October 17, 2008,
M.G. asks from Kansas City, MO on October 14, 2008
Men's Need for Physical, but Women's Need for Emotional
After reading many of the responses to "How to reconnect with my spouse," I ask the question on how can we as women be intimate or physical with our spouse if we lack the emotional connection or need? I struggle with this constantly! I have some deeper issues or concerns with my relationship, but I thought I would pose this question for discussion. We as women tend to always give and give. Is is not okay for us to not give our spouse the intimacy or physical when we are not being fullfilled? Or should we again, neglect our needs to hope by fullfilling our spouse need we will be fullfilled in return? I know it needs to be some give and take, but what is your opinion?
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So What Happened?™
It continues to amaze me how much everyone has struggled with this at least once. Thank you for all of your input. I have the book: "The Five Love Languages". It has been years since I have read it. I will dig it out and read it again. Best of luck to everyone in a similar situation. Thanks again!
C.H. answers from Portland on October 15, 2008
It has been my personal experience that the more I focus on what I feel I'm not getting from my husband the less it seems like I get in the way of emotional support and intimacy (beyond sex). About five years ago I had had it with my husband and had made up my mind that I was going to leave and divorce him as soon as the time was right. For years and years all I had focused on was what needs of mine weren't being fulfilled in my relationship with my husband. It seemed it was all I talked about with my girlfriends and all I ever really thought about when it came to thinking about my marital relationship. Back then I really truly felt that intimacy (sex) with my husband was a chore and that when it came to intimacy he cared nothing for me or what I needed. I also felt that I'd been wasting my life with a man who didn't care about my needs let alone tried to meet them. I was done!
Thank goodness that for some reason I decided to stop focusing ONLY on what needs of mine I felt weren't getting met and started focusing ONLY on the positive things about my husband and our relationship. It's hard to put into words just how much of a turnaround our relationship has had. The more attention I paid to what he 'was' doing for me and how much he cared for me the more attention he paid to my needs and the more effort he put into making sure my emotional needs were being met. ALL of this happened without me saying a single word to him. There was no heartfelt discussion even though every few months for most of our 30 year relationship I had a mini-breakdown where we had a big argument with me going on and on about how my needs weren't being met AND no matter how many times we had this same old tired discussion things never changed. I'm sure you'll figure out the details on your own but I can promise you that if you stop looking only at the negative aspects of your relationship and begin to focus most of your attention on the positive ones things will change.
Today I enjoy a wonderful relationship with my husband. I didn't give up anything for myself, I didn't make any sacrifices, I didn't make any demands, I didn't threaten divorce, I didn't make tearful accusations that he just didn't care about me like I cared for him...I just chose to change how I percieved our relationship and EVERYTHING changed. Just by changing how I saw our relationship, which changed how I contributed to it, I have at long last gotten the loving, happy, fun and sexy relationship I'd always wanted but never thought I'd have.
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L.U. answers from Seattle on October 14, 2008
Hi M. - I posed this question ( sort of) a couple of weeks ago. I wanted to know where the sex had gone in our relationship. You can always go back and look at it.
Here's what I have found in the past couple of weeks. My husband and I were down to being intimate about once...MAYBE twice a month. I felt the same way. Why give it up if he's not willing to help out around the house, I am tired after working a full time job also, my house is a mess, and he never tells me I'm beautiful or appreciates me?
Here's a little secret....IF you give it up, THEN he starts helping around the house, helping with dishes, tells you you look good, and cleans up his mess!! I couldn't believe it!!
He's happier, he smacks my butt again when he walks by, he gets up after we eat to help with the dishes...it's amazing. I shoulda given it up a long time ago.
He and I are conversing more, we cuddle on the couch when we watch TV, we are more united in our parenting. It's crazy.
And let me tell you, we are not having sex every day...no no...we have worked up to twice a week....but it's making a huge difference. It even makes me feel better. I am wearing make-up, getting out of my sweats and into nicer clothes, and I feel appreciated.
