Twice in four days has the topic of my parents’ marriage’s effect on my expectations of relationships come up. Did that make any sense?
Fair warning. Today’s is a long one.
*My apologies for the lack of spacing… It’s just not working for me. I’ve been trying to fix it since it went up. I’m truly sorry, I know it makes for a pretty confusing reading experience.
Firstly, before I get into all of that, I would like to apologize for the lack of frequency in my blog posts. I have just started a new, full-time job, and I leave home at seven in the morning and get home at 6:30 in the evening. All I want to do, at that point, is to eat and go to bed. I certainly am not in the mood for heavy thoughts and sober words. But today, the fax machine is quiet, and I haven’t been put on the phone lines yet, so I have time to write a post and have it ready to put up when I get home tonight. I also want to thank you, if you’ve stuck with me, and also if you’re just joining me. One last message before I get to my actual topic: my comments bar doesn’t bite! I would love love love to hear from you all whenever, and I need you all to know that when I write about growing together and supporting each other in my blog posts, I’m not talking in abstract, undefinable concepts, or talking about “us” but really meaning only the friends that I already know at my church. I mean actually coming together, you and me, and interacting in order to learn about each other and ourselves.
Now, onto the actual point of my post today.
After reading this post on one of my favourite blogs, I started thinking. How ironic is it that three days prior I spoke of this topic at church, with my pastors. I don’t exactly remember how the topic came up, but we started talking about couples and affection. I admitted somewhat jokingly that my parents never touched each other. My pastors looked at each other, with a bit of concern apparent in their faces. My youth pastor’s wife, Roxanne, a woman who mothers me more than my own mother, reached across the table and touched my hand briefly. She told me that I had to be careful that I wouldn’t have that kind of sterile relationship. I smiled and nodded, taking note of her advice, but not worrying myself overly.
The conversation continued. I spoke of how remarkable it was to me that once, not too long ago, when I was over at my friend’s for lunch, who just happens to be Roxanne and my youth pastor’s daughter, and we were sitting at the table, and after some inane little comment by Roxanne, Rudy just reached over and gently chucked her under the chin. It stuck me straight through the heart, this familiar little gesture of affection between man and wife. It almost brought me to tears, but I didn’t tell them that part.
Pastor John looked at me from his seat at my left, and said, “I never touch my wife.”
Now, I know my pastor well. But I was unable to tell if he was being sarcastic or not. I am usually very adept at detecting such quips, especially from John, but to me, couples not touching is just a fact of life. I could tell he was being sarcastic, but no contact is something that is normal, everyday, so I was quite confused. After a moment of silent staring while I tried to puzzle through this comment, I asked him straight up.
“That’s sad,” he answered me.
“What’s sad?” I asked, even more confused now.
“That you can’t tell if I’m being sarcastic,” he explained, the corners of his mouth tipped up in a smile, but his eyes looking slightly perturbed.
I laughed it off and continued the conversation. It came to a point where I admitted my bewilderment when faced with male affection. “I just don’t get it,” I confessed. There was another pregnant pause, during which my pastors again looked at each other. I noticed, the next day, that Rudy chucked me under the chin when asking me to heat up some soup for supper before our bible study. After a second of confusion, I recognized the gesture for what it was and smiled.
Basically, I just threw a whole bunch of words at you just to illustrate how much my parents’ affectionless (I won’t say loveless, because I really don’t know if they love each other or not, but affectionless is certainly accurate–at the very least to my knowledge) marriage has influenced my view of relationships and personal interactions. I have a tendency of shying away from even the slightest form of physical contact, be it fingers brushing together when passing someone a pen or knees knocking together under the table. And skin-to-skin contact? Forget it. No matter who I’m with, if we’re both wearing tank tops and our bare shoulders brush, I will move three feet in the opposite direction. I will do anything and everything in my power to avoid such innocuous contact–doubly so when I am dealing with a member of the opposite sex. Maybe even triply so. Or more. And I don’t even do it consciously, thinking “I can’t touch them.” I just move out of the way, break the contact and continue whatever I was doing or saying. And I think that is really what pastor John meant when he told me, “That’s sad.”
Is there anything I can do to break out of this cycle? Any exercises I can do to make myself more comfortable with touch? Any magic spell I can cast to take away my awkward aversion to contact? I don’t think so. I think the only way I will get better (although I have to say that I am better than I was, say, two years ago–but only with women) is to continue to immerse myself in the people around me, and to let them touch me as they seem wont to do.
One day, when I am in a relationship with a good man, we will have to talk about this, and perhaps he will be willing to help me become accustomed to his hand on me. And I will have to be careful to follow Roxanne’s previous advice and not allow myself to settle in a relationship like my parents’, to find a man who is prone to the physical affection that I crave so much yet avoid like the plague.
Perhaps this aversion to touch is limiting me in other ways, as well. Are you the same? Or are you the kind of friend who is always touching, who needs the contact of another person like they need food and water? Have you found a way to solve my problem that I haven’t thought of? Or is immersion therapy really the only manner to help me?
If you’re like me, do you know why you feel this way? Or are you clueless as to what the reason is behind your avoidance of contact? Perhaps you feel comfortable touching people, but can never open up to them emotionally, where as I am more the other way around–although I have trouble with both of those things. Do you think there is a deeper reason behind our issues?