I spend a lot of time here writing about our husbands.
That grows out of my own experience. I’ve written about the difficult moment when I realized how deeply my husband had been hurt by my sexual rejection of him. Many women have shared that they, too, just didn’t understand.
It was only when we were able to understand on an emotional level what sex means to our husbands—and how the lack of sex hurt them emotionally—that we were able to take that first step toward improving the sexual intimacy–and the overall intimacy–in our marriages.
Understanding our husbands and having compassion for them does not require us to set aside our own feelings. It doesn’t mean that our husbands are more important than we are.
I’d spent a lot of years believing that my needs were more important than my husband’s. I struggled to learn that he is not less important than I am, just as he is not more important.
He and I both matter to our marriage. The feelings of both of us are important. Our desires are equally important. (I wrote about this in this post.)
Supporting wives in their marital growth means helping them understand their husbands.
Last year I wrote Six Things to Know about Sexual Refusal, hoping to help my readers understand how their husbands may be experiencing the lack of sexual intimacy in their marriages.
Quite a few readers commented, “But what about the women?”
I am not going to speak for all women, only for myself. My guess is that many of you will be able to relate to at least some of this.
I am one who experiences everything on an emotional level. The most meaningful conversations I’ve had with others have been the ones where there is mutual sharing that taps into our emotional selves. Growing up, I thought I was too emotional and too sensitive. Now I view that sensitivity and emotionalism as gifts that are part of my very essence. I am always aware of my emotional state.
The best way to connect with me emotionally is through conversation. During the difficult years of our marriage, the biggest hurt I experienced in my marriage was the lack of emotional intimacy through conversation with my husband.
So, similar to what I wrote about how men often experience sexual refusal, here is how I experienced emotional disconnection:
- Emotion is inherent to my sense of self. Therefore, I experience an emotional rejection (through lack of face-to-face conversation) as a rejection of me. Having to have sex in order to get that emotional connection tells me I am not valuable enough as I am.
- I am designed to want emotional connection frequently, and I am designed to seek comfort. This means that I like things to happen in a way that I recognize as safe. Being surprised by new stuff (especially mid-sex) completely throws me out of the zone. When my husband shares an emotion with me (even a difficult one), I feel valued and loved. God made me this way. My emotionality is a gift from God.
- I receive love best through emotional connection. Emotion is the one thing that connects to my whole way of living and the deepest part of my heart.
- When the only time I got emotional attention was during and after sex, the words “I love you” were empty to me. Big Guy can tell me multiple times a day that he loves me (and he has always done this)—but if he isn’t making an authentic emotional connection with me, I don’t believe him.
- NOTHING matches an emotionally connecting moment for me. My husband can love me in every way possible. He can provide for me, he can keep me safe, he can bring me gifts, and he can give me mind-blowing orgasms. He can do everything else I want or need. Added all together, this still doesn’t match what emotional connection can do for me. Emotional love trumps everything else combined.
- Depriving me of his emotional involvement in our conversations can be as damaging as depriving me of conversation altogether. Having a conversation that is devoid of feeling hurts me. I need to be known as much as I need to know. Our marital relationship misses out when our conversations are only about the exchange of information.
- Both the pattern and the specific instances of emotional disconnection hurt me. It is a pattern if my husband usually cuts me off and says, “Get to the point.” It is a pattern if most times when I begin a conversation I know he will want only the information with none of the discussion that I find meaningful. The pattern invades the very fabric of my life. My emotional makeup is the most precious part of me. The sharing of my feelings isn’t desirable to him. Every time it would happen was a reminder of the overwhelming hurt from my lack of worth to him.
- Whether my husband’s pattern was simply refusing to engage in conversation with me or limiting our conversation time to TV commercials, it was the worst thing in my life. We faced quite a few challenges in life, but the lack of emotional connection through conversation was devastating. I thought many times, “I could bear anything if only I could know he loved me.”
Since beginning my journey to work on sexual intimacy, I have learned how much of our emotional disconnection grew out of my husband’s hurt as a result of being deprived of true intimacy in our marriage.
Knowing that doesn’t remove the hurt I experienced.
Compassion and understanding for him have made me better able to heal from the hurt I experienced—but it doesn’t erase that hurt from having happened.
Are you a wife who feels emotionally disconnected from her husband?
Perhaps your list looks different from mine, or perhaps you now wonder if I’m inside your head.
Think back to when you read the sexual refusal post. Did you have a negative reaction thinking that your husband was nothing more than a caveman? Did you read that you were expected to have sex whenever your husband wanted, and that his desires were more important than yours?
The post said nothing about these things. However, when we are hurting it is easy to read between the lines and see our own heartache staring back at us.
If you feel emotionally disconnected from a husband who seems to have no desire to work on your relationship, it can be overwhelming to hear him complain about the lack of sexual intimacy in your marriage.
Your husband may be equally frustrated by your complaints about a lack of emotional intimacy if you refuse to work on sexual intimacy.
Both of you are hurting–and both of you can work to develop compassion and understanding for the other.
What if you were to look at these two posts together, this one along with the post on sexual refusal? Or, perhaps, both of you can make your own lists of how you experience the lack of connection in your marriage.
If you are unhappy with the lack of emotional connection and your husband is unhappy with the lack of sex, consider using both of these posts to begin a conversation with your husband.
Use them as tools to give you words to describe what you are experiencing. Use them to help you both understand what the other is saying, translating into your own point of view. Use them to talk about ways that what I’ve written resonates with you—or ways that it doesn’t.
Just as you may not have understood the emotional connection your husband was missing with the lack of sex in your marriage, he may not understand the connection you are missing with the lack of meaningful conversation (or however it is you need to connect with your husband).
The things I wrote in the post about sexual refusal may not speak for your husband. The things I’ve written here may not speak for you.
If they do speak for either of you, let them start a conversation to help you both understand each other and begin to heal your marriage.
Supporting and encouraging wives in their marital growth means helping them understand their husbands.
It also means helping them help their husbands be more understanding as well.
Ask your husband for his compassion and understanding, just as you work to offer yours to him.
You are no less important in your marriage than your husband is.
You bear our Creator’s image, and you are His beloved daughter.
Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net