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As a strong and independent woman, I quickly learned that there’s one primitive instinct all men have.
Whether they are free-thinking men who believe in equality in a relationship or old-fashioned men who see themselves as the head of the household, all men share one primal instinct—the hero instinct.
Men need to feel like they are the hero, ready to rescue you, and make everything better. Sadly, this can cause issues if you’re not prepared for the behavior that comes with this hero urge in your man’s psyche.
But, if you’re wise, you can use this instinct to trigger the ultimate loving and caring relationship with your man.
If you’ve ever wanted to learn about the hero instinct and how it influences your man and your relationship with him, get ready for a quest into unfamiliar territory.
What Is the Hero Instinct?
Men are geared to be the defender and leader of the clan. In primitive days, the caveman didn’t get a mate if he wasn’t ready to fight for her and protect her. Feeling needed is the more contemporary way in which this primitive urge is stimulated. When your man feels needed and like he can swoop in and save the day, he is in his element and feels whole.
Being the hero, even if it’s by doing something basic like bringing you fresh steaks from the shop because you asked him to, can stimulate his hero instinct, and it makes the more primitive centers in his brain respond with comfort and satisfaction.
When he’s able to be the hero and feels needed, he has a sense of purpose.
The drive to be a hero is also what pushes many men to enlist in the armed services and law enforcement. Meeting the calling to be a hero and save people around him is how he establishes his identity and gains a purpose in life.
In relationship terms, this means a man wants to be the hero in your relationship. If you are too independent and never seem to need him, he becomes frustrated.
It’s very easy for a more needy female to then catch his attention simply because she’s satisfying his deeper hero urge.
Of course, not all men will step out to satisfy this urge, but when their primary need to be the hero is unmet, they begin to feel unneeded and inferior.
The ideology of the hero instincts of men is defined by relationship coach James Bauer in his book, His Secret Obsession. In the book, Bauer talks about how important it is for a man to feel needed and empowered to protect and provide for his partner.
In the modern world, men don’t always get to fulfill that need.
But He Never Does Anything I Ask …
Of course, many ladies read the above and retort angrily that their man never steps up to do what they ask, so how can he claim to want to be needed when he doesn’t do as asked. It’s not that simple.
Life steps in, and since men are often socially emasculated and no longer feel like the tribe’s heroes, they suppress their hero instinct so deeply that they don’t recognize the calling.
The triggers to become a hero have become muted and the man no longer hears them.
Since he feels he fails at life, he doesn’t believe he can be the hero anymore, even if this lack of self-faith is unspoken or subconscious.
Each disappointment in life, whether it’s the promotion he doesn’t get at work, the way your kids backchat him, or the fender-bender he got last Friday, breaks down his hero-self.
Each blow strips away his hero’s armor. This means that when you ask him to do something, he instinctively doesn’t believe he can as his inner hero is asleep (or comatose).
Hero Instinct Vs Ego Stroking
So, when helping your man fulfill his hero side, does that mean that you have to stroke his ego all the time and continuously tell him how fabulous he is? Nope, in fact, that can have the opposite effect, making him into an anti-hero.
There’s a fine line between stroking your man’s ego and waking up his hero instinct. Ego stroking is about you expressing power over him, making him dependent on your praise. Helping your man awaken his hero urges is about empowering him.
Ego stroking has limited effectiveness in gaining his support and participation in your relationship. When you stroke his ego, you are still the one doing things.
Instead, you want to let him feel needed and become the hero, which places him in the responsibility seat and encourages him to be the one you can count on.
When you ego-stroke your man, you simply polish him up and tell him how wonderful he is, but you don’t make him feel needed. Helping to unleash his heroic nature is about guiding him to see himself in a better light and as capable of more.
The Importance of Being a Hero
Why go to all the trouble of helping your man feel like a hero? Being a hero is important to him as it helps him feel capable and needed. With a sense of purpose, he develops the drive to achieve in life and love.
Helping your man become more of the hero he has inside is also valuable to your relationship.
Your man can’t be a hero if there’s no mate or woman to save and protect, so you are an integral part of the hero urge cycle.
In today’s world, men (and women) often get knocked down by work, social, and financial challenges. Men are often hit hardest in their hero senses and they feel unnecessary.
They lose the courage to stand up for their partner, and they often can’t even stand up for themselves. This is why discovering his hero instinct is so important to a man.
Benefits of the Hero Instinct to Your Relationship
For your relationship to thrive, it’s vital you engage with your partner’s hero urge. There are several benefits to being able to help your partner unleash their heroic side.
Develop a Greater Partnership
Your man may begin to open up and confide in you when you let him feel needed. By showing your vulnerable side, you trigger his protective nature, but you also empower him to be vulnerable with you.
Boost His Confidence
When your man feels needed and like he can save and protect you, he will feel more confident in life. That’s a win-win for both you and him. Confidence is sexy, and it also means your man will feel more satisfied by your relationship.
Grow Your Relationship Status
If your man isn’t quite all-in with your relationship, he could be holding back because he doesn’t feel needed enough or that he can add value to the relationship.
