Emotional Connection: How to Rekindle Your Sex Life
What is the one thing we want and need most in relationships? If you said sex…you’re wrong.
According to Ph.D Sue Johnson, inventor of Emotionally Focused therapy, secure couples only attribute 15-20% of their happiness to pleasing sex. So for happy relationships, sex is a small but important part of a tasty and satisfying pie. But for those in unhappy relationships, a full 50-70% of their misery is attributed to sexual dissatisfaction. Where is the disconnect?
Since sex is important to feeling close, unsatisfied partners come to the faulty assumption that sex is the culprit. If they had more or better sex, then the relationship would also be better, so they reason. But what comes first- the relationship, or sex?
Recent studies have shown that people who have the highest sexual satisfaction and the most sex are married couples. This statistic defeats the commonly held notion that intimacy for couples must decrease with time, and that novel sexual encounters are the most satisfying.
The importance of emotional connection
In the context of a committed relationship, it is not novelty that determines satisfaction, but emotional connection.
The deeper you are able to connect with your partner emotionally, the more dynamic your sexual experience will be. The greater your emotional connection is with your partner, the more in tune you will be with their physical and sexual needs as well. Emotional connection requires the most sensitivity of any of our needs, so it is the most important connection to practice.
Emotional connection often fades in couples because it requires so much attention, and our lifestyles leave little room for it. Through our hectic work schedules and lives, we barely have enough time for our thoughts, let alone the feelings of our partners.
When we lose sensitivity to the emotional needs of our partners and ourselves, we tend to shut down physically and sexually also. Since emotions are the least known connection and the hardest to observe, we tend to place too much importance on sexuality and physicality in our problems.
For many people, decreased emotional connection is the root cause of their sexual problems. Sexual dissatisfaction is the canary in the coalmine, so to speak, and never a cause of relationship problems itself.
If you want to experience a deeper and richer sex life, try to re-establish a meaningful emotional connection with your partner.
What are emotions?
Because male culture has been so quick to dismiss feelings, many of us have entered into relationships with an emotional handicap that prevents deeper intimacy.
Because of an emotional disconnect, many women lose hope in themselves and their partners when all they need is an emotional breakthrough.
Males have come to take pride in how unaffected they are, and how they can overcome their emotions. Not crying has been viewed as a masculine trait, and not speaking about feelings has become standard for guys. But we all have emotions, even the toughest and hardest among us, and the more we repress them, the less able we are to connect with our partners and ourselves.
Emotion stems from the Latin root emovere, which means to move through or out. Emotions are what move you. Repressing emotions inhibits the flow of connection through you and out to other people.
If you are in tune with your feelings, you can choose the direction you are moved for a positive effect. If you have lost touch with your feelings, you can fall into negative patterns of ignoring your needs and reacting harshly.
Ignoring emotions and responding negatively
Take this example for instance. A man’s wife turns away from him as he attempts to kiss her before heading to work. Without sensitivity to his needs and feelings, he may experience anger and attack his partner or shut down completely to protect himself from hurt. That would be a negative response to feeling hurt, or scared that he would lose connection with his spouse.
Needing to be connected to your loved one is what drives the majority of feelings in a relationship, so it’s important to observe our feelings and see what needs they lead to. Rarely if ever is that need to attack someone or make them feel bad for what they do.
Connecting to emotions and responding positively
A man who is in touch with his emotions is a man who realizes their importance. Without sharing our emotions vulnerably in a relationship, there can be no meaningful connection. Each time you reveal your emotions and the needs behind them, you invite your partner to connect and to grow with you.
So for the man in our example, the emotionally attuned response would look something more like this:
“Honey, I feel hurt when you turn away from my kiss because I need to feel connected to you.”
“Babe, I feel hopeless when you turn away from my kiss because your kisses help me feel close to you. What are your needs right now?”
Instead of perceiving him as a pushy and aggressive guy, the wife will see his soft emotions and his desire to connect with her.
