A Powerful Touch

Do you minimize touch to avoid giving your husband "ideas"? What happens when we're deprived of any touch at all?

On my Facebook news feed today, I saw an article for a new business in Madison, WI, called The Snuggle House, which specializes in non-sexual touch therapy. For $60, you can pay someone to snuggle with you for an hour.

Really? Paying strangers to hold you? An internet search led me to The Snuggery in Rochester, NY. The Snuggery’s website, which explains the value of snuggle therapy this way:

When we are engaged in touch, our brains produce more serotonin and oxytocin. Both of these chemicals make us calm and happy and contribute to an overall sense of well-being and relaxation that is pleasurable and healthy. Touch demonstrably stimulates regions of our brain that are known to produce pleasant, pleasurable feelings. Studies have also shown that touch reduces stress and anxiety for up to five days after it occurs. Stress and anxiety both aggravate numerous physical and mental health conditions.

It makes sense. After all, skin-to-skin contact (kangaroo care) is used with premature babies to promote bonding and help stabilize their health. Even though snuggle therapy involves clothed snuggler and snugglee, there is much you can still feel—warmth, breath, pulse—that conveys a physical closeness to another human being.

When I was restricting our sex life, just about every interaction between my husband and me had an underpinning of avoiding any hint of sex. Mostly, this meant that I was careful about visual stimulation. In order to avoid giving him any sexual ideas, I would wear tops that showed no cleavage, wait until he was out of the kitchen to load the dishwasher, point my rear end away from him if I was scrubbing something off the floor, change clothes when he was out of the bedroom, and so on.

Reading about snuggle therapy makes me realize what else I did. In my efforts to minimize sexual contact, I also deprived him of non-sexual contact. If I handed him the car keys, I would do so in a way to minimize the possibility of our fingers touching. In church or at a restaurant, I would usually place a child between us. Kissing was perfunctory. Hugging was safe only if done in front of others where he couldn’t grope, caress, or otherwise make a move.

I remember being intentional about this touch deprivation, although I don’t know how much I allowed myself to be fully aware of what I was doing. It wasn’t a big plot to deprive my husband of touch as much as something that was part of every single interaction I had with him. I didn’t realize I was even thinking about it.

As I read that people can pay to be held, I realize in a new way how my husband suffered all those years. Can you imagine what it’s like to rarely be touched by another person? As a very huggy mom, I had as much snuggling as I wanted. My husband, however, isn’t one of those guys who goes around hugging everyone he meets. He hugged the kids, but they were hugs that had a beginning and end, not the kind where you’re just holding someone until you’re truly done.

If you have been dictating the frequency and nature of sex in your marriage, you know that you are depriving your husband of the sex life he desires. Maybe you think his desire is too much or is out of control, or maybe you feel he doesn’t deserve the sex life he desires. Although I think those kinds of thoughts are wrong and hurtful to you and your husband as well as to your marriage, I do understand and remember those feelings.

Even if you think your husband doesn’t truly need or deserve the sex he desires, have you thought about what else you might be depriving him of? Are you like I was, so determined not to imply sexual touch that you deprive your husband of any touch at all?

You are depriving your husband of these things:

  • A sense of well-being and relaxation.
  • The enhanced ability to produce pleasant and pleasurable feelings.
  • Reduction of stress and anxiety.

Thinking about this makes me sad all over again for my husband and his suffering for those years.

My efforts intended to inhibit sexual contact affected my husband in ways I didn’t even realize at the time. But I think I knew, in my bones, that physical contact matters. As a mom, I gave lots of hugs and touch throughout the day. But there were times at night when I would lie in bed, lonely next to my sexually deprived husband who was tossing and turning. As he was asleep and wouldn’t try anything sexual (read, “safe”), I would scoot myself against him, take his arm, and wrap it around me. In his sleep, he would pull me close. I needed to be held just as much as he did.

