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I feel like my husband is always groping me. He doesn’t hold my hand when we’re walking together. He doesn’t put his arm around me when we watch TV. He doesn’t even hug me unless I ask, but he’s all hands when I’m trying to make dinner or when we’re in the bedroom. Is it too much to ask for him to just be tender and sweet and affectionate sometimes just for no good reason other than to be sweet?
It’s hard for me to want to be intimate with him when it feels like I’m just a sexual object to him. If we had more loving touch that didn’t have sexual overtones or always lead to something, then it might be easier for me to want to have sex with him. It’s kind of funny that I feel touch deprived and touch resistant all at the same time.
The Missing Ingredient of Touch
A missing intimate ingredient for many women in their marriages is non-sexual touch or affection that doesn’t always have strings attached to sex. Before marriage there is generally plenty of affection between a man and a woman, but after marriage many women argue that once sex is an option, then the tender touch that used to occur is nearly all but forgotten.
In a rush to get to the “good stuff,” many men overlook the need for loving touch outside the bedroom as a pleasure in its own right. When this happens, women begin to shut themselves off from all touch when it is only associated with or experienced as a part of sex.
There is a message that unwittingly gets sent to wives when sexual touch is the predominant touch they receive. The message is that they are only appreciated for their sexuality rather than being seen and loved as a whole person. When there is an abundance of affectionate, non-sexual touching in marriage, it reinforces the message that a woman is loved and valued by her husband in all ways–not just in the bedroom.
I like the term shared by one husband that touch is “Skin Time” with couples having a Minimum Daily Requirement almost like a necessary vitamin–Vitamin T for Touch. There’s something magical about skin-to-skin contact, and all humans need it. We get it as babies, and then spend much of our time craving it as we grow older.
Skin Time can be had by holding hands as often as possible. You might touch your loved one’s face, neck, arms, or even give your spouse a good hand or foot massage. That can be heavenly. Skin time is obviously easy to accomplish when making love. The invitation here is to find more ways to enjoy skin-to-skin contact without it always being sexual.
Touch Homework with No Strings Attached
I often assign “Touch Homework” to couples. This is where they set aside some time–maybe on Sunday night after kids are in bed–where they cuddle, hold hands, practice 10-second hugs or just lie next to each other purely for the pleasure of intimate physical contact, both knowing that sex is not on the menu for that night.
What this touch homework does is helps husbands (and wives) begin to enjoy non-sexual touch again all by itself. It helps wives to re-train themselves and their husbands that tender touch doesn’t always have to lead to something else.
When the reservoir of affection is filled back up in a marriage, the wife feels more loved and wanted as a whole person–not just sexually. This helps her say yes to sex much more easily, especially given her wiring where sex is not on the mind as often.
Touch has the power to heal. Human touch induces the release of the cuddling, bonding hormone oxytocin, which creates a wonderful feeling of comfort and connection.[i] Skin-on-skin contact decreases physical stress by sending a message to the adrenal glands to lighten up on the production of the stress hormone, cortisol. This results in a relaxation response.[ii] [iii]
Oxytocin released during affectionate touch or the orgasmic response has an amnesiac effect that induces the feeling that all is well in the world for awhile.[iv] The parts of the brain that govern fear, anxiety and stress are shut off, inhibiting the release of cortisol. The rush of oxytocin is a great reason to get in the habit of sharing 10 or even 20 second hugs.[v] There’s nothing more therapeutic than loving, tender touch when one is hurt, afraid, stressed or lonely.
That wonderful bonding hormone oxytocin is released with a variety of touch–including hand holding, kissing, caressing and orgasm. It’s even released simply with eye contact. This reinforces the need for eye contact (and undivided attention) during conversation, and may be especially powerful during lovemaking.
I’ve often told my family (somewhat in jest) that if I’m ever in the hospital, they just need to make sure someone is always there to hold my hand the whole time. They think that’s a little over the top, but I know that’s what I would want and need most during such a time. I remember being really sick during finals one semester in college. A friend of mine skipped her own classes to sit by my bed and hold my hand while I rested. It was so calming and reassuring.
