Talk to any woman and you will hear the same story. Women are far more sensitive than men. Their feelings are closer to the surface. They’re willing to talk about their emotions and to demonstrate a greater need for emotions and warmth than men. Just look around. Two or three wives get together and what is their topic of conversation? “My husband doesn’t talk. He comes homes from work, walks by me and the children, changes clothes, sits down with the newspaper, or goes into his office until dinner. You can’t get his attention unless it’s during a commercial. And don’t, for a moment, think you can get closeness when there’s a special football game on tv. Not to mention the fact that he’s totally absent during fishing and hunting season. Men don’t need closeness. They’re only involved with their work, sex, finances and sports.”
Conversely, ask any man, “What about closeness, what about intimacy?” Ninety percent of them will tell you, “Well, half the month she has a headache. A quarter of the month, she has her period. And the other quarter, she’s too tired. And when we do have sex, I resent it. I go through with it because I have physical needs, but let me tell you what’s at the back of my head. ‘We’re only having it because she wants it.’ You know, there was a time I thought if I didn’t ask at all, eventually, she’d really be interested. Once I checked it off on a calendar and I think she could have gone forever. She talks a good game about wanting closeness, but actions speak a heck of a lot more than words.”
If I’ve heard those statements once, I’ve heard them a thousand times. They’re discontent positions that are typically expressed by men and women in long-term dysfunctional relationships or marriages. Sadly, I’ve heard them equally as often from spouses casually talking, or humorously describing their personal lives at a dinner party. So who’s right? I believe they both have some validity. But, at the same time, I think men get more of a bad rep.
Women would say, “Dr. Ed, you’ve got things all mixed up. They’re not talking about closeness. They’re talking about sex. That’s what men think is closeness. Women want closeness first and sex can come afterwards.” Men say, “Let’s have sex first and talk later, but after sex, they roll over and go to sleep.”
On the surface, I would agree with their statements and I’m aware that they appear to support the position of women. But let me try to present another view of the situation. One that suggests that men are far more concerned about closeness than women and that it’s women who view sex as closeness.
Take a look at it this way: sharing intimacies, talking about feelings, complaining about lack of softness and warmth, is not a problem for women. They do that on a daily basis, over tennis, on the golf course, at a luncheon and on the phone with their friends. However, when it comes to sex, it’s another story. That’s an area most women don’t readily jump into. Their position as I noted earlier, is ‘let’s talk, let’s get close, let’s be friends and then sex will follow. It’s a natural consequence of the ‘closeness’ you develop.” Think about it for a moment. Closeness and conversation are easy for women. Sex, that’s something they have to work up toward, because for them it’s more intimate and involves more vulnerability than conversation. Consequently, they require a great deal of foreplay, verbally, emotionally and physically, before they can let you in.
For men, it’s quite different. They have little compunction talking about or engaging in sex. Generally speaking, men can get turned on more easily and frequently, sometimes too much so, than women would ever dream of doing. For them, sex is an act which serves as a testimony to their adequacy and indicates that a woman cares. It says he really matters. More often than not, it’s only with that reassurance that he can dare permit himself to be vulnerable and to share his feelings and thoughts.
The irony is that these contradictory positions create tremendous problems between men and women. Men need far more reassurance that someone cares before they share themselves emotionally. Just ask any woman who really knows how to capture a man, she’ll say jump into bed with him. But, if you want to capture his heart, you need to tell him how wonderful, adequate and sensitive he is.
To summarize, expressing feelings and thoughts is easy for women. The only impetus they need to share their problems is a cup of coffee, a phone call, or a chance meeting with a friend. Sex is a horse of another color. This being the case, sex must be far more an indication of love than sharing feelings. Conversely, if you want a man to share himself, you’ve got to reassure him that you really care. That he has worth and is loveable, as evidenced by the fact you’re willing to get close physically. It’s only then he’ll talk about intimate thoughts.
This conflicting orientation strongly suggests that: 1) The road to love is different for a man and a woman. 2) Men and women both require reassurance of loving care and commitment before they feel genuinely loved. (For a woman, that is sex. For a man, it is opening up emotionally.) 3) To adequately deal with this disparity, men and women must approach each other knowing that real closeness is seen differently by the sexes. Awareness of that distinction can help you, more than you can begin to imagine, to develop the healthy, meaningful, long-term relationship you desire with your partner, spouse or lover.