Stimulating his hero instinct can help him face both these shortcomings and become more committed to your relationship.
Develop His Alpha Male Status
The alpha male is the epitome of strength, resilience, and power. But not all men are born alphas, and while there are other male personalities like the Zeta male, developing more of the alpha male status is great for boosting your man’s confidence and pride.
15 Ideas to Trigger Hero Instinct in a Man
So you’ve established your man has a somewhat switched off hero instinct, or he struggles with confidence and commitment. Getting the hero inside to wake up and leap into action is a process of patient work, but it’s totally worth it.
Here are a few ideas you can tailor to your man’s hero needs.
Remember: It’s not a quick fix; think of it as marathon training.
1. Show Appreciation
Being appreciative may seem like a dumb-dumb answer, but how often do we just move on with life’s roller coaster and forget to show our partner that we appreciate all the little things they do?
In fact, being more appreciative and actually telling your man you value all the little things he does is the golden key to start the whole hero-discovery process.
Start by finding at least five things each day to thank him for. Did he open the door, warm up the car’s engine before you left for work, pack you lunch, take out the garbage, or put his clothes in the hamper (instead of the floor)?
Those may seem like small things, but when you thank him for doing them, you make him aware that you need him to do them.
As a bonus, appreciation makes him feel valued and seen. It can also make a man who previously ignored all you do start to see your labors of love, and thank you for them too. We should model the behavior we want. Show appreciation to get appreciation.
2. Care About His Opinion
Have you recently asked your man for his take on things? As women, we have had to fight to get to where we are in the career game, but one of the casualties along the way has been being vulnerable with our partners.
Your man needs to see you as being vulnerable and needing his input for him to feel like he’s the hero.
By asking his opinion on something, you signal that you appreciate his input, and you value his view on things. It makes him feel needed and included. Even small things can make a difference.
Consider asking him what he wants for dinner (and don’t argue when he wants something you don’t want). Perhaps you can ask him what he thinks you should wear to the dinner party, or you can involve him in your shopping decisions.
Empower him to offer his opinion without fearing his head will be guillotined.
3. Small Tasks for Confidence Boosting
For those ladies who have children, you probably know that you start with small tasks to teach your child how to do bigger things and also to help them feel like they actually can do something.
The same applies to your man. His hero drive is in infancy, so you need to set him small tasks that build him up.
Consider asking him to do things that you believe will be slightly challenging, but that he can do successfully, such as reversing the car out of a parking lot, changing the bedsheets, or dropping the kids off at school.
Be specific and praise him when he does the tasks correctly.
With small steps, you can build up your man’s self-belief, so he can feel more empowered and ready to save you. When he successfully does a small task, it helps to make him feel like he can do those tasks so much better than you can.
Perhaps this is one of the reasons women have through the ages asked assistance to get out of carriages, into cars, or step from the saddle. It’s one of the best ways to get a man feeling that he can do something she “can’t” or that she needs him to do.
4. Be His Safe Space
We can only be vulnerable when we feel safe. If your relationship is marked by arguing and abuse, you and he won’t feel safe with each other, and you can then forget to ever see his vulnerable side.
Having your man trust you enough to be vulnerable with you is what gives him the confidence to dive deeper and become a hero. For him to be a hero is not just a matter of you showing him you are vulnerable; it’s about him feeling safe enough to be vulnerable too.
Getting him to lay his weapons down helps him find a reason to fight the tigers of the world as you give him the things he needs to protect—a home and love.
There are a few things you can do to make your home a safe space for you both:
You can also encourage him to take up journaling to embrace vulnerability and find courage.
5. Give Him the Power of Decision-Making
Women make the mistake of doing it all. We are so self-reliant that we become one-woman bands, forgetting that we are in a relationship with another living being who also has opinions and decision-making powers. Stop being the designated driver of your relationship and let him take the wheel with a few easy decisions.
Ask him to get some pizza and let him choose the topping. Have him pick a place to visit for your weekend getaway. Or, let him choose a puppy for your child’s birthday present.
Giving (or sharing) him the power of choice makes him feel capable, so he will step up to deal with bigger issues too.
6. Become His Fan
You don’t have to be his personal cheerleader, but showing more support is a valuable gift your man will really appreciate. Best of all, it will give him loads of courage to do things he didn’t previously think he could.
In reality, this often takes the form of the geeky guy who faces down bullies because the girl he likes smiled at him. That courage is what awakens the hero instinct.
Of course, this doesn’t mean you have to hire some bullies to rough up your man, so he will discover how to be a hero. Instead, just encourage him in all the things he does.
When he has a project due for work, send him a sweet text to let him know you are proud of him. If he has an important meeting, help him get dressed and tell him what a success he is and how you value him.
Also encourage him to use positive self-talk and be his own fan.
7. Put Away Your Inner B*
Okay, we’ve all been there. Your man does something that really gets you riled up, and he’s awoken your crazy B*. So you rush over to tell him exactly what you think of him, right in front of his friends. This is one way to seriously undermine his hero-self.
