The Male Romantic Fantasy
I'd say that men usually feel most loved when this normal state of affairs is negated; when they are made to believe that a woman's love is not conditional in the cause-and-effect manner described in the parent post. Love is work for men, but it can be rewarding work when things are going smoothly and the woman is happy as a result. But the male romantic fantasy is to be shown that the woman feels the same way and stands by him when he's down on his luck, when the money's not there, or when he's not feeling confident. He wants to know that the love he believes he's earned will stay even when the actions that feed it wane (however temporarily). A good woman can often lift a man up in his times of need and desperation and weather the storm even when things aren't going well. The male romantic fantasy is an enduring and unconditional love that seems to defy this relationship of labor and reward. A man wants to be loved for who he is, not for what he does in order to be loved.
An interesting way to examine this is to look at what women often call romantic entitlement. An entitled guy is a dude who maintains an unrealistic notion of men's typically active role in love. Before acknowledging reality, this boy uncompromisingly believes that he shouldn't have to do anything or change anything about himself to earn a woman's love; he wants to be loved for who he is, not what he does.
All men secretly want this, but there comes a day when they eventually compromise out of necessity. After that day, they may spend years honing themselves, working, shaping themselves into the men they believe women want to be chosen by. A massive part of what causes boys to "grow up" is the realization that being loved requires hard work. This impetus begins a journey where a boy grows into a man by gaining strength, knowledge, resources, and wisdom. The harsh realities of the world might harden and change him into a person his boyhood self wouldn't recognize. He might adopt viewpoints he doesn't agree with, transgress his personal boundaries, or commit acts he previously thought himself incapable of. But ultimately, the goal is to feel as if his work is done.
When he can finally let go of the crank he continually turns day after day in order to earn love and, even if only for a moment, it turns by itself to nourish him in return, that is when he will know he is loved.