It might be stereotypical to suggest that women push for intimacy and men push for sex. Yet, there is some truth behind this. In romantic relationships, there is a pull and push dance that happens between intimacy and sex. To understand how this plays out in a relationship, let’s first let’s define what intimacy is.
Intimacy is . . .
- Emotional – sharing thoughts and feelings (aka vulnerability) and receiving empathy
- Physical – reaching for the other for closeness and reassurance, not to initiate sex
- Sexual – Yes, that means actual sex (as defined by each partner)
Men and Women Define Intimacy Differently
While I’m referring to the stereotypical male/female roles here, note that any gender could play either role. However, for the most part, women want and need an emotional connection with their partner to feel loved and secure. When they feel emotionally connected and safe enough, they will want physical closeness. When all that’s flowing, sex is a natural progression because of a desire for an even deeper closeness.
Men? Well, most men struggle to talk about their feelings. Hugs, hand holding, snuggles, and cuddles aren’t always easy to ask for or comfortable to do. Yet, men know how to ask for sex! When a man receives sex from their partner, they get a huge whopping dose of acceptance. Ah, good. This means everything is okay! Right? No. Herein lies the problem.
The Cycle of Neglect and Rejection
If she doesn’t feel emotionally connected, she will rebuff the man’s attempts to initiate sex. Why? She does not want to communicate that everything is okay! She’ll reject the kiss, avoid closeness, and be emotionally prickly – all attempting to communicate that everything is not okay. Most men do not cultivate the emotional safety and connection that women need in order to either want sex or want to give sex to them.
What happens next? The man feels rejected, pulls away and doesn’t cultivate emotional connection (and thus emotional safety). She feels ignored or abandoned and therefore hurt. Then when his libido builds and he attempts to initiate sex again, because he has been distant instead of focusing on connection, guess what happens? He’ll get rejected again! She’ll then trust his efforts to connect less and less.
This neglect and reject pattern quickly creates resentment in each partner and needs addressing.
How to Solve the Sex vs. Intimacy Puzzle
If sex is a problem in your relationship, start working to ensure the emotional connection is secure. Learn to share your thoughts and feelings. Learn to be an empathetic listener – empathy is the ‘magic lube’ of relationships! Be a kind and attentive partner. Be a devoted partner. This may not fix everything and it won’t be a fast fix. However, I’m sure if you do this, you’ll be in a far better place to work on the physical closeness and sex in your relationship.
Contact Marlon at Bellevue Family Counseling in Bellevue, Washington.Lear More
Resentment is a highly toxic poison that will kill your relationship if it is not released. When you feel unfairly treated, you’ll become angry. When that anger is mixed with a sense of betrayal, you’ll begin to feel resentment.
It’s easy to understand how resentment can come about through an event such as infidelity. Yet, resentment can also grow over time when your partner is unresponsive to you. Being rejected over and over, ignored over and over, or criticized over and over – these actions break the trust you thought you had. They key trust in any relationship is: you won’t hurt me on purpose. You’ll have my back.
If you’re feeling resentful, you’re also hurt, angry and don’t trust your partner. Your brain will start working to solve the problem because it doesn’t want you to be alone. Unfortunately, no choice seems to lead to happiness. Part of you may want to leave the relationship because, I don’t deserve to be treated this way and I can do better. Part of you probably wants to kick them out so they will feel the hurt too. Part of you probably doesn’t want to leave because of the commitment you made. Still yet another part of you doesn’t want to act in a way that is retaliatory because that’s not who you are. You’re hurt and you’re stuck!
The best way to release resentment
The best way through resentment is to be able to express your hurt and upset-ness with your partner. This means they must be able to listen, be empathetic, own their part, feel badly for that part and hurt they contributed to (or caused) and make a commitment to change that will put the rules of love and security back in place. If they can do this, you’ll start to believe they care about how you feel. When you feel understood, when they can own their part, you can start to believe they won’t hurt you again.
This is a tricky part because if when you express your true thoughts and feelings they become defensive, dismissive, blaming or move into their own guilt and shame, you won’t leave the conversation feeling understood and therefore better. The ability to put one’s own feelings aside to be compassionate with the other and take ownership for one’s contribution are key attributes of a strong relationship. You’ll think, if they don’t understand, they might hurt me again. You won’t be able to let the resentment go.
