04/04/2012 12:13 pm ET Updated Jun 03, 2012

She's Just Too Neurotic

In my practice, I have the privilege of working with married people whose neurosis, albeit romantic and laden with fascination, tends to interfere in their love lives. Beset with anxiety, worry, insecurity, and intelligence, the neurotic can't be accused of being ordinary. That said, the neurotic spouse can also be maddening.

For example, your wife wants you to compliment her, to tell her she looks skinny, sexy, hot, and beautiful in her new red dress. To top it off, all she wants to do is talk about her feelings. I know what you're thinking. Doesn't she look in the mirror? If I didn't think she was beautiful, why would I marry her? Doesn't she get it or is she just too neurotic?

Or you may be one of these guys who comes home anxious from a tough day and wants to be alone. But she wants to be with you, to talk with her, to share your feelings with her, so it will all be better. And you are thinking, why can't she let me be alone to cool off, to de-stress, to distract myself? Doesn't she get it or is she just too neurotic?

Then again, you cheated on her ten years ago before you were even married and she can't get over it. She keeps asking what the other woman had over her. No matter that you take her out to fancy restaurants, buy her expansive gifts, take her on romantic trips, she still wants you to talk about the affair with you. You are trying to make amends because you're clearly remorseful. Doesn't she get it or is she just too neurotic?

Guys, if these or other marital scenarios get you thinking that your wife is too neurotic, the best place to look for this solution is to yourself. If she constantly wants assurances, perhaps you are not emotionally or physically available enough. If you are the taciturn, strong, silent type, she is likely to feel unfulfilled by you.

Perhaps she's not the only one that's neurotic. It may be that neurosis lies on a two-way street: You could well be as neurotic as your wife. After all, why not verbalize what you feel? Is there some insecurity of yours that she fulfills by needing you so much? If you talk about your feelings with her, it may threaten your masculinity. Indeed, intergenerational transmission of gender roles and societal messages depict men as strong, silent, independent, autonomous and powerful. Would you violate these norms if you spent time processing feelings and sharing your inner lives? I think not. And that's because just as women have masculine sides, men have feminine sides. That is not to discount gender differences.

Women's brains differ from men's brains. Women have more oxytocin and vasopressin, brain chemicals that promote bonding, and attachments, whereas men have more testosterone, a brain chemical that promotes action and sex. As a result, women like to talk and process things emotionally, whereas men like to do things.

A good idea is to set aside some time each day when you talk to each other and share feelings, concerns, dilemmas, the day's events, current events, the book you are reading or anything else that comes to mind. This closeness could go a long way to fill her needs. She will then feel more apt to join you in all kinds of activities, even love-making.

Then again, she may not feel fulfilled within herself. Her career may be unsatisfactory, and she needs your support to help her make a change or to hang in until she can. Family issues may be overwhelming her, such as caring for an elderly parent. Here again, she needs your support. There are probably many other areas in which you could help to gratify her need for a strong shoulder to lean on.

It's all in the interaction between you and your partner. As you change, your plastic brain will also change, and that change will be reflected to your partner whose brain will rewire. With matching mirror neurons, the more love, attention, communication, empathy you give her, the less needy she will feel and the sexier she will be.

To learn more about love, the brain, and the power of mirror neurons, read Fran's new book "The New Science of Love: How Understanding the Brain's Wiring Can Help Rekindle Your Relationship." Follow Dr. Fran Cohen Praver on Twitter @lovedocfran