The Beautiful Gift of Touch

Posted on Jul 22, 2013

Looking at the calendar to do some planning is always bittersweet for me. My partner travels regularly for work and so we often spend time apart. So when I am trying to look ahead to schedule clients, plan childcare for work and arrange our social time I always see the next time my partner will be away. Fortunately, he is passionate about his profession. Unfortunately, that doesn’t make it any easier to be apart.

Some Jetsons-like modern conveniences such as FaceTime, texting and Skype have made his time away much more tolerable for me. I’m able to see him while I talk to him (as are our kiddos) as well as text him little snippets while he is away so when he returns we don’t have to spend time catching up. For these opportunities, I am grateful.

There is most certainly one crucial element missing from these interactions however: touch. Over the last few months I have been reminded randomly yet regularly about the importance of touch.

Despite the enhanced ways to stay connected while he’s away and despite the fact that we don’t have to catch up on life details upon his return, I still experience a profound void during his absence. Of course touch includes sexual and erotic touch, but the touch deficit I experience most deeply is the casual, affectionate touch that we share without thinking while together. I’ve reflected upon why I experience loneliness despite all the connection while he’s away and I have come to the conclusion the reason is the absence of his touch.

There is a significant amount of research and focus about the effects of touch on wellness. It does speak to me, but what opens my eyes more is personal mindfulness about my own touch deficit. I realize now that often my general unease or specific crankiness can be diffused with some loving touch. Knowing this about myself, I have applied it to my partner and children. We make a conscious effort to cuddle and hug and hold hands within the context of our family life.

Through that mindfulness, I have also observed the general touch-phobia within our culture. I have always been a ‘hugger’ and have been mildly surprised by friends who are not ‘huggers’. I certainly do not judge them for their desire for the integrity of their personal space. I am respectful and recognize the need to tread lightly and give people space. We all react differently to touch, especially from casual friends.

Within a more intimate context with partners, I believe it does take a focused effort to establish robust habits for healthy, affectionate touch. We should be touching for touch’s sake, not load it with expectations or withhold it only for erotic play. Touch facilitates intimacy and closeness and cultivates connection. We shouldn’t wait until the perfect time for a hug or to hold hands. Every moment you are together is the perfect time to connect with your partner through touch.

I always do my best to find the silver lining in challenge. I won’t say that regularly spending a significant amount of time away from my partner is easy. It is a challenge. I will say that the silver lining is the fact that when we are together, I don’t miss an opportunity to hug him, hold his hand and cuddle close on the couch. I have to get my fill of touch before he is off on another adventure.

I heartily encourage you to cultivate habits of mindful, affection touch with your partners. Discover for yourselves the connectedness and other beautiful benefits of touch.

 

First published at magazine.goodvibes.com