Joe Beam is a marriage and relationship expert.

Differing Desires

He wants passion. Intense passion. The hormone raging, intoxicating, make you forget where you are, time standing still kind of passion. It involves erotic appearance, attire, and attention. All five senses operating at peak power.

He just informed her that if he doesn’t get it, he’s going to leave her.

She wants passion too — at least that’s what she calls it — but it isn’t always the same desire that he knows as passion. Her notion includes gentle romance, flowers, small talk, be there when the kids need you, call during the day, laid back, we’ll have sex occasionally and just hold each other the rest of the time kind of passion. She doesn’t understand why that doesn’t fulfill him.

If you’ve been reading this series of articles, you already have an idea as to why they don’t understand each other; why they aren’t fulfilling each other. You know that love between two people has three aspects — commitment, intimacy, and passion. With that awareness you can see that he’s keying on the passion aspect of love while she focuses on the intimacy dimension. He’s feeling so frustrated by his lack of passionate fulfillment that he’s abandoning (or has already abandoned) the commitment aspect of love. His need is for excitement, intensity, and physical and emotional gratification. Hers is for closeness, warmth, and bondedness that don’t necessarily involve any intense physical dimension at all.

So who’s right?

Who’s the selfish one?

Which one needs to come to his or her senses?

If your primary need or desire is for intimacy, you likely believe he’s the cause of their problems. You may think, “If he’d just grow up and quit seeking the thrills of a sexually neophyte teenager, they would have a chance for a great marriage.” On the other hand, if your craving is for more passion, you likely believe that it’s her fault. You may think, “Why does a woman exude such sexuality during courtship, struggling to contain herself from being promiscuous before marriage, but lose nearly all interest as soon as she says ‘I do’?”

Think I’m exaggerating?

In my Love, Sex & Marriage seminars, I’ve heard both those statements made emphatically by men and women across America. If you think that you know which statement came from women and which from men, you may be surprised to know that I’ve heard each from both genders. It isn’t the stereotypical battle of the sexes that’s at issue here; it’s a persons needs and desires. If passion is a key to fulfillment for an individual, you can try teaching the person that he or she doesn’t need it but you won’t accomplish much. Same goes for intimacy.

Different people have different needs. Why? Maybe because of the way they were raised. Maybe it’s genetic in some. Perhaps it has to do with the dreams about adulthood that were formed in childhood. Maybe it changes with life situations. The initial cause isn’t nearly as important as the realization that if this person feels a need or desire for a specific dimension of love, they are NOT going to be content until that need is sated in some fashion.

In other words, neither is being unreasonable in wanting his or her most important emotional needs to be fulfilled. Either or both may be unreasonable in demands, expectations, or timelines. But emotional needs themselves are valid in every person, whether his or her spouse wants them to be or not!

My counsel for husbands or wives seeking greater passion, more sensuality, and uninhibited lovemaking, is that they should first learn the kind of love craved by the spouse and make sure you fulfill that need. My counsel for spouses seeking greater intimacy, warmth, vulnerability, and openness is that you discover the dimension of love your spouse wants and give it. As my friend Dr. Willard Harley, author of His Needs, Her Needs says, “Meet your spouse’s needs as you would want your spouse to meet yours.” By the “law of reciprocity” inspirational writers used to tout, your spouse will be much more likely to meet your needs if you first meet his or hers. If you’re afraid that you’ll give him or her what he or she wants but will never get what you want in return, that fear will keep either of you from being happy.

Give before you get. Fulfill before expecting to be fulfilled. Meet his or her needs so that he or she will learn how to meet yours.

So how did I help the couple mentioned in the beginning of this article?

My suggestion to him was that they first develop deeper intimacy. His desire for wild and wonderful sex with his wife probably isn’t going to happen if she doesn’t have her need for intimacy fulfilled first. In their situation, I think that if she tried to fulfill his needs for uninhibited, sensual sex without first feeling very secure in a warm, close relationship, she would feel as if she were his concubine rather than his wife. I guaranteed him that wouldn’t last long.

I recommended to her that if she wanted a warm, loving husband, she stood a much better chance of having him develop into one if she were to become a sexual siren at home. She admitted she knew how to become what he wanted but resented becoming that without his first meeting her needs. I asked her what she had to lose compared to what she had to gain.

All that happened about 5 or 6 years ago. I happily report to you that each took my advice (since each was unaware of what I had suggested to the other) and they are now very happy. He tends to her every need and, though he doesn’t talk about it, the perpetual grin on his face leads me to believe that she’s fulfilling him quite handsomely also.

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Joe Beam
Beam Research Center
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