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Physical or Emotional Intimacy?

May 18th, 2009 by Dr. Elia | 0

Dear Dr. Elia,

I’ve been married for twenty years, and my husband has become very controlling over the years. I ended up seeking counseling about 2 years ago and I also talked to my bishop (who was NO help, by the way, his basic advice was to pray and read my scriptures and have family home evening…which of course, we’ve done all along) anyway my counselor opened my eyes to the emotional blackmail I’ve been living with. He recommended that we come as a couple but my husband refused. Not knowing what to do, I just tried to fake along like everything was OK, but it only made me more depressed. Then my husband started dropping hints that we would be better off divorced. I can’t explain how I felt about that…mostly anger. I again suggested counseling. He agreed to go this time. But after only a couple of sessions, he was expecting overnight success, mainly- he thinks I should be all kissy and huggy with him, but I don’t feel any affection for him anymore. I don’t know how I should respond to this increased demand for affection. It makes me sick when he touches me. He says that if I don’t show him in this way, that I’m willing to try to make our marriage work, then he will just assume that I hate him and he will leave. I am really confused and need some quick advice because he keeps sending me lovey-dovey text messages and I need to know the best way to respond.


PS- he has never- before now- sent love messages of any kind or
tried to hug me all the time like this. I feel like I’m suffocating!


Dear Wylee,

Your situation is far from uncommon. Clearly your husband feels the most loved through physical affection and is now making demands for it or else… Unfortunately, that approach doesn’t work very well for you when
you don’t feel close to him. It appears that his increasingly controlling nature has created some walls in your marriage. It’s quite difficult to open up emotionally to someone who tries to control or threatens divorce.

Most women need to feel emotionally close and connected first, before they can connect physically, which includes physical intimacy. It is not realistic to go to counseling for a couple of visits and then think that all is well. In some ways, he’s reaching out to you by sending you messages and trying to hug you. I realize that you’re feeling suffocated but it’s important not to make him feel totally rejected. Since your marriage is already on the rocks any further rejection might be the final straw.

If you would like to stay married here’s my suggestion. First, acknowledge the fact that he is trying to make deposits into the marriage account through his increased efforts of connecting physically. Tell him that you appreciate the attention. Second, if the two of you can discuss your needs, wants and desires on your own then go for it. It needs to happen in a respectful and attentive environment. If that doesn’t exist then, try it in front of a third party that you trust.

Explain to him that you need to feel closer to him emotionally and safe first. That’s what makes you feel loved the most. Once that happens, then you can begin to open up to him in the way that is the most meaningful to him, meaning physically.

A couple of good resources if your both open to doing some work together to bless your marriage. One is to read (or listen on a cd) The Five Love Languages by Dr. Gary Chapman. It’s one of the best books out there.
Another resource is the book And They Were Not Ashamed by Laura Brotherson (LDS) on the topic of physical intimacy. Finally you could also listen to the cd called The Multi-Platinum Marriage: Going From Surviving to Thriving!

Good luck and let me know how tings work out.

Elia Gourgouris Ph.D.

Communicating our Love Languages

Jul 28th, 2008 by Dr. Gourgouris | 0

Dear Dr. Elia,

I read your post about love languages, and I’m with you on that. My husband and I speak completely OPPOSITE languages! We’ve been working on it, and It hink we’ve made some progress. (At least we are working on it. )

However, sometimes even though we are both trying, I still feel like we are missing the boat totally. I think I’m doing the right thing and showing him I love him, yet somehow I haven’t communicated it right.

Other times I feel exasperated that I feel so NOT understood by him. He scratches his head even though I’ve tried my darndest to explain. He keeps wanting to SOLVE things, and all I want is his affection and understanding.

We are dedicated to our marriage, and I know there are larger issues looming in the world out there. But frankly, sometimes it’s a lonely proposition to think that we can’t make it work better than this.

What do you suggest?


Dear Rebecca,

I see your dilemma and it is more common than you might think. Most couples have very different love languages.

