Are we one human race or billions of separate individuals? Both are correct, but the difference hints at our need to connect; to couple up, to form families, groups, communities, associations, committees, etc. to challenge our singleness and to experience a greater wholeness by exploring connection in varying degrees. In love relationships, partners struggle to form an optimal connection, so that partners feel loved. Each partner defines what a good connection is as uniquely as his or her fingerprint. Not unusual is a struggle between partners about whose version of the connection will result and how to create it.
What is all this about connection?
In addition to being a collection of billions of individuals, we are also divided roughly in half into males and females. Each gender is distinct. The differences represent more than just physical differences, but deeper distinctions which determine the method with which a person attempts to create a connection. Women and men attempt to connect in different, almost opposite ways. This is most obvious when couples in long term relationships seek to repair a damaged connection.
Women build connection by opening up emotionally by sharing, spending time together, and especially through engaging in conversation. Within a love relationship, women desire to have intact an emotional connection before feeling comfortable engaging in sex. Men build connection through providing and by fulfilling a need. Within a love relationship, however, most men attempt to build a connection through engaging in sex. This basic difference in approaches by men and women, commonly place partners in a love relationship in which a kind of relational grid-lock is the outcome, with the couple’s sex life getting annihilated in the crossfire, resulting in the not-that-unusual, sexless marriage. Under these relationship circumstances, sex becomes the battleground upon which war is waged. The unfortunate partners are likely to be driven crazy by increasing frustration and decreasing satisfaction.
The very conflict gives testimony to the dramatic differences between men and women; a distinction so large that it almost prevents men and women from relating at all. If people were wheels, women would be wheels that rotate from right to left, and men would be the wheels that rotate from left to right. Opposite, but not better.
The bind that partners create grows increasingly tense as each partner follows her and his natural tendencies. The female attempts to talk more, share her feelings and invite to spend time together, while the male partner attempts to initiate sexual encounters. The female grows frustrated by her man’s sexual attempts when she does not feel internally prepared to be sexual and the male grows frustrated by talking about problems, in which he may feel criticized without the sexual confirmation of his female partner’s love.
The approach each gender takes to re-establish a healthy connection will seem to the other, the opposite prescription to what ails the relationship, and therefore, incorrect. Because of the great differences between men and women, each has a tendency to view the other, and the other’s methods as simple, inadequate and childish. Yet both methods are adequate and valuable as a portion of what is required to restore the relationship connection. It is just a battle over which method will be used first. Because spending time together, and opening emotionally through sharing, and engaging in conversation are important as is an active and passionate sex life. Neither method is poor. Both are effective. Once partners break through the grid lock to affirm the other’s method of connection-building, reconstructing a deep and abiding relationship connection becomes easy. A renewed love connection may have some of the sweetness that excited partners after they first met. Andrew Aaron is a sex therapist and marriage counselor who practices in New Bedford Seaport.