6 Min Read
- How Intimacy Is Different In Men And Women
- What Typical Men’s Intimacy Issues Look Like
- Can Men’s Intimacy Issues Be Fixed?
- What To Take Away
I routinely hear in my counseling with female partners the complaint – “He has intimacy issues.” While intimacy issues in men can be a bit of a stereotype, it’s true that this topic can be a problem and a source of conflict for a lot of couples.
Intimacy brings with it a number of complicating and confusing layers, and this article will explore them. These layers include how –
- People define intimacy differently, especially most men from most women.
- Intimacy expectations often go unspoken and talking about them is usually conflict triggering for partners.
- We all need intimacy, and most of us will admit we want it too, although nearly all of us don’t fully understand in all the different ways we need it.
This leads many female partners to ask about men’s intimacy issues in a desire to better understand why their guy can’t or won’t be intimate with them in the ways they want and need.
How Intimacy Is Different In Men And Women
Unfortunately, intimacy is a very misused and misunderstood word.
When most men use the word intimacy, they mean sex. While women can mean sex too when they use the word, they often also mean much more. Typically, most women mean an emotional connection when they use it.
So, when male and female partners say, “We have intimacy issues,” they usually mean very different things.
- He means we don’t have enough sex.
- She means we don’t have any (or enough of an) emotional connection.
The official meaning of intimacy is – familiarity or closeness.
Ironically, none of the dictionary definitions mention anything about sex.
Obviously, sex is the closest we can get physically with another person. But there’s more to intimacy than physical, because we can be close to someone in other ways too.
There are actually 4 commonly recognized forms of intimacy –
- Intellectual (Mental)
Sadly, most people don’t think of intimacy in such a broad way.
Here’s an example of how confusing and misused the term can become.
Married for 6 yrs. now (10 yrs together) and the last 3-6 years have been a battle, we have intimacy issues that haven't gotten any better even though he has promised numerous times that he will try to open up more and try to be more romantic and loving. I understand we have different sex drives and I stopped asking for sex, but this time I’ve really had it. I wanted the honest truth about why he doesn't want to be intimate with me even though I am here and more than willing. He says that honestly he isn't attracted to me anymore. I am constantly rejected by my husband night after night because he's ‘too tired’ or has to be up early the next day really takes a toll on a person especially when all I want is to be close to him. He works very hard to support our family and I don't want to come off as being ungrateful for all the things he does for us. I just don't know what I should do with this now that I know the truth. Am I lost for hope? I’ve read that it’s common for men to have intimacy issues. Is that his problem? Should we just call it quits and find happiness else where even if it's being alone?” -LoveLost
Notice that at first LoveLost describes their intimacy issues as being due to her husband not opening up to her?
That sounds like she’s looking for more emotional and mental intimacy with him.
Then she goes on to describe the lack of sex in their marriage, including his loss of attraction to her.
When you use the word intimacy, what are you usually referring to?
What Typical Men’s Intimacy Issues Look Like
Ask most men how they feel and you’re most likely to get - “I don’t know” or “Nothing.”
As I described above, the common conflict over intimacy in relationships focuses on 2 main areas – sexual and emotional.
Intimacy issues in men isn’t a real problem from most men’s perspective – it’s a problem from their female partner’s perspective.
Partners will say their man has intimacy issues because he does some of the following –
- Never says how he feels
- Has no awareness of, concern for, or sensitivity to how she feels
- When she tells him how she’s feeling she gets no response (not even an “uh-huh”)
- As a couple they never talk about anything deep or really open up to each other
- Intimacy for him only focuses on sex, no other aspects
This results in many female partners not feeling connected or even loved, while their male partners can feel everything is just fine.
Notice the description LoveLost above gave above. She wants him to “try to open up more.”
The irony about intimacy in romantic relationships centering primarily around either sex or emotions is each of these are very interconnected.
- If women don’t have emotional intimacy they’re going to be much less interested in sexual intimacy.
- This isn’t typically true for men – although there’s more of a connection to emotions and sex in men than most of them realize.
- However, when guys neglect building emotional intimacy with their female partner they usually don’t get the sexual intimacy they want.
Pay attention guys – this is a really important connection for you to understand.
Can Men’s Intimacy Issues Be Fixed?
Yes, they can.
Is it really possible to have emotional intimacy with a man?
Yes, it is, but it requires his building emotional intelligence (EQ as opposed to IQ). I teach men how to do this every day (I’ve had to learn it myself).
Many partners won’t believe me that it’s possible, I’m sure. And here’s a common example of why.
I have discussed this problem with my husband so many times that I have given up. He is 62 and I am 56 and this has been going on now for 20 years. I have often thought that it was a condition of men’s intimacy issues. But he just does not want to be close to anyone. Oh he does not want to be alone, but he sure does not want anyone to be close. The emotional ties and the trust are not there anymore. I have a roommate. I am not alone, but have a partner that is not in any way plugged into me. At my age, I don't see any way for me to restart in life. It is what it is and it makes me sick. I don't think I will ever subject myself again to open my heart to another man as a partner. It sucks and the men just don't get it.” -Heidi
Heidi hasn’t been able to break through the wall her emotionally unavailable husband hides behind. I know how hard it is to get through, believe me, I have to break through these walls daily myself with the men I counsel.
So, what’s emotional intelligence?
It’s the ability to recognize, verbalize, and manage your emotions and feelings.
Sounds simple, huh?
This is typically be easier for women as a whole than it is for men. Yet any of us can struggle doing this effectively at times.
The most important thing to know is that it’s a learned skill and one that must be regularly practiced. And any man who lacks it can learn it.
In practice emotional intelligence means –
- Recognizing our emotions, like that we’re feeling frustrated.
- Telling our partner how we feel and why (what LoveLost described as, “open up more”).
- Paying attention to our partner’s feelings and saying something (‘You look down. How are you feeling?')
It’s really not that difficult.
It just requires being intentional, caring, and willing to talk about something that could be a bit uncomfortable. However, like anything, the more you talk about feelings the easier it gets.
What To Take Away
Intimacy issues are extremely common in relationships. In fact, next to communication problems it’s the most common complaint of partners I hear.
While it’s true that a lot of men have intimacy issues, it’s also true that their female partners contribute to the problem by not being clear about how and when they use the word intimacy.
To reduce these challenges please keep the following in mind –
- Men and women usually mean different things when they use the term intimacy.
- There are 4 forms of intimacy – physical, emotional, intellectual, and spiritual.
- In the same sentence someone can be describing intimacy as emotional as well as physical (see the comment by LoveLost above).
- Intimacy issues in men are common as most guys struggle to communicate their feelings and build emotional connections with others, even their partner.
- Building emotional intelligence (EQ) is accomplished by learning a set of skills regarding emotions and feelings.
Intimacy issues in men may be a cliché, but it’s also definitely true that issues with intimacy are one of the most common problem areas in relationships.
How have you seen intimacy issues in your man? Please share with other readers what that’s looked like and get their feedback.
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