When I last posted, I wrote about the conversation with my therapist–I was craving comforting touch and ran up against her no-touch boundary. Nearly three weeks have passed since then, and the longing for physical comfort has continued to dominate my thinking.
E and I have made peace, mostly. That is, I do believe she cares about me. I believe she sees my longing and accepts it as legitimate. She just won’t meet it. I understand that she has a right to set whatever boundaries she needs to set. I understand it’s not about me. But I’m still not happy about it.
Most of the time, I try not to think about it too much. What is the sense in banging my head against a wall that won’t give? I don’t expect to change her mind about this boundary. Yet I still can’t accept that there is an ethical reason for her not to put her arm around me, let me lean on her or lean into her. It still feels unnecessarily withholding.
This has created a little bit of distance between us in therapy. Not a lot. I’m not in a rage about it. I’m not rejecting her. I just feel myself wanting to hold back a little bit. I don’t want to end up as I did that one day, curled up in a ball on her couch, vulnerable and aching, only to confront yet again the fact that the comfort I want is not available to me. If I stay a few feet away from the edge of that level of vulnerability, I can avoid that situation.
Fortunately, that hasn’t prevented me from making any growth. Inside myself, I can feel things shifting in important ways. Most importantly, I have let go of my shame and self-criticism about my longing.
I crave warm, compassionate, comforting touch.
And that’s okay. That’s human. We humans are warm-blooded creatures made to touch one another. We experience the release of oxytocin when skin touches skin, and this soothes us. Most people probably have this longing for touch, though at different levels. If my longing is on the high end, either because of early trauma experiences or just because that’s how my body or psyche works, that’s completely acceptable.
(Let us pause a moment and mark, with surprise and approval, this achievement of self-acceptance. This is a certainly a sign of progress.)
Another realization I’ve come to is that I can’t fully get this longing satisfied by my husband. This is a tougher one for me to accept. Long-time readers will know what a loving, patient, emotionally generous husband I have. He and I touch a lot. He reminds me multiple times a day every single day that he loves me. He tells me again at bedtime every single night, and we curl up, bodies touching, as we fall asleep. It’s precious to me. I have known for years that marrying him was one of the wisest, most healing choices I have ever made for myself.
And yet, I want something more.
I have two current theories about why this may be. Theory #1: Because a marriage is a reciprocal relationship, and because I want to meet his needs as well, I don’t feel comfortable being my needy, thumb-sucking three-year-old child self that wants to be held and rocked. Theory #2: I am wanting to fill hole with mom-love, and I need the touch to come with some feminine energy. Maybe there’s some element of both in there; I’m not sure. At any rate, my longing is more specific.
I crave warm, compassionate, comforting touch, from a woman.
I wish I didn’t feel that way. I wish I could get this longing met from my husband. But maybe that’s not realistic; maybe it’s asking too much of any relationship to expect it can meet all our needs.
(Sidebar: I remember my grandmother gave me the kind of touch I’m wanting. Even when I was an adult, she’d let me snuggle up to her as though I were still a little girl. I miss that. My grandmother died 10 years ago, but I can still hear her voice in my head. I’m so grateful to have had that relationship with her. Perhaps that is where I learned that there is great comfort to be drawn from loving, maternal-style touch.)
I’ve resolved that I’m not going to ignore or disown that little girl self inside of me. I won’t pretend any longer that she isn’t there or tell her that she shouldn’t need physical tenderness. In my next post, I’ll write about what I’m trying to do to care for her.