It's not easy, although it should be. But I have found that if I just "force" myself (which it shouldn't be like that, right? But sometimes I just want to be left alone!), then the benefits are fabulous. (grin)
Good Luck, and know that you are TOTALLY not alone.
I feel that I need to clarify something here....Lots of women decide that they are going to "go for it" even when they are not in the mood. That does NOT mean that they are laying there "thinking of England", it means that they are making love to their husband, while their mind is saying YES!! and their body may be saying "really?" EVERY time I have been intimate with my husband it has been wonderful and I am happy that we have had the time together to enjoy each others BODY and be EMOTIONALLY together. I do not say "honey, I will have sex with you if you do the dishes"...it's just a bonus....great sex, clean kitchen (and I had NO IDEA that was going to happen)
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P.G. answers from Portland on October 15, 2008
I firmly believe that sex begins in the kitchen. My husband and I both work. We don't nag at each other or try to control each other. We should respect our husbands and they should love us. But I don't think most men or women understand this. The only person you can control is yourself. Do you nag your husband? Do you complain about him to your friends or family? Work on yourself first, then you will be amazed at your husband's reaction. You can ask him to help out WITHOUT NAGGING. Over the last 15 years, my husband has taken over the grocery shopping (hallelujah!), the meal planning, and he cooks every Saturday & Sunday. I do not EVER complain about him to anyone. I only lift him up when I'm speaking to others about him. We are a team and I refuse to eat away at our marriage by only thinking of myself. I have never said NO to him. Did I always feel like it? No, but you can bet that I never regretted saying yes when we were through. Marriage is fragile enough in this age when everything from Cosmo to television sitcoms to Hollywood encourage just the opposite of a long term, happy, selfless monogamous marriage. Nurture your most prized possession - your marriage and your family! You made a commitment to love, honor, and cherish this man. Look back to the day you got married - you couldn't wait to hop in bed with him, take care of him, cook for him, clean for him. Someone once said that we put blinders on before the marriage and take them off and start nagging after the wedding day. We should do just the opposite. Best wishes to you for a long, happy, healthy, sex-filled marriage!
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J.B. answers from Portland on October 15, 2008
I haven't read all the other responses to this post but I just want to encourage you to give unconditionally to your husband...meaning without expectations. I think of it this way, your daughter gives very little to you...you feed her, change her diapers, bathe her, put her to bed...you meet her physical needs. And as you do this, she learns that you are someone she loves and prefers above all other moms. Yes, you get smiles, hugs, kisses and other mommy perks...but it is a result of what you pour in to her. If you weren't meeting her needs, she would not be as responsive to you. Same goes for pretty much all of our relationships. We give and we receive. But if your daughter didn't meet your expectations, would you love her less? Of course not. I realize that pouring out to others without getting back in kind can be hard...but it is a choice. One you easily make with those you prefer above all others. Your husband should be one of those people.
I found two books extremely helpful to me. One was called "Love is a Decision" by Gary Smalley and it very much addresses the issue of choosing to love our mates unconditionally and above all others. If you allow yourself to become dissatisfied with your spouse, you will look to others to fill that gap...friends, family, work and maybe even another man. I probably would have reached that point had I continued the way I was going in how I perceived love. Another good book is "His Needs Her Needs" by Harley (last name) and it addresses the basic needs of women and men and how each needs the other to feel loved. If you want your spouse to feel your love, you should not neglect to give him his needs. And when one partner chooses to love sacrificially, the rewards will come. Men's basic needs include sex, respect, shared experiences (like hobbies) and the feeling that they are needed. Women of course need conversation, understanding, romance etc.. These things can happen together and both partners can be satisfied.
