Intimacy is a tricky subject for many guys. When we think of intimacy, sexual intimacy usually comes to mind. But the intimacy that your wife, girlfriend or partner may need in your relationship is quite different.
To be intimate – for many women – means being able to connect with them through your emotions. Where men stumble is thinking that to be intimate means doing, showing or providing for their partners. For guys, a common misperception is that taking care of their wives or girlfriends though buying them things or providing for them materially is how we care for them. It’s baffling to think that our wives and girlfriends are unhappy with us when we keep trying to get it right with them, and end up feeling like we’ve failed.
Emotional connection for men is difficult, but you get further away from the emotional connection when you convince yourself that you’re doing what you can to try to care for your partner by doing things (e.g. fixing things around the house, planning events or vacations or simply being the great breadwinner that you are). What I hear from frustrated women is that, ultimately, they want to feel close and connected to their partner in an emotional way, and guys can’t get to this place by better planning, fixing or breadwinning.
- Stop trying to fix your way through intimacy. It probably won’t work
- Try to stay open to listening to your wife, girlfriend or partner without being defensive
- Stay open to feedback and constructive criticism
- Know that you are indeed successful as a boyfriend, husband, father, breadwinner, etc., and that you’re not a failure at intimacy, but it may require changing your perspective
- Try talking with your partner about your feelings or emotions: try to stay vulnerable with your partner, even if it means not doing anything at all – simply listening and being present in a conversation.
- Ask for validation from your partner for the things you’re doing well, such as being supportive and caring to her, being a good provider, etc.
- Ask for it verbally from her, instead of assuming she should just know to give it to you.
When they don’t feel intimate emotionally with you, women may withdraw sexually or physically from you. They may chase and pursue you – even resorting to criticizing you and invalidating you – but their longing to connect emotionally with you is what’s driving that reactive behavior. Your sex life may be problematic is there’s an emotional disconnection or intimacy problem between you.
Talking about problems that are present within the relationship is another good way to reset with your partner and develop better emotional intimacy, and, consequently, better sexual intimacy. Too often, the problems and issues that we have in our relationships get hidden away and relegated to the sidelines through avoidance, fear, compartmentalization and avoidance, especially for men. Try something new: open up to your partner about the problems you’re having with them. If you take the risk, and communicate it from your own experience (“I” statements”) instead of attack or criticize them, you may be surprised with the results. You may find a better, more intimate relationship waiting for you in the end.