Sex and Intimacy – The glue that binds a marriage but also the dynamite that can blow it apart.
I have been thinking a little bit lately, which is always dangerous. I really wanted to write about something other than my affair and my childhood. Who knows, this topic still may overlap into some of that but who knows.
Since starting this blog and writing everything and anything that comes through the space between my ears I have often received comments that sex (and lots of it) and intimacy are what is needed to rebuild my marriage. After thinking about this for a while and trying to get over my current issues with sex, I can see how it can help and I am more familiar on how it can hurt. I also believe that you need intimacy as well. This may seem sexist but I think women need more nonsexual intimacy than men do, but only because I think men have a very hard time separating the two. Which is what can cause a multitude of problems.
I have always known that my wife has wanted more than sex. I am pretty smart and I pay attention to most everything that goes on around me. So I have read many thing on some of the differences. Most articles and books I have seen always focus on the needs of the woman. I believe that it is assumed that a majority of males are always lacking in this area. The information is usually that we have trouble differentiating sex and intimacy so we believe that we are meeting our female partners needs because we are having sex. I agree with most of this, in that males often confuse those two things and miss the most important parts of a relationship. I am sure there is more current research out there about this topic that may be contradictory but it is what I remember from a number of classes and conferences I have attended. In my opinion, women would like more nonsexual intimacy which will then lead to a closer bond and more intimate sex. They are looking for the greetings from the men when you are apart. She wants to know that she was missed, even if it was for a minute (don’t overdue it, then it just turns creepy). They also like touching. Not sexual touching, but holding hands in the car or on a walk. As you walk by each other in your house, just to reach out and brush her arm or put your hand on her lower back. Maybe it is coming up behind her as she is doing dishes and cooking and giving her a hug and maybe a kiss on the side of the neck and then offer to help (remember they want you to want to do the dishes 😉 ). When it is sexual they want the time that leads up to it and also the time after to mean something. Just laying there with your partner when you are all done, feeling connected, feeling wanted, feeling loved, feeling so happy to be with your partner. This is one of the important times to feel more connected to your partner. I should also say that there are times and places where both parties are just looking for the physical connection and it can be fast and furious, but the connection can still be there.
None of this may be a shock to any of you as it is in tons of magazines, tv shows, billboards, etc.. But what about the man? What does he need? Does he need to feel intimately connected to his wife or partner? I would say absolutely! It just looks different. Part of intimacy is feeling safe and secure with your partner. You feel you can be there and not be judged by that person. Men are taught from the media that women are a conquest with having sex as the ultimate goal. They are taught that the insecurities we feel must be hidden in order to win over the women. So if you are a conquest how do we get our feelings of intimacy? I believe that we want the exact same things, with one exception. That is sex and I will mention more about it in a minute. Men like to be recognized by their partner. We like it when we walk in a room and you recognize us. Just a smile or wink is enough. When you are close, yes we like you to touch us. Grab our hand, be aggressive and put our arm around you, slide up and nibble our ear and then laugh as you walk away. What I think we are looking for is that we are in your thoughts and I believe that women have the same needs.
Now sex is a different beast because while it can make both people feel more connected it can also have the opposite effect. If one side feels more like a tool being used then it is difficult to feel that connection. It is one sided. Also I believe that men’s self-esteem and confidence is tied closely to sex. If they feel they are not good at it, or are constantly turned down then you can hurt his ability to connect with you because he has to focus more on himself to try and repair the damage.
I went for a long time constantly being rejected without either of us really understanding how bad it was hurting me until it was too late. But I also needed more than sex, I wanted the connection that came with it. I wanted to feel like she wanted me there. I wanted her to want to just lay in my arms and feel safe and loved. Instead it felt more like a job and the goal was to get it over with. Part of this was I had not fostered enough intimacy and closeness with her outside of the bedroom. As my confidence fell so did my desire to please her outside the bedroom because I was scared of the reaction.
So you can drive each other apart by not having these connections and yes I understand they look very differently for each couple but the key is you have to communicate to each other. You have to be able to tell your partner or show them what you want and need both outside the bedroom and in. Without it you are just cohabitants.
Why do I write this and who knows how much is influenced by my life. I am writing this because I believe this is what drove me into a vulnerable state. We no longer had a connection. I derived almost all my self-esteem from our sex life, which got worse and worse as the years went along. She was content in our marriage and thought things were tough but that it was just a rough spell and it would pass. Did we talk about it? Numerous times, with no solution. I believe because I did not recognize how much of what I thought about myself came from the physical intimacy I needed from her. She only saw my outward personality of a very confident man who was still giving her little moments throughout the day that helped her feel connected to me but I just wanted more sex.
Now what I did, was try and find that connection and validation that I was worth something from someone else. I searched out that connection and it was easy to create a mirage with someone who would give me physical attention away from the real world. So I would get it from her and then go home and be back in the environment where I did not feel like I was worth much as a husband and lover.
Now we are making a conscious effort to fulfill those needs for each other. But it is beginning to be very hard because we cannot see each other much. As I told her this morning this is where we need to make the few minutes we have together as important as possible. We need to be present for each other in those moments because it is not the quantity of the moments but the quality. Hopefully we will make it through.
I do not fear those pants with nobody inside them. – Dr. Seuss