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Is it the same?

Lucky me that I have a friend whom I hadn't seen for several years but still could hold very long conversations about everything we're interested in, as if we were still in high school. We started with formal stuff like job, career, about old classmates, then the topics became more personal, to family life and, well, relationship. Actually the focus was not really on relationship but more on how the girls we once knew a decade ago have changed and become different people. Then he paused and asked a question:
"Do they love us the same?"
"What do you mean?"
"I mean do woman love us the same as we do to them?"
At first, the question sounds ridiculously simple and I was tempted to just say: "Well no, of course, no." and would jump to explain how different women are from men. But then I thought about it more carefully. This question sounds similar yet somehow different. Then I realized this was the question that I did not know I really really needed the answer. 
Think about it, we usually put these questions on Google when coming to the topic of relationship:
- What is love? Does true love exist?
- What do women want from men and vice versa?
- What are the differences between guys and girls?
- What are the signs that he/she likes me?
So we inherently know that there are differences between male and female, and we also know the obvious fact that a man and a woman can be bonded together by something called 'love'. But we seldom ask:
When a couple says 'I love you' to each other, do the man and the woman mean the same thing?

Why do you love me?

If you search the answers for the question "What is love?", you will usually not get an exact definition but a more generic, gender-neutral one along these lines:
"Love is a force of nature. However much we may want to, we can not command, demand, or take away love, any more than we can command the moon and the stars and the wind and the rain to come and go according to our whims. We may have some limited ability to change the weather, but we do so at the risk of upsetting an ecological balance we don't fully understand. Similarly, we can stage a seduction or mount a courtship, but the result is more likely to be infatuation, or two illusions dancing together, than love."
("What is Love, and What Isn't"  - Deborah Anapol Ph.D., Psychology Today)
I think it is easier to know what love isn't than what love is. 
My point is when we talk about love it seems we usually assume that it is the same for both sides, which is something I believe not true. Well, I do not say I definitely know what love is, so I do not make an affirmative statement. But both of us, my friend and I, sitting there feeling that it is not the same, so we had a small discussion and I really really wanted to dig to the bottom. As a guy who has a strong urge to draw a conclusion to any discussion,  I came up with this hypothesis. It is not a universal truth but I believe it explains almost every relationship I have experienced before. Therefore it could hold some truth here. This is my hypothesis:
"When a man loves a woman, he loves the way she is. When a woman loves a man, she loves the way he will be. More specifically, she loves what he will do for her."
This implies that men are very simple-minded when it comes to a relationship while women tend to have more caution and foresight. So when a man comes across a woman that makes his heart skip a beat, his immediate thought would be: "I like this lady, how to get her?" and for the woman, it would be: "I like this gentleman, how to make him love me?" Of course, the result would be the same, they would end up trying to make the other loves them. But there's a subtle difference here: the man cares more about what he wants whereas the woman more about if he wants her.
Based on that logic, I think when the girl says that she loves him she means: 
"I love you because you always put my need first!"
And that explains almost everything. What are her needs? She needs protection, she needs to be assured he'll always be there for her, she needs to be cared for, to be loved, to feel safe. And those needs extend to her child as well (well maybe all of these needs are the same, I just list out to fill up space here). 
For the guy, it is much simpler. He falls for what she is: her hair, her look, her smile, her eyes, her smell. And the important thing is: she accepts his love. There's a subtle difference we should take note here: a girl may accept love from a guy but does not necessarily love him in return. As for the guy, expectedly he would want her to truly love him back but even if she does not, he will still find the situation acceptable, as long as his love is accepted.
So if you hear stories about arranged marriage in the past, or even arranged marriage, you will see a pattern that if the woman is forced to live with a man she doesn't really love but who is loving and kind to her, does not abuse her mentally and physically, and provides her safety in term of finance, she would be generally content with her life. She does not truly love him, but she'll find her life satisfying. I think this is because women always perceive themselves as vulnerable, so she is willing to compromise her ideal husband by choosing to settle with a man who provides everything she needs. Modern media can be successful in convincing women to be financially independent, but it will fail to alter their genetic code, which is programmed to be emotionally dependent. 
However, if the scenario is reversed, that is a loving woman has to live with a man who has zero feelings for her, it would be totally different. I think the most frustrating experience a man has to endure is to live with a woman he does not love, no matter how much love she showers him, no matter how good her cooking skills are and how many sweet words she whispers into his ear. If he is kind, he will only be indifferent to her. Yet those men are rare, it is very likely that he will be cheating and if that method fails (because no woman accepts him), he will just abuse the wife mentally or physically. 
And this applies to break-up too.
The deal-breaker for a girl is when she feels like being abandoned. Even if that is not the intention of the guy, once she perceives so she will immediately look for a way-out.  As for the guy, the red line is when he thinks he does not love her any more, maybe because he is confused infatuation with deep love.
I think once we understand this, we can explain many behaviours of the opposite gender, like why she constantly needs to hear him say "I love you". It also explains why in the majority of cases, women are those that initiate divorce as the men utility seem to run out for them; and why after a break-up or a divorce, the men usually struggle emotionally for a longer time. Because it is hard for the men to just stop loving as their love is unconditional at the beginning.  

Dating behaviours

I take a bold move to apply my hypothesis to dating behaviour. It is not uncommon for a guy of high social ranking to date girls who are way below their league. Like a doctor dating a barista at Starbucks. He does not really care as long as he likes her and she is also genuinely into him and treats him well. 
But imagine a female at senior manager position dating a sales clerk at a book store. How would their female friends react when she shares with them that news? Polite silence or acknowledgement at best?
Now imagine she told them she’s dating a lawyer:
“OMG! That’s so amazing—you’re so lucky!”
Women will not like admitting this but they really only want to date those who they perceive equal to or above them in social status.  
The reason goes back to our biological roots. In the small tribes we evolved in for hundreds of thousands of years, survival was a constant struggle, and because death was common, the people who carried out the most effective mating strategy were far more likely to produce offspring and pass on their genes to the next generation.
For women, this meant mating with the highest status male to which they had access—the chief or another man who had power in the tribe. The reason is simple: these men were smarter and/or more physically dominant than other male tribe members. They would have better access to food, be more likely to survive in battle or on a hunt, and would understandably do all they could to protect women who carried or cared for their offspring.
Unfortunately today this actually hurts women—or at least, it lowers the number of potential mates they are likely to find attractive. This is especially true for women who make more money. It’s fairly easy for us to imagine a male banker who makes $150,000 a year marrying a female baker, but if we reverse sex/gender it would be an anomaly if not a scandal.

Do you love me? 

Of course, I understand my answer could be too simple for something so complicated as love. But I think it is a good beginner guide to explore the labyrinth of our feelings and emotions. 
So next time if she asks you:
"Anh có thương em không?"
I think you should not stop at answering: 
"Có, anh thương em chứ."
You should make it a complete experience by saying this:
"Có, anh thương em chứ. Anh luôn nghĩ đến em đầu tiên."
Best of luck out there.