Both men and women have a need to be emotionally connected in marriage. In fact, when a couple comes to therapy and they are feeling unhappy or disconnected, the lack of emotional connection is often to blame. This is especially true for women.
But have you ever wondered why women seem to be so in tune with the emotional state of the marriage, seeing issues when their husband sees no problems?
Well, brain scans have shown that the emotional centers are larger and more defined in women than they are in men. Truthfully, this is a little bit of a chicken and egg dispute. Are women better able to understand emotion because those centers are larger, or have those areas of the brain grown because women are taught to fully express their emotions as little girls while little boys are told to “buck up.”
It could be either.
But, statistically speaking, and what I’ve seen to be true in my own practice is that men often struggle to a greater degree than women do to name their emotions and they often have a difficult time sitting with the emotions of their upset wife.
Luckily, there are some behaviors that you can implement that will help the two of you connect on an emotional level. Try these small changes and see what a difference they can make.
Look her in the eyes when you talk to her:
Usually, men tend to prefer conversations where they are side-to-side instead of eye-to-eye. There are lots of theories as to why this is, but statistically men don’t really like looking into the eyes of another person while talking about difficult subject matter.
For your wife though, eye-to-eye contact provides her with security and safety in the relationship. It tells her that you’re listening and it even begins to realize the bonding-chemical, oxytocin. This means that your wife will actually feel closer to you and more connected when you’re looking into each other’s eyes while you talk.
Turn the TV off, put your phone down, and simply look at her the next time you’re trying to connect. And, just so you know, this is really effective during love-making too.
Show Her You’re Paying Attention:
This is really similar to the eye-to-eye contact piece just mentioned, but it emphasizes the distraction-free piece of it a little more.
Most of us find that we are highly distracted by our devices. In fact, research has continued to show that we get so distracted by our devices that we’re unaware of the world around us. Do you remember those news stories about car accidents and pedestrian accidents all due to people being distracted by their devices?
We can be overly distracted at home too. If your spouse starts a conversation with you (or you with her), make it a point to visibly show her that she is the center of your attention by putting away all possible distractions.
Think of Something She Enjoys Doing and Enjoy Doing it With Her:
All of us can take the time to do something that our spouse likes to do. But, having a positive attitude and looking as if you enjoy the activity, might be a little challenging. If you want to impress her or connect with her, don’t just do the activities she likes to do – show her that you’re having a good time by respecting her, smiling often, and enjoying that she’s happy.
Use Non-Sexual Touch While You Connect With Her Emotionally:
This suggestion certainly doesn’t mean that all women want non-sexual touch more than they want sexual tough or that all men prefer sex over any other form of touching. There are differences among all couples. Even so, if the only time you are touching or kissing is when you’re about to have sex, you’re missing out on some really important intimacy-building time. If you don’t already do this, be sure to add in some non-sexual touching.
Problem-Solving Means Being With Her More Than Doing For Her:
Men are usually pretty good problem-solvers and they enjoy being able to find a solution to a puzzle. With emotional connection, many men feel that the problem is unsolvable. But, the reality is that being with your wife and listening to her concerns, is one of the best ways to solve the problem.
This is so counterintuitive because typically solving a problem means that the issue disappears or the emotion is alleviated. But, when it comes to emotionally connecting with your wife, hugging her and letting her know you care feels a deep need in her soul. You are, just by being present, solving her problem.
Accept Her Bids For Connection:
Dr. Gottman describes “bids for connection” as those moments that we seek our spouse out for a quick moment of support, friendship, or bonding. These can be as simple as one spouse asking, “how was your day” or “did you just see that?”
In other words, they can be opening statements or a search for communication. Sometimes, these bids are even seen when someone tries to have casual conversation by pointing out something obvious. An example of this would be when you come in with a cup of coffee and your spouse says, “coffee, eh?”
Bids can also be touches on the arm, running your fingers on the other’s leg, a brief kiss on the cheek or on the lips.
Literally anything that a spouse does to try to get your attention, talk to you, or in some way connect is a bid for your attention. Couples that pay attention to and respond to these bids are much happier than couples that often miss them.
Sexually Connecting Can Work Too:
Of course, last but not least, having sex more often can help some wives feel much more connected.
Did you know that in around 20% of marriages, the wife has the higher sex drive? If this is the case in your marriage, making time to prioritize love-making can be a huge win for your marriage. And this is especially true if your wife has been asking you for physical connection.
Keep in mind, you don’t have to limit yourself to one way of connecting, but it could be helpful to concentrate on just one of these tips at a time. I encourage you to ask your wife which one of these would be most meaningful to her.
Blessings on you, your marriage, and your intimacy.