Small Step #10

A common theme emerges in marital therapy: Affection is low at best, absent at worst. One partner, not always the female, craves it more than the other, though routinely the supply is short for both. In order to cope, many spouses learn to live with less. They’ve come to think that’s just the way it is because that’s just the way it’s been, if not since the beginning then since the beginning of troubles.

Of course, lack of affection typically reflects the relationship’s overall temperature. As the atmosphere cools, affection slips into hibernation. Then again, sometimes a marriage isn’t all that cold. Affection, like compliments, chills from lack of effort.

Poll a hundred couples, and a majority, I anticipate, would prefer more physical warmth. I doubt anyone would complain, “There is way too much touching, hugging, and kissing between us. It’s getting old. I think it’s actually hurting our deeper emotional connection.” No matter how much affection embraces our marriage, most of us would welcome more.

An unpopular rule of life states, if you want more of something, you may have to give more of it. A more unpopular rule of life states, changing oneself is easier than changing someone else. Blending these rules, if you’re one who wants more touches, physical or emotional, you might have to reach out first.

Resistance Rationale #1: I’m not an affectionate person.

You don’t need to be. Smothering your mate with smooches isn’t the goal. For some spouses that would be no small step; that would be a running leap across the Grand Canyon. Every step proposed in this book is meant to be within anyone’s reach. Granted, some may be seldom taken, but none requires personality reconstruction.

If by nature you’re a quiet individual, do you never talk? If you’re a couch athlete, are you incapable of running or tossing a ball? If you’re shy, do you shy away from every social situation?

When someone says, “That’s not who I am,” most of the time he’s actually saying, “That’s not consistently who I am.” Almost never does he mean, “Under no circumstances do I ever deviate from my normal pattern.”

If you’re not affectionate, do you never touch anyone? How about your mother? A little baby? Your pet cat? No doubt you shake hands. You may chest-bump a buddy during a sporting event. If a woman, maybe you’ve never high-fived your girlfriend, but most likely you exchange some personal signs of friendship. Some touch is acceptable, initiated even, for nearly everyone under chosen circumstances.

…Ask yourself, “At one time did I touch more?” If yes, that raises another question: Which is you, then or now? If you were more expressive then, were you living counter to your personality? Or did you feel more generally warm to the touch? If so, the old you is the real you. Presently you may not be acting affectionate, but that doesn’t mean you’re not an affectionate person.

Marriage: Small Steps, Big Rewards Pages 125-129
Copyright © 2011, Dr. Ray Guarendi
Servant Books