"He said," by Andre Moore:
The biggest secret about why men find vulnerability attractive, in the bedroom or otherwise, is this: We need women to inspire us to show our deeper feelings, so they can feel safer with us. But it's hard for men to be emotionally vulnerable even though, deep down, they want to be. Most men grow up believing that women expect them to:
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- Always show emotional control
- View work as a top priority
- Place a high value on the pursuit of status
Sometimes my wife teases me by telling me I'm "so gender-sensitive." Once, she even called me a metrosexual, I suspect to get a rise out of me. Well, it worked. I pulled the darling woman into my arms and reminded her that I'm an ex-paratrooper who rides a motorcycle—in addition to being a good couple's shrink. The point is that underneath her teasing, I sensed she really wanted me to remind her that she married a guy who's stronger than any of her ex-boyfriends.
And it's a myth to believe it's any easier for my wife, not when she's constantly being reminded that she should:
- Always act nice and be graceful
- Stay as thin and hot as a 20-year-old, even though she's in her early 40s
- Be modest
- Use all available cosmetic aids to enhance her appearance (but thank heaven she's avoided Botox!)
The greatest opportunity for men and women to express their vulnerabilities is when they're making love. But the bedroom is often a place where they hide their true feelings, like in this scene from HBO's Girls: Hannah in bed with Adam makes a half-hearted effort to make a deeper emotional connection with him but lapses into-role playing his sexual fantasy. "I knew when I found you on the street, you wanted it this way," Adam tells her. "But we didn't meet on the street," she answers laughing. "We met at a party." But as Adam thrusts into her she whispers, "Ah, ah ... my god, on the street. Yeah, the street."
What would have happened if Adam had shared the deeper feelings that drove his control fantasy? It may have gone differently if Hannah had told Adam what she was really feeling instead of zoning out. If one had taken the lead by showing real feelings, the other may have been inspired to follow. This is what therapists call modeling behavior.
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Instead of giving the couples I work with a list of do's and don'ts to keep in mind if they want to let down their guard in the bedroom, I encourage them to think smarter about sex. I tell them there are three possible kinds of sex: avoidant or sealed-off sex in which the lovers hide their true feelings (like Hannah and Adam's situation); solace sex, in which they only briefly express feelings they're afraid to show in the non-sexual aspects of their lives; and—the gold standard—synchrony sex, in which they celebrate their true feelings in pleasureful surges of testosterone, norepinephrine, and dopamine.