Episode 188 – Emotional Connection vs Physical Connection


I often hear the same things from my clients. The women say, “I have to feel an emotional connection in order to want the physical connection.” And the men say, “I need that physical connection in order to feel emotionally connected.” And that’s where the difficulty lies. But what if I were to tell you that you don’t actually NEED that for the connection? Listen to find out what you truly do need to connect with your spouse.


Show Notes:

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Show Summary:

How many times have you said “I need emotional connection before I can connect physically” and your husband has said “I need physical connection before I can connect emotionally?”  Or what about “his love language is physical touch and mine is not.  So if I’m not giving him sex, he says he doesn’t feel desired or loved.”  I had a client just today tell me that anytime there is an emotional connection he wants a sexual one too.  And if there is not, then he takes it as a rejection.  So if that feels like your relationship, listen up, because this podcast is for you.

So why do women feel like they need to have an emotional connection before they can engage physically?  Well, it started out as biological.  Because women are the ones that have to carry, nurse, and be the primary caregiver for a child if she conceives during a sexual encounter, the brain is automatically choosier when it comes to sex.  On a subconscious level, the brain is evaluating if you can trust this man to be with you and care for you and the child for the next 18+ years.  As women, we need to feel fundamentally safe and secure in our relationship in order to engage sexually.  At a more conscious level, we want to know that we are desired (for more than just sex), and we want to feel seen, heard, and known.

I was recently talking to another client and she said that she and her husband had started a gratitude practice.  That they would write down things during the week that they were grateful for in their spouse and then on Sundays, share that with each other.  When her husband shared his list, everything on it was things that he had been asking her to do for him, and nothing about who she actually is.

In a Facebook group I was in, there was a post from a woman who said that her husband can only see and express her value in ways that it benefits or relates to him.  For example, “you like to try new food with me” and “you like to go on adventures with me.”  Nothing that actually says anything about who she actually is on her own.

As women, we want to be seen for who we are.  All of us.  Not just one part of us.  Not just who we are sexually.  Not just who we are in relation to our spouse or our children, but as a whole person.  This is fundamental to being able to engage sexually.  Dr. David Schnarch says that we want to belong to ourselves as much as we want to belong to another individual.  That in order to be sexual, we need to be free to be our own person.  Freedom is essential in sexuality.

This is one of the reasons why women have such a hard time engaging sexually when they are in caretaker mode.  They are not being their own person.  They are being what the other person needs them to be.

When a woman feels emotionally connected, she feels seen and heard and known for who she truly is.  Not just as a wife.  Not just as a mother.  Not just as a sexual partner.  But she feels seen as a person.  A woman.  An individual.  This is so important.

But, if you have listened to me at all, you know that I am all about a person meeting their own needs.  So ladies, you think you NEED emotional connection before sex….here’s where I am going to tell you that this is YOUR job, not your husbands.  Here’s what I mean.

When your husband sits down and has a conversation with you and you are feeling that connection and that intimacy, what is going on in your brain?  What are you thinking?

  • He loves me
  • He understands me
  • He gets me
  • He sees me

It’s not actually about the conversation that he is having with you.  It’s about the dialogue that is playing in your head that is making you feel connected.  Because what is running through your head when he wants to engage physically before emotionally?

  • He just wants sex
  • He doesn’t actually care about me
  • He doesn’t understand what I want and need

What do those kinds of thoughts create for you?  Not connection!  Not intimacy! What I want to emphasize with you is that you can have the connecting thoughts, you can feel the connection and intimacy, even if you don’t have the conversation, just by choosing to think connecting thoughts anytime.  Even without the conversation.

Now, I get that when we have these emotionally connecting conversations it’s easier to think connecting thoughts.  But you really can do it anytime.  It’s a skill and it takes practice.

When I talk about this with clients, sometimes they will say things like “ok, but what if he actually doesn’t feel that way?  What if he actually does just want sex?” And my response is always…how do you know?  You make up stories that he is thinking a certain way, and he could even tell you what he’s thinking, but we never really know.  So you can choose to think the best about him, which makes you feel more connected to him or you can choose to think things that don’t connect you.  You get to choose and it doesn’t actually matter what he is thinking.  

Now let’s flip this around.  

Guys, you often say you need physical intimacy before you can connect emotionally.  So if you have sex what are you thinking?

  • She loves me
  • She desires me
  • She gets me
  • She sees me
  • She knows me

This helps you to feel safe and open up emotionally.  But again, it’s not about the sex, it’s about what you are allowing your brain to think and focus on.  Because how many times have you had sex and still not felt connected?  When you’re thinking thoughts like

  • She’s not really into this
  • She’s just going through the motions
  • She’s checking off a box on her to-do list

That is why sex is so unsatisfying a lot of the time.  Because if she really isn’t into it and is really just doing it to get you off her back, you are reading that.  So it’s not connecting the two of you in the way that you had hoped.

All of this is to say that it’s actually not about the conversation or the sex.  It’s how you are choosing to think about yourself and your partner.  And are those thoughts creating more connection and intimacy or not?

Now this is my specialty.  This is something we work on a lot in coaching.  You have so much power in your lives when you learn how to use your brain in a way that creates the feelings you want.  It’s a superpower when you learn how to do it well.

You truly can feel close and connected to your spouse anytime you want to, just by the way you are choosing to think.

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