What you need to know:
When was the last time you felt connected with your partner? If it's been a while, know that emotional connection is the bedrock of intimacy
After months of what Trudy called mechanical sex, she told her husband to keep off. She was fed up. It was not worth the trouble. She felt used and every sexual contact left her hollow, frustrated, and sad.
“We are no longer of the same heart and mind!” she explains when she came to the Sexology clinic, “I just presented myself out of marital obligation and he just misused me, I felt abused.”
The couple had been married for 13 years. They have three children. James, Trudy’s husband, was a teacher and she ran a salon business. Their marriage began with a big wedding in the village. It was the talk of every hill and valley and parents told their children to emulate the couple. In fact, following the wedding, many children aspired to be teachers and worked hard believing that it was James’s profession that made him marry such a beautiful woman.
That was then. It is one thing to have a great wedding and another to maintain intimacy over the years. The couple got job transfers and worked in different towns. They also had children in the process before finally settling in the city.
“We have been in Nairobi for three years, and the distance between us has been growing until I no longer understand him,” Trudy intimates.
Digging deep into the family’s situation, my conclusion was that the couple had lost their emotional connection. In the hustle and bustle of city life, they had neglected each other and confided in their friends and workmates. They had become foreigners to each other, a reality most couples face.
The common symptom such couples possess when they come to the Sexology clinic is that they have no desire for sex. Others have extramarital affairs while others are busy draining themselves with work or alcohol to escape the realities at home.
“That sounds familiar in our situation but then I still do not understand this concept of emotional connection and how you have arrived at your diagnosis because if it is money I give it to my wife. I pay rent and school fees for the children; what exactly do women want from a man?” James asked throwing his hands into the air.
Well, it is not about provision for the family. In fact, that is the mistake most people make. Simply put, you are emotionally connected if you have chosen to be vulnerable to your spouse if you reserve nothing and entrust him/her with your fears, aspirations, dreams, and deepest secrets without the fear of being betrayed. You are emotionally connected if you find comfort in each other; when you run to each other for empathy and emotional protection in times of distress in the workplace, in business, in family disagreements, and so on.
Most couples start at that point of vulnerability but later confide in other people and block off their spouses. They find it easier to confide in a relative, a friend, or a workmate. They stop opening up to their spouses. In fact, they hide personal challenges from their spouses and start projecting a false image of perfection.
Couples on the downward slope of emotional connection will not only block their spouses from their lives but also rebuke them for opening up to share challenges. They will negatively judge and stereotype their spouses as failures. They compare their spouses to other people to show them how badly they are doing in life. When you face such harsh reactions from your spouse you most likely reciprocate it with anger and you choose to keep it to yourself. You stop trusting them with your emotions. You choose someone else to confide in. The emotional connection with your spouse then fades away.
As emotional connection wanes, consultation in family decisions gets less. You become dictators to each other. You learn to put your foot down as your spouse similarly forces their way. This only works to move you further from each other.
Typically, communication becomes a problem. It is common to shout at each other. You do not take time to listen and internalise what your partner is saying. You do not empathise. Communication is shallow because as your partner talks, you are busy thinking of how to answer back.
“Everything you are saying is happening to us but I am not sure you have responded to my concern for lack of sex desire,” Trudy interrupted.
Sure, sex is all about emotional connection. Recreate the connection and the desire will be overwhelming.
The couple was enrolled for intimacy coaching. It would be three months of coaching before they rediscover each other. It was good that they were both committed to making the relationship work.