One wife shared that when she is feeling stressed or overwhelmed, she will often walk up to her husband and ask him to just hold her for a minute as she melts into his arms. It’s as if all is well in the world again after a warm embrace.
When I wake up in the morning I sometimes walk into the office where my husband is already working, and sit on his lap just to connect with him for a few moments. It almost feels like I am plugging myself into a power source.
Human touch provides a power supply that needs to be honored as such in its own right, not just as a part of the act of lovemaking. Don’t overlook the endowment of emotional connection that comes from non-sexual affection. It can be even more powerful, at times, than the act of lovemaking.
Women especially appreciate the restraint that accompanies affectionate touch when it doesn’t lead to sex. This act of restraint can create deep feelings of trust, love and connection, that can fuel desire for future sexual encounters.
With this “T” for TOUCH, I hope couples will find ways to touch more often–especially “outside the bedroom.” This non-sexual affection can add fuel to the fire for “inside the bedroom” activities and help couples move toward creating a “Sextraordinary” marriage.
For help with improving this aspect of marital intimacy and many others read Knowing HER Intimately: 12 Keys for Creating a Sextraordinary Marriage by Laura M. Brotherson. This article was excerpted from Chapter 7 — “TOUCH” of Laura’s NEW book — Knowing HER Intimately: 12 Keys for Creating a Sextraordinary Marriage. Get your copy here for a fabulously discounted price…especially for Meridian readers!
Other articles in this series:
- “Using Conversation to Connect Intimately” (Mar 22, 2017)
- “‘Bridges to Desire’ — Better Preparation for Intimacy” (Feb 1, 2017)
- “Making Intimacy in Marriage a Priority” (Jan 4, 2017)
- “Creating a Secure Foundation for Intimacy” (Dec 5, 2016)
- “Spiritual Principles for Determining What’s Okay in Intimacy” (Oct 31, 2016)
- “Sexuality is Part of Your Divine Nature” (Oct 3, 2016)
- “12 Keys for Creating a Happy Intimate Life in Your Marriage” (Sep 8, 2016)
BIO — Laura M. Brotherson, LMFT, CST, CFLE
Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT) and Certified Sex Therapist (CST), Laura M. Brotherson, is the author of the best-selling book, And They Were Not Ashamed: Strengthening Marriage through Sexual Fulfillment, and her latest book Knowing HER Intimately: 12 Keys for Creating a Sextraordinary Marriage. She counsels with individuals, couples and families in private practice (and online), and is the host of “The Marital Intimacy Show” podcast.
As a Certified Family Life Educator (CFLE), Laura is actively engaged in providing marriage education through Couples Cruises, articles, newsletters, radio and television broadcasts, and presenting at conferences and workshops. Laura is passionate about helping couples navigate the intricacies of intimacy to help build stronger marriages and families. She and her husband, Kevin, of 25 years are the founders of StrengtheningMarriage.com—your trusted resource for education, products and services to strengthen marriages… intimately!
Connect with Laura:
[i] Johnson, Dr. Sue, Love Sense: The Revolutionary New Science of Romantic Relationships. New York: Little, Brown and Company, 2013.
[ii] Field, T., Hernandez-Reif, M., Diego, M., Schanberg, S., and Kuhn C., “Cortisol Decreases and Serotonin and Dopamine Increase Following Massage Therapy,” The International Journal of Neuroscience, 2005 Oct,115(10):1397-1413.
[iii] Wardell, D. W., and Weymouth, K. F., “Review of Studies of Healing Touch,” Journal of Nursing Scholarship 36 (2004): 147-154. doi: 10.1111/j.1547-5069.2004.04012.x
[iv] Love, Pat and Stosny, S., How to Improve Your Marriage Without Talking About It. New York, New York: Broadway Books, 2007.
[v] Erickson, Kelly, “The Power of Touch: Snuggling = Better Performance?” House Call, MD, accessed June 10, 2016. https://www.myhousecallmd.com/tag/oxytocin.