There are any numbers of positive emotional responses, but they all share commonalities. Positive emotional connections are centered around feelings, needs and requests. They let your partner know what is going inside of you and why, and it also gives insight into what they can do to increase connection with you.
The importance of empathy and vulnerability
It’s easier to respond positively to your emotions when you empathize with your partner. Empathizing is looking for the interests, needs and feelings behind your partner’s actions to understand them better.
For a man who looks to his wife with empathy, he will not automatically assume she is a bad guy for not going along with his bid for affection. A man who practices empathy will look deeper into the needs and feelings of his partner to see her as a human with needs.
In the first example, the man turns away from his own needs and feelings in order to protect himself. He has judged her as someone who hurts him. But in doing that, he is ignoring the needs of his partner as well and preventing a meaningful emotional connection; he is invulnerable.
Paradoxically, invulnerability is what hurts us the most, but it is always an attempt to protect our needs. So when your partner is showing invulnerability, know that they are hurting and needing to be close with you.
The man in the second example looks to his wife with empathy while being vulnerable about his feelings and needs. In doing so, he opens the door for greater connection and intimacy with his wife. His emotions “move through” him and towards his wife for a deep connection.
Maybe she was preoccupied with thoughts of her sick mother. Maybe she hadn’t healed from an emotional wound he didn’t even know had occurred. If you don’t stop to express your feelings and needs, you’ll never understand more about your partner’s.
The invulnerable man’s response will lead to more distance and lowered expectations for connection, which becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Think about how hard it would be to make a warm sexual connection when a relationship is defined by cycles of disconnect.
The vulnerable man displays emotional attentiveness and a desire to grow and understand. Not surprisingly, that man will be the one to get his needs met and to understand the feelings and needs behind his partners actions. Would it surprise you if the second couple went on the have a deeply passionate lovemaking session not long after their connection? Or for their love-making to grow in meaning and satisfaction with each emotional connection?
Having sex is making love when you are fully connected emotionally with your partner. That connection provides security and another dimension in which to explore and appreciate each other freely and creatively.
When couples make a habit of being sensitive to their emotional needs, they develop an appreciation and respect for each other than can only occur through growing together; through work.
Imagine the security you can have with a partner when you can ride emotional waves together and have faith in each other’s ability to be more connected after the ride is over. It’s exhilarating and happy, and it’s a far cry from the emotional repression that keeps us from giving our deepest selves in sexual encounters.
The difference lies in the work couples put towards connecting.
Thomas Alva Edison is quoted as saying, “It’s good hard work that does it”, and that applies to relationships too. Connecting emotionally is work in that it requires effort, but it can be the most rewarding work of your life if you make it a practice. Since emotional connection is the most important part of a relationship, it is worth working for.
Back to Sex
“In a secure relationship, excitement comes not from trying to resurrect the novel moments of infatuated passion, but from the risk involved in staying open in the moment-to-moment, here-and-now experience of physical and emotional connection. With this openness comes the sense that lovemaking is always a new adventure.” Sue Johnson
Sex is a living and breathing thing that you create with your partner, and it requires good food to perform well and serve it’s purpose. The emotional connections and exchanges you make with your partner end up being the food for this sexy beast.
The inputs required for the sexy beast are: vulnerability, emotional exchanges and connection with your spouse, security, confidence, playfulness, and hope. If you can create those inputs in your day-to-day life with your spouse, you’ll have done all you need to experience the highest levels of sexual satisfaction imaginable.
But after you’ve done the work to create sexual fuel, you’ll realize that the connection you make in the process is infinitely more important than the act of sex itself. With that revelation comes a new sense of sexual freedom because the pressure that once defined sex is now gone.
If you want to experience mind-blowing sex and intimate connection with your spouse, here are 5 things you can practice:
1-Empathize with your partner
Seeing your wife as a vulnerable person who is responding from emotions created by needs, she will be warm to your eyes no matter what words or tone of voices she uses. If you can see that she only wants to connect with you, as you do with her, then you create an even foundation for an emotional connection.
