Why So Many Great Relationships Are Torn Apart By Sex

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couple kissing

There are several differences between men and women, which, if not understood and addressed can create confusion and conflict between couples.

One gender difference that is often overlooked and misunderstood is this dynamic: Typically, women desire connection and love in the relationship. And generally, men seek freedom (i.e. to be free of restraints and obligations of the relationship).

Understanding these and other differences is an important part of open communication and connection. 

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What do men and women seek — and how do they differ?

Generally, women thrive on a sense of connection with a partner, their children, friends, and family. Who they are with is important and valued. The female is the nurturer and takes on a sense of responsibility and accountability to the relationship.

Is it true ladies, that in an intimate relationship, your desire is for deep and trusting love? That you want to be able to relax with your partner in giving love and being loved? To feel valued and know you are special in his eyes and heart?

Typically men relate more to status — especially in their work.

They assume their partner relationship is working, just by the fact they are in it. However, many men feel overwhelmed and flooded by the obligations and responsibilities that they perceive as demands of the relationship, and the need to please their partner.

For us men, we struggle with deep and intimate love, it’s confusing, overwhelming, and downright scary. 

Out of fear and need for control, many men have learned to close off their hearts. They have a difficult time connecting with their partner on emotional and intimate levels.

Men avoid love and true connection in a relationship by way of having a “man cave,” being overly involved with work, their toys, sports, or hanging out with the guys. The need for freedom and space is also a way to process his feelings and frustrations about the relationship, and his way of trying to figure the relationship out. The freedom that many men seek is really the fear of love and intimacy, disguised as freedom.

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The view from the heart-centered side

Women tend to come more from their emotional and heart-centered side.

She wants her thoughts respected, but more importantly, she wants to be listened to and also have her feelings acknowledged and respected. This is a way she feels loved, supported and connected.

Men, on the other hand, mainly need their thoughts respected. Men come more from the logic side, so we're not that connected with feelings, necessarily. They want “to fix” when their women are hurting.

Most men take things literally. That’s why men often can’t read what women are thinking or feeling — because they are more literal in thinking. So when a woman says to a man, "Didn’t you realize what I needed?" The answer most often will be “No.” 

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Most men are 'out of touch' with emotions

Many men are not as intuitive or in touch with their emotions. Some of this is programming since early on in life, boys hear and learn: “Boys don’t cry,” or “Take it like a man.” Boys then learn that feelings and emotions are to be denied and avoided.

They learn through competitive sports, their occupation, and perhaps going to war that there’s no strength in feelings. That "feeling" will not give you the competitive edge, and being too emotional will get you killed on the battlefield.

So they learn to fear their feelings, and deny or avoid them. This is a sense of freedom to them, yet it’s really tragic boyhood programming.

So ladies, if you didn’t tell him in a basic and literal way what you need or don’t need, they most likely won’t intuitively know what you are thinking/feeling.

Don’t assume your man knows what you are thinking/feeling because he probably doesn’t — or he doesn’t trust or believe in what his intuition might be telling him. He goes more by the logical and survival thinking parts of his brain.

The dynamic of love and freedom, if not acknowledged and understood in the relationship, is often one of the major causes of relationship problems and conflict. When the man is driven more toward "freedom" and the woman is driven toward connection and love, neither has their needs met, so confusion, misunderstanding, and understandable resentment will likely surface between you. He is threatened by the intensity of her for love, and she is threatened by his need for his freedom.

It's important to realize that in the desire for love or freedom, neither is right or wrong. Some of it is biological, and some of this is learned behavior due to societal and familial programming.

The key is for men to understand the women’s desire for connection and love, and learn to connect with her in loving and intimate ways. If you spend too much time and energy in the man cave, at the office, or with the guys, she will be unhappy, angry, and feel disconnected and unloved. 

Ladies, the more you hound him, the more scared, angry, and confused he will become. He will go deeper into his cave and avoid you.

So just wait at the door and encourage him to connect with you.

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When it's time for men to come out of the cave

Men, your role is to come out of the cave, sooner rather than later.

The longer you avoid her and preoccupy yourself, the more she perceives this as you not loving or caring about her. This will cause her to likely nag you even more. She does this because she cares about you and the relationship.

The day she stops nagging you or testing you for your love and connection is the day she’s done with you and the relationship. This can even mean that she’s having an affair and/or has decided to leave the relationship.

How your sexual connection is affected by this dynamic:

Love-making is a classic example of women’s desire for connection and love. And the man’s desire for sexual release (i.e. release of anxiety) equals freedom from the anxiety/pressure.

For most women, lovemaking is more about foreplay and cuddling after intercourse. This is how they create connection and the giving and receiving of love. For most men, however, we desire to get right to the act of intercourse, with little time needed for the foreplay. We just want the freedom that comes from the release.

After the release, we tend to fall asleep — leaving her physically and emotionally disconnected, perhaps even feeling used.

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Understanding the interplay between love and freedom

The key to connecting is to understand this dynamic and the interplay of love vs. freedom between men and women in a relationship.

Even gay and lesbian couples will have this dynamic, as one partner will likely desire more freedom and the other desire more connection and love.

The more you understand and accept this love or freedom need and dynamic, the more likely you will be open and willing to balance these needs out between you.

As the woman learns to love herself more, this will free her up to not be too needy or demanding of love and connection. As the woman becomes more loving and secure with herself, this offers the man a degree of freedom to be himself and have his space and needs.

The man, for his part, should recognize the importance and desire for his partner to feel his sense of connection and love to and for her. As the man gets more comfortable with deeper connection and love, he will begin to feel more comfortable with loving her more openly and freely.

Remember guys, she desires you to adore her and hold her in your thoughts and heart. This will help her feel relaxed and free in loving her man. 

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David Schroeder, LMSW, CPC from Grand Rapids, MI., is a licensed social worker, certified life coach, and author of Just Be Love: Messages on the Spiritual and Human Journey.