NYC Psychotherapist Blog

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Tuesday, March 9, 2021

Relationships: Whereas Women Usually Need Emotional Connection to Connect Sexually, Men Often Need Sex to Connect Emotionally

Although emotional intimacy can be expressed verbally and nonverbally, words are usually privileged over nonverbal expressions these days.  Generally, women are much better at verbal expressions of love and intimacy, whereas men often don't have the verbal skills so they use nonverbal expressions (see Mating in Captivity by Esther Perel, Ph.D and my article: Understanding Men Who Get Their Emotional Needs Met Through Sex).

Relationships: Men's Nonverbal Expressions of Emotional Intimacy and Connection

Conveying Emotional Intimacy in My Great Grandparents' Time vs Today
In my great grandparents' time, marriage was a pragmatic arrangement.  Couples didn't expect to be in love during their courtship or the early stage of marriage.  

Instead, the expectation was that love would develop over time.  Marriages were an economic arrangement where men were expected to work and women bore children and took care of the home.  

Since they weren't necessarily in love, they expressed their caring for one another nonverbally through their activities: She cooked for him, washed his clothes, and took care of the household.  He was the breadwinner that sustained the family financially.  

In those earlier marriages, extended family lived together.  Their lives were more entwined, so rather than seeking emotional intimacy, family members sought privacy.  

In my great grandparents' day, couples tended not to ask each other, "Why don't you ever tell me that you love me?" because their nonverbal expressions were sufficient to convey their feelings of emotional connection.  

Today, except for couples who live with family for economic reasons, couples live on their own in more socially isolated circumstances.  So, they rely on each other for emotional intimacy to overcome feelings of isolation and loneliness.

Couples today rely on words to convey how they feel.  Rather than developing emotional intimacy over time, as in my great grandparents' time, couples today expect emotional intimacy immediately.  

Because of women's greater ability to express themselves in words, they are at an advantage in contemporary times. Also, from an early age, women are raised to be relationship builders, so they're generally better at it as compared to men.

Men Often Need Sex to Connect Emotionally vs Women Who Usually Need Emotional Connection to Connect Sexually
Men often express emotional intimacy and enjoy the pleasure of connection through sex.  This puts them at a disadvantage in a culture that privileges verbal expressions.  They're often unfairly accused of having a "fear of intimacy" if they can't put their emotions into words.

Another potential problem is that, whereas men often need sex to connect emotionally, women usually need emotional connection to have sex.  So, many women believe that their significant other is only interested in sex (rather than emotional connection) because they don't understand how men connect emotionally and men are often unable to explain it.

Learning to Value Nonverbal Expressions of Emotional Intimacy and Connection
I'm certainly not suggesting that couples should go back to the way things were in my great grandparents' day.  No one wants that.  Life was hard back then, and women often felt compelled to remain in marriages because they didn't have the freedom to leave.  

Overall, women have more economic freedom today, so there is no expectation that they remain in a marriage.

But, rather than always valuing verbal expressions, can a couple learn to recognize nonverbal expressions of emotional intimacy and connection?

What about recognizing acts of kindness, gifts, spending time together, and other nonverbal gestures that men are more likely to show?

If couples could learn to value these nonverbal expressions of emotional intimacy, there would be much less conflict in relationships.  

Over time, men can learn to develop the verbal skills to express their love.  It takes practice on their part and patience on the part of their significant other.

Getting Help in Therapy
It's not unusual for couples to have difficulty understanding their partner's way of expressing love.

If you and your partner are having problems, rather than struggling on your own, you could benefit from seeking help from a licensed mental health professional who works with couples.

About Me
I am a licensed NYC psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR, AEDP, EFT and Somatic Experiencing therapist.

I work with individual adults and couples.

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.