The Art of Touching
by Paul Mauchline
A national telephone
company advertises a long-distance telephone slogan, "Reach out
and touch someone." Each day, we need to reach out and touch those
who are close to us. All of us - young and old, single and in relationship
- need touch. Actions, in many cases, communicate more than words. Physical
contact is a prerequisite both for a healthy individual, and for a fulfilling,
mature, loving relationship with a partner.
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Our bodies require
touch: it relieves stress; it makes us happier and healthier. In our
fast-paced lives, however, we often forget the importance of giving
and receiving affection through physical touch. We deprive ourselves
of this very basic need. We also deprive our loved ones. I can't emphasize
enough how important touch is in any of your loving relationships. We
strive to diet, to quit smoking, to drink in moderation, and to exercise,
in order to promote a healthy body. In my opinion, touching is the most
vital gift that you can give and receive.
a healthy mind, body, and soul. I know, for myself, my days are extremely
busy, and at times very stressful. I look forward to the end of the
day, when I put my arms around my partner and touch her: It calms me,
it relieves my stress, and it allows us to demonstrate our love for
one another. When I go out and I see a good friend, I give them a hug:
it makes me feel good -- and I'm sure that it makes them feel good,
too. If you have young children, and you arrive home, they're excited
to see you; in most cases, they want physical contact from you-they
want a hug, a cuddle, and a kiss. It makes them feel loved and cared
for, and gives them the security that they need from you. After a long,
stressful day, that hug and cuddle, whether it's from your child, partner,
or even a friend, is the best medicine you can give yourself.
You may be single
at this time. Being single doesn't mean that you don't need touching
and physical closeness in your daily life. Especially if you have recently
ended a relationship, you may be missing the hugs, kisses, embraces
and handholding that you once had. Your life and the world do not stop
because you're not currently in a loving relationship - neither does
your need for physical closeness and touching. Remember your priorities:
it all starts with you loving yourself and taking responsibility for
giving yourself what you need. I'm not talking about masturbation here
(though that may be what some people need). The art of touching encompasses
non-sexual as well as sexual touch. It's equally important, whether
you are single or in a relationship, to get your daily allowance of
touching. Demonstrating physical closeness with family and friends is
one way to elevate your mood, allowing you to feel loved and fulfilled,
while giving love to others. Try babysitting your niece or nephew, or
maybe a friend's child. Young children love holding hands and being
hugged or cuddled. This type of touching not only makes them healthier,
but also does wonders for you. Also, going for a massage, a manicure,
a pedicure, or even a haircut can provide the touching stimulation that
our skin needs.
If you are in a
relationship, both sexual and non-sexual touch are important. During
the euphoric stage of a relationship, sexual touch predominates. You
can't keep your hands off of each other. I think you all know what I'm
talking about. In the beginning, sex is a very important part of your
relationship with the other person. When mature love begins, non-sexual
touch becomes more important, as touch takes on an additional meaning.
While sexual touch can communicate sexual feelings, non-sexual touch
can simply communicate your love, care, and affection for one another.
and touching stimulates the continued growth of your loving relationships.
As our relationships progress, we sometimes begin to take others for
granted; we simply get lazy, especially with our loved ones. When it
comes to practicing the art of loving in your daily life, you can't
be lazy or take anybody for granted, including yourself. Touching is
an integral part of this art, which requires knowledge, effort, and,
above all, practice. If you are in a loving relationship, make a concerted
effort to touch your partner. Don't forget to hug and kiss one another
before you leave for work, or when you return home. Take advantage of
quiet moments during the day to give affection to one another. Hold
hands in a movie, at a restaurant, or while walking down the street.
Showering or bathing together promotes touching, and will give you physical
closeness with your partner. Whether you are at home or in public, demonstrate
physical closeness with one another. I'm not talking about public displays
of affection that would make those around you want to yell, "Get
a hotel room!" I am sure you and your partner know appropriate
ways to be physically close in public, to show your caring and affection
for one another.
