One of the marriage problems nobody talks about is the difference between physical and emotional intimacy. Until now! A reader recently asked this question about increasing emotional connection in her relationship with her husband…
“I would like to talk and build more of an emotional connection, but my husband only wants a physical one,” says Sara on 10 Most Common Relationship Problems – and How to Fix Them. “We’ve been going through a rough time lately, and I don’t know how much longer I can hang in there. Throughout our marriage we have had rough patches. He used to be destructive, and kick or hit things and dent or break them. Honesty is very important to me, and I have caught him in many lies, mostly regarding him chewing tobacco.”
She adds that their physical intimacy hasn’t been great, either. “It only happens so he will stop asking and leave me alone,” she says. “I get very frustrated as it seems that is all he wants is a physical relationship. He is either grabbing me in front of my kids, which makes me mad, or always suggesting it. He is easily angered, and yells and swears a lot as well. I just don’t know how long I should keep trying to save our marriage, but I don’t want to look back and say I should have tried harder. Please give some advice. We have tried marriage counseling before, but he is not big on communication, criticism, or flexibility.”
When you and your husband have different expectations for physical and emotional intimacy, you have to work together to find common ground. Since you can’t change your husband, you need to focus on the only person you can change: you.
This doesn’t mean settling for a marriage that doesn’t make you happy, or having sex with your husband to get him off your back. Nor does it mean you have to settle for a relationship that doesn’t have a strong emotional connection. It means you need to look at your own patterns of behaving and relating to your husband, and learn as much as you can about yourself. Once you gain insight into who you are and why you’re reacting the way you are, you’ll be able to see your marriage more objectively. Then, maybe, you can increase the emotional connection in your marriage – and you may even want sex more often than your husband!
It is possible for one spouse to make changes in herself, and bring those changes into the marriage. But it takes a lot of courage, hard work, and determination. It doesn’t seem fair that one partner does all the work while the other gets off scott free, but since you can’t force anyone to change…what choice do you have?
My advice is to find a way to gain insight into your expectations, responses, and patterns of behaving with your husband. Maybe you need to sit down for a session or two with a counselor, or read books like How to Improve Your Marriage Without Talking About It.
Your husband is capable of change, but he has to find it in himself to want to make those changes. I bet you can find ways to encourage him to want to make those changes – but that requires knowing his personality and trigger points. Maybe you’ll be able to learn what those are if you see a counselor on your own, and maybe you’ll find ways to nudge your husband into a greater emotional connection.
Also – my husband once told me that he feels emotionally connected to me after we have sex. I need to feel emotionally connected to him before I can enjoy sex, but he needs sex to feel connected. I assume we’re not the only couple in the world like this — so you’re definitely not alone!
There are no easy ways to fix unhappy marriages, especially if couples counseling hasn’t worked in the past. Only you can decide if it’s time to pull the plug, or do everything in your power to increase your emotional connection with a man who only seems interested in sex.
For more specific tips on increasing your connection to your husband, read 3 Ways to Stop Your Relationship From Falling Apart.