My efforts to avoid sex were so constant and ingrained in me that I had to wait until my husband was asleep to get the touch therapy I needed.

If you are depriving your husband of these things that we know contribute to his well-being and stability, would you be okay with your husband paying money for a stranger to cuddle him instead? Would you be okay with a $60 snuggling charge showing up on your bank statement? As I sit here and think about snuggle therapy, I know that I would feel incredibly hurt if I learned that my husband was paying for snuggle therapy.

When my husband holds me, I feel tension ease away from my body and mind. Sometimes I feel like I’m melting into him as my body regains a sense of equilibrium. This is what I deprived us of for so many years.

I know a Catholic sister (a nun) who is a licensed massage therapist. Her only clients are other sisters. When I asked her why this was, she said,  “Humans need touch. When you choose a life of celibacy, you make a choice to deprive yourself of a certain kind of touch—but you still need touch. As a massage therapist, I provide my sister celibates with the touch they need throughout their lives.”

The nuns I know are provided with the touch of another human. Is your husband getting as much as that?

Update (December 7, 2013):

The Snuggle House in Madison is closed due to pushback from the community. 

Do you minimize touch to avoid giving your husband "ideas"? What happens when we're deprived of any touch at all?

Image credit | Christianpics.co

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13 Comments on “A Powerful Touch”

  1. I was wondering if you were going to see you were also depriving yourself too. It seems to me, this touch deprivation, this lack of physical (not even calling it sensual let alone sexual) intimacy is likely a significant cause of emotional affairs in marriages which can be precursors to sexual affairs. This lack of contact is usually coupled with a lack of casual or meaningful communication. Conversation is limited to essential communication to expedite daily necessities only. This lack of communication creates a disconnect that is then aggravated by the lack of physical contact.

    The neglected partner then may seek out sympathetic communication which can evolve into empathetic communication. Now all it takes is a simple touch on the shoulder, arm or waist in the course of going through a door or being seated, a touch on the hand, wrist or forearm during conversation and the oxytocin floods out and bonding begins. The only touches left to sanction the start of a physical affair are touches to the face, neck and any place below the waist. It was not need or desire for sex that drove the affair forward, but the desire to be touched in a caring way; to be touched physically as well as emotionally. Sadly, this is when a man is particularly aware of the need for non-sexual touch; when he needs it himself. Is it possible he/we may not consciously associate the touch with the benefit though. He knows he always feels good when SHE is around him, but doesn’t really know the mechanism of why. “She gets me,” may be the best he can do to explain his euphoria while not connect the touch as the source of bliss. Just a thought.

    How do we men not hold this awareness of non-sexual touch in our hearts for our wives? We unwittingly and unintentionally neglect both their emotional and physical health in doing so. This is especially detrimental if Touch is their primary Love Language.

    How can we be so wise in the ways to do intentional deep harm, but so ignorant as to how to effectively love?

  2. Thank you for writing this! You said SO well what I have struggled to get across when speaking with other couples.

    Touch – most especially between a husband and wife – is so incredibly important! Yes, for BOTH of them!

    I will certainly be passing this post around freely!

  3. I just need to tell you how much I agree with your post. To be without physical contact is so devastating and it really makes you feel unloved and alone. And, just like sex, it is not just a matter of body contact with someone (therefore the idea of paying for it is just as empty as going to a prostitute for sex). So when you ask “Can you imagine what it’s like to rarely be touched by another person?” you only focus on a minor part of it. Sure, I wan’t to be touched – but not just by anyone! I want to be touched by my wife, because she is the one I love! And, perhaps even more importantly, she is the one I wish to feel loved by!

    Nothing compares to a full body hug from the woman I love and to feel her arms around my neck! It’s balm to my soul!

    In other words, I certainly hope that the women reading your blog will listen to you and realize that even if they (for some reason) are not comfortable with sex, they should still maintain the non-sexual physical intimacy with their husbands. It makes a world of difference!

