Men, Finding Intimacy With Your Female Partner Takes More Than Flowers
Before I became a therapist, I was already teaching men how to be close and find intimacy with their female partners. When I was in high school, I talked to the football players about not just getting their girlfriends roses for Valentine’s Day by default. For the record, I wasn’t so cool (more nerd-adjacent), but while these guys intimidated me, I knew they were smarter, better, and more capable of being active in their relationships. So I encouraged them to ask their girlfriends what they needed and wanted in order to get to know them more. I asked, “What flower does she like and why? What do you like about her? What do you talk about together?” It was like running a group therapy session in science class.
Years later, I still help my male patients connect with their female partners in therapy. In this day and age, it’s not about flowers or sweeping a woman off her feet in a grand way. Instead, it’s meaningful for men to be present and curious. By doing this, they also feel closer to their wife, girlfriend, or female partner too.
Intimacy Is Complicated: It Has To Be Continually Built
Men don’t often get the opportunity to talk about closeness or the work that it takes. Adults in general can easily forget how hard we have to work to connect in our relationships, and adults easily assume that intimacy is a self-running machine.
However, intimacy and closeness must be built. And this changes over the course of the relationship. Intimacy that worked at one time for a couple may not work in another time of their lives. Intimacy isn’t scripted, and it isn’t a given just because you spend time with someone.
How Can Men Build Intimacy And Closeness With Women?: Ask Curious And Deeper Questions
How can men build intimacy with their female partners? Ask questions that are curious and thoughtful. It’s not about asking any question, but deeper questions such as: How are you really feeling? How did that event from your childhood with you, Mom and Dad make you feel? What do you actually need, logistically and emotionally? What do you want or need in your life to produce more physical closeness or sexual expression? These questions, when asked in an emotionally connected manner, are offers that say: “I want to know more” or “I bet there’s more to know.”
I tell my male patients that it’s okay if they don’t know how to start asking questions of their female partners. Sometimes it’s as easy as naming what they might not know or might never have slowed down to ask. For instance, a husband might know where he and his wife go for fun and do in the family system, but he may not necessarily stop to ask exactly what he or his wife thinks about it, wants, needs, or what/if that makes her or him happy. He can start by simply asking her what she wants, and letting her disrupt (in the best way) what their patterns have been. Asking curious, loving and even pushy questions shows female partners that they want to learn, and that she is an important co-leader in this relationship.
It Can Be Vulnerable To Admit You Don’t Know, Especially For Men
I should note that asking questions can be an admission of not knowing certain things about your partner or yourself, and this can be tough, especially for men. Men have to admit: “I don’t know the answer,” “I don’t feel as close to you,” or “I want to be closer, but I don’t know how,” which is quite a vulnerable position. Being emotional, and being allowed to be emotional is vulnerable. Men are not often encouraged to cry, share anger, be curious, or allow themselves to just not know. It can be lonely and isolating to go about assuming “knowing” how to relate to a partner or working with a certain script.
A lot of my therapy with male patients on getting closer to their female partners relates to breaking down how men have historically been taught to relate and discovering new ways. I especially encourage men to tap into their vulnerabilities. In high school, I wiped away all the social b.s. to see the football players at my lab table as simply guys I was curious about. Similarly in the therapy room, I ask men questions and hold them accountable in their relationships. By asking questions, I help them build a tolerance for that vulnerability. Then, a man can feel encouraged to move toward the woman in his life and her complexities with that same familiar sense of vulnerability.
Listening And Seeing Women Is Powerful In Your Relationship And In the Culture At Large
More than just admitting that there is more to discover, men also have to find new ways to listen to their female partners. Men need to be prepared, when asking questions, to listen, hear, and take in her answer. It is a gift to find out what another person is thinking, or where they are at or want to be. Men also have to be open to how listening to and understanding a female partner’s needs might deconstruct, change, or disrupt parts of their relationship.
For example, it’s essential to be really curious and listen to what a female partner’s sexual desires are, rather than just assuming what they want. Sometimes men don’t slow down to ask their partners at a time when they can just talk about sex and physical closeness. Maybe what she wants has changed (which it likely has in a long-term relationship). Or if it’s a new relationship, listen, watch, and let her direct in order to make a physical relationship fuller.
Truly seeing and listening to women leads to better relationships. But, men finding new ways of being curious about their female partners is also significant culturally and politically. The #MeToo movement opened up a conversation around listening to women, and now it’s important to expand that into personal lives and relationships, allowing women to have a just as big (if not bigger) role in a romantic relationship. It is powerful for men to step to the side, admit they don’t know, and let their female partner take up space. Then, together, the couple can build on what they have learned.