Having coached many couples over the years I hope I have earned the right to make a few broad generalizations based on my experience of relationships. For the purpose of this article I’m using woman/man pronouns.
Consider these two statements:
Men don’t want to talk about their feelings.
Women don’t want to talk about sex.
What an interesting conundrum. Let’s look at how this might play out.
Here’s a client’s account of a conversation they had with their partner this week that illustrates this dynamic.
Under every statement is a thought-bubble that reveals what was hidden behind the words.
Does this exchange sound familiar to you?
She:How are you doing?
Thought bubble, What is he thinking, why does he feel distant, I wish he’d talk to me.
He:I’m good. (pause) why?
Thought bubble,(suspicious) What does she want. What am I doing wrong?
She:Just checking in. Was feeling a little disconnected from you today.
Thought bubble, Why is he getting defensive? Can’t I ask a simple question?
He:I’ve spent the whole day with you, I don’t understand what you need from me right now.
Thought bubble, I’ll never be enough for her. She wants too much.
She: (frustration) I’m just saying, I want to feel close to you.
Thought bubble, I knew something was wrong. Is he mad at me?
He:Well I’m not feeling much affection coming from your end either. We haven’t had sex in 3 weeks.
Thought bubble: There, I said it! How can she want me to open up, when she never opens up to me.
She:Is that all you ever think about? I’m not talking about sex right now.
Thought bubble: Sex is the only thing that matters to him
He:You never want to talk about sex.
Thought bubble: I’m not going to share my feelings with someone who doesn’t want to have sex with me.
She:Never mind (in resignation)
Thought bubble: I’m not going to have sex with someone who doesn’t want to share his feelings with me.
I’ll bet most of us have had conversations similar to this one at some point in our lives.
You know you both want to feel more intimate, but you’re traveling down two different roads trying to get there. He’s on the physical road, and she’s on the emotional road.
Here are two truths in our society that contribute to this confusing conundrum.
1) Boys are raised to keep their feelings to themselves.
They’re encouraged to internalize their more vulnerable emotions, for fear of not appearing strong. If they cry on the playground, it’s a sign of weakness. If they open up about their fears, their peers may shame them. If boys aren’t taught how to talk about their feelings, conversations about feelings become foreign territory.
2) Girls are raised to say no to sex.
Girls are taught that sex can be dangerous. They’re warned about getting pregnant, or STDs. If they’re a yes to sex they might be labeled as a slut, or be sexualized and used by men. By the time girls reach the age of becoming sexual, they’ve been indoctrinated into suppressing their sexuality.
Boys grow into men who aren’t comfortable talking about their feelings.
Girls grow into women who don’t feel comfortable talking about sex.
What do we all need in order to have challenging conversations about feelings and sex?
We need to feel safe to express what’s true for us. We need to feel safe to be honest, safe from judgment, safe from reactivity.
If a man finds it challenging to open up about his feelings, he’ll be looking for signs that he’s safe. Some of those signs might be:
His partner doesn’t criticize or downplay his feelings.
His partner listens attentively and empathetically.
His partner accepts that it’s not easy for him to open up.
His partner doesn’t try to fix his problem or offer solutions.
His partner makes an invitation to share, rather than a demand to talk.
If a woman finds it challenging to open up about sex, she’ll be looking for signs that it’s safe to do so. Some of those signs might be:
Her partner expresses curiosity about her thoughts on sex, rather than blame or judgment.
Her partner is able to hear what she wants without withdrawing or feeling criticized.
Her partner is accepting of their sexual differences, and is optimistic of finding common ground.
Her partner isn’t attaching a conversation about sex to an expectation that it’ll lead to sex.
Her partner guides with open-ended questions about sex with patience and respect.
How comfortable do you make it for your partner to open up and share themselves in conversation they find challenging?
We all have room for improvement and it’s never too late to start creating new patterns of communication, based on honesty, acceptance, and trust.
Yes, men and women are different, but the beauty is found in the play of those differences. Just as the ancient Yin Yang symbol illustrates, seemingly opposing differences unite, to create a perfect symbiosis of balance and polarity.
Here is the simplest, most concise way of explaining the symbiotic flow of intimacy in the masculine/feminine dynamic.
When a man shares his more vulnerable feelings, a woman feels connected to him emotionally.
When a woman feels emotionally attuned to her partner, she’s able to let go, and connect to her own desire and arousal.
When a man feels his partner’s desire and arousal, it connects him to his erotic confidence and sexually mastery.
When a woman feels her partner’s erotic confidence, it deepens her desire for him.
When a man feels confident and desired by his partner, he feels emotionally bonded to her, and therefore safe to share himself more openly.
And around we go in this beautiful, cause and effect dance of sex and intimacy.
Women want to emotionally connect in order to feel their desire.
Men want to feel desired in order to emotionally connect.
When a couple learns to embrace challenging conversations, and acknowledge their differences, they learn to bend in their partner’s direction. They learn to meet each other’s needs by recognizing the play of opposites that combine to create sex and intimacy.
I’d love to hear your take on the symbiotic nature of masculine and feminine energies.
Feel free to share your comments below, so we can all learn from each other’s experience.
This couple came to me for private coaching to overcome their communication challenges. For the first time in ten years they’re learning to speak each other’s language and meet each other’s needs.
If you’re wondering if sex and relationship coaching is right for you, schedule a Discovery Call with me and we’ll start the conversation.
Shame doesn’t change behavior or eliminate the desire that is motivating our actions. It drives our desires into secrecy, and secrecy coupled with shame undermines the trust and intimacy of a relationship.
Play is a reset button for our over-stressed, news-saturated, time-pressured adult minds. Most couples I work with will readily admit that play is not something they experience on a regular basis. Life has gotten too busy. There’s barely enough time to be alone to talk, much less play.
I was helping a friend celebrate his birthday this week. The 4 of us who attended this little outdoor soiree were diligently wearing our masks and keeping our distance. When someone held up a camera to take a pic of the birthday boy, I jumped up and, without thinking went over to wrap my arm around him and snuggled up close for the camera. In that split second I completely forgot that touching was a risk to both of us. I lurched back, apologizing profusely for my momentary lapse. “When was the last time someone touched you?” I asked him…
I love my couples. They reach out for sex coaching, wanting to create a fulfilling sexual and intimate life. The number one obstacle to achieving their goals is sometimes an unhealthy relationship dynamic. For most of us, opening ourselves to sexuality with our partners requires trust, connection and a sense of emotional safety. If our relationships are being impacted by unhealthy dynamics that leave us triggered and harboring conscious or unconscious resentment, sexuality will be impacted or, at worst no longer exist.