NYC Psychotherapist Blog

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Monday, November 30, 2020

Understanding Men Who Can Only Get Their Emotional Needs Met Through Sex

The need for emotional connection is a universal need for both men and women.  But many men are only comfortable having their emotional needs met through sexual activity (see my articles: Understanding the Emotional Dynamics of Men Who Are Players and The Thrill of the Sexual Chase).  

At the root of this problem is our culture, which gives men the message, either implicitly or explicitly, "Be a man! Don't ask a woman for love and affection! Get her in bed instead!" So, when we consider the enormous pressure society places on men to suppress their emotional needs, is it any wonder that many men can only get their emotional needs met through sex?  

Understanding Men Who Can Only Get Their Emotional Needs Met Through Sex

The need to attach emotionally is a core need that all babies experience from birth.  In fact, this need is so essential that babies wouldn't survive if they couldn't form an emotional attachment with their mothers (see my article:  How the Early Attachment Bond Affects Adult Relationships). 

The need for emotional attachment continues throughout the life cycle from cradle to grave.  So, when men suppress these needs, there are negative consequences, including experiencing shame, depression and anxiety.

While it's true that sex and physical touch can lead to emotional intimacy, the problem arises when it's the only way an individual can seek closeness with a partner.  

In addition, when men can only channel their emotional needs through sex, this creates problems in  relationships with women because women often misunderstand these men, and they think, "He doesn't love me. He's only interested in me for sex," when, in reality, he might really love her.  The problem is that he just doesn't know how to express it in any other way--except through sex.

Common Examples of Men Who Can Only Get Their Emotional Needs Met Through Sex
Here are some common examples:
  • Reducing Sadness:  Ted often feels sad, but when he was growing up, he was told by his parents that he needs to be "strong" and it's a sign of weakness when a man expresses sadness.  So, instead of expressing his feelings, Ted disconnects from his sadness by chasing women and hooking up with as many women as he can to experience the comfort of physical touch.  The dopamine release he gets from having sex gives him relief from his sadness temporarily.  But since he only gets a temporary reprieve from his sad feelings, he continues to pursue sex again and again whenever he can't suppress his sadness.
  • Reducing Anxiety: John feels overwhelmed by his anxiety, but he doesn't want to appear "weak" by letting anyone know he's anxious.  Instead, he tries to reduce his anxiety by pursuing frequent sexual encounters.  These sexual encounters help to relieve his anxiety for a while, but since the it's only a temporary fix, he continues to pursue sexual activity in order to quell his anxiety.
  • Overcoming Loneliness: Mark feels lonely and isolated, but he was raised to believe that "a real man" doesn't feel lonely--much less admit to anyone that he feels this way.  So, rather than seeking emotional connection or talking about his loneliness, he seeks comfort from his loneliness in frequent one night stands.  The physical touch he experiences in these hook ups gives him comfort for a time, but after a while his feelings of loneliness come to the surface again and the only way he knows how to deal with his feelings is through sex.  So, he engages in many one night stands obsessively.
  • Seeking Sex Instead of Affection: Alex has been in a monogamous relationship with Jane for a year.  She frequently complains that the only time Alex allows her to get close to him is when they're having sex.  She would like to spend time cuddling and being affectionate with him when they're at home, but whenever she tries to get close to him, he stiffens up and gets defensive. Jane complains to Alex that she feels he doesn't really love her--she thinks he only wants to have sex with her. She tells him that she feels "used" by him.  Whenever Jane tells him this, Alex doesn't know what to say.  He loves Jane, but he doesn't know how to tell her how uncomfortable he feels with physical affection outside of the bedroom.
  • Attempting to Repair Arguments With Sex: Bill and Alice have been married for two years.  They have frequent arguments about ongoing unresolved problems.  Whenever Alice tries to get Bill to talk about their problems, she feels disappointed and abandoned because Bill walks away from her.  The more Alice attempts to get Bill to talk, the more emotionally distant he becomes. And the more distant he becomes, the angrier and more frustrated Alice becomes.  After a while, Bill will approach Alice sexually as a way to repair their argument because this is the only way he knows how to reconnect with her.  But Alice is still angry and she's not in the mood for sex.  Whenever Bill approaches her in this way, Alice feels even angrier because she thinks he wants to avoid dealing with their problems by trying to be sexual.  Bill, in turn, feels Alice doesn't understand him.  He loves her and he just wants to get close to her in bed, but since she turns him down at these times, he doesn't know what else to do.
The scenarios outlined above are only a few examples of men who can only get their emotional needs met through sex.

Getting Help in Therapy
Experiencing your full range of core emotions--including anger, sadness, joy, disgust, and sexual excitement is a universal need.

If you're suppressing your core emotions--with the exception of sexual excitement--you could benefit from seeking help from a licensed psychotherapist who has experience helping clients to overcome these problems.

Rather than struggling on your own, seek help from a licensed mental health professional so you can lead a more fulfilling life.

About Me
I am a licensed NYC psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR, AEDP,  EFT, Somatic Experiencing and Sex Therapist (see my article:  The Therapeutic Benefits of Integrative Psychotherapy).

I work with individual adults and couples.

I have helped many clients to overcome their fear of their core emotions so that they could lead healthier and happier lives.

To find out more about me, visit my website: Josephine Ferraro, LCSW - NYC Psychotherapist.

To set up a consultation, call me at (917) 742-2624 during business hours or email me.