Another area of great interest for me is touch and how it affects children and subsequently adults in later life. If you read my Amazon wish list you would see a host of books about touch and attachment (and lots of memoirs), two things that have captured my attention recently.
The one long-term relationship I had consisted of basically no physical affection or any other kind of affection at all. It’s so sad to me that I didn’t even know that that wasn’t normal. That isn’t how it’s supposed to be. I rarely, if ever saw my parents being physically affectionate. But I never really paid attention to it or understood how important it is and how much it affects me until I started dating the guy I met last Spring. Everything changed then. My perspective on how important physical affection is, especially in those early years, has changed. It wasn’t something I ever thought of as being necessary. This article really touches on how vital touch is for every human being and how we use it to communicate.
I think never really seeing physical affection displayed growing up combined with the fact that I was not ever supposed to even come close enough to a boy to be able to touch him has made me a little paranoid or overly sensitive about touching in general. All thanks to Christian fundamentalism. There is some weird thing with my mother too that I believe has a lot to do with all of that attachment stuff and failure to bond. I cannot remember a time when I ever actually wanted to hug my mother. That seems very strange. But I literally flinch if she tries to hug me. I’ve always had an aversion to touching my mother.
When my ex and I used to go shopping at a mall or something he would always walk a good 5 or 6 feet ahead of me. All the time, every time. It was very odd. And it made me very uncomfortable. I can remember maybe two or three times in a span of almost 3 years when we actually held hands or walked close to each other. And spending time at either of our places consisted of sitting in separate spaces and never cuddling or any kind of closeness at all. I could be wrong, but I don’t think that’s how a healthy relationship should be. It actually baffles me now that I stayed in that relationship as long as I did. If I’m dysfunctional, he was dysfunctional times 10.
Enter the Spring and Summer boy. I have never felt more instantly comfortable with someone. We hugged the first time we saw each other and it felt like the most natural thing in the world to me, which is saying a lot because I’m not naturally a hugger. But I loved it. As we got to know each other and spent more and more time together, every time he saw me he always held me close like nothing could pry his arms open. And he loved to cuddle with me. Any time we were together he was always touching me in some way. He loved to hold hands a lot too. One day we went to an aquarium the day after having a minor fight and he held my hand ALL. DAY. LONG. It melted my heart and I can’t get it out of my head. There was a lot of very sweet, sort of innocent-like physical affection. I have never experienced anything like it before. He is a very sweet person. I think it’s why I am having such an impossibly hard time moving on. I never knew how much I needed something that I’d never had before.
I’ve been in one committed relationship with someone I was not in love with. And I’ve been in love once, with someone I was not in a committed relationship with. It seems I’ve been hearing a lot lately of people who have been in a relationship for 4, 5, 6, 7 years and then it ending. To be honest I’m kind of terrified of meeting someone and falling in love and having a relationship only to have it end after a few years. It sounds awful. I’ve experienced intense heartbreak over someone who wasn’t ever committed to me. I can’t imagine what it would be like having someone you’ve been with for many, many years suddenly be gone from your life forever.
My family was never an affectionate family. I remember my dad being more affectionate with us kids than my mother. But I also didn’t have that weird aversion to touching him and vice versa that I did with my mother, so I may simply be remembering the good and avoiding/forgetting the bad. I do not ever remember my mother being an affectionate person. Hugs and pats on the arm always felt contrived and extremely awkward and uncomfortable. I am certain it has everything to do with her own upbringing. It makes me incredibly sad to think of any child going without that all-important, necessary physical touch from his/her caregiver. It’s almost as bad as going without food.
Touch is one of the first things we (should) learn as a child. It’s the way we communicate. Ever notice how babies put everything in their mouth? That’s because that’s how they are learning. They use their mouth and tongue to explore anything and everything through touch. Touch is also the way that they show excitement, joy, anger, irritation, and a host of other emotions before they are able to express those things with words. The baby I take care of loves to give me leg hugs and kisses. One day, she was playing with her baby doll and every minute or so she would come over to me and kiss my knee that was exposed through my ripped jeans. It was the cutest thing ever.
She kisses everything, including this little dog door stop. She picks it up and kisses it on the head. Her natural, easily-flowing affection has made me more and more aware of how important it is. And also how much it has been lacking in my life as far back as I can remember.