Men and Intimacy


In the October 30, 2012 Lifestyles section of the Chicago Tribune, Nara Schoenberg writes about His Hidden Needs  with subtitle Forget the stereotypes. Men in serious relationships want affection and true love as much as you do. Maybe even more.  Ms Schoenburg reviews some current literature that reveals fallacies in some of the conventional wisdom about how men view their relationships with spouses, other women and other men.  Some of the results are surprising.

She examines the work of “Oakland University sociology professor Terri Orbuch, who has been studying the same 373 married couples for more than 25 years, has looked at the impact of “affective affirmation” — the words or gestures you use to show your partner that he is special, noticed or cared for — on the long-term health of a marriage.”

Professor Orbuch finds that in relationships where men who do not often get affirmation from their wives are two times more likely to end in divorce.  Men want to talk to their spouses about things that trouble them, but those things often make wives uncomfortable.  Her research shows that men tend to heavily rely on just their wives for emotional affirmation and support, while their wives get it from multiple sources – relatives, friends and even strangers.  While women also need affirmation, they are not as dependent on their husbands as their husbands are on them

Author Warren Farrel (Why Men are the Way They Are) writes  “Many women want their partners to “open up,” he says, but only to tell them things that are flattering or romantic. “I feel adrift at work, and my team doesn’t respect me” doesn’t tend to qualify, but it may be what’s really on his mind, even during a moonlit walk on a Saturday night.”

Orbuch says:  “I definitely don’t want to say it’s only the responsibility of women; that this is just another job that women need to do,” she says. “I think it’s important for men to realize they have this hidden (intimacy) need and that they are not getting it from other people in their lives; they are expecting it from their female partners.

“And I think it’s important for men to expand and give it and try to get it from other people in their lives.

There is more in the full article.  We encourage you to read it.

This article caught my attention and raised my awareness about myself.  I have long known that I depend heavily on Rita for affirmation and support.  She is the one person I can go to when something is bothering me and I need acceptance and support.  I am a strong personality and passionate about the things that interest me.  I have broad intellectual interests in education, especially my career fields of science and mathematics.  I am also interested in justice and the moral issues encountered in our daily lives, which leads me into politics.  I have learned that my passion can overwhelm and put off others.  Even Rita, who is a wonderful listener and the first person I go to when something bothers me, sometimes has to shut me down.  I don’t blame her for that and I try to go easier on her, at least until the next time.  With others, I have also learned to drop a topic of conversation when I see its effect on other people.  Fortunately, Rita has become good at kicking me under the table or squeezing my hand and I get the message.  I also have little interest in sports, which make it harder for me to develop strong relationships with most men.  I have tried, but the results have not been very satisfactory.

Perhaps that’s a downside of who I am, but there is an upside.  Rita has considerable intellectual capability and some passion of her own.  Our writing is often a great source of conversation that is both intellectual and intimate.  She often affirms me and her love for me in little gestures.  Thanksgiving week we were in a house full people and couldn’t find many opportunities for intimacy or discussion, but Rita would come up behind me as we were talking with others and put her arm around me, and that was enough. In many ways she does little things for me and makes remarks about me to others that let me know how much I am loved.

This morning I asked her how I do in meeting her emotional needs and need for affirmation.  She assured me that, while she can and does get support from others, I am a large source of that support for her.

I would very much like to find some additional support from others and this article reminds me and encourages me work harder to make it happen.


I found the article written by Nara Schoenberg quite interesting.  It goes against most popular thoughts about men and yet affirmed some things that have been in the back of my mind for a long time.  As a woman I do find intimacy in a lot of places, from Bob of course, from family members, from friends and we often joke about the fact that strangers both male and female will tell me their whole life story within a few minutes of meeting me.  As for Bob we have had numerous discussions about the fact that he has a lot of male acquaintances in his life but in actuality I’m the only one he has any real desire to develop intimacy with.  He has always said that he never can find anyone who shares his intellectual interests but as we discussed it this morning he said he hasn’t met any man that he would be willing to share his fears and insecurities with.  He said he could more likely do that with another woman but finds his desire for intimacy filled in our relationship.

All of this made me think about how we have lived through our years together.  While he enjoys going to dinner with friends and family he is quite content to go to lunch and dinner with me.  I certainly cherish our time alone together but since I’ve retired I’ve missed the company of others.  We even spoke about our time in Haiti.  While we are both happy about having shared the experience together and the experience itself was another chance for us to share something new in our relationship, had each of us gone alone the time spent there would have been very different.  I found it easy to speak with and engage other adults and students even though for the most part we didn’t share a common language.  I found ways to carry on conversations and got Bob to do some things other than prepare lessons.  Bob on the other hand admitted that he likely wouldn’t have talked much about what was happening to him, both struggles and delights, had I not been there.  He would have spent nearly every available minute working with the materials he had brought.  All of this also made me think about activities men engage in like a pickup game of basketball or watching sports in a man cave.  Most of these activities don’t require or allow any great sharing of feelings, needs or desires.  Perhaps it is cultural but even if it is, and if the studies cited in the article are accurate – that men find their intimacy with and from their wives, then how might that change the way we relate to and with each other as husband and wife?  That led us to more discussion.  I asked Bob if I was affirming enough, did I do enough to let him know I loved him, and did I find the opportunity for him to express his passions without fear of being ridiculed.  Thank goodness for me, he said I do just that.

All of this does make me revisit how we live together in this stage of our life together.  Sometimes we are the only person each other communicates with for several days.  How do we continue to build intimacy that is healthy for each of us?  I have a friend that I walk and talk with a couple of days each week if we can work it out.  I talk to our children and grandchildren on the phone.  That helps me to have intimate relationships beyond the two of us.  Knowing that Bob relies on me for that kind of opportunities makes me think about how I listen and respond when he talks to me and giving him little hugs and kisses along the way.  He keeps me posted on what is going on in his life.  He spends a lot of time in the den upstairs while I spend most of my day downstairs in our kitchen or family room.  It is not uncommon for him to come out of his den and lean over the railing and tell me about what he has been doing, when he needs my help or just to talk to me.

Learning how to build and sustain intimacy is key to any relationship but is of utmost importance in a marriage.  Perhaps you might find this article helpful and renewing as we did.  It might also be something to work on this Advent season.  We wish you well.


A Request for Your InputWe are working with our pastor, Fr. Terry Keehan, gathering information about marriages.  We hope to publish a book on the subject.  Fr. Terry has been gathering information from couples preparing for marriage.  He asks them why they want to be married.  He uses the information in his homily at their wedding and then sends them the information on their first anniversary.

We have asked members of  Holy Family parish to respond, but would like to expand our source of information.  We ask you to please respond to the following three questions.

1.  I have been married?  _____years

2. Why did I get married?

3. Why do I stay married?

My name:                                       ___Please do not publish my name

I live in:  (City, State)

For publication we are looking for a short paragraph or at least one sentence in answer to each question.  We will read longer responses, but they may be edited.

Thank you for sharing your good news with us.

Rita & Bob

You may respond with a comment on this post or email



About Rita & Bob Boeke

Rita Boeke has experience teaching scripture and with her husband Bob has experience in enriching marriages through workshops and retreats. They post a weekly blog at and co-authored Forever and a Day: An Invitation to Create a Marriage that Lasts a Lifetime.
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