If you’d like to bridge the gap with your spouse, it is important to very clearly articulate your priorities in terms of what makes you feel the most loved. For example let’s say the most important aspect is Physical Affection, followed by Words of Appreciation…Then Acts of Service, Quality Time and finally Gifts. Share those with your husband and have him give you his list in terms of what makes him feel the most loved. It may not be the same as your list (like you said, you speak completely opposite languages.) The key to success is to be willing to go outside of your comfort zones and love your spouse the way that they need to be loved…not what might come easy. That’s real love because the well being of our spouse becomes of primary importance. Hopefully it will be reciprocated because as you make deposits into his account, he would be willing to make deposits into your “love account.” It becomes a win-win situation!

Elia Gourgouris Ph.D

The Love Languages… It’s All Greek To Me!

May 16th, 2008 by Dr. Gourgouris | 0

Given that I am Greek and speak it fluently should automatically make me an expert right? But it wasn’t always so…The mystery of “love” and its accompanied language(s) has mystified a myriad of couples. According to best-selling author Dr. Gary Chapman these are the 5 languages of love: Quality Time, Physical Touch, Gifts, Acts of Service and Words of Appreciation.

Unfortunately for my wife and I, we got married before this book came out. Well wouldn’t you know it, in the first six months (still considered newlyweds) we both felt like we were working soooo hard on our marriage. However, we both also felt like we weren’t getting our needs met. How was that possible? So much love, hope and optimism about our eternal union, and yet not fully connecting. At the time it was puzzling to both of us…

Fortunately, we were able to set aside our hurt feelings and sit down and very openly and honestly discuss our differences. Perhaps being a man, or Greek, but most likely because of the family that I grew up in, Physical Touch was my love language. Let me clarify, that physical touch is not the same as sexual touch. It’s more like holding hands, hugs and kisses, back and feet rubs.

Well, I grew up in a home were my dad adored my mom and use to chase her around the house and hugged and kissed her a lot. When you’re a kid it’s kind of cute, but by the time I became a teenager it was “awful” to see my parents like that. So many times I felt like saying, “Please, get a room or something, I don’t want to see that!!!” But they were in love and that’s how they expressed it. So call it conditioning, modeling or just hard-wiring that’s my love language. So guess what, for the first six months of our marriage, I’m hugging and kissing my wife to death.

Unfortunately, that was not her love language. Rather, Words of Appreciation made her feel the most loved. So as you might guess by now, that was her primary expression. I had NEVER been thanked so many times about EVERYTHING I did. It actually was starting to annoy me (half-kidding). We were both doing what we had hoped the other person would give back in return. Only, until we discussed it and figure it out, it wasn’t working. I remember saying to her, “How could you not know how much I love you?” “I hug and kiss you all the time! I fill your love account daily” Her response startled me when she said, “Well, you’re putting your deposits into the wrong account.” Of course she said the same thing too…I tell you thank you all the time. Doesn’t that prove how much I love you?” You can guess my answer: “Wrong account.”

So the solution to this very important issue in a marriage is to discover your own love language and then ask your spouse to do the same. Once this discovery takes place, that’s when the hard part comes in. You need to make a decision to love your spouse the way they need to feel loved, not what comes easy or natural to you. It’s in the getting outside of our comfort zone and “stretching” that true love and service can be found.

The change to our marriage took place the very next night when she cooked a delicious dinner. I expressed words of appreciation by saying thank you and complimented her on her cooking. The results were almost magical: she started hugging and kissing me and I’ve been saying thank you ever since!

Elia Gourgouris Ph.D.

Dr. Elia Gourgouris is a nationally known speaker, relationship coach, and the president of With over 20 years of experience, he has inspired thousands of individuals and couples to find greater happiness and fulfillment, both in their careers and their personal lives. He holds a degree from UCLA and a Ph.D. in psychology. Dr. Gourgouris speaks to groups around the country regarding women’s issues, self esteem, communications skills, and relationships. He is also a favorite presenter at both BYU and BYU-ID Education Weeks, and Time Out for Women conferences. He is the author of “DTR: What You Need to Know Before You Get Married” and he has an upcoming CD entitled “The Multi-Platinum Marriage: Going from Just Surviving to Thriving!” He and his wife, Sona, live near Boulder, Colorado, with their children.

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