Monday, May 07, 2007

Touch

I've been thinking about the importance of human touch. It's one of my love languages.

I have a nephew who is about six weeks older than Avriana. I met him for the first time over Easter and was amazed to see how much he craved touch at such a tender age - with it, he was calm and content. Without it, he almost always grew irritable and fussy.

There's also the skin hunger phenomenon among people who live in institutional settings or people who have recently lost a loved one and have few friends: they crave human contact. This hunger can gnaw so deeply into a person's soul that it is often mistaken for a mental or physical illness.

So far, I've been pretty lucky - I was born into a family that is comfortable expressing love via hugs, backrubs, etc. I married someone who is generally the same way. But I know that there are many out there who are living far different lives.

Some questions - answer as few or as many as you'd like.

Do you have enough access to human touch? What do you think needs to change in western culture in order to help more people who are elderly or isolated receive the touch they need? What can the church do to help?

(Edited to add: In case it wasn't clear, I'm referring to the non-sexual varities of touch in this post. I picked the "sexuality and gender relations" label because it appeared to be the closest match to this topic.)

6 comments:

Amy said...

Lydia, it's so interesting that you'd write this. My husband and I have recently been talking about touch as we have a 4 year old with the primary love language of physical touch. Last week at soccer practice he was sitting on the sidelines, leaning up against the assistant coach stroking his chest and back (we're still working on appropriate social boundaries). :-)

I know for me, I sometimes have too much touch. Primarily because I have three young kids who are touching me all the time. And yet, I still long for the meaningful touch outside that immediate environment. (Note: I love hugs and kisses and hanging out with my children and those things are very meaningful. It's the need that sometimes goes with the touching that sometimes drains energy from me rather than giving energy back to me).

I think I have access to physical touch, but not necessarily enough. My husband is great at acts of service, but just hanging out and non-sexual touch...well, you know the drill. My friends tend to give hugs and touch when they're needed, but we don't always do well in the "just because" department.

My experience has been that it's labeled OK for families to be "touchy-feely," but not outside that environment. We kind of stand back and stand apart. Touching is too much. I think this is the case within the church as well.

I had to laugh, because I cringe when Nate is too physical with other people and my husband and I are trying to teach him what's appropriate and what's not. But, this topic has reminded me of the fundamental need Nate has, as do we all, for touch. I will tread lightly in this area.

Lydia said...

you know the drill.

The traditional roles in this area are actually switched in my relationship, but..yeah. :)

My experience has been that it's labeled OK for families to be "touchy-feely," but not outside that environment.

Why?

Jemila Monroe said...

Lydia, great topic. I am currently co-sleeping with Avriana, while my husband is sleeping on the couch (so that we aren't both equally sleep-deprived and he can help me,) and my experience is, like Amy, that while this touch is wonderful, it's also largely one-way giving, and there's something I crave about touch where there's giving and receiving.

I basically tell my husband outright, "Hey I would really like a hug," and when it's a good time for him, he'll give me one. Sometimes this can be a little awkward and contrived, but better than the alternative ;)

Lydia, your question about making sure the Elderly get enough touch is a good one-- I don't know. Maybe a pajama snuggle party in the day room?

Amy said...

Lydia, the roles are switched for us as well, but my husband is an "acts of service" guy, so he's much more likely to be washing dishes than cuddling with his wife! :)

Regarding the why "touchy-feely" is not so acceptable at church, I don't really know. My theories include a high regard for personal space in western culture, the transient culture of a big city (at least here in Denver), as well as taboos on any physical contact between men and women, to name a few.

Jemila, you got it! Sometimes you just gotta ask for what you need. I'll pray that you get some good loving touches from friends and family in the next couple months. New babies are amazing. They also are a lot of hard, loving work. I pray strength and rest for you.

Lydia said...

Maybe a pajama snuggle party in the day room?

Kind of like the secular "cuddle parties," then? They're just what they sound like...groups of adults who get together to cuddle with strangers.

Jemila Monroe said...

Lydia, hey,why not? Although I think cuddling is better with friends than strangers. BTW have you been to a secular cuddle party? I've been curious about the phenomenon...