Wanting Physical Touch Just For Affection
Dear Dr. Bill:
My husband and I have a problem. It seems like every time he gets affectionate, it is for one reason and one reason alone, and that reason is sex. I would like it if we just held hands or cuddled more often, and that was all we did. It has gotten to the point where I almost flinch when he touches me, because by experience, I know exactly where it is leading. I have complained about this to him, but it never changes.
Dear Feeling Used,
You are not alone in this struggle. I have heard a similar problem many times in my practice. I also hear men saying that they get very frustrated trying to read the minds of their wives. “ How am I supposed to know whether this is a time for touch alone or the whole deal?” I also hear women say that there are many times when they would like to caress their husband but don’t because “he has a one track mind and will get the wrong idea”. Most men and women enjoy loving touch. Here’s how to get more of it:
Rule number one is to discuss this in a way that does not sound like a complaint or criticism. To the often-stubborn human ear, there is a tremendous difference between hearing: “all you ever want is sex. Why can’t you ever just rub my back without demanding sex as well?” and “I just love cuddling with you, and it would be great if we could do it more.” Ask for what you want without criticizing the past. This is key to better couples’ communication.
My second suggestion is to develop a new language to differentiate between desires for sexual versus non-sexual touch. For example, to want to “cuddle” would mean touch alone and to “snuggle” would mean a desire for touch leading to lovemaking. Make up your own words. Let this be a playful discussion. I think great marriages have at least as much cuddling as snuggling. With this language, expectations are made clear in an easy-to-hear way. That will help avoid misunderstandings, disappointments and hurt feelings later. And guess what? Misunderstandings, disappointments and hurt feelings are bad for intimacy of any type.
Finally, have a conversation with your spouse about what touch they like. Go to school on what feels good to them. You may think you know, but asking is not only a loving thing to do, you may be surprised that your assumptions all these years were wrong. Our skin is the largest organ of our body. Get to know your spouses largest organ better.
And for those spouses who wish for more lovemaking in their marriage, make an investment in touch alone. Give the gift of touch to your spouse not to get something in return, but because it is the loving thing to do. Spouses who feel loved and cherished are almost always for receptive to intimacy. Pray for balance in this part of your marriage. If your love life has become unsatisfying, and distant, get help. In our practice, we work with couples all the time that need help working through sexual issues. This is a sensitive topic loaded with potential problems. Far too many couples let decades go by in pain. If you can’t work this out alone, don’t make the mistake of not seeking help.