Oftentimes couples find themselves in a state of not feeling emotionally close and without sexual intimacy for a period of time. This is sometimes due to an argument or sometimes due to the everyday stresses and sheer busyness of life. Usually both people have a deep inner desire to create closeness again, however how they each approach this can be at opposite ends of the spectrum. There are common differences in how each partner approaches feeling close and feeling sexual towards the other. Often one person has a need to feel close emotionally before they are open to feeling sexual with their partner. For instance, a person may need words of appreciation, non-sexual affection, or time and space of feeling connected in order to be open to their sexual passion. Whereas, often the other partner experiences their sexuality as the doorway to feeling close. For them, being sexual and passionate re-opens their heart to the love they feel toward their partner, thus creating the emotional closeness sought.
Due to this difference couples may not understand their partner’s approach to closeness, which can lead to resentments, hurt, and arguments. One partner may be thinking, “All he/she wants me for is sex. I feel used and unimportant”. While the other partner may be thinking, “I am expressing my love and desire to connect and she/he is rejecting me. I feel rejected and unimportant”. Sound familiar?
(NOTE: This pattern is often gender associated, i.e., the man goes for the sex and the woman goes for the non-sexual contact, with both seeking the same end result of wanting to feel close and passionate. Whereas this is commonly seen in both of our private practices in working with couples, we also see the exact opposite where the roles are reversed gender-wise. It is important to steer away from gender generalizations and look at the truth that lives in your relationship. Assuming that “This is how men are” and “This is how women are” creates polarization. Individuals are not generalizations and the goal is to create closeness not division.)
Now that we have identified the differences, what do we do about it?
- Acknowledge and be transparent about the differences.
- Acknowledge and be transparent about the fact that you both desire the same result of emotional closeness and a satisfying sex life. (Who wouldn’t want this?)
- Respect and understand your partner’s differences.
- Do not try to convince or manipulate your partner in doing it your way.
- When you stop trying to convince your partner that your way is the “right” way and approach each other with respect and understanding, it stops the fighting and creates an atmosphere of being open to and allowing the influence of your partner’s approach.
- Reframe how you have been interpreting your partner’s approach. A possible reframe for “All he wants me for is sex” becomes “When he approaches me in the kitchen and passionately kisses me and puts his hand on my breast, he is showing me his desire to connect with me and love me. I am being loved”
- A possible reframe for “She is rejecting me again” becomes “She does want me and my sexuality, she is not rejecting me, she is asking me to go slowly so she can open”
Most couples have differences in how they re-connect and re-engage their passion, sexuality and emotional closeness. We encourage you to have a frank and honest conversation on how these differences live in your relationship and with the deeper understanding of your partner’s true intentions, reframe your inner dialogue to allow both approaches respect and to be embraced.
By Tracy and David Wikander/ Leaders of Renewal Couples Training
More info about the Couple’s Renewal Training here