The other day, I got into a big fight with my wife. In an attempt to make things right, I tried to get intimate–and she got furious! We’ve only been married a few years, and honestly we don’t fight that much. But I’ve heard from lots of friends that make up sex is a common way of restoring the good feelings. I’m feeling a bit cheated. Why isn’t my wife willing to make up this way?
Dear Feeling Cheated,
Um…. I hate to ask, but were those “lots of friends” high school or college guys in the locker room? Yes, some husbands and wives have make-up sex, but at least in my research that does not appear to be the norm for most women in real life! After a fight, sex can be the farthest thing from her mind, until she’s had a chance to cool off and actually like you again. In fact, for some women, if her man tries to get physical right after a fight it can actually make the problem worse.
Here’s the disconnect: You want sex in order to create closeness again. That is one important way most men reach out for closeness when they feel distant. But if your wife is like most women (which it sounds like she is), she needs to feel closeness again before she’s going to want to even think about sex. Women have to feel emotionally connected to want to be physically close. And right after a fight? Trust me: for most of us…it’s not happenin’!
In our research, it was clear that in many cases a man could want to hop in the sack even if his wife didn’t treat him particularly well that that day. But a woman’s desire is tied directly to the way her husband treats her, and how she feels about the relationship. If you’ve just gotten into a huge brawl, or even if you just haven’t been talking much, she may feel miles away from you. And it’s almost physically impossible for her body to respond to you if she feels emotionally distant. Although you want to bridge the gap and get close again, her “fooling around switch” is likely in the off position.
So how do you turn it on again? Make sure she’s emotionally connected. This requires an intentional effort to build closeness again after a fight, with not just an apology and a hug, but the types of actions that build everyday closeness with your wife.
Guys, whether it is trying to rebuild closeness, or make your wife happy every day, the solution starts in her heart. To get the physical response you are looking for, you need to romance her in the way she is looking for. Pursue her like you did when you were first dating. And that doesn’t mean the big efforts that felt so exhausting. After all, what made her fall for you was more than just the candlelight dinners. Most likely it was the little things, like cuddling on the couch to watch a movie, texting her a note to say “I love you” out of the blue, surprising her flowers after a particular bad day, or just calling her up at work to see how she was doing. Those things showed her how you felt about her back then– and she needs to know that same thing after a fight now.
And just a quick warning: Don’t let sex be your only reason for pursuing her —I promise she’ll see right through it! Instead, make it a habit to listen, talk, and hug her, even when intimacy isn’t an option. Yes, it can be difficult to pursue her heart when you are trying to recover from anger or irritation too, and yes, it can be an investment of time and effort to show her how you feel at all times. But if you make it a habit, you’ll get returns on your investment that you won’t regret!
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Shaunti Feldhahn is the best-selling author of eye-opening, research-based books about men, women and relationships, including For Women Only, For Men Only, The Surprising Secrets of Highly Happy Marriages and her newest, The Good News About Marriage. A Harvard-trained social researcher and popular speaker, her ﬁndings are regularly featured in media as diverse as The Today Show, Focus on the Family, and the New York Times. Visit www.shaunti.com for more.