A few months ago, I was very frustrated with our old home WIFI router. Videos constantly froze, emails wouldn’t send, and audio dropped in and out. After we stopped being able to send and receive messages properly, we got a new router. But it didn’t really help. Extenders, moving the modem—nothing changed it much. Finally, we realized the problem was far more fundamental: our home’s entire connection to the internet was poor quality. New equipment and in-house fixes would make only a marginal difference. We had to improve our overall connection.
I was thinking about that as I recently overheard several women talk about how easy it is to feel not connected in our marriages today. Even with many married couples spending more time at home than ever before, we still have busy days, work commitments, deadlines, balancing kids’ school and activities . . . it can be easy to feel closer to our kids than to our husband. Or we simply may feel a bit of distance from him. We may even realize that messages aren’t being sent and received properly.
There are many “fixes” that will help. Getting dinner out, asking the kids to give you a few minutes for uninterrupted “couch time” conversation, or getting out and doing a hobby together are all great steps. But in the end, many of us also need to improve our overall connection to our husband. And it may surprise us that for him, all those other things may only make a marginal difference if the quality of our sexual connection is lacking.
We both want to feel close again—but the way we feel close might be very different
When we feel distant, all of us—both husbands and wives—instinctively want to find some way to close the gap; we want to feelclose to each other again. But what creates that connection may be very different for your husband than for you.
Although there are exceptions, we as women tend to try to create closeness by reaching out for a hug or touch, and a leisurely conversation over a meal. Due to the emotional and verbal connections in the female brain, we feel incredibly connected to our man when we talk with him and share life in a heart-to-heart way through conversation. Hence the reason for this recent article for men on the power of listening (Part 1 in the Sex and Conversation series).
But what if I told you that for most men (although again, there are exceptions), nothing makes a man feel closer to his wife than to share life in a heart-to-heart way through sex?
Let me tell you more.
A heart longing, not a selfish demand
Between television, steamy movie love scenes, and the conventional wisdom of your girlfriends at work, it is easy to think that “men only care about one thing.” And once we subconsciously believe that myth, his desire for sex can frankly come across as a primal, selfish demand. After all, with everything we have to handle as a wife and mom, sometimes physical intimacy can seem like just another thing to check off the “to do” list, right?
But there is so much more going on, deep in a man’s heart, that makes him reach out for you in that way. In most cases, the number one language for building a deeper connection with your husband is not spoken in words. It is shared through physical intimacy. During my research about men for For Women Only I was so surprised to learn that for most men, times of sexual intimacy are the main times when oxytocin, the “bonding hormone” is released. Those are the moments when he feels so incredibly close to you. That all-important connection is built.
Don’t get me wrong—we feel that connection and bonding during intimacy, too! But we can also feel that level of closeness (even if not the same type of closeness!) when he asks us to tell him all about something that is on our mind, and then really listens and engages in meaningful conversation.
So sex is not just a physical thing for men. It is one of the main ways to his heart. And as a result, building closeness in this way delivers great benefits outside the bedroom too.
But for many of us, it means thinking about sex differently.
Being purposeful is an act of love and care
We think sex should be spontaneous. That’s what Hollywood shows, anyway. And yet as many wives have discovered, waiting for the right time for “spontaneous” sex often means it just doesn’t happen! So if we want to prioritize connection, we need to be purposeful.
Now, some wives (about 18% on our last survey) have a higher desire than their husbands—and if you are in that category, you are likely thinking about it anyway! But the rest of us may need to be much more intentional.
When I shared this with a group of women at a marriage conference, one approached me and said, “I’m struggling with a little bit of resentment about this. I get that intimacy is important, and I care about it too. But saying we need to be intentional makes it feel like this is yet one more thing I have to do in an already full day.”
I fully understood where she was coming from! It is easy to be resentful if you think of this as yet one more thing your hubby has put on your to-do list! But in the usual, non-abusive marriage, that is not the way he’s thinking about it—so it requires us taking a different view as well. I posed this question to that wife: “Do you want your husband to ask things like “How was your day?” Do you want him to reach out and engage in meaningful conversation with you even when he’s tired at the end of a long series of client meetings?”
When she indicated that yes, that did matter to her—and in fact, her husband did try to engage in that way—I said, “It’s very similar. Asking about a wife’s day and listening is not most men’s natural inclination. But it is something your husband tries to do, for one reason: because it matters to you! It isn’t one more thing you have put on his to-do list, right? It is something he tries to remember to do because he loves you.”
Ladies, because of how many of us are wired, sex may not be top of mind during a busy day. But if we are trying to fix a sense of distance or dissatisfaction, or create a bridge to our man, let’s see that foundational need and desire for connection that is in our man’s heart, and go straight to the one thing that will most build it with him.
Read part 1 of The Sex & Conversation Series: One Simple Sentence That Will Delight Your Wife
Find Christ-focused wonder in the midst of everyday life no matter what your situation might be. Pick up a copy of Shaunti’s latest devotional, Find Joy, available in major bookstores.
Check out Shaunti’s latest book and Discussion Guide (co-authored with her husband, Jeff), Thriving in Love and Money. Because you need a better relationship, not just a better budget.
This article was first published at Patheos.