I remember a comedian talking about his relationship with his wife and trying to navigate the complexities of a woman, and how often we get, what we as men think, are “mixed signals.” It was funny because I think many men have scratched their head in total confusion about what exactly women want - They say they want affection, and we’re all over that but when we do, they don’t seem to appreciate our affection! What's a guy supposed to do?
Here's the secret! The price of admission is worth the next few words. Are ya ready? Men and women are really quite different! Ta da! Powerful stuff eh? I know it’s obvious but what women generally mean when they talk about affection is very different than us husbands. 700 couples across the United States were surveyed for the book “The 5 Sex Needs of Men and Women”* and almost 60% of the women surveyed ranked non-sexual touch as a top sex need!* When women are looking for affection, we guys often translate to sexual intimacy, jump in with both feet only to find our attempts at being affectionate rejected. We all know how that works out - we are confused, feel a little rejected, “all horned up and no place to go!” except for maybe a night on the couch.
Psychologists explain that 80% of a woman's need for meaningful touch is non-sexual*. They report a high percentage of women prefer a hug, a kiss, holding hands and any other non-sexual kind of touch - physical signs that they are special.
We need to remember that all touch is not the same. A back rub, a hug, a neck massage is a huge part of intimacy for women but not necessarily as a precursor to sex! This kind of loving affection may have accents of sexuality around it, but the goal is the affection. On the other hand, foreplay, an intimate form of touch is very different because it is, in fact, a precursor to sex. We fellas need to remember that not all affectionate touch is foreplay.
So what’s the big deal? A lot actually and has a lot to do with the ways we are wired and some of the traditional roles of men and women. While roles are changing, in general, a woman feels like she is constantly serving other people - meeting their needs often at the expense of her own. A busy day at work, the responsibilities of a home, children, church and us husbands leave them feeling drained at the end of the day. When you become aware of some of the needs your wife has, particularly the kind of affection she needs, you can become a blessing, a breath of fresh air that ministers to her weariness and helps her to unwind from the pressures of the day and relax.
If you greet her and she feels like she immediately needs to play defense you become just another something she "has to do,” another need she has to meet and without intending to do so, you inhibit deeper intimacy. The truth is, stressed and driven your wife is actually going to be less interested sexually. Let’s face it - if making love to us is a "have to" - a drain on her - this will naturally inhibit the depth of intimacy and the richness of healthy sexual intercourse.
So tenderness (not with an ulterior motive) helps to refresh your wife and create a safe refuge for her in the context of her life and just as importantly within your relationship. This inherently creates a sense of security in the relationship which creates healthier vulnerability and in the end a more satisfying sense of intimacy between the two of you. Yes, the benefits of this is not only a healthier more vibrant marriage but also a better experience between the sheets!
I have also learned along the same lines if I can find special ways to serve my wife this helps her feel valued too. Just being aware of her to-do list and without being asked, take care of a couple of those things. Make dinner, get the kids ready for bed or just being present and genuinely listen to your wife and give her genuine feedback that you are listening (don’t feel like you need to fix it - what is important is you are present and listening). Have fun together, look to laugh together and make times for enjoyable activities; a walk, a dinner out, etc.. Hold hands at the kids sporting events. Look for ways to demonstrate just how much you love her with the everyday kind of things. These things refresh your wife and provides a sense of closeness and to experience genuine care from you!
Your marriage is a key relationship in your life. If your marriage isn’t healthy, it inhibits the parenting / family relationships, and it can inhibit our work performance too. We need to jettison the quid pro quo ideas of a marriage and apply the sound principle of healthy love where for love's sake we serve the other. This moves us into a maturing love, a love where we lay our lives down for the other. It is how the Apostle Paul said we are to love our wives as Christ loves the Church - He laid down His life for her. We do this as we deliberately tend to our wife and our relationship, by cultivating marriages of genuine love and intimacy.
So now ya know! “Come ‘ere, Come ‘ere, Come ‘ere. Go ‘way, Go ‘way, Go ‘way” can be avoided with a little insight into your wife's need for tenderness and intimacy. Now go practice and love your wife well!
- Men and women are different.
- Touch is not all the same - there is a difference between affectionate touch and foreplay.
- 80% of women's need for meaningful touch is nonsexual.
- Look for ways to serve your wife.
- Cultivate your relationship to be a refuge for your wife. Security and vulnerability.
Suggestions of How to Meet your Wife's Needs for Affection:
- Be deliberate to greet her when you see her - after work etc. A warm hello, a hug, and a kiss can be a good start!
- A gentle touch when you talk with her. This says: " I hear you, you are not alone."
- Date Night - this doesn’t have to be dinner and a movie but a regular time alone to be together, to talk, to dream together, to laugh without multi-tasking! This demonstrates that you enjoy the intimacy of being alone with her too! Oh yah - turn off the Cel phone!
- Hold her hand especially in public.
- Allow her to share how her day was, what she is thinking about and her thoughts about your relationship. Not everything she says she wants you to fix. Often she just wants to be heard.
- Not all of her concerns about the relationship or the family are an attack on you personally. Allow her the space to share what’s on her heart. In general, women will talk about their marriage (even the tough stuff) if they feel it is working. We as guys tend to think the opposite - we only talk about it if it isn’t working!*
- Being aware of your wife's emotions is key and can help you discern what issues are important. Her being angry or frustrated can give you an idea of the degree to which an issue has significance to her.
- Get a Translator - Sometimes we need some help to learn to understand our spouse. To be able to hear more clearly what they are saying and what they actually need from us. Sometimes even the healthiest of marriages need some help, and it may be worth spending some time with a competent trained professional to help you through! Don’t be afraid to get help!
* - 6 Ways to Meet Your Wife's Need for Affection. Wednesday, 26 October 2011 08:37 Dr. Gary and Barbara Rosberg from JaxChristian.com