It’s the first week of summer vacation. The kids are home every day. My mom-friend and I decided we feel scattered. There is no routine or structure, just reacting to everyone’s current needs. Alone time is found in short drives to pick up kids and while folding sheets in the laundry room. If I’m lucky, I get up early and get an hour or two to write or workout. When the kids are with their dad, I am torn between getting work done or just lying on the floor, listening to music and breathing. Oh, and this week my guy is out-of-town so I actually have evenings to myself. He’ll be back this weekend. I must be recharged by then.
Please don’t touch me
In his article, Why a Mother Doesn’t Want to Be Touched, Clint Edwards talks about how his wife, a mother of three young children, gets touched out. At the end of a day where she has been clung to, clawed at and boogered up by the kids, she needs at least an hour to herself without being touched. He, on the other hand, after a long day at work interacting formally and at a distance with co-workers, wants nothing more than to rest and relax in the embrace of his wife’s arms.
I know I experienced the exact same scenario with my former husband when the kids were young. I flinched when he entered the house at the end of the day. I was hyper-sensitive to any external stimulation. His hugs made me tense up. I just wanted to be left the hell alone. I relished cooking by myself and resented his too close presence. As an introvert, I don’t think there is anything I could have done at the time to eliminate that feeling. As a slightly wiser older woman, I can at least appreciate his perspective now. I have a better understanding of touch as a love language.
It’s a tough impasse. For the sake of ease, I am going to use the wife as the childcare giver and the husband as the physical affection seeker. The roles could definitely be reversed. If the wife surrenders to the husband and acquiesces all of his physical advances, then she may never get the break she requires to rejuvenate. If the husband walks away and leaves the wife to her internet surfing or solo cooking, then he feels rejected and possibly resentful.
How to get through relationship gridlock
In case you haven’t figured it out yet, relationships are designed to help you grow as a person. Gridlock situations like this can only be avoided for so long, then they have to be handled. As I mentioned in, How to Handle the Fluctuations in Emotional Security and Closeness Within a Relationship, working through gridlock involves the process of differentiation. Differentiation means maintaining personal integrity while maintaining a close relationship. It’s not easy. You have to self-confront and self-soothe.
Self-confronting: How are you contributing to the problem and why are you doing that? In my case, I had mushy boundaries when it came to my children and my husband. I wanted so badly to be the Energizer bunny mother and wife that I pushed myself until I became demonic. I couldn’t say, I need adult connection and meaningful discussions to feel human and whole again. I need time to myself and meaningful work outside of the family in order to have the energy and desire for a physical relationship. I did not know how to express my needs in a respectful and clear manner. I complained and grew distant instead of working to make myself a respectable and better partner. I focused on my discontent and everyone’s contribution to it, instead of fortifying myself.
Self-soothing: How can you take care of yourself so your partner can enjoy you? My first recommendation is to know yourself and create boundaries that make you a better person. Identifying as an introvert was a huge breakthrough for me. Knowing I was not alone in my sensitivity buoyed my confidence and knowledge regarding what I need to be at my best (solitude, meaningful work and words). This self-awareness allowed me to base my self-image on what I know rather than how others see and treat me. I could no longer blame them for my unhappiness. Once I understood myself, it was pertinent to express my needs respectfully to the key players in my life.
Doing this required acknowledging that we were out of synch sometimes (like the physical affection conflict) and that was OK. Disagreeing was (and still is most of the time) disturbing to me. I have this belief that if my partner and I are disconnected then we are doomed to fail, but intellectually I know that disconnection is normal. No one is in agreement 100% of the time. Just knowing this provides relief when I am present enough to remember it.
A third way to self-soothe is to take matters into your own hands and administer self-care. Self-care does not mean withdrawal or complaining for hours to your friends. It can mean creating something that makes you feel proud; relaxing by reading, taking a bath, meditating or working in the yard or connecting with important people.
Knowing who I was outside of my role in the family; understanding it was OK to be out of synch with my husband; being able to do what I needed to do to recharge as an introvert and a clear understanding of touch as a love language, would have gone a long way to increase my acceptance and participation in my husband’s need for physical connection. Unfortunately, we were not able to get to that level of relationship wisdom.
As I go through the kid-filled, sensory overwhelming season of summer, I am cognizant of the possibility of becoming touched out. I have a wonderful man returning to me this weekend who will, no doubt, arrive ready to connect in every way.
I have been clear from the start about my introverted nature and what that entails.
I will do my best not to freak out if we are on different pages regarding physical connection.
I called close friends the other night in order to fill my friendship well.
I am taking time tonight to write and complete meaningful work.
I have a deeper understanding of touch as a way to feel and show love thanks to my man’s clear expression of this need.
To be honest, at this point I am looking forward to being in his arms.
Do you ever need a break from physical touch? How do you handle too much touch?
If this piece resonated or affected you in a meaningful way, I would truly appreciate it if you would share it with others who may benefit.