I've been doing a lot of research lately about relationships and trying to read a lot of male bloggers, because I really do enjoy hearing what they have to say about love, about sex, about making relationships work, about breaking up and about the reasons why their past relationships have failed.
Fascinating stuff, all of it.
And the one thing I'm seeing over and over again is men talking about sex but using the word intimacy. "Our marriage lacked intimacy," some of them say - "and when I tried to initiate it, she turned me down and told me she was tired or there was too much she had to do or the kids were in the next room..." Over and over I read blogs about men who felt devalued as men, as partners, because they were denied intimacy, in the form of sex.
But I didn't hear a lot of them talk about anywhere else they had established intimacy within their relationships. In fact, it seems like to a lot of them intimacy is sex, and only sex. And when their partner isn't interested in sex, they feel an emotional blow along with the ache of unsatisfied urges.
And then they try to explain it away. Women don't want sex as much as men. She's never had a high sex drive, and I do. She's withholding just to punish me.
Maybe. I don't know your girl, after all. Unfortunately, item three may be true with some immature and manipulative women, item two may be true of some women for a variety of reasons, and item one I will call complete bullshit on.
Because I know how it is for me. I know how it is for most of the women I know. We love sex. We want sex. And men, if you attract us, take proper precautions (if necessary), make us feel like you value us and the shared experience of sex, and if we have no physical or religious reason for discouraging you, we're more than happy to have sex.
But if you want a relationship with us, one that thrives and grows, you need to learn that intimacy is not sex.
Don't get me wrong, sex can be intimate. Very, very intimate. That intimacy alone makes a woman crave sex, even when it's not the best sex she's had. If we care about you, if we love you and want to feel close to you, we'll put up with occasional just-okay sex because it's just so damn nice being close to you, and knowing that we gave you pleasure.
And here's where things can start to break down, over time.
If a woman isn't getting intimacy in other ways in the relationship, then sex becomes (at best) something she's doing because she's starving for intimacy and she wants to make her partner happy or (at worst) a chore that she's doing to get him off her back about it.
And you'll notice I very pointedly didn't make a reference in that last sentence as to whether or not the woman reached any kind of fulfillment during that sex. Because it doesn't matter.
I'm going to write that again, in capital letters: IT DOESN'T MATTER TO US. Not if you're not cultivating intimacy anywhere else in your relationship. If she's feeling let down in the intimacy department, she's not feeling valued. If she's not feeling valued, your ministrations are only reinforcing that this is all that you value her for, and that will likely guarantee she won't see an orgasm, anyway.
As a man, I'm sure that's completely unthinkable to you. Why would you have sex if not to have an orgasm? And conversely, if you're giving your woman an orgasm during sex, you've fulfilled both your needs for intimacy, right?
Not so much.
Intimacy is a hundred little things that all add up to a person who takes time to be connected to someone (by more than the length of their penis, I mean).
Intimacy is when you come up behind her while she's cooking dinner and you slide your arms around her and rest your chin on her shoulder. Just because.
Intimacy is when your frightened eyes meet hers over the head of a feverish infant.
Intimacy is love notes in a lunchbox, or stuck to the bathroom mirror, or in a briefcase.
Intimacy is a glass of wine and some laughter shared on the front steps in the cool night air after the kids have finally gone down for the night.
Intimacy is an inside joke that pops into your head in the supermarket and you don't even have to do more than raise an eyebrow because she's thinking it, too. And smiling.
Intimacy is the way you always sit on the couch with your arms touching. Or you hold hands when you walk through the mall. Or you let her put her cold feet on you at night. Or she goes to football games with you even though she hates football just because she wants to be doing stuff with you.
Intimacy is when you've had a rotten day and gotten snappy with her, and you apologize and mean it.
Intimacy is when you kiss her long and lingeringly, and not only when you want sex.
And it's not all on you, you know. She should be furthering the intimacy in the relationship as well, because men need that stuff just as much as we do. They just don't always know how to ask for it. And when it's missing, they tend to try to replace it with sex, hoping that will work to pull things back together.
It doesn't, though. All the great sex in world won't bring you together if the intimacy has eroded out of the relationship. Or worse, if it never was really there to begin with.
If you want to get your woman into bed a lot more often, that road is paved with all those little things, on a regular basis. Find the moments to connect, find the ways to say "you're important to me" that resonate with her, find the time to give her your undivided attention, and not just in the bedroom.
And to get you on the right track, here's a great list of little things that couples do for each other that really foster intimacy.
Trust me when I tell you, guys - there is nothing sexier than a man who lets you know that you matter to him, in bed and out of it.