My brother, Dean, recently wrote a post about his increasing proclivity for physical touch. I’ve known Dean for many years now, and I see the progression of his journey. It’s especially interesting in relation to my own journey with physical touch, because I actually find myself decreasingly needing — or even desiring — touch with other men.
It’s not completely gone, mind you. But the need/desire is considerably less. Sometimes to the point of recoil. Like I hug someone for a half-second, and I’m good.
It didn’t used to be this way. This is a fairly new development. I’m still unpacking the reasons, but I have some theories based on how my male friendships have transpired the last decade — many of them imploding.
Years ago when I first moved out of my parents’ house, I entered a scary new world of adulthood. Like a baby squirming from the womb without a mother’s arms to hold me close.
Hugs and holds with one particular new friend were indeed secure and comforting. I parted from his embraces immediately craving them again with the chill of the air growing between us.
And he’s just one friend among several from that time. And many others since.
It’s uncomfortable to recall these memories; for all intents and purposes, I was addicted to touch. I’d gone 20+ years without any meaningful touch with a male friend, and now I was gorging on it. I couldn’t ever get enough, hanging on like a life preserver in the rapids.
Emotional boundaries were crossed with one guy after another. That first friendship took a turn south for a long time.
I constantly looked for other victims to touch and be touched by. It sounds dramatic, but it’s not far off. I stared at men in coffee shops or at various faith/sexuality-centric conferences. I scoured Facebook pictures of acquaintances and friends-of-friends and daydreamed of prolonged touch with other men. Strangers.
I craved a long hug or hold or cuddles on a couch or even sleeping in the same bed with other men because they were hot or funny or wise or something else I felt I wasn’t — not because we were, like, you know, good friends who could appropriately and comfortably touch one another as some natural representation of their relationship, whatever that even looks like, whatever the right boundaries are.
Of course, in theory, I wanted healthy, genuine, “permanent” friends. But with each fizzled and failed friendship, I realized longterm relationships require so much communication, so much work, so much constant realigning. I obsessed over a quicker, easier rush of warm flesh melding with mine, regardless the relationship or consequence.
Gosh, I was unhealthy.
I want to give myself grace, though. What else do you expect from a lonely bullied insecure kid who always wanted but never had a best friend growing up?
Looking back on the last decade, my touch journey gives me the willies. I don’t like remembering the addicted, obsessed, carnal feelings I’ve felt for other men: strangers and especially friends. Friends who could have been stronger, longer lasting ones had I not treated them primarily as a catalyst for my dopamine and a filler for my starving heart. Again. And again.
After going my first 20+ years without any male peer touch, it’s safe to say I’ve now had more than my fill this last decade. I don’t wanna say I’m “over” touch now . . .
But I will say this: I’m eager to round out my other “love languages.”
Words of affirmation have skyrocketed up my rankings. My longterm struggles with self-worth feel more redeemed than ever as loved ones often speak truth and life and love into me. I’m so grateful for every syllable. I hope I return the truth and life and love.
Quality time is also huge. As someone who now makes his own schedule every day, I better recognize and appreciate the value of every minute, of someone taking time out of her schedule to share it with me.
Gifts and acts of service are still fairly foreign for me — both the receiving and giving of such. But I want to “practice” them. I want to be a more rounded human, a more rounded friend, someone more adept at meeting other friends’ primary love languages, however similarly or differently they compare to my own.
There’s more to physical touch than the fuzzy feelings of skin on skin. There’s deeper layers to friendship, I’m uncovering, and there are far more noble things to daydream about than sharing a bed with the attractive cashier (did I say that aloud?).
I want friends who I can call friends to the end of time. I want friends who also want to put in the work. The messy conversations. The exhilarating adventures. The shared journeying with Jesus.
I’m not interested in the short-term rush. I’m just not into that anymore.
I still have moments of craving touch with certain friends. Mostly straight guys. For all the reasons.
But even then, I find myself hungering for said touch significantly less than even a year ago. I’ve been building friendships with some pretty great straight men this year, meeting them in their love languages and, yes, sharing in some touch along the way.
Maybe it’s not as much touch as my heart fully desires — but the process of building such friendships, one strong block at a time, brings my heart great joy.
We all need touch to some degree. Reminders of our shared humanity and this space we occupy. Touch is good. It is a good desire.
But let us not allow our good desires to grow twisted. Let us first stop and see the light of God in another’s eyes before we calculate what he can do for us, what he can give us, how he can or can’t heal our wounds.
I’ve been untwisting my physical touch desires for the last year, and it’s been a difficult reorienting, to say the least. But I’m breathing better than I have in a long time, and I feel good about the overall process.
Of loving others more holistically. Of drawing clearer boundaries, physical and emotional, and of bringing this twisted darkness to freedom and light.
Do you experience enough regular physical touch? What rounds out your primary love languages, and have you reoriented your desires for physical touch?