If you need physical
closeness-a hug, a snuggle-communicate your need to your partner. If
a hug is all you want, clearly communicate this. So often, the desire
for physical closeness gets misinterpreted as a desire for sex. If your
partner is tired and interprets your touch as a desire for sex, it may
result in your partner pulling away from you -- which, in turn, may
leave you feeling rejected. If your partner frequently thinks that you
want to have sex, when in fact you don't, he or she could develop performance
anxiety. By not clearly communicating your needs, you risk losing both
sexual and non-sexual intimacy with your partner. It's not uncommon
for one partner to need more physical connection than the other. Its
very normal: we're all different, with different backgrounds, experiences,
and needs. Nevertheless, people are often afraid to talk about the subject
of touching in a straightforward, honest way.
So often, an attempt
to communicate one's needs turns into an attack: "You never hold
my hand anymore!" "You're more interested in holding the remote
control than me!" "As soon as your body hits the bed, you're
asleep in thirty seconds. Why don't you hug me and hold me like you
used to?" This type of communication doesn't work. All it does
is put your partner on the defensive. Solutions can only be reached
through clear communication and compromise. It's so much easier and
kinder to ask calmly for what you need, rather than make demands and
When you aren't
communicating clearly and aren't getting your needs met, all kinds of
thoughts start going through your mind: "He doesn't love me anymore."
"Is she fooling around with somebody?" "I must not be
attractive anymore." Your partner, on the other hand, may feel
inadequate or guilty for not giving you what you need -- or may believe
that you are too clingy or dependent. This may lead your partner to
question his or her love for you, or level of commitment to the relationship.
You both begin to feel insecure, and the degree of trust you feel for
one another diminishes. The domino effect comes into play: all of a
sudden, communication comes to a standstill. Fear that the love is gone
and the relationship is ending adds to the anxiety, further fueling
the fire of anger and resentment between you. This is not melodramatic.
Many relationships fail today due to misunderstandings that stem from
miscommunication about how we want, like, or need to be touched.
When touching between
two partners stops, it is clearly a sign that the relationship is in
trouble. I feel that it is important, in the early stages of a relationship,
to openly discuss you and your partner's individual needs for physical
closeness. Discuss your likes and dislikes in regard to being touched.
What a relief to remove all that ambiguity! Knowing what your partner
likes and dislikes is important information. Taking the time to gather
this type of knowledge builds the foundation of your relationship, allowing
you and your partner to rise in love together. The physical closeness
of touching connects two individuals in a unique way. It provides emotional
warmth and reassures you both that your feelings for one another have
not changed. The practice of touching one another daily reinforces and
strengthens your relationship. It is the conduit between two individuals
that allows them to connect as one.
Pondering the art
of touching brings me back to an experience I had. I was spending American
Thanksgiving one year with my friend Issa from Florida. Her whole family
-- which counted four generations -- was there for this celebration.
The aroma of food was not the only thing that permeated the air: As
this family reunited for this special day of thanks, the love that the
family members had for one another filled the space. Once dinner was
concluded, I walked from the backyard, where dinner was held, into the
house. There, I discovered the first generation of this family, Issa's
grandfather and grandmother, sitting quietly together on the couch,
holding hands, and watching their family through the sliding glass doors.
It was such a beautiful sight to see this elderly couple in there 90's
still so much in love with one another. Clearly, the love that filled
the air that day was a result of this couple's love for each other.
It's amazing that
after 70 years of being together, this couple still openly demonstrates
their love and affection in front of others. I feel that we need to
set aside our fears about showing affection in public. There's nothing
wrong with holding hands as you walk together or giving your partner
a kiss in a restaurant. Physical closeness, touching in public, reinforces
your oneness. It's a statement that tells your partner that you are
proud to be with him or her. After the euphoric stage has passed and
you have entered a more mature phase of the relationship, it shows your
partner that your feelings of love are still present. It tells the world
that you are a couple in a secure, loving relationship.
Many people are
afraid of their need for physical closeness. They fear their need to
be touched, and try to deny it. Many people think that, other than with
a lover, to demonstrate or receive physical affection is a sign of weakness.
I hate genderizing, but men, put aside your machismo: you're human,
like the women in this world. You need to be touched and have the ability
to demonstrate physical closeness with your family and friends. By recognizing
the importance of touch, we are giving ourselves something healthy that
we require, and strengthening the relationships we have with family
and friends. Practicing the art of touching prepares us, so that when
we have an intimate, loving relationship, we recognize the importance
of demonstrating physical closeness and emotional warmth with our partner.
Copyright © 2000-2001. All rights reserved. Paul Mauchline