When most men hear the word intimacy, they think of a passionate physical experience. But when a wife hears the word intimacy, she thinks about emotional connection and communication. In other words: Men spell intimacy S-E-X. Women spell it T-A-L-K.
It’s no secret that God wired men and women differently. Gary and I (Barb) have seen that time and again over the years. Physical intimacy is just one area where that shines through. A man’s sex drive is connected to his eyes; he becomes aroused visually. A woman’s sex drive is connected to her heart; she is aroused only after she feels emotional closeness and harmony.
Another difference is that a man can compartmentalize sex from everything else in his life. A woman sees everything connected to everything else. A husband feels less masculine if his wife resists his sexual advances. A wife feels like a machine if she doesn’t experience sexual intimacy flowing from emotional intimacy.
Understanding Your Wife’s Need for Emotional Intimacy
Emotional intimacy is so rich, so fulfilling for a woman. It doesn’t replace the need for sex, but for her, the emotional need is as intense as the physical need. And when that need is fulfilled by her husband and sustained through thoughtful T-A-L-K time, it is much easier for her to move more quickly into a sexual mode.
But what if that doesn’t happen? A woman has a God-given need to connect emotionally, but if that need is either not recognized or is cavalierly dismissed, she feels that her husband is only using her to gratify his sexual desires.
For many women, talking is a way to work through thoughts, feelings, ideas, and problems. It’s the way we’re wired, and it’s solid wiring. Sure, just like your wiring, it can short-circuit sometimes. But overall, it’s a positive way to express and process her thoughts and emotions. Be wise: Listen to her and draw her out. It will draw you closer as a couple.
What Happens When Your Wife’s Need for Intimacy is Not Met?
If you do not meet your wife’s need for emotional intimacy, you will leave her vulnerable. She may withdraw from you or may not feel free to respond to you sexually. Ultimately, she may begin to look elsewhere to have her needs met.
She Will Withdraw.
One indication that your wife may be starved for emotional intimacy is that she may withdraw. When you sense your wife’s wall going up, you know that something is very wrong. From a woman’s perspective, it means that her husband is not a harbor of safety but a threat. This pattern of withdrawal can do significant damage to a relationship. And if this remains unaddressed, over time you can end up as two strangers coexisting under the same roof, sharing meals and the same bed but walled off from each other emotionally.
She Will Not Feel Free to Respond to You Sexually.
A second indicator that your wife’s emotional needs are not being met is that she may not respond to you sexually. Husbands tend to interpret their wife’s resistance to their sexual advances as rejection. Often her resistance is not rejection, however, but an indication that she may not feel safe or that she can’t get beyond a conflict the two of you are having.
She May Look Elsewhere to Have Her Needs Met.
A third consequence of your wife’s unmet need for emotional intimacy is that she may become involved with another man. This is a worst-case scenario, but it does happen. If a woman is not understood and cherished, if her need for emotional intimacy is not met, she becomes vulnerable to other men who show interest in her thoughts and emotions.
How Can You Meet Your Wife’s Need for Emotional Intimacy?
Nothing satisfies a woman’s emotional need like her connection with her husband. She trusts you to stand by her no matter what—when even closest family members may not be able to be there for her or understand. And friends may come and go in her life, but you are her constant companion; you are always there for her.
By way of example, Gary and I treasure our sharing time at the end of the day, and it sets the tone for the entire evening as we stay connected. When Gary shows me his continual love and active presence, when he openly shares with me about anything and everything, I see his devotion to me. And I am so attracted to him.
A woman is eager to hear about the smallest details in your life, from what you ate for lunch to what you would lay your life down in defending. She wants to know what you’re thinking and how you think, and she wants you to do the same for her. You want to keep the chemistry in your relationship with your wife? Ask her what she thinks! Women love a conversation that volleys back and forth. Open up and articulate what you’re thinking about, and you’ll be amazed at how exhilarating it is for her. When she sees you growing and developing, she is challenged to do the same.
This kind of connecting, of taking the time to tune in to each other, builds security and intimacy in a relationship. It’s part of what makes a great marriage.
When a woman feels secure and safe enough to fully disrobe emotionally with her husband, that’s as good as it gets. And I’ll give you a clue: If your souls undress before one another, your bodies will follow. If you provide this kind of intimate emotional environment for your wife, your life will never be the same!
*If you want help to better understand your mate, check out our book, The 5 Love Needs of Men and Women. It’s available in our online bookstore!