If you want to really talk to me, you have to touch me.
Touch is more than just the physical act of coming into contact with something (or in this case someone). Touch is primal. Touch is a way to give comfort, show emotion, provide support, heal emotional wounds, and so much more. Touch is a language all it’s own, and while a picture may say a thousand words, touch can express a thousand sentiments.
I was reading the article linked above, The Power of Touch by Lee Woodruff, when I realized that was what was missing from this newfound, happier Liz. During my…sabbatical… I’ve somewhat isolated myself from the outside world while I figured out my inside self. Many days, my only source of physical contact is with my dog, and while Pepper is very loving in his little doggy way, it’s not the same as human contact from friends or lovers.
In relationships, the withholding of physical interaction can be killer. It is one of the reasons I’ve always found it disturbing when, particularly in movies, women withhold their physical affection from their significant others. Women have been portrayed as these manipulative creatures who don’t engage in certain, intimate physical encounters, most often sex, to get what they want. Having recently been on the other side of that (although I’m still unsure what the desired outcome was), it’s not a fun experience.
Traditionally, women are the ones who need physical intimacy such as cuddling, hugging, hand-holding, back rubs, and the like in order to feel closer to their mate. Isn’t sex a particularly intimate form of physical contact? Why would anyone withhold that level of connection with another person for personal gain?
In our society, those little, sweet forms of intimacy (like hand-holding and snuggling) have become synonymous with femininity so that a man who likes to cuddle is seen as a wuss or a pansy (the wussification of feminine traits is a topic for an entirely different post).
But it seems to me that men need that physical contact as much as women. In fact there have been studies that show that touch is important for everyone of all ages. It releases pleasure hormones in the brain helping to create lasting relationships; even friends hug.
So how do men get the benefits of touch if the need to be touched is seen as non-masculine? Perhaps, it is through sexual acts. I’m just theorizing (I really wasn’t kidding about my never-ending list of theories), but it makes sense to me that men would adapt to find a way to get the needed skin to skin contact in a way that was not considered emasculating. What better way than sex? It does double duty by releasing the relationship forming hormones of touch and the inherent pleasurable endorphins of sex!
Admittedly, it would be easier if everyone embraced the idea of cuddling, but as someone who really isn’t that into it myself, I understand the hesitation.
I can think of at least one person who would probably call me a liar about not being into cuddling, but then again, that one person used to give me mixed signals and so cuddling was one way I could test what his intentions were. Plus, since his and my relationship was constantly in fast forward, the cuddling was the quickest way to create those emotional bonds of a relationship, especially in the absence of the other ways of creating those bonds (like the aforementioned sex)…
Under normal circumstances, I am not a cuddler.
But I do see the need for it. There is a need to show the person you are with that they are important to you. Touch is one way to accomplish that. Through touch you can intimate your feelings more clearly. Dating articles will tell you that when talking with someone you are interested in (like at a bar or on a dinner date), one of the big signs that they are interested in you is if they touch you lightly on the arm. A slight trail of the fingertips is even more personal and shows a deeper interest.
On the almost last attempted date with the boy, I ran my fingers down his arm after pointing something out to him. He accused me of using girl warfare techniques. I think he was insinuating that I was marking him as my territory, which was probably also a tiny bit true; we were in a room of almost entirely women at a painting class… The accusation hurt, because he was interpreting my actions as offensive (as in military or football offense) as opposed to the signal of interest and care that it was meant to be.
Then again, he and I never spoke the same language anyway…
But it goes to show my point somewhat: touch, or the withholding thereof, can cause friction in a relationship. It is through touch that we create lasting bonds with people, and for those of us who need touch in order to sense emotions from the other person, it is how we determine the true feelings of the people we are interacting with.
Thus, the more he removed the physical contact from our situation, the less connected I felt to him, until we were no longer even friends, but merely two people who couldn’t translate our intentions to one another.
The removal of physical contact was a rejection, and a constant reminder that we weren’t partners or equals in our relationship. In essence, I felt like he was using touch to control the level of our interaction, to assert his dominance over me, yet he wasn’t giving me any clues as to how I could regain his favor and thus obtain the pleasure I required from our physical interactions. This goes back to the light BDSM thing I’ve discussed before.Do I think that was his intention? No, I think he’s just not that into touching, but it was something I needed, and the fact that he couldn’t give me what I needed, but rather expected me to adjust to what made him comfortable (i.e. giving him the space he needed), was just one of more than a handful of reminders of how unimportant I was to his life. It showed how little he thought of me. Or that’s how I interpret it. The lesson in all that is that I need to be touched, in order to feel loved. And not even in just a romantic capacity. I need hugs and reassuring pats on the back and the occasional hand holding to feel a connection to the people in my life, even just my friends. I need some sign that I matter to them. And touch, in all it’s forms, is the vehicle for that sentiment. I’m not saying I need to be attached at the hip to a person, but I don’t want to have to beg for physical contact either. And in romantic relationships, especially ones that have reached a physical level, you gotta touch me if you want to keep me.