Men and women are very different creatures. Intimacy is not always easy. What do we need to be close to one another in a meaningful way? How do we get there? How do we sustain intimacy through challenges like loss, hardship and misunderstanding? Can love endure? Sex and how we relate to one another are key. Knowing our partners emotional and physical desires is integral to a successful relationship.
It is a familiar refrain: My partner doesn’t understand me. He or she is simply not meeting my needs. She isn’t as receptive in the bedroom. He isn’t really listening to me. We used to be so close, but now there is a distance. How can we communicate? How do we close the gap? How can we get back to where we need to be?
For women, emotional intimacy is the ultimate connection. We are sexual creatures, but often our feelings color our moods. When we feel loved and appreciated, relaxed and confident, we also feel more romantically inclined. Emotional connection leads us to express ourselves physically. We talk, snuggle and laugh, opening ourselves to romantic and sexual exploration. If we are not feeling emotionally close, our physical response is often less enthusiastic.
Men’s physical response is less emotionally driven. They value sexual connection, physical needs frequently topping the happiness list. Men are not less romantic, emotional or affectionate. Rather they most easily find their emotional connection through the physical. When a man feels physically fulfilled he is often also at his most emotionally connected. Sexually satisfied men tend to romantically indulge their partners. If a man perceives himself as sexually ignored or deprived however, he is often less likely to express himself in an emotional way.
Our perspectives and orders of expression are different: sex opening a path towards love, and loving leading us towards sexual expression. It is as if we are positioned at opposite ends of a bridge. Happiness lies in the middle. Who needs to make the first move to close the distance?
You both do. This intimacy bridge is real. It is a basic tenet of male and female communication. It is inconvenient, uncomfortable and often frustrating. In enduring relationships you will face your partner at the opposite end on multiple occasions. Circumstances define the distance each time, running the gamut from being an occasional mild annoyance to a smoking relationship grenade.
Compromise is the only solution.
This does not simply mean meeting halfway. There will be times when compromise for one partner is simply impossible. Feelings of hurt, misunderstanding, anger or abandonment interfere. Realities and hardship fog our logic, making it impossible to see all the way to the other side. This is the moment to decide: Can I temporarily push my position and needs to one side and reach out to my partner? Can I try to close the gap, even if it means I need to cross all the way to the other side on my own? Is my relationship worth this immediate sacrifice? Is getting back on intimate, connected ground worth the effort I will make to understand and fulfill my partners needs before my own are met?
Is it more important to be right or to be happy? Although right and happy can co-exist, on occasion it is necessary to make a temporary choice between the two.
Sometimes the answer is a harsh one, and compromise is not an option. You are not willing to cross to your partner. If your relationship is to survive, it means that your partner must make the trek to you. This does not mean you get to pass all the blame for your lack of connection onto your partner. You have closed a door. This is a conscious choice on your part. If you adopt an intractable stance, you must also be ready to face the consequence of your decision. You have chosen to plant yourself as an immovable object, thereby consciously passing all responsibility for your relationship to another person. There are do-or-die scenarios when this response is certainly appropriate. Opting not to cross is your decision. Perhaps this relationship has run its course, or perhaps your partner will choose to try the distance. It is essential that you hold your ground.
Many times, however, the situation is not so dire. Your ultimate happiness may mean more to you than the current situation. You can understand your own feelings of disappointment or anger or sadness…and yet you are willing to cede ground in an effort to get closer to mutual understanding. This does not invalidate your feelings or position. Rather, you are trying to reach a better place where negotiations may be possible and choose to be the person to take the first step. Perhaps you choose to venture forth, in the hopes that once you have shared physical intimacy, you will have a better chance at emotional reconnection. Or you can choose to be patient, and listen, and perhaps proffer romance in the hopes that it will lead to physical intimacy once your partner has more of their emotional needs met. Essentially you are taking time to understand your partners needs. You are attempting to close the distance, because your relationship means enough to you that the effort is worthwhile.
There is no guarantee that your efforts will pay off and that you will be able to close the gap. Yet it is a certainty that your relationship will fail if neither partner makes the attempt.
No one is a saint. We all have selfish moments. Sustaining intimacy is a commitment. Sometimes it feels a lot like work, but the rewards are never simply for one partner. If you cross the bridge, and keep communication open, the resulting closeness is of benefit to you both.
I have thirty four years invested. The joy of deep connection, the gift of a true lifetime mate, has been worth every compromise and momentary sacrifice along the way. It is not always easy. We have each had to cross to the other on many occasions. After all this time our priorities still fall out of sync, and our methods of communication still differ. Why? We are not the same person. We are committed to each other and the life we share. Through learning and loving we have become better people and infinitely better partners. We are not even close to perfect, but we are perfectly happy.