If your partner won’t understand, what can you do?
If you must deal with it alone because your partner can’t or won’t be compassionate, one way to work on resentment is by setting boundaries. You may need to make changes to the rules of your relationship or even make structural changes to your routine. Figure out what you need to feel better and then go to your partner and let them know what you need to be okay again. Perhaps you need to take over all the finances, or perhaps you need a night out for “me” time. Whatever it is, what do you need to put trust and fairness back in place? Then with follow through comes trust, one bite at a time.
You can choose
Another way to work through resentment on your own is through brute force. Choose to take your power back by choosing to own your choice. When you accept a situation because you choose to in some way, you can feel better about the situation because you’re not powerless. Make a decision by finishing the sentence, “I choose to _______________. “ “I choose to stay in this relationship because I love my partner and want to make it work.” Now you are making an empowered choice. Own that choice and don’t blame your partner for your own choices.
Resentment has the toxic potential to unwind your relationship because it blocks partners from moving toward each other to repair deep hurts. Many couples who come into counseling find they waited too long. Don’t let this be you! If you or your partner is resentful and can’t work through it together or alone, find a good counselor to help. Working through this can be hard, yet it is critical to your relationship’s long-term health, happiness and security.
Marlon Familton, MA LMHC is a relationship counselor working to help couples navigate the choppy waters of love and romance. Author of the book, “Fix Your Partner in 10 Easy Steps or Less!”
Contact Marlon at Bellevue Family Counseling in Bellevue, Washington.Lear More
If you have children, getting yourself and them through the morning, afternoon and evening routine can be crazy hard! No doubt you go full throttle from the moment you wake until your head plops on the pillow, hardly having time to stop and smell the espresso. You’re doing the best you can, yet every once in a while do you ask yourself . . . am I giving them enough?
We know that it is imperative for a child’s healthy development to experience emotional connection and presence from you, their parents. Times when you talk and interact in a way that allows them to direct the play contributes to a healthy self-esteem and closeness with you. This creates an internal sense of safety and security for them because they experience you as accessible and available to them.
Will they ever have enough?
From their perspective, no. Your children will almost always want more time then you could ever give them. They will almost always be disappointed when play time with you is over. This is good news! It means you’re doing a good job somewhere because, they want you! Yet, when they seem disappointed what can you do?
Shoot for the magic number
There has been enough research into what creates a healthy internal sense of self for us to know the bottom line. The magic number is twenty. Twenty minutes per day of non-directed play. If you can deposit twenty minutes of your attention – that is twenty minutes of non-goal-oriented time every day, they will have a strong chance of developing that important internal sense of secure attachment.
Here are four easy steps to make this happen:
- Remember it is the process of play, not the product that is key. Adults commonly want an objective, a goal, to win or encourage the child to win. Forget about all that and focus on the process of the play. It’s about time together, not a goal or project.
- Make a big deal out of turning off your phone, laptop, tablet and the TV.
- Set an alarm for twenty minutes you both know it really is twenty minutes.
- When the time is over, transition into something else they will enjoy. Dinner time, movie time, story time. Do this and the transition will be easier for everyone.
By Csilla Vegvari, MA LMHCA
by Leah Koenig MA, LMHC
PCI Certified Parent Coach® & Family Therapist
Divorce is undeniably a social, emotional and financial upheaval for families. The time of divorce will almost always be held as an incredibly sad memory for children. Unfortunately, we cannot protect our children fully from the inevitable impact of this moment. We can however, do a lot to help them also attach to this memory a feeling of parent unity, nurturance and in doing so plant the seeds for the growth of resilience, so it becomes part of their life, not a traumatic part that they cannot let go.
When you decide to tell your child about an impending divorce it is best to tell your child together with your spouse and tell it on a day where there will be ample free time for processing of this information. Here are some key steps on how you can tell your children, manage the moment as well as the time afterward, in a way that will set them up to handle this successfully.
Prepare “The” Family Story
This first step is the hardest and requires that you come together, manage your emotions and practice restraint. Ideally you and your spouse agree on a reason you are getting a divorce; a reason that can be shared with your child at an age appropriate level. The details of your divorce are private and not for the ears of your children so keep this story very short, simple and honest. It should encompass four parts:
1. A general reason for your decision
2. The clear fact you are going to be living apart
3. Reassurance that the child plays no role in this dissolution
4. How you love your child, and this will not change
“You know how much mommy and daddy fight. It is really awful and sad for us. We have tried different ways to get along better but finally have decided that we cannot live together any more. It is hurting us too much. The reasons we fight have nothing to do with you; it is just about us. We love you, we love being your parents. Being your parents is the best thing that has ever happened to us. We will always together be your parents.”