2-Express your feelings and needs, then request what you need.
If you don’t take the time to examine the feelings behind your reactions, you can’t possibly know what your needs are. And if you don’t know what your needs are, you will never get what you want. So connect with your emotions and see the needs that create them.
Once you know how you feel and what you need, you can guide your partner closer to you through vulnerability. When we don’t know our feelings and needs, we become scared and that is when we attack. When that happens, we create cycles that diminish connection and interrupt our sex lives.
So express yourself in ways that draw attention to your feelings and needs without criticizing or attacking your partner. Invite connection through your emotions.
“I feel ____ when this happens because I need ____ with you. Can you talk about how you are feeling?” Attacking someone is a superficial way to show our feelings that exacerbate the tension we feel.
3- Practice forgiveness
Becoming acquainted with your feelings and needs will give you the opportunity to see how your partner has hurt you and how you have hurt them. Because our primary need in relationship is to be connected, the biggest wounds we harbor are those where we have felt abandoned, cut-off, and unimportant to our partners.
Being able to empathize with those hurts and understand the feelings and needs behind them will help you to heal old wounds and create a new level of vulnerability and intimacy with your partner.
When your partner opens up and expresses the wounds, let them know how you understand the way your actions made them feel; empathize. Once they know you are connected to their needs, forgiveness happens. When you forgive each other, you build a new level of trust and security that invites intimacy.
4- Practice non-sexual touching
Physical connection (touching) is another primary need in relationships. Touching is another way to show that we are cared for, and it opens the door for emotional connection.
Think of the last hug where you felt truly connected with another person. You can’t beat that feeling because the unspoken message is this: I’m here for you and I care.
If you’ve noticed a decline in sexual satisfaction, practice being present to your partner with hugs, handholding, foot rubs, making deep eye-contact, massages and other affectionate touches throughout the day. Get playful, wrestle, play grab-ass, and be spontaneous with your touch.
Practice “Push Hands” together. Push hands is part of the internal martial arts known as Tai Chi, where sensitivity and receptivity is built. In push hands you focus on channeling energy to and from your partner in perfect harmony, and it can be highly erotic if you want it to be.
5- Take a break from sex
Dr. Sue Johnson recommends a 2-3 week sexual fast for couples who want to increase intimacy and connection. If sexual pressure is a cause of decreased connection, then making a mutual agreement to abstain from sex will release the pressure and invite connection.
If you choose a similar strategy, focus on spending time together and getting to know more about the ways you each like to be touched. You’ll be surprised at what you learn, and when you resume having sex, you’ll have heightened sensitivity to your partner’s physical and emotional needs.
6- Take a break from porn*
*Bonus tip! I like to surprise my audience.
Since sexual satisfaction and emotional connection are intrinsic, it’s important to practice emotional connection in all walks of life.
Pornography conditions men to view woman as separate from emotions, feelings and inner truth (and vise-versa). Porn use has been linked to erectile dysfunction, and has been proven to alter a man’s perception in ways that make his partner seem less attractive. This occurs through overstimulation of the senses and under-stimulation of innermost needs.
I don’t know about you guys, but I would never want to do anything that compromises the beauty I see in my wife. Women need to feel cherished to open up emotionally and share the gift of intimacy with their partners. Of all the couples and wives I’ve spoken with, every one of them felt hurt or betrayed by a husband’s porn usage.
If you want to experience a more profound emotional connection and more erotic sexual life with your partner, quit porn. When you feel the urge to watch it, try writing love letters to your spouse (or future spouse). Talk about how important their connection is with you and what you’re doing to relate better with him or her.
Pick up a book. Scientific studies have proven that reading literary fiction increases empathy*.
Your ability to relate with your partner is contingent on you being able to relate with him or her on deeper emotional levels. Watching porn works against that goal and inhibits your ability to establish deep and meaningful emotional connection.
If you practice emotional bonding with your partner, you will increase every aspect of your relationship to include your sex life. Do you have any tips for building strong emotional and sexual connections? Please share them in the comment section below.