Ok, husbands and wives – how did you do on the 10% challenge? We hope you were able to find some ways to affirm and communicate with one another, and that it put a spark back in your marriage and intimacy!
This month, let’s look at the number two sex need for both men and women, which happens to be the same: Connection.
In The Case for Marriage: Why Married People Are Happier, Healthier and Better Off Financially, sociology professor Linda Waite and marriage expert Maggie Gallagher conclude that married people have better sex. They suggest that “the lifelong, permanent commitment embodied in marriage itself tends to make sex better.” They also believe that “there is no better strategy for achieving great sex than binding oneself to an equally committed mate.”
That’s exactly what women across the country told us. More than 59% of the women we surveyed ranked connection as a top sex need. One key to a wife’s sexual excitement, responsiveness, and ability to initiate sex is a strong connection to her heart. These women feel that their sex lives are satisfying when both partners receive first an emotional and/or spiritual connection and then a physical connection. In other words, when a husband emotionally connects to his wife, he prepares her for sexual intimacy.
Women need physical closeness, but for them it doesn’t start there. They first need emotional closeness. Here’s an example: Julia and Ben have a great sex life because Ben understands the importance of tending to his wife’s needs. He stops what he is doing to greet her with a kiss. He asks about her day. He listens to her. He is physically close to her while watching television. And even when she is tired and stressed, because he has taken the time to bond with her, which helps her unwind, she is more available to meet his—and her own—sexual needs.
Ben understands that connection happens 24/7. He knows that a compliment at 10:30 won’t translate into sex at 10:35. He realizes that to meet his wife’s needs, he needs to be in the moment, not emotionally and mentally “checked out.”
Women need to experience an emotional connection with their husbands every day. Here is what women told us about the ideal ways to connect with their husbands.
· “I connect with my husband when he checks in with me, just to say, ‘I love you, and I’m thinking about you.’”
· “I feel connected to my husband when he asks me how he can pray for me and when he shares with me what God is teaching him in his life.”
· “We connect by touching and doing activities together, like hanging out doing chores, walking together in the grocery store, and watching TV. It’s mostly nonverbal, but it’s just as powerful for me.”
· “My husband and I take long walks or work out together and talk. That connects me to him.”
God brings women and men into relationship in different ways. Through sex, men draw women into a physical relationship. Through connection, women draw men into an emotional relationship. We complete each other. We both end up with relationship, but we have different ways of inviting the other person in.
Christian sex therapists Clifford and Joyce Penner say it well: “For the woman, sex is a total-body and total-person experience. It’s good for her when her husband attends to all of who she is, not just her sexual parts.”
Husbands, take one of the examples above and try it with your wife this month. Text her during the day to see how she’s doing and tell her you love her. Share with her what is on your mind and ask what is on hers. Initiate simple activities that allow you to be alone for a while so you can hold hands and talk. Your wife may prefer to connect with you in different ways that aren’t mentioned here. Try to figure those out if you don’t already know them and make it a point to try it every day or at least once a week. When connection runs deep in your marriage, intimacy is that much better!
Nothing makes a man feel closer to his wife than being physically and emotionally connected. That is why 66% of men ranked connection as a top sex need. Connecting inside the bedroom is pretty clear-cut; it’s sexual intercourse. Sex builds connection for a husband in the same way that talking and helping around the house build connection for a wife. It’s that simple.
What are some simple things wives can do to say “You are important to me” or “You are a priority” or “I love you”? Touching his arm. Rubbing his back. Squeezing his shoulder when you walk by. Holding hands. Putting a hand on his knee while you’re in the car together. Meeting and holding his gaze. These are powerful ways a husband and wife connect. When a wife understands her husband’s physical needs—both inside and outside the bedroom—she tells him clearly that she wants to connect with him.
Like women, men desire to be understood, listened to, accepted, cared for, encouraged, and given attention. This kind of connection occurs when a wife seeks to learn what’s important to her husband: work, sports, his views, his often guarded emotions. When a wife connects to her husband in these ways, she shows not only the value she places on the relationship but also the value she sees in him.
The reason why connection improves a couple’s sexual relationship is that it increases a husband’s emotional dependency on his wife. His attraction toward her will increase. He will laugh with her. He will find her idiosyncrasies attractive instead of annoying. He will accept her completely.
Openness and emotional trust keep people intimately united. Marriage therapist David Kantor says, “The raw sexuality and libido that come naturally with our biological inheritance are small and over time play a decreasing part in sexual intimacy. If that young desire is not replaced with deep sharing and receiving, then you really won’t have an intimate life. But every time we connect on a deep level, we feel a need for sexual intimacy. There is something about being known and being received that is fundamental to the experience of desire.”
A study conducted by University of Washington psychologist and marriage researcher John Gottman found that emotional connection was the missing element in marriages that ended in divorce. Gottman and his team recorded couples talking and interacting. At first the results seemed trivial—until the researchers noticed something: Couples were making bids—advances—for an emotional connection. Their responses to those bids determined the quality of their relationships. These emotional advances could come in the form of a question, a look, an affectionate touch on the arm, or any single expression that said, “I want to feel connected to you.”
Gottman’s research showed that husbands who eventually divorced ignored their wives’ emotional advances 82% of the time, compared to only 19% for men in stable marriages. Women who later divorced ignored their husbands’ emotional advances 50% of the time, while those who remained married disregarded only 14% of their husbands’ bids.
Gottman and his researchers found that a typical happy couple may make up to 100 bids over the course of the dinner hour. Think about your own relationship. How often do you try to make a connection with your spouse? How often do you ignore or reject your spouse’s attempt to connect with you? According to Gottman, the satisfaction in your sex life is directly related to the frequency with which you initiate connection and respond to your spouse’s attempt to connect with you. Wives, your husbands will feel honored, valued, and drawn to you when you bid for their connection, or when you respond to their bids.
What can frustrate a wife is having her husband pursue sex with her when she feels disconnected, angry, or preoccupied. Several wives have asked us, “How can my husband want sex with me when we’re not connected?” The answer is this: A husband more easily connects with his wife through sex than by talking about emotions. He is more able to connect to her emotions and be sensitive once he feels safe and once his sexual needs are met. It’s important for a wife to understand that sex is her husband’s avenue to connection.
Wives, we want you to try an experiment. The next three times you have sex, set apart some time about 30 minutes after sex (if it isn’t in the middle of the night) to start a conversation with your husband and test the waters. Is he more responsive? Does he tend to connect more? Our hunch is that most of the time the answer will be yes. After sex, men go through a resolution time of wanting to rest and shut down. This is primarily rooted in the physiological release and the body’s desire to recuperate. But after 30 minutes or so, he is often very tender. Frustration diminishes, his mind will clear, and he may be more open to you.
The challenge is on again. Start connecting!