Men and Women: Intimacy Differs by Gender

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus" by John Gray. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.

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Do men and women express intimacy differently? How can you recognize and work through these differences?

According to John Gray, the author of Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus, both men and women display intimacy in cycles. Understanding and not obstructing your partner’s intimacy cycle is key to an emotionally fulfilling relationship.

Read about men and women’s intimacy cycles.

Do Men and Women Express Intimacy Differently?

Men and women have different rhythms and cycles of emotional intimacy when they’re in love. 

  • Men get intimate with their partner, then distance themselves and withdraw, then come back to intimacy again. 
  • Women rise on the wave of love, then fall into dissatisfaction, then swell with love again. 

Men Are Like Rubber Bands 

When a man is in love, he goes through a natural cycle of intimacy that is a lot like a rubber band. First, the man is very close and intimate. Then he begins to pull away. Once he has stretched to his maximum distance, like a rubber band, he snaps back into the relationship with the same level of intimacy he felt before he stretched. 

Many men don’t even realize that their natural intimacy cycles have a profound impact on their female partners. As a man, do your best to reassure your partner before you stretch away. You can say something like “I need to be alone, but let’s talk about this again once I’ve thought it over.” If nothing else, say the magic words: “I will come back.”

When a man is pulling away, it is important to allow him to do so. Wait to talk and create intimacy until he has snapped back into the relationship

Women Are Like Waves 

When a woman is in love, she goes through a natural cycle of intimacy that is a lot like a wave. First, she feels great and has so much love to give to her partner. Then she begins to fall into a deep well of feelings, like hopelessness and loneliness. Once she has hit rock bottom, like a wave, she will rise and give love again.

As a man, it is important to be aware of this cycle, understand what a woman needs when she is low, and learn how to respond to your partner’s fluctuations in intimacy. 

When a woman crashes, it is important to support her and allow her to feel her negative feelings. Once she hits rock bottom, she will be ready to rise, give love, and feel good about herself again. 

The Rubber Band and the Wave: Men, Women, and Intimacy

Sometimes, when a woman is crashing to the lowest point of her wave and needs to talk, a man is also stretching back his rubber band and can’t listen. Without an understanding of the differences between men’s and women’s intimacy patterns, this could cause conflict in a relationship. But once you know the natural differences between men and women, you can learn to work through these difficult periods together. 

Men and Women: Intimacy Differs by Gender

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Here's what you'll find in our full Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus summary:

  • Why it feels like men and women come from two different planets
  • How to navigate the gender-based differences in communication
  • The 6 things that men and women need in a loving relationship

Darya Sinusoid

Darya’s love for reading started with fantasy novels (The LOTR trilogy is still her all-time-favorite). Growing up, however, she found herself transitioning to non-fiction, psychological, and self-help books. She has a degree in Psychology and a deep passion for the subject. She likes reading research-informed books that distill the workings of the human brain/mind/consciousness and thinking of ways to apply the insights to her own life. Some of her favorites include Thinking, Fast and Slow, How We Decide, and The Wisdom of the Enneagram.

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