I don’t like physical touch, my husband, however, love love loves it! I want to be a good wife and meet his needs the best I can, but this physical touch thing comes up often, and I can’t really explain why I don’t like it – it’s not just that I don’t like it, physical touch actually makes me feel anxious sometimes.
Hugs, shoulders or back rubs, cuddling…I’ve always set ‘rules‘ that go along with them. It’s been this way for as long as I can remember. I have no problem giving hugs, as a matter of fact, I’ll be the first to embrace someone when saying hello – but it’s a brief embrace. I don’t mind cuddling with my husband or daughters as long as I’m the one doing the holding and not the one being held. I’ll rub my girls back or hair to help them fall asleep, but if anyone tries to rub my back or shoulders or anything I’ll almost lose it because I get so anxious. These ‘rules’ don’t’ just stop at physical touch though, I have a lot of auditory rules too. Sounds that are loud or sudden – even just loud whistling – put my fight or flight instinct into overdrive. The sound of chewing with your mouth open, teeth on silverware, scraping of a bowl or a plate… this is a short list of the audio anxiety I feel.
Since physical touch is my husband’s love language, it’s no wonder that my short windows of physical affection can sadden him sometimes. My family is getting better at understanding my noise boundaries, but I think we were all a bit confused about why such little things have such sharp limits for me.
I don’t want my short windows of affection and my noise boundaries to cause my family to think I’m unreasonable or that I don’t love them, the opposite is true, I love them very much. I set out to discover myself and learn why I am the way I am. Talking to my mom and sharing this stuff with her, led to an comical, yet significant conversation with my mom and dad – My mom is the same way I am! I’m pretty sure I knew that but didn’t put the pieces together because I just discovered it for myself. I listened to my parents joke about how they will hold hands and my dad will look at her after a few minutes and say “that’s enough right?” They both laughed because they find it funny that my mom only does physical touch for short windows of time, not because she is unloving, but because that’s who she is. Growing up I found my parents very affectionate, my dad would kiss my mom every single day as he walked in the door, they laughed and joked around, and I always felt loved by my parents. I’m so blessed to have two parents with as such a great marriage example. And what a relief to know I’m not alone in the way I feel. Our parents always have something to teach us.
The more I did some digging online, the more women I saw with similar feelings to mine and each providing their own steps to make sure their families know they are loved and at the same time helping their families understand the boundaries they need. Some things I read suggest that it’s a form of sensory defensiveness, I’m not sure that’s what is going on with me, but the support it provided to help explain my feelings to my family, helped a lot. It seems like we all accept these traits about me instead of all of us trying to change me.
Affection without Touch
Affection is a gentle feeling of fondness. It doesn’t say in the definition that touching is involved, so that’s a relief. 🙂 I do, however, need to make sure my family understands that I love them dearly, and be open with them in sharing certain things that make me anxious and also how I show them, love. The better we understand each other, the more we will be to feel and give love!
Things I can do
- Communicate: I can communicate my needs to my family and explain to them how I try to show love.
- Increase the ways I show love:
- Say more words of affirmation
- Be more gentle in discipline
- Talk to them kindly all the time
- Give more hugs (but no hanging please).
- Touch them more by rubbing their back, small touches on their arms, backs, shoulders…to show that they are essential to me (they don’t’ have to touch me back)
- Understand the importance of physical touch and how we need it as humans (well my family needs it) 🙂
Things I need from my family
- Acknowledgement: Acknowledge that this is a real thing for me and that it isn’t going anywhere, not yet anyway, maybe not ever.
- Communication: Talk with me about needs they have – maybe I’m not showing enough affection in other ways. Knowing this will help me focus on showing my love all the time.
- Respect: It’s a new discovery, but knowing that my family respects this about me will help me not feel so anxious. If making a joke of it, they will actually break my trust and make it harder for me to open up into the physical touch realm.
- Build Trust – The more trust that is built during the respect of my boundaries and needs the more physical touch I’ll be able to provide. When it feels like I know my family will respect my boundaries I’ll be able to give more physical affection. (like they won’t take advantage of my hugs, but hugging me longer and not letting me go) I will cuddle – but I need them to ask if we can, I may have had a sensory overload day and can’t handle anymore, or I’m ready for a bit of cuddling – FYI: I do hug my family, I cuddle, I rub their backs… It might not be as much as they would like personally, but we are all learning from each other, and it’s a work in progress.
The more I learn about myself, the more I am accepting and even laughing at myself. Instead of wishing I could change or wishing I didn’t do the things I do, I embrace them, teach my family about them so they understand and I stop putting the pressure on myself to change.
We are all uniquely and wonderfully made, we all have our quirks and the weird things that make us who we are – We can’t fight it – It’s like saying God did a lousy job at making us – um…He didn’t -He’s perfect, and everything He creates is Perfect! So love yourself, study yourself, and learn how to use, accept and discover who you were perfectly made to be.