Now...add kids to the mix. It complicates things. But the best thing you can do for your daughter is to choose to make your husband your priority even above her. A strong healthy marriage is the greatest gift you can give her. Role modeling a positive love environment will help teach her to love others in the healthy, respectful ways. Being angry at a spouse because you aren't getting what you want so you don't give what he wants you are modeling a selfish kind of love. And most of what you hear from the world is about "you" and making "yourself" happy...and divorce rates continue to rise and fewer people are happy in their relationships and counselors have more and more business.
I would encourage you to be proactive in your marriage now before it gets harder. By the time I figured out how bad my marriage had become and then found the tools to fix it, my spouse was already involved in another relationship that was far easier than fixing ours. I am now happily remarried (9 years) and use everything I learned from my past. Marriage can be sweet...but it takes work...but I find the work easy and worth every minute.
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E.C. answers from Eugene on October 15, 2008
Do you feel that 'giving in' to sex when you don't initially feel like it will open doors in your relationship, or have you already tried it with no better results? I'm guessing from your question that you are already putting a lot of effort into pleasing your husband and are hoping that giving sex when you don't feel like it will help fix the relationship. I'm also guessing that you've already tried this more than once, right? After all, you're not newlyweds, right?
I too was afraid that not giving in to sex was going to make the problems in my marriage worse, but when I got pregnant I really put my foot down and refused when I didn't want it. Honestly, we've been intimate 6 times in 8 months. But guess what? We went to marital counseling and all the issues which I tried many, many times to explain in different ways to my husband sunk in instantly when it came from a third party!
The end result is that instead of complaining about the dishes and freaking out or going off on me every evening, he now does them himself. He does more housework, he is happier, and I feel like doing more for him because he does so much to make me happy. And this is all happening while there is currently NO sex in our relationship -- granted we have real physical reasons for not having sex. But we are more respectful to each other than we have ever been in our 7 years together, our bond is stronger and our affection for each other more real. This is what a mutually giving relationship should look and feel like. (Of course, I plan to reward him with more sex when it becomes more feasible.)
As you've already heard many times, loss of interest in sex is usually indicative of an underlying problem in the relationship. I do believe that *sometimes* just giving in to a little more sex turns your man into a walking, talking musical film, singing his way through house chores and loving compliments of his beautiful wife. But I don't believe this is necessarily always the case. (Also, is there a real change in the nature of your relationship or do those underlying issues just continue to be there?)
One 'trick' you might try in the meantime: I've heard that for women foreplay is an all-day affair. Tell your husband what would turn you on such as compliments, help with housework, less criticism (tell him THAT is the biggest turn-off!), romance, massages, or whatever else it is that you think would make you feel like giving your body over to the man you love. That way, you BOTH have the opportunity to get your needs met without one of you getting ripped off!
Finally, I think couples counseling can be extremely helpful if you find a good counselor. But you have to interview your counselors first so that you find one you're comfortable with. Or try calling a local hospital for recommendations. In fact, I think everyone should go through couples counseling even if just to learn a few tricks or fine tune the relationship. A lot of people are skeptical of counseling -- everyone told my husband that once we were in counseling that meant the relationship was over and we were headed for divorce. I was aware, however, of how ignorant and fear-based these comments were and told my husband that we were just being pro-active and thinking outside the box. Well, I was right! :-)
Lastly, since I'm already being so long-winded, if he doesn't want to go to couples counseling, you could go to individual counseling to help you fine tune how you communicate and respond to him in your relationship. Maybe learning how YOU can meet your OWN needs will go a long way to modeling that kind of behavior toward yourself by your husband. Maybe he needs to see you pamper, love, respect, take care of and really STAND UP for yourself first before he can really understand how to do that for you. I think both couples and individual counseling could go a long way in helping anyone through this kind of roadblock, but that is me -- I have benefited from both and always love to recommend counseling. Good luck.
P.S. Books I would recommend are anything by John Gottman, and "How to Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk" by Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish. I know the last one sounds weird but there is an inner child in all of us and Faber & Mazlish's books have taught me more about relationships than any other book I've ever read.
