Emotional Intimacy: A Guy’s Perspective

September 16, 2015

How a husband can step up his game and better understand and respond to his wife

Logic often does not mix well with emotions. It’s a logic trap.

Gentlemen, I’m sure this is not news to you if you have been married any length of time.  If you are like most men I see, you start to feel completely bewildered and helpless when your wife is communicating from an emotional place and you just cannot join her in that space.

The problem is that we are wired by our general nature and upbringing to flee into the realm of logic when confronted by the emotions that come our way from our wives.

Very few of us have come from a family where we observed our fathers being comfortable with emotions.  Our father’s understanding of what it meant to “be a man” was to provide well for the family, be successful in the career, work hard and fix problems.

As a result of having this example for role models, very few of us are prepared for being emotionally present or even able to deal with feelings.

When we encounter emotions from our wives, we flee into our comfort zone: we get logical.  This can be toxic to our marriages.

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Logic: A Man’s Comfort Zone

When we encounter our emotionally upset wife, we usually feel attacked.  Our default setting is to move into the realm of logic where we can defend, refute, explain and debate.  This is our comfort zone.

Our spouses are not blameless in this matter.

They have not typically observed role models who were skilled in communicating effectively, either.

Their reliance upon highly emotional communication can be very hard for us to hear. (Read more about that here.)

We default into this setting without even being aware of what we are doing. The result is that our wives feel that we have dismissed, minimized and even ridiculed their feelings.  We did not listen and “get it.” We debated and fought the “fight to be right.”  This is not the recipe for emotional intimacy.

As men, we can stick with our logical stance and fight to prove our points or defend ourselves, but in winning the fight, we lose the war and potentially our marriage.

Your wife has chosen you to be the one man on the planet with whom she can be emotionally safe and honest.

We are the one person our wives expect to “get how they feel.”

We are the one person they have chosen who is expected to understand, accept, validate and protect them.

We cannot fail in this responsibility.

We have to remember:  “Do I want to be right or do I want to be married?”

A key component of marriage is emotional intimacy

I have worked as a marriage coach with several men who describe themselves to me as emotionally handicapped.

One told me “I’m an emotional three-year-old.  Help me!”

I believe this is an area where husbands struggle the most.

Emotional Intimacy is one of the five levels of intimacy we learn from reading The New Rules of Marriage by Terrence Real. (For a conversation about the five rules of intimacy, read my post on how the rules of marriage have changed.)

I’ve made the mistake myself.  It’s easy to do.  Here are a couple of examples of how guys respond and how to fix the lack of emotional intimacy.

An Example from Joe and Amanda

Joe’s wife Amanda came to him with her feelings of loss, hurt and pain regarding her miscarriage.

He replied, “That was nine years ago! You can’t still be upset about that!”


He stepped on the Logic Landmine and was sent to the marital emergency room for treatment of his injury.

The injury is serious but hopefully not fatal to the relationship.

Joe was able to recover by coming back to her to say, “I am so sorry to have minimized your feelings of loss and hurt about the miscarriage.  I wish I had been able to hear your pain and to be there for you to share those feelings.

I’m sorry, and I’m working on being the one you can share your feelings with and know that they will be cherished.  I’m not good at this but I want to be the one you can talk to about how you feel.”

A Personal Example

My wife shared her feelings with me regarding the fact that she had not been blessed with the experience of giving birth.  I responded, “You knew that wasn’t going to be possible when we married.   How can you be upset about that?”

Kaboom.  My wife was hurt by my insensitivity to her loss.

The look on her face made it very clear to me that I’d blown it.  It was time to shut off my “logic mode” and get connected with her on the level of emotions.

I was able to hear her loss and acknowledge it, though it made little sense to me.  My perspective was not the point.  She felt a real sense of loss, and I needed to “get it.”   I hope you guys can be smarter than I was.

Here is a video that I think perfectly describes the dilemma we are faced when dealing with our wives’ feelings. It’s funny, but don’t miss the point.  Your wife’s feelings matter more than the facts.

Want help developing emotional intimacy?

With a little coaching and insight, I believe that husbands can change.

I’ve seen it many times, including in my own marriage.

If you find yourself struggling with this issue, please let us help.  

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1 Comment

  1. Maddie

    Is there a city-run social secrives contact in your area? They might be able to refer you to someone. You might not be able to find anything for free, but you might be able to find someone who charges based on what’s called a sliding scale (it’s based on what you can afford). Even though you’re not religious, you can try a social service organization that’s run by a particular religion (Lutheran Social Services, Catholic Social Services, Jewish Family Services, etc.). The organization is religious, the the therapists aren’t necessarily. My mom (who is Jewish and a psychotherapist) worked for Catholic Social Services, and none of the counseling she offered was in any way religious.Oh, and you can ask your doctor (internist, ob-gyn, etc.) for a reference. He/she would probably know of some resources.