Aaron and Jill feels distant in their relationship. Because of the lack of closeness, their sex life has suffered. Aaron came to therapy wondering how to change this dynamic in their relationship.
Sex is so important to a man’s emotional well-being that when it is withheld in a marital relationship because of problems, he can become withdrawn and depressed. His sense of feeling loved is at stake because his way of communicating with his wife is blocked. This can result in feeling lonely and inadequate.
Researcher Helen Fisher tells us that when sex is withheld, men do not have the chemical stimulants to give them that sense of well-being. Having sex and regular orgasms make them feel better due to the testosterone boost. Basically, sex assures a man that he is loved.[i]
In terms of desire, men want to feel desired by their wives. Initiating sex is one way a wife can say she desires her man. And when a man feels desired, his confidence grows along with a sense of well-being in other areas of his life. Sexual rejection or lack of response to a sexual move is often interpreted as rejection of him as a person.
According to For Men Only, women lead with their feelings, not their anatomy. A woman needs to feel attractive and desirable. Desirability is greatly helped by men expressing heartfelt compliments. Compliments and understanding a woman’s inner life, her wishes, desires, intentions, etc., bring intimacy.
Men and women must realize that their sexual wiring is different. Because women have much less testosterone than men, they are not turned on simply by looking at a man, even when he is attractive. But just because women have lower sexual desire due to less testosterone doesn’t mean they aren’t attracted to their husbands. Wives are usually receptive to having sex under the right conditions, but may not initiate. Remember, she isn’t thinking, Let’s have sex to reestablish our closeness.
So in terms of sex and affection, differences do abound and can lead to conflict if not understood or addressed directly. The bottom line: Don’t give up on your sex life. Make it a priority. Get rid of distractions and make time to focus on each other. Both men and women need to feel validated and loved. They just go about getting their needs met differently.
Adapted and except from We Need to Talk by Dr. Linda Mintle (Baker Books, 2015)
[i] Helen Fisher, “The Realities of Love at First Sight,” O, The Oprah Magazine, November 2009, http://www.oprah.com/relationships/Love-at-First-Sight-Helen-Fisher-Love-Column#ixzz2g65Uzvs9.