investigating her and asking her questions.

And they’re never afraid of sharing their own world.
Staying curious is how you keep healthy communication and tell her you care with facts. Sharing your world is how you keep trust and an open relationship.

The authors say that betrayals don’t happen out of the blue, but are the result of a long slide of secrets, unexpressed feelings moments of connection that went missing or dismissed.

If you turn away from your partner too many times, she might not be there when you finally turn to her again.

So here’s the other key: be present.

the man's guide to women book cover

Real-Life Applications

Don’t take her moods personally
Often they have little to do with you

Inject Excitement on Your First Date
When you do something exciting on your first date, she will feel aroused with you. The authors mention bungee jumping, which I wouldn’t do. But you could, for example, visit a weird venue.

Don’t Compete
women are much more geared toward collaboration than competition. On your date, don’t make it a matter of who’s right or wrong. Also, read 4 communication mistakes men do in relationships.


  • Evolutionary Psychology Misunderstanding

The authors say that since women have been schooled only on dressing for 3.000 years, that came “bred into their bones”.
3,000 years is not much in evolutionary terms though.

  • Nonsense Use of Evolutionary Psychology

I’m sorry to say this, but I felt it was terrible how the authors used evolutionary psychology to “explain” their findings.

For example, they say men can bond when standing sideways because that’s how they sat while hunting for buffalos. That’s so random that it’s ridiculous.

I think men are comfortable sideways because full frontal shows genitalia to other men, which is awkward. But I don’t make up an evolutionary psychology story because I know full well what my explanation would be: my own (meaningless) guesswork.

  • Wrong Alpha VS Beta designation?

Women tend to be somewhat more attracted to aggressive (alpha) men when they are ovulating and more attracted to kinder, gentler, more nurturing (beta) men when they are not.

But where does it say that beta males are more nurturing?

And a beta male is, technically, second in command. Gottman could be more careful with the words he picks: he’s supposed to be a scientist, not a red pill bro-scientist.


The Man’s Guide to Women is a genius book.

It has boatloads of insights and I learned hugely from it.

Guys, if you want to improve your relationship -and you should, it’s the most important thing in life!- you have to check this book out.

Check out the best relationship books or get the book on Amazon

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