Why Touch Matters so Much in Love – Free Ebook

We live in an age increasingly prepared to
see hurtful aspects lurking within many apparently

so-called minor situations, and ready to lend
greater public acknowledgement to what had

previously been merely private pains. It is
in this context that we should give due recognition

to a truly grave hurt that can unfold, within
established relationships, when there is almost

no touch left between the parties, when one
partner repeatedly moves to hold the other’s

hand, or perhaps caress their shoulder or
waist – and receives no response at all,

or a subtle turn away and withdrawal.

We’re not talking here of the more obvious
and well-known problem of a lack of sex (though

this may be present too), but of the long-term
and arguably equally serious or even greater

hurt that can ensue when one partner’s body
as a whole becomes somehow unreceptive to,

or uninterested in, the other’s touch. We
know, of course, how much this is awkward

on an early date. We’re ready, at a cultural
level, to give due weight to a minor physical

rejection when it happens around a potential
new partner. But there is as much loneliness

and agony within settled couples around unheld
hands, except that here it feels a great deal

more embarrassing and more humiliating even
to raise the issue. Perplexingly, the very

person who quietly withdraws their hand or
leaves it agonisingly limp in our own, can

also be the one who is named in our will,
with whom we share a mortgage and to whom

we have given over our emotional lives. How
devastating to self-confidence an inert hand

can be in this situation. Lifeless in ours,
it plays into every anxiety about unacceptability,

exploitation and rejection. But precisely
because it is so devastating, it becomes impossibly

hard to discuss in any fruitful way. We are
liable either to say nothing at all, or else

to express our hurt through bitterness and
sarcasm. We cannot stay long enough with the

pain we feel to share it – and try to correct
it – with the partner themselves. We may

find it wholly beyond us to develop the authority,
self-belief and legitimacy to say: you didn’t

take my hand after dinner, you never touch
me of your own accord – and it is driving

me slowly but definitively insane. We don’t
have this kind of offence mapped on our chart

of acceptable verbalisable unhappiness, it
doesn’t feel like a toll we have a language

for or the right to.

And yet, we should, despite our anxieties,
retain the courage and conviction of our feelings.

An inert hand or a lack of touch, is truly
as serious a problem as we feel it is. The

request to be held and physically acknowledged
is a subject of deep gravity, rooted in our

capacity to tolerate and like ourselves. We
should not compound our misery by a sense

that we are not allowed to feel or share it.
Then, when we can manage it, we should learn

to pick up the partner’s hand with a newfound
confidence and say that the little flinch

or inertness we feel when we do so is a huge
problem for us, that what they may blithely

dismiss as ‘this touching business’ is
part of why we’re in a relationship in the

first place, that it matters as much as anything
else does to us and that if they care at all

for us or the continuance of the union, then
they will have to take the pain on board at

last. We should have the bravery finally to
know in our hearts that this ‘small’ thing

is not small at all: it may be quite simply
integral to how we know we’re loved – and

how and when we feel we’re not.

Love is a skill that we can learn. Our relationships book calmly guides us with calm and charm

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