P.P.S. A 2 hour date every one or two weeks without the kids is essential! How can you have a relationship if you're always mommy & daddy and never hubby & wifey? Also, you probably won't make much progress if both of you are constantly overwhelmed. Prioritizing scheduling time together and time alone for each of you, I think, is the only sane way to parent. ;-)
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A.P. answers from Eugene on October 14, 2008
Well, this may not be very popular, but, I think that women are constantly asked to subvert our needs for the needs of others and I will not be in a relationship with another adult that doesn't give back to me as much as I put into it. Simply, I'm not going to have sex with my husband with the hope he'll do more dishes. And if I wasn't connecting with my partner on a level that fulfilled me emotionally, I don't think I could have sex with him either. Frankly, I am shocked by the "just lay there and think of England" type responses to this question and the other question. I believe that a relationship must be reciprocal and when both parties feel their needs are acknowledged everything else usually falls into place. Bending and sacrifice are important to a relationship, but both people have to do it. Frankly, I'd rather hire a housekeeper and buy a vibrator before I had sex with my husband to encourage him to help do the things around the house. And I don't think I could physically have sex with him if he wasn't attempting to meet my emotional needs. As a member of a family, he should be doing those things anyway--that's part of the deal when you decide to make a family with someone.
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K.I. answers from Spokane on October 14, 2008
I think we all feel like this at some point. It is true however that even if you dont feel like it and try doing it anyway the benefits are worth it! I actually find that the more "us" time we have the closer and lovey we are to eachother. It's kinda a catch 22...you dont feel loved so you dont want to give him love, which makes it worse. However if we just take the first step and give in one time when we dont feel like it you will be surprissed at how much better you feel towards him and vice versa. And yes it is always us woman who have to bend or sacrifice, not fair but like I have learned over the last few years..."It's not easy being the mommy!" The bottom line is MEN NEED SEX and WOMEN NEED TO FEEL WANTED and neither party gets what they need without the sex! So I say to you and all other moms out there embrace your inner vixen and just jump your husband when he's not expecting it and the rest will fall in place. I dont know about anyone else but it seemes that I'm never in the mood when he's in the mood so I started being the instigator whenever I felt in the mood and it's amazing how men will always find time for sex! It kinda took the pressure off of the uncomfortable situations at the end of the day when all I wanted to do is sleep! Hope this helps...atleast a little.
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D.E. answers from Seattle on October 15, 2008
I think it’s not only OK, but important, to set certain boundaries on physical intimacy. It is one thing to give to someone who needs when you can do so either joyfully and with no strings attached. And certainly as a mom there are times you must give when you wish you didn’t have to, but even then, we can set limits on reasonable amounts of giving. But when you are feeling not in the mood for intimacy with your partner and you give in for his/her sake, this is giving a piece of yourself away, and it is unfair to you (and in my mind, to your partner as well, who may choose (one hopes,) not to “take” if s/he knew that the giving was done under those circumstances). Other times you might feel neutral about intimacy and choose that you’re willing to give to help someone else, so to speak; this is different, and basically just your own yes/no decision. In the case where you’re giving when you actively don’t want to, the important thing to begin to examine is what it is about yourself, your world, your relationship, your upbringing, that contributes to the sense that giving up a part of yourself is the appropriate thing to be doing. Can we really ever be saying "yes" if we never say "no?"
OK, so all of that was for the “general discussion” purposes; however in your own particular case you mention other relationship issues that are at play, and contributing to your apparent lack of interest. In that case, it is crucial to address those issues, because they’re in the room there with you and your partner, even if they’re not being voiced. There’s a great book you might check out, called __Passionate Marriage__, which, despite the cheesy title, I recommend highly. An important point is about investigating your sense of self and boundaries in an emotional and physical relationship. Also, I have a great couples counselor I can refer to you if you’re interested – I usually read without responding on Mamasource, so not completely sure how this works, but I think you can email me if you're interested in the name/number (he's in North Seattle).
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