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Sunday, June 22, 2014

[Men Only Monday]

Your wife's desire for a deeper emotional connection is actually a desire for more of you.

Last time I gave a sneak peak at the preliminary results of my current poll on husbands' and wives' number one need in marriage.  In that Wives only Wednesday post I told about the need the husbands chose most, chosen by almost half of husbands: having a satisfying sex life.

Today I'm writing a Men Only Monday post to husbands about the need the wives picked most: having a close emotional connection.

The Numbers

Emotional intimacy was chosen as the number one need by 40% of the wives who took my survey. If I include a number of "write in" answers that were very closely associated with emotional intimacy, that number rises to 46%.

The next closest need in the results for wives was "Feeling cared for," indicated as most important by 13% of wives.

So how are husbands doing at meeting this need? More than one in three wives who chose emotional intimacy as their most important need rated their husbands as failing to meet that need (37% of these wives gave their husbands a 1, 2, or 3 on a ten point scale.)  One in five husbands were doing well, given a 7-10 out of 10. The rest, 41% were somewhere in the middle.

Get Engaged (Again)

I asked in my survey for each person to describe what it would look like to have their number one marital need met. The wives' who chose emotional intimacy as their top need had answers that were remarkably similar.

Those who did not have good emotional intimacy in their marriages expressed wanting their husbands to be more engaged.

What kind of engagement? For most it came down to better communication:

  • listen more, listen better, really hear her
  • talk more, talk deeper, share on an emotional level
  • have real conversations about topics important to her
  • pay attention, eye contact, be attentive

I get it that for you as a man this may not be a natural thing. It doesn't matter if it's natural for you or not, you need to learn to do it and do it well, because it matters to your wife.

If your wife told you that she didn't naturally think about sex and wasn't naturally inclined to be sexual, would you let her of the hook when it comes to sexual intimacy? No way! It's not any different the other way around. (By the way, wives who use that excuse also have to learn to be more sexually engaged, because it matters a lot to most husbands, but that was last week's post.)

It's a little bit stereotypical to say that women are talkers and men are doers, or that women want emotional intimacy and men want sexual intimacy. But stereotypes are usually formed on the basis of some truth. While I know plenty of marriages where the husband is more into talking than the wife, the results of my poll indicate that a lot of wives don't feel like their husbands understand or care about their need for emotional connection. 

The bottom line here is that if your wife's most important need is going mostly or totally unmet, that is not a formula for a strong, sustainable marriage. Doing nothing about it is not an option.

She Wants More Of You

The fact is that whether you feel it or not, you and your wife are one. You became one when you got married (yeah it's a mystery). But here's the thing. Intimacy is about being fully known and yet fully loved. If you have only surface level intimacy because you are withholding yourself from your wife emotionally, the intimacy in other dimensions of your marriage will suffer. Yes, that includes sex.

The best marriages enjoy deep intimacy in every dimension: emotional, physical, spiritual, financial, intellectual, etc.  When one or more dimension are missing from the intimacy equation, you will feel a tear in the fabric of your oneness.

When you give more of yourself emotionally, you can expect that your wife will respond by giving more of herself sexually. But be careful that you aren't giving just to get something back. Give yourself emotionally out of the love you have for your wife and because she needs it in order to feel loved by you.

Your wife wants more engagement and deeper emotional intimacy because she wants more of you.

One Thing You Can Do

I can hear your excuses. "I am not a talker." "I'm no good at this sharing thing." "I have a hard time expressing emotions." "I often don't even know what I'm feeling."

I understand that for some of you communicating isn't your best skill, but here is one thing you can do.

Sit down with your wife, just the two of you where you won't be interrupted. Take her hand. Look her in the eyes.  Tell her you know that emotional connection is important to her and that you haven't done a great job in that area (assuming that is true).  Tell her you may not be great at it, but that you want to improve. Tell her it's important to you because she is important to you.

One thing that Jenni and I find is very important for us as we try to maintain emotional intimacy in our marriage is to have at least a few minutes every day to connect with each other. Sometimes on crazy-busy days it doesn't happen until we drop into bed. Even when we are dead tired, which seems to be often, we still try to talk and hold each other a little before we drift off to sleep. If your wife enjoys physical touch as one of her love languages, this connection time is a good opportunity to touch her in a non sexual way (hold her, snuggle together, stroke her hair or arm or thigh gently, etc.)

Guys, have a talk with your wife about the level of emotional connection in your marriage. Be brave and ask her how you are doing. Don't be defensive. Ask her what would make her feel emotionally connected to you. Really listen without defending. Tell her you want to work on it together and set it in your heart to spend at least ten minutes every day connecting in ways that are meaningful to her. 

PS  False Conclusions  -  Please note that in my survey I only gave people a chance to pick one need, their most important need. Just because a lot fewer husbands picked having a close emotional connection as their number one need does not mean that emotional intimacy is unimportant to most husbands. (Likewise, just because only 2% of wives picked sex as their number one need, doesn't mean that 98% of wives don't care about sex!). In fact , emotional closeness came in as the number three most reported key need for husbands.


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