As women, what we want most is to feel close and connected with our partner. All the time I hear from clients, in consults calls, and over in my facebook tribe, things like: I always want to connect; I want deeper connection; I want more real connection.
So many women feel they don’t get enough of it from their partner: I feel like we don’t connect at a deep level; we’re disconnected at times; there’s a lack of deep emotional connection and intimacy in our relationship.
I understand this so much. My main complaint in my first marriage was “he can’t connect deeply with me”.
One woman recently shared with me exactly what I used to think : I want deeper connection between us but he finds this too confronting & uncomfortable.
Many of us could have said the same words. And therein lies the rub.
Because the kind of connection we women want —and expect to be a part of a healthy relationship— is often not the kind that comes naturally to men. Men are, in fact, by nature and nurture, often quite uncomfortable with the kind of connection we are talking about.
When we say connection we often mean emotional intimacy. Talking about our feelings openly, going deep in conversation, having him “just get us”, the way we get our dearest girlfriends—but even more.
I know I compared my husband’s ability to connect with me with the depth of easy connection I’ve had with my very best girlfriends— those with whom I could share anything and relate so well. We just understood each other.
But that comparison, however unconscious, was unfair—both to him, and to myself.
Because it left me always disappointed in him. The truth was, he simply couldn’t see through my eyes the way my girls could.
Why? Was it a flaw in him? Actually, no. Men are simply wired quite differently than women. Whether it's because of biological brain differences or because of their male-culture upbringing (which also actually physically shapes their brains).
Thinking our partner should be more like us— or more like our closest girlfriends— is often where the crack in our love starts. Trying to impose our feminine culture on our man’s masculine one will only deepen that crack.
Learning to love and appreciate our differences for real is the only way to true emotional intimacy.
So, in an effort for you to feel more compassion (which connects!) here are 3 must-know reasons most men fail to meet our emotional connection standards (these are generalizations as we are all uniques, of course):
1) Male brains are not oriented as completely around connection as yours. Women pick up sadness in the face of another 90% of the time, whereas men only 40%.
Women are much more subtly attuned to emotional nuance. From birth, we’re oriented towards connection and caring. We read each others faces like experts from babyhood on. Women are amazing at emotional mirroring. At registering what others feel. Empathy. Especially as an HSP.
You might even know what he wants or needs before he does.
Him? Not so much. Men don’t pick up on nuances of facial expression, or take subtle hints you drop through words or comments as well as women do (especially an HS woman). Because of this brain difference men don’t “get you” quite as easily as your women friends do. So you sometimes you may need a loudspeaker to get across to him!
It’s not a sign he isn’t loving you, or feeling close to you. And it doesn’t mean you can’t feel closer to him, either.
2) Men aren't as good as women at knowing how we feel and expressing it. Women have extensive and incredibly active connectivity between the parts of the brain that deal with emotion. Think super highway.
For men, think a small country road of connectivity. Women use both sides of the brain to respond to emotional experiences, whereas men only use one side. This means you remember emotional events way more thoroughly and for longer than men. And you enjoy connecting with and expressing your thoughts about your emotions. When he doesn’t remember emotional events, or want to discuss his feelings, it’s not a sign of his lack of love for you or sense of feeling close to you.He just can’t go there easily. Its not a defect. It’s just, again, a brain difference.
3) Men are not able to “be there” for women the same way a women can be there for another person. Women are wired to respond to other’s despair, men are much less so. Most men’s brains are not as oriented around empathy and “being with” another during rough times, and they take longer in processing nuance and emotional meaning.
In fact, it’s can be uncomfortable—even painful— for his brain to sit with us while we feel sad or upset. They start to feel helpless and powerless, impatient, confused, and frustrated, since they cannot understand what’s really going on for you. Often they just want to fix it and tell us quickly “it’s okay, it’s okay” to make it go away. They just want you both to feel better fast.
Though you may wish it weren’t so, it’s better not to fight reality. You can’t fit a square peg into a round whole. But this doesn’t mean you cannot feel deep loving connection with him! You can learn to appreciate —even adore— what sets you apart and allow it to bring you closer.
The mystery and allure of what’s different about him is part of what attracted you to him anyway, right? Differences help keep some of that magical mystery alive, if you let them.
Maybe this is a good start at feeling more at ease with your different ways of relating, but you still want more closeness! Why of course you do -- you're a woman!
Here’s the good news: men, like all of us humans, have a great capacity for change and growth. You CAN guide him towards the kind of connection you like. He truly can get good at intimate connection to a satisfying degree if you lead the way…and if you are open to it showing up in ways you least expect it.
My clients and I have witnessed miracles in our men, with our loving leadership! It starts with accepting him as he is.
Next week we’ll talk about some ways you can encourage deeper connection with your man.
For now, it's important to know what close intimate connection looks like to YOU. Share your answer in the comments below.