    1. I love this:

      Nothing compares to a full body hug from the woman I love and to feel her arms around my neck! It’s balm to my soul!

      I can’t imagine getting this feeling from another person. It is my husband’s arms I want holding me, not a stranger’s.

  4. My wife says she” doesn’t love me like a wife loves a husband and doesn’t know who she is.” She also tells me she wil divorce me because I will not help her tear down our covenant. This has been an ongoing problem for a long time but I will no longer sit like a dog waiting to be fed. I am standing and trying to love her as Jesus loves the church. Please pray for my wife and children.

  5. FW, thanks, I understand your msg here oh so well. When my wife ended her 3 years of no physical contact with me, she came to me one evening dressed in some frilly lingerie. She let me hug her all
    over and fondle her too. But as I recall she did not actively hug me
    back. It was so intense for me, it was like i was melting into her and so much stress seemed to just flow away.

    The sensation and thrill of it all was so powerful. I do not know what caused her to finally submit to me in this manner, and I still do not feel really safe yet to ask her now.
    How could a man pay to hug a stranger female for an hour and resist from trying to get sexual with her ? Does not seem possible.

  6. We are now having continuing physical contact, at times sexually too, but only at my request, she never desires to initiate anything. She still says no to many things too often, at other times she tolerates my actions. I look forward to the day when she will enthusiastically do things with me. She says she does not want or need orgasms, and hates to hear that word. It seems like a woman can force herself from being aroused, no matter how much gentle foreplay a husbamd can provide.

  7. In my previous marriage (I was married for 20 years to an abusive man), I avoided any kind of touch, and with a passion. And yet, I actually craved being held, having my hand held, being hugged. Sound crazy? Perhaps.

    What I craved more than anything was being loved. Being loved completely for me, not being criticized or ridiculed or beat down with hateful words. I wanted to be wanted, for me. I wanted to make love without feeling each and every single time that it was all based around porn. And I wanted to be touched in a loving way, not just groped from behind because he wanted sex.

    So, yes, while I avoided any touch with him to avoid him thinking it was about sex, I craved it. Oh how I craved it!

    Ironically, my ex used to say to me and tell others, how I just didn’t like to be touched. I wasn’t a ‘huggy’ person he would say. And each time, I wept on the inside, because I wanted nothing more. But as the saying goes, ‘you cannot hug a porcupine’ and I lived with much more than that.

    Nowadays, my husband and I hug and kiss daily, hold hands, sit side by side while watching tv, and always have some physical touch each day. It was so foreign to me, that when we first started going out I purposely would not stand too close (my ex used to tell me I clung to him too much and was too needy, really??? o.O). Now, I couldn’t think of a day without touching him, holding his hand, and I just love being touched by him, sexual or otherwise.

  8. Amy,
    You wrote a little something that I’ve stated for many, many years, “I wanted to be wanted…”
    That’s the catch 22 in marriage. You wish to God that your spouse would be that one to love you and need you and actually DISPLAY it! Unfortunately, after years of neglect that feeling of “wanting to be wanted” quantifies which leads to some insanity and/or affairs. And I know this first hand: both insanity and the affairs. To be quite open, nothing has changed in my marriage and it wouldn’t take much for another affair to begin. I keep pleading with my wife to have an intimate relationship; not one of just physical things but rather one based on a foundation of comfortable communication. I say this because I’ve grown a little envious of couples that claim they talk about topics like sex, touch, intimacy, likes/dislikes, etc. I cannot do that with my wife although I try and try and try.
    My newest decision is that we read the bible together with our kids then discuss what we’ve read. Then make some time alone for us to read either an article, a chapter from a book, watch a video that deals with marriage, sex, intimacy, etc. I just presented the idea yesterday (immediately met with debating and refusal). I begged her to seek out an article or chapter in a book for us to discuss: one from me to present and one from her. I think it will assist in a lot of ways. I just hope she will do her part and actually seek out something to present rather than just sit there doing nothing – once again.

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