Emotional Foreplay

Brad says…

We’ve all heard it, the wife agonizing, “He won’t tell me how he feels.”  What’s going on here? Are guys really hiding their emotions?  Do they just not have any feelings at all?  Or, is there something else that is making it difficult for guys to get naked and show their feelings to their wife? I know this doesn’t apply to all guys but it is a common enough complaint that I wanted to try to give wives a husband’s perspective on our missing emotions, and offer a few ideas on how they can get us warmed up and in the mood!

It’s True

Men are usually less adept at identifying their own feelings.  Some people say it is because of how they were raised; others think it might be because of brain or biochemical differences.  Whatever the cause, the reality is men are usually less in touch with their emotions.  Before you scream, “That’s obvious” and move on let me clarify.  Being less in touch doesn’t mean they don’t have them.  Men do have feelings.  The truth is that men are not quite so good at classifying their feelings.

Ask a woman to take 1 minute and write down all of the feeling words that she has experienced.  She will quickly get busy writing and will run out of time before her list reaches the 150 mark. (Yes, guys there are that many check out this list if you don’t believe me)

If you asked a man to do the same test, he would look at you perplexed for the first thirty seconds then jot down three or four words.  Usually:

  • Happy
  • Angry
  • Sad, and maybe
  • Love

This is actually the difference between men and women’s emotions.  We all feel the same things; it is just men typically have quite a few less words to identify those feelings.

The Problems:

Fact:  Men have emotions

Fact:  Most men don’t know the words for them, so they don’t share them

Fact:  Emotional Intimacy depends on sharing emotions

The Normal Approach

Asking a guy what they are feeling is like asking someone living on the equator to describe snow.  They know it exists, they have vague sense of what it might be like, but they really don’t have a clue what to say.

The trick here is to get guy’s warmed up.  Most men have trouble with the quickie emotional disclosure.  We need time ladies, give us a little emotional foreplay and you’ll see what we got!

Ask About Our Day

So much of men’s emotional intimacy is wrapped up in their intellectual and daily pursuits.  Making an effort to really listen to his day, the good, the bad, the boring will help him warm up to the idea of sharing.  This is so critically important.  When life gets in the way of my sharing my day with Kate for even a few nights; I can feel disconnected.  It doesn’t make sense, but it is true.  Sharing their day for guys is foreplay for emotions!

As you hear about our day ask questions, just avoid the F word.  No not that one, “Feel”.  Don’t ask him how he felt, ask:

“That sounds stressful, how did you handle it?” or

“Getting that compliment must have been uplifting.” or even

“Ouch, that sounds like a lot of responsibility; how are you doing?”   (Replacing feeling with doing is an acceptable substitution that your guy probably won’t notice)

Before you know it he will be sharing feelings without even knowing it! It is all about warm up time! Give your husband a little emotional foreplay and see what happens!

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10 Responses to Emotional Foreplay

  1. So the next time I am feeling something that I can’t explain (which will probably be later today) … I will know I am completely normal 🙂

  2. Well for us, we make a point every night during our quiet time to ask each other “how was your day”? It really helps to take the stress off of the day before we relax together. I also txt him throughout the day some fun and even tempting things which he says takes the “edge” off of the day. We have really reconnected with the 10 day challenge we did with you and Kate and continued on for our own to make our nearly 28 ye marriage that much more exciting!
    Men need to unwind from their day just like us ladies!!

    • Sheila,
      that’s awesome! Thanks for sharing! Keeping those lines of communication open about even the little things is key! I always love hearing 10 day challenge stories! Thanks!

  3. I agree with the first part. About having emotions, but not knowing how to describe them. But if I’m asked how my day was, I (usually) immediately shut down. Yes, I need emotional foreplay, but talking about my day isn’t it.
    For me, emotional foreplay is sharing and talking throughout my day. When my wife and I chit-chat all through the day, I’m much more willing to share once I get home.

    • Bryan,
      I’m glad that you and your wife have been able to figure out what works for you as “emotional foreplay”. I’m sure you are not the only guy that needs to talk about nothing before they are able to talk about something.
      Thanks for adding!

  4. Great thoughts Brad. I think women assume that guys have the same response time that we do. Someone asks me a question and I have an answer in seconds. Ask my husband the same question and he is going to want to think about his response. So ladies, give them time to think through their response. And really listen when they do talk.

    • Joy,
      You are right, but that part “processing speed” is not necessarily gender specific. There are men who process very quickly, and women who take it more slow. This is another important part of communication that is very important to understand! Thanks for reminding us! I might have to do a post specifically on this topic soon!

  5. Excellent! Tom and I have done this for years without even realizing it. You’ve described it exactly as it happens too. I love it when we accidentally get caught doing something right! 🙂 I think another word for it is Grace!

    • Debi,
      How true! I think many couples do this automatically, but I have heard from so many others that stop talking about the daily stuff as soon as marriage gets hard. They focus exclusively on kids, or on the hard issues, which only drives each other apart!

      Thanks for your comment and stopping by from the Vineyard!

      • Thanks Debi! That is so true! I loved your saying “this is grace”! Yes!! Yet is can be so easy to get caught up in everything and forget to slow down and chat! Thanks for sharing! Blessings to you and Tom! Kate