When we were dating, I wanted to touch Rachel all of the time. I remember shaking her hand when first meeting her. I remember teaching her how to juggle, and having her stand right next to me, with her left hip touching my right hip. I remember our first high-five, and our first playful bump into each other. And I remember when I put my hand around her shoulder for the first time when we were sitting on a couch going through family photos on my phone. It felt like I was on fire.
As I’m reminiscing, I remember our very first hug. She was wearing my striped hoodie, and it was by a cemetery in Banner Elk at around 7:20 in the evening. I didn’t want to let go but it was about to get awkward and so I did. I remember our first kiss, on the shores of Ocean Isle Beach under the moonlight on August 18th, 2013. I remember cuddling on the couch on warm summer evenings, and stroking her face softly while our noses barely touched.
Man, I feel like I remember everything involving how we touched and the way we touched – and how electric it was. This highlights how profoundly important those moments were, and the weight of meaning behind each one. Those touches weren’t sexual, but simple and pure and rooted in the love I wanted to give – not what I wanted to receive. And it was often all I thought about during the day, especially when we were in the same vicinity. I mean, how could I not want to always be touching this beautiful, amazing, wonderful girl who God had dropped into my life??!?!
Rachel’s primary love language is physical touch, and being hugged and held on a regular basis provides her with the tangible reassurance that she is loved, and that she is safe. And she naturally wants touch from me because it conveys both my affection and my desire for her in a way that doesn’t require anything of her. She appreciates it so much when I voluntarily go up to her throughout the day and hug her, squeeze her, pat her shoulder, stroke her arm, take her hand, grab her waist, or poke her playfully. And this was so easy for me while dating and also early on as husband and wife as I tried to stay super romantic and not let the fires of passion fade in intensity.
As we journey towards three years of marriage, I have realized that I think about a lot of things during the day other than touching Rachel in those same selfless, non-sexual ways. Because of responsibilities, commitments, and other immediate concerns, it just doesn’t occur to me as regularly.
Even though it would be so easy to do.
Even though it’s important to her.
Instead, I have noticed that when Rachel comes up to me to be hugged and held and loved on, I increasingly convey that I’m only interested in pleasure. I’ll try to paint the picture by sharing an example:
Let’s say I am in my home office getting some work done, or watching my favorite baseball team on TV. She very vulnerably demonstrates a need for touch by approaching me and coming in for a hug. In response, I stop what I’m doing and I hug her back (as I should!). But then, almost reflexively, I smile mischievously, raise my eyebrows rapidly, and motion in the direction of our bedroom.
And she bursts out laughing, and rolls her eyes.
This happens quite often. It’s just what we do. And while it is pretty funny in the moment, there’s something deeper here worth exploring. Basically, I am conveying to Rachel that yes, I’m happy to touch you in a non-sexual way, but what I really want is for you to touch me in a sexual way.
It’s easy to laugh off and dismiss, and we’ve all heard jokes about the way guys are wired, but it’s not exactly cool of me to do. It’s actually really selfish of me, disregarding her needs and focusing instead on mine. Honestly, I really should just pull her in tight and stroke her hair and truly and fully be there for her in that moment, in that hug, in that simple display of non-sexual touch. That’s all she wants.
Instead, I angle to be gratified.
One thing that makes me feel a little better is that other guys struggle with this as well. We were talking with our friends Brian and Mia (names changed). Like Rachel, Mia would appreciate a lot more non-sexual touch from her husband. But Brian just couldn’t remember to do it naturally. And so he set an alarm on his phone to remind him to go touch her every hour.
I thought this was completely brilliant, and that I should definitely do it!
Mia said it was an awful idea.
Brian said that it was a big mistake, and that I should definitely not do it.
And upon reflection, I don’t think it would have made Rachel happy if I needed an alarm to prompt myself to demonstrate the love language of physical touch towards her. I’m sure she would feel that I was just doing it out of obligation. And that if it’s not important for me to naturally remember, it’s clearly not important to me.
I know I definitely want to get better in this area. I mean, Rachel really does love me in all the ways I need to be loved. For example, I know it’s not easy for her to watch sports with me all the time, and yet she does with fullness of heart (thank you, wifey!!!!). And over the last few weeks, I have made some progress when it comes to non-sexual touch (YAY!). I’ve been more intentional about going up to her and hugging her. And I’ve made time for more cuddling. And I’ve been more physically playful and romantic. And I have enjoyed it – it hasn’t been a chore.
But remembering to do it has taken a lot of intentionality. And Brian and I are committed to keep each other accountable. We regularly text each other a simple reminder throughout the week:
“TOUCH YO WIFE!”
It’s making a difference. I’m starting to do it a little more even on days I don’t get a text reminder. I have a ways to go, but this is progress. I’ll take it. And so will she!
The bottom line is that if your significant other needs this (just ask them how important it is to them), you absolutely should be doing it. I cannot express how much it will benefit your romantic relationship. In fact, this would be one of my top tips to guys who are dating or married: major in non-sexual touch, and do it with a purely selfless, unassuming heart.
Don’t do it with an agenda.
Do it because you love her, and you want to demonstrate that love well. I can’t think of anything else more important.