When you are trying to trigger hero sentiments in him, it’s best to hide away your crazy side and chain up that inner B*. Start practicing self-control and restraint. If you can’t speak nicely to him, avoid seeing him and speaking to him until you have calmed down.
Oh sure, that crazy B*-moment can lead to great sex later, but it’s likely that you’ve already de-heroed your man.
Start practicing how to calm down and speak kindly to your man. Firstly, breathe before you speak. Secondly, see things from his point of view, and thirdly, don’t hurt him because you’re hurt.
8. Climb Mountains, Not Molehills
If you’re going to get worked up about every small thing, you will drive him away. Remember, you want to be his soft and safe place to fall, his reason to fight on, and his best supporter.
When you are grinding him about not taking out the trash for the second day in a row, you are simply cutting him down.
Choose what things you can let go of (and it’s most of the little things, no matter how annoying they are to you). Pick mountains you can climb with him. This means you help him make the right choice in situations where it matters.
Support his decisions, but discuss potentially negative choices that he’s making. Do these discussions in private, keeping it in confidence. Don’t brag about how you “saved him” to your girlfriends over tea.
Some mountains you can climb with him include:
9. Modern Opportunities for Protection
Where the knights of old used to fight battles for their lady’ honor, your man can also protect you in his own way—if you create the right situations for this.
When you head to the movies, watch a scary movie with him and let him wrap his arm around you, protecting you from the monsters that hide in the dark.
If you take a walk, let him place his jacket and arms around you, so you won’t get cold. The hero inside your man loves feeling like he’s protecting you.
While he’s no longer wielding a sword, he still responds to the feeling of satisfaction that he could do something to keep you safe.
10. Polish His Armor
If you want to have a man who’s your knight in shining armor, you need to help him polish his armor. What this translates to in real life is that you need to make him feel proud of who he is and what he has to offer.
Compliments are one of the best ways to help him feel proud and ready to slay a dragon for you.
Be strategic and polish his self-confidence with a few well-placed compliments, such as:
11. Be His Sounding Board
Men are said to talk way less than women do, but being present and being a safe person he can talk to is bound to help your man feel empowered and more resilient. Being able to voice his thoughts and feelings can help him process.
The result is he will be more likely to be your hero and listen to you in turn.
Try starting a weekly chat with him where you both get to listen and share. Watch your relationship deepen as he bears more of your sorrows when he gets to see you and be seen.
12. Let Him Be a Man
We live in a world of gender debate, but to be the primal hero, your man has to feel like he’s a man—right down to pumping up some testosterone.
A safe way for him to do this is to engage in manly activities like physical exercise, action sports, barbecuing some meat, and engaging in outdoor sports that boost the fragile male ego.
Help stimulate his manliness by encouraging him to take up a physical hobby. If it’s one that’s competitive, even better. Competition sports help him shine and feel like he’s achieved something.
Your man will thrive when he feels better about his own physical self, and you’re sure to thank him later (#WinkWink).
13. Encourage His Friendships
Within the primitive tribe, the man didn’t exist with his mate only. Other men and their mates were part of the clan. In our modern world, we quickly isolate ourselves.
Females are more likely to still socialize, but men can quickly become cut off from bonding with other powerful men (#InformalGroupTherapy).
Encourage him to have a group of healthy men who will help build him up. Arrange poker nights where the guys get to hang out and you and the ladies go out, or ensure he invites a couple of his close friends over for a meal at least once a week.
Remember, the heroic knight had other guys cheering him on too.
14. Respect Him
Sadly, we’re not always fair in how we handle our men. As emancipated ladies, we often speak when we should listen and act when we should pass the responsibility to our men.
While you can be a strong and independent woman, it really helps boost his heroic side when you respect him.
Watch out for the following:
15. Ask For His Advice and Help
Your man is waiting for you to ask his advice and opinion on things. He really wants to step up, but you need to invite that from him. Swallow your pride and ask him to help. It’s a simple matter of getting him involved, so he feels valued and worthy.
Praising him for each ounce of help will counteract all the ways our modern world has killed his inner hero.
Remember, he faces “tigers” he can’t slay, like unfair treatment at work, salary cuts, being retrenched, not fitting in with richer guys, social stressors, and being told what to do all the time by his employer, society, and the media.
When you get him to feel like he can actually help, he will feel like you believe in him, which you should do and assure him of. Help him be brave, and his inner hero will step into the limelight.
Final Thoughts on Hero Instinct for Men
The hero instinct in men is a poorly understood notion, but it’s at the root of so many issues that couples have.
Women tend to blame their men for so many things, but mostly for not stepping up. You can help him find his courage and become the man you want.
Use the 15 tips to trigger your man’s inner hero and use our 54 ways to be a happier human to help him find courage and inspiration to be the hero.
And if you're looking for more on articles on relationships, be sure to check out these blog posts:
- 15 Unmistakable Signs You’ve Found a Platonic Soulmate
- 15 Signs That Someone is Your True Soul Friend
- 17 Traits and Characteristics of a High Value Man