Have you ever had a moment where your spouse goes to hug you, and you pull away thinking “I’m too busy, leave me alone right now”? That was me. Regularly. I was constantly avoiding my husbands attempt to touch and connect. I wasn’t missing the physical contact, I had two small boys hanging on me every day and I was glad when they could be in bed and I could be left alone. The thought of my husband touching me at that point was excruciating. I wanted to be left alone and I was definitely too tired for sex.
This became a constant cycle, him trying to hug me, me pushing him away. Eventually he just stopped trying to hug or kiss me at all. Around the time I had the realization we were disconnecting (you can read that here) I also realized that we weren’t touching each other at all. I missed his hugs, his smell. So I did what any adult would do, I got sad, then mad, then cried about it, then blamed myself for being ugly. But then put on my big girl panties and I decided to stop being dramatic and instead to ask my husband why. He told me something very real and humbling “I stopped touching you because I thought you hated it”.
That was it, I realized I had done this to myself. I tried to unpack what had happened. To me, I began seeing every one of his touches as an invitation to have sex. We’ll definitely talk about why you need to have sex regularly, but right now we’ll focus on why you need other non sexual physical contact. Being exhausted from the day, I didn’t want to have sex so I started shrugging off or avoiding all of his affection.
It was time for a very real conversation and an action plan. We decided that at a minimum everyday we would have three moments of physical contact with each other that had nothing to do with sex. That last part was important. For me, as a woman I need to feel loved to have sex. To get to this point we needed to reestablish a good relationship of touch that was not an invitation to have sex. For example, if we hugged each other two times that day and cuddled for an hour at night, the cuddling would not lead to sex. If we decided to have sex, it would have to be at a different point agreed upon by both of us. This way when we were cuddling I wasn’t thinking “I bet he wants to have sex right now, but I don’t really want to so I better stop cuddling”. Please don’t get me wrong. Sex is an important part of a relationship, but at this point we were trying to get rid of bad habits and reconnect emotionally.
Here are 3 reasons why you need to touch your spouse every day:
- Establish safety and security. My fear of my husband’s touch leading to sex was really a terrible feeling. He is my husband and should have been my safe spot to unwind and relax after a long day. Your spouses embrace should be a place where you feel safe, secure, and able to be yourself. Lose your insecurities and remember that this person really wants to love and hold you. I didn’t want to have to try to feel sexy or worry about my body, just be held closely and feel security.
- Ease stress. Your body has a physical response to touch by releasing serotonin, a neurotransmitter that gives you a “feel good” response in your brain. After me being with the kids all day and him working all day, touching each other could actually lessen the hormone cortisol in our bodies and help us unwind. There is also research showing that an embrace can help lower your blood pressure and help you relax. A little bit like a glass of red wine, minus the calories. This can only work if you aren’t afraid of being touched.
- Build your bond. If you have been putting distance between you and your spouse, this is one way to get it back. The more we have good touches, the more we crave them. So although it may be awkward at first “scheduling” a certain number of touches, it eventually will become a part of your normal routine and you will enjoy it. Having this physical bond can help you feel loved, connected, and lead to a stronger relationship. If you hope to work on any sexual relationship problems, starting by reestablishing a good physical bond outside of the bedroom.
Maybe touching three times in a day isn’t enough or maybe you’re so far removed from each other emotionally that it may be too much. Choose your own path and stick to it. As a good math teacher once told me, practice makes permanent. If you want to establish a good habit practice it over and over and choose what will work best for you.