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In today’s world, even the most routine and arbitrary tasks have come to serve as a daily reminder that the only thing constant is change. Yesterday, I had no choice but to throw on a mask and brave the supermarket for the first time in a very long while, and boy, what a different experience that was. But while I was there, standing in line, waiting to load my groceries on the conveyor belt, I noticed that, amidst all this change, one thing managed to remain exactly the same. As I glanced over the magazines, gum, and assorted last-minute items, I realized that just about every one of the popular women’s magazines still had the same grabby headlines across their covers. Stuff like, “How to make your man happy,” or, “10 sex tips to blow his mind.” I left the store and continued to think about the fact that in my 30 years on this earth, those exact same magazines have been writing the exact same articles over and over and over, yet somehow, they’re all still in business. How? 

man and woman laying on gray concrete surface looking at each other

It’s no secret that when it comes to the media, regardless of the outlet, in order to achieve any measure of success, a balance must be struck between business and creative authenticity. What you read isn’t always necessarily what the author wanted to write. Rather, what you read is often a combination of what the author wanted to write and what the author thinks you want to read. Analytic consumer data is routinely compiled and studied to help companies better understand the connection between themselves and their audience. In a nutshell: the reason the same publications keep writing a million different variations of the same article has a lot more to do with you than it does them. 

So that’s why I’m here. Apparently you ladies couldn’t stop googling “How to make a man happy” so now I’m forced to dig up this mummified horse corpse and beat it one more time for ya. But, before I tackle this cliche, I have to ask: have any of you ever actually read one of those articles? I’ve actually skimmed over quite a few in my day. At least 60% of the time, I put the magazine back on the rack and walk away thinking, “That had to be written by some bitter, recently divorced columnist hell-bent on sabotaging other people’s happy relationships.” ESPECIALLY the articles that pertain to sex. 

I must admit, much of my disdain towards these advice columns likely stems from the fact that a long, long time ago, I was actually victimized by one. I’m sure you’d all probably enjoy a good laugh at my expense, so here it is:

My junior year of high school I was dating this girl that was a year younger than me. I was the first person she had ever slept with, so sex was a totally new experience for her, but what she lacked in experience she certainly made up for in enthusiasm. She worked at a tanning salon and apparently one day at work she was killing time, reading one of those aforementioned articles from a popular women’s magazine, and decided that, rather than just take one bad piece of advice and try it out, she was going to get creative and combine a few of them into this elaborate kinky experiment of sorts.

Worst. Sexual. Experience. Ever.

That night over the phone she told me she had a surprise for me and wanted me to come over to her house after school the next day. She lived with her mom at the time and her mom worked the second shift so we would have the house to ourselves for a solid 5 hours. Naturally, the next day I show up thinking I’ve arrived at the playboy mansion. In reality, I had basically just turned myself into custody at Guantanamo Bay.

She leads me into her bedroom. All the windows are covered and it’s nearly pitch black except for all the assorted candles that were lighting the room. The full memory of the encounter is very foggy, but what I do vividly remember is this: before we even got started she said: “So, I wanted to try something, but I’m afraid if I just do it without asking you’ll freak out. So should I ask you, or should I just go for it?” And I’m like, “As long as it doesn’t have to do with my butt, I’m pretty much down for whatever.” To which she replies, “Well, now I’m glad I asked because that was part of it.” 

My feelings have gone from arousal and excitement to uncertainty and fear. She asked me to strip down to my underwear. Then she pulls out a blindfold and a pair of handcuffs. She puts the handcuffs on first. They were cheap, toy cuffs so I wasn’t too stressed. I figured, worst-case scenario, I should be able to escape pretty quickly. Then she slips the blindfold over my head. Now I’m just standing there bound and blind, thoughts racing as I hear the very familiar and unsettling sound of duct tape being dispensed. She starts wrapping it around my already cuffed wrists. My heart starts beating faster and now I’m thinking “Holy shit, things are getting way too real, way too fast.” I was on the verge of verbal protest but before I had a chance to object she sticks one last piece over my mouth. Now I am in full panic mode, but I know I can’t show it so I do my best to just block out the fear and try to roll with it. 

woman in white in front of a man in blue denim jacket photo

The next thing I know she’s pushed me on to my stomach and I’m laying on her bed face down. She straddles me and for a half-second, I start to experience a brief moment of optimism. When I say brief I mean like 3 seconds, then I immediately feel a fairly intense burning sensation on my back. It was candle wax. Pro tip: dripping hot candle wax on a restrained partner can be fun, but if you’re going to do so, make sure you buy purpose-built candles. They actually make candles that melt at a lower temperature so you don’t burn yourself. She, of course, didn’t know that. It was a little painful but I was doing ok. The pain wasn’t bothering me, it was really just the thoughts of how far she was about to take this. Then she rolled me over. She tells me she’ll be right back and in my head, I’m thinking, “Finally, now we’re getting to the fun stuff.” But when she returned, no fun stuff took place. Instead, she says, “so you like hot stuff, let’s see if you like this.” And without any warning, suddenly I feel red hot metal begin to melt my fucking nipple off. At this point I lose it, I start squirming and yelling and I’m able to use my tongue to push the tape off my mouth. I’m like, “What the fuck? Are you crazy? Take this shit off me, now!” Blindfold comes off and I’m looking around the room. She’s just standing there, face red, clearly embarrassed and I notice that in her off hand she’s holding a melting ice cube… An ice cube. I was 100% convinced she had just stuck a hot iron on my nip, but it was just an ice cube. 

Anticlimactic right? Long story long, I don’t even think we ended up having sex and if we did, I’m sure it was extremely awkward. Unsurprisingly, that relationship didn’t last, but that wouldn’t be the only time I’d have to endure an awkward sexual encounter thanks to similar misguided advice. 

Look, the inconvenient reality is this: whether it be sexually, emotionally or materialistically, just as there is no generalized guide to making a woman happy, there is no generalized guide for how to make a man happy either. We are all unique individuals with very different needs and desires. Obviously, you could take a poll and that might give you a little insight to start out with, but if you really want to know how to make your man happy, the only honest and true advice out there is actually pretty simple: ask him. 

As is often the case, the easy solution is very rarely the best solution. Establishing a healthy and open line of communication between your spouse can sometimes be tricky. Some people are much more comfortable being honest and open than others. But whether it comes naturally or it’s something you have to work at, there is no getting around the fact that being able to discuss and express each other’s feelings is a vital component of a happy relationship. 

The secret to what they want isn’t in a $5 gossip magazine. It’s in their words and their behaviors. Sometimes it can be hard to read and pick up on, and that’s why communicating is so important, but you can still learn a lot just through silent observation. It may sound silly, but when you notice them talking about something with clear and obvious enthusiasm, pull out your phone and make a note. Pay attention to detail, keep track of their likes and dislikes, but don’t just compile information, actually put it to use. 

I don’t find the overwhelming demand for relationship advice surprising at all. Relationships are hard. I mean, how many people do you know that have even managed to make themselves happy? But I will say this: when you love someone, the reward of seeing a genuine smile on their face almost always outweighs the effort it took to put it there. 

So remember: Put down the magazine. Exit the Google search. Communicate. Listen. Observe. Apply… And if all else fails: BJ šŸ–¤ 

Do you give thought to how you can influence your partner to feel happy?