Children can be very black and white thinkers and will be looking to assign blame and finding the “bad guy” where they can direct their anger. They can easily view one parent as the “bad” parent if you are not careful and give any reason for them to take sides. You may be emotionally driven to look good in your child’s eyes especially if you don’t want the divorce, but it actually does greater harm to your child if you put them in a position of splitting their loyalties between the two people they love the most in the world. You are divorcing to get them out of conflict not to place them in more conflict.
Your child will also look to themselves as the possible “bad guy”. Even if the situation appears self-evident that it is between the parents, every child will still think they play a role. Wipe this out of your child’s thoughts by making it clear that this is purely an adult issue and has nothing to do with children. Reassure them of your love. Then plan on communicating to them this idea that they play no part in the reason for the divorce. Repeat this periodically over the next few years. No child wants to hear that you are divorcing as some sort of gift to them; to get them out of conflict, to give them a more stable life etc. If you play it this way, they will carry that burden of being responsible for your divorce. Own the divorce as your own choice as adults and what is best for you as adults.
When they ask why
Your child may ask “why”. This again is not a time to air personal details. For most children what they want to know most is how this decision will affect them. Explain together how things will progress. If they persist on asking why, take that moment to reiterate that this is private between the adults and the reasons have nothing to do with the children. Focus on explaining what does concern them which is the rearrangement of family life. Early in the process, keep the details general, because at this point you may not clearly know the structure of your divorce agreements. Children are going to want to know what directly affects them so focus your conversation on their stable life. Talk about where they will live, whether they will need to change schools, where they will sleep, where they get to keep their toys, if they will have their own room.
Managing Your Emotions
Some parents believe that they need to be emotionless in order to create a sense of security for their child. Not only is this hard on your own body, it also creates a lot of confusion for your child. Divorce is a crisis event and we feel emotions during a crisis. Children look to their parents as a model for how to be in the world. If they see no emotion from you, they may come to believe they are not allowed to express emotion and it is wrong for them to be sad or angry. Your child will feel confused if you tell them everything is fine yet they can see the red rimmed watery eyes or the inexplicable angry outbursts.
Children will work to make sense of your emotional displays. Therefore, it is important that you are authentic, otherwise they will make up a story in their own head and it may once again be self-blaming. How you create security for your children is by owning and naming the emotion they see on your face so they are not confused with mixed signals.
Next, let your child experience how you are going to take care of your emotion. Label your emotion, demonstrate how you are going to take care of it, reconnect back with your child so they do not come to believe that emotions create distance.
“I feel very angry right now. I even want to yell, but instead I am going to use that energy to go for a run and that will make me feel better. When I come back how about you and I play a game?”
“I am sad today, I feel like I am going to cry. I am going to go take a nice warm, bubble bath and that will make me feel better. When I come back you and I can read a story together.”
Managing Your Child’s Emotions
When your child feels anger or sadness, know that this is okay. Your job is to simply sit with them. Take the pressure off yourself to remove the pain and rescue them. Just sit with them in their feelings and be empathetic. “I know this is a really sad time right now.” “It must be hard to feel this way inside.”
As parents, are job is to raise our children in a way that gives them the tools and skills to manage real life. In real life, there are situations that we encounter that are not solvable. This is one of them for your child. Divorce is out of your child’s control, so allowing those feelings to be expressed and flow through them will be an important way for them to gain their own resilience.
You will be tempted to rescue them from their own emotions by distracting them, making promises, offering gifts, or pointing out solutions. That is not what they need. Right now your child needs to know it is safe to express emotions. They need to be able to feel their emotions let those emotions flow through their body and not get stuck inside. Your ability to be calm with them, to make sure they are not feeling alone is critical. To do this, you must control your own internal and external experience. If at all possible do not hijack this moment from your child by having your own emotions and anxiety overwhelm their moment.
You and your family do not have to limp through divorce. By modeling emotional leadership, you and your children can not only survive divorce, you can all thrive and become closer.Lear More