The Difference between Sexual and Emotional Intimacy for Women
When it comes to sex, women and men truly do seem to inhabit different planets. Women tend to have a very strong emotional connection to sex that men simply aren't saddled with, explains Cheryl Pappas, Ph.D., a psychotherapist and social commentator.
Men just do not have the need to be as connected emotionally to a partner as a woman does when having sex, she says.
"For men, it just doesn't come in their package," Pappas says. "For women, our body is not acting on demand just because we give it a mental order. We can't just say, my husband is wanting for me to be sexual now. I have a resentment from an argument that we just had but I am going to connect the idea of having sex with a willingness in my body."
As Pappas says, "A woman's body is not just going to open up because she is mentally demanding it to."
Women and men's widely differing thought processes when it comes to sex have a lot to do with innate biological drive, says Lauren Mackler, B.S., Masters in Organizational Development, and author of SoleMate: Master the Art of Aloneness & Transform Your Life.
"It's a generalization, but men are hardwired to spill their seeds and to procreate, and women are more about nesting," she says. "Men are better at compartmentalizing. They have less of a need for an emotional connection than women do."
Thus, when a woman is feeling angry, resentful or unloved, she just can't be in the mood for sex the way a man can.
That's not to say sex isn't important to a woman, Pappas says. "It's just that sexuality is extremely personal to women, and they are not created psychologically or biologically to respond sexually when there's a disturbance in the relationship," she explains.
While men and women may be hard wired to experience the mind-body sexual connection in ways that aren't consistent, women also tend to use sex for power in the way that men use money for power, Pappas says.
"Women hold the cards for sex in general," she says. "It's a card that a woman will use for power if she is not liking what's going on or if she is resentful or angry. When this happens, a woman will simply cut the partner off."
A passive-aggressive approach to dealing with feelings of anger by withholding sex is common among women, Pappas says. "When a woman is feeling emotionally disconnected to her partner, her sex drive is not there," she explains. "This isn't a bad thing. It's simply a fact."
How to Connect
Here's how to connect with your partner so you're both on the same page when it comes to sex:
● Clear the air between you, says Karol Ward, LCSW, author of Find Your Inner Voice: Using Instinct and Intuition through the Body-Mind Connection. It's hard to be sexually intimate with someone if you're holding on to hurt feelings, she explains, because holding back makes it hard to let go sexually. "The hurt has to lift for a woman to feel like she wants to open up for sex, so it's important to talk it out as a couple," Ward says.
● Be clear to your partner that sexual intimacy isn't the same thing as emotional intimacy, Ward says. You may want to remind your partner that when you are sharing something that's emotionally intimate or when you are simply expressing affection, it does not necessarily mean you want to have sex. "But don't reprimand him for mixing up his signals," Ward advises. "Make it a conversation, but tell him gently."
● Keep in mind that the more a woman has her needs met in the moment and when she is not pressured for sex, the more likely it is that the couple will have a good sex life, Ward says. "Connect with each other on a regular basis," she says. "Ask how the other one's day is going and don't discuss the kids. When you feel emotionally connected, you may feel closer and then want to connect sexually."
● Realize that making a woman feel loved and cherished outside the sexual arena is a far better strategy than buying her flowers or candy, says fidelity expert Danine Manette. "Women may be more turned on by a husband who's helping out than by one who buys flowers," she says. "When the man says he'll take care of the kids and when he recognizes her daily struggle, she may become more interested in having sex. So it is important for the man to help her with the load she has to carry."
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