Generally, women prefer to share intimacy through talking and thinking together, as men tend to prefer intimacy through touching and togetherness [Married But Not Engaged, pages, 62]

Good marriages have a combination of all four and—this is the important part—spouses sometimes have to force themselves to experience their spouse’s preferred form of intimacy. For example, if you know that your wife feels closest to you when talking about important things, then slowdown and actually listen to her with empathy, something you might not want to do at first. Likewise, men are more likely to open up when doing something physical, so going for a walk with your husband while you talk about matters of your heart [togetherness + talking] may be the right change for you.

Overcoming hard feelings in this kind of marriage can be challenging, but not impossible. Bring your expectations in line with reality: Is your desire for intimacy reasonable? For example, some wives expect their husbands to listen to and understand their most every emotional need—and get angry when their husbands are unable to carry this impossible load. Likewise, some husbands expect more physical intimacy than their wives desire, and get angry when they don’t. Bringing expectations back to earth will help drain resentment and bitterness.   

In a twist of destructive irony, apathy in marriage often transforms from not having enough urgency to an explosion of interest—eventually through the experience of separation, affairs, and even divorce. By addressing this problem sooner than later, you will have done what you can due to be both married and engaged.

Paul Coughlin is a popular speaker about marriage, child-rearing, and co-author of “Married But Not Engaged: Why Men Check Out and What You Can do to Create the Intimacy You Desire.”