Friday, April 3, 2015

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Why a mother doesn't want to be touched

Image by swong9576

I’d gotten home from work around 10 p.m. after a 14 hour day. It was the start of the term, and I was setting up some programs at the university. Mel, my wife, had been home all day with three sick boogery feverish kids. 
I walked in, and Mel was at the table, eating cookies and milk while looking at a laptop. She was still in jeans and a t-shirt. Usually by this time of the day she is in pj’s, but the fact that she hadn’t taken the time to unwind and undress told me she’d had a rough day.

After working 14 hours, the one thing I wanted was a kiss and to hold my wife. When I was in my 20s this usually meant sex. But now, in my 30s, I’m more interested in simple physical contact with my wife. People often describe me as a people person, but honestly, it’s not true. Social interaction feels a lot like acting to me. I’m good at making jokes to disarm a person. But honestly, I often find chatting with others exhausting. With Mel, my wife, I don’t feel that. I feel a deep comfort in Mel’s arms. There is also something about being at work, sitting across from people, chatting, legs crossed, arms folded, hand shakes, and formality that makes me long for some form of real physical contact that I really only get from my wife.

I sat next to Mel, put my arms around her, and kissed her cheek. And as much as I wanted her to turn and embrace me, she didn’t. She kept her body slightly rigid, hands forward on the keyboard.

I pulled away.

“What’s wrong?” I asked.

“I just spent all day with sick boogery kids clawing at me. I don’t want to be touched for a while. I just… want some space,” she said.

I felt offended. It made me feel like she didn’t love me. I was her husband of 10 years. She should want to be held by me… right? I wasn’t one of her children, I was her husband.

“I just wanted to hold, you.” I said. “I’m not asking for sex, or anything. I’m too tired for that. I’m getting old, obviously. It’s been just a long day.”

At the mention of being held, Mel cringed a little. Once again, I was offended. I usually am when this happens. And it doesn’t happen all that often, but always more than I’d like. But it was late, and I didn’t want to fight.

“Fine,” I said.

This is not the first time Mel said that she didn’t want to be touched because of the kids clawing at her all day. Honestly, I didn’t get it. I don’t know if I ever fully will. For me, as a man, it’s a difficult thing for me to wrap my head around. I always want to touch my wife. She is the most beautiful woman I know. So much of my attraction to her, my love for her, my passion for our relationship is manifested through physical interaction. At this stage in our marriage, it isn’t just about sex. When she kisses me, I feel more confident in our relationship. I feel better about who I am as a man. This became particularly apparent in my 30s. I know this sounds effeminate, but I don’t feel as attractive as I once did. I have a difficult time keeping off weight. Not that a lot of women looked at me in the first place, but sometimes they did. But as I’ve gotten older, I don’t get that affirmation like I used to.

I’m also starting to watch a lot of my friends get divorced because they fell out of love. I worry about that. Falling out of love sounds sneaky and organic, like a weed that creeps into a flowerbed. Never in my life has physical interaction with my wife felt more needed as a confirmation that she still loves me. That she isn’t drifting away from our relationship because of the stress of raising a family.

When I read what I just wrote, it sounds whiny, but it’s the reality of who I have become in my 30s. I feel a deep need for my wife to kiss me and hold me.

We were both in bed now. It was almost 11, an hour after I got home. She slid next to me, and I put my arm around her.

“It’s not you,” she said. “It’s just… I love the kids. I love you. But all three of them were sick, and I couldn’t do anything without the baby clawing at my leg whining, so I held her all day. And Norah, she just wanted to be snuggled.” She let out a breath. Then she went on, trying to describe how boggery, drooly, puky, children tugging at her body at her all day makes her want to crawl in a bubble. “In the evening, after a long day with the kids, I just want a moment, an hour or so, to not be touched. To just spread out, and not worry about someone pawing at me. It’s not that I don’t love you, it’s just that these days with kids feel like sensory overload.”

And as she spoke, I compared it to how tired social interaction wears me down. I understood what she was feeling just enough to realize that we were at an impasse.

“Does that make sense?” she asked.

“Yes,” I said. “It does. I don’t like it, but I get it.” Then I told her about my day, and how, at the end of it, all I want is to be held.

“I’m not sure if any of that makes sense, but that’s how I feel.”

Mel crawled into the hook of my arm and rested on my shoulder. I put my arm around her, and we just stayed like that for a while, not speaking.

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Clint Edwards was blessed with a charming and spitfire wife, a video game obsessed little boy, a snarky little girl in a Cinderella play dress, and an angry baby girl. When Clint was 9-years-old his father left. With no example of fatherhood, he had to learn how to be a father and husband through trial and error. His work has been featured in Good Morning America, The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Huffington Post, Scary Mommy, The Good Men Project, Fast Company, and elsewhere. He lives in Oregon. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter.  


Kgomotso Ramothea said...

I really enjoyed reading this post. It's so honest and reassuring that men also need some kind of affirmation in their relationships too. I love how it doesn't romanticise raising a family and how it can be so tough to be at home with three sickly kids that all most women want at the end of the day is to just be left alone for a little while to regroup.

Fuller Tawanna said...

This is a testimony that i will tell to every one to hear. i have been married for three years and on the fifth years of my marriage, another woman had a spell to take my lover away from me and my husband left me and the kids and we have suffered for 2years until i met prophet suleman where so many people have been helped and i decided to give him a try to help me bring my lover back home and believe me i just send my picture to him and that of my husband and after 4hours as he have told me, i saw a car drove into the house and behold it was my husband and he have come to me and the kids and that is why i am happy to make every one of you in similar to visit this man via Email and have your lover back to your self..

pandora said...

I totally get how Mel feels! I'm like that as well, and my husband is a lot like you in the way you're thinking and wanting to be held. I'm going to have my hubby read this so he can see it from both sides. I have a 4 year old son, and 22 month old B/G twins, who never want to let me go all day long. I love them but I'm an introvert by nature and alone time and quiet is what revitalizes me. I don't get really anytime to be alone and it can really wreak havoc on myself.

Christopher Bawden said...

I have been dealing with this myself since my daughter has been born. At 3, my daughter is still nursing and my wife stays at home to take care of her and homeschool our 13 year old. I work and go to school full time, so I am rarely at home as it is. After dealing with other people all day, all I want to do is hold my wife. She wasn't affectionate to begin with, and my youngest nursing and crawling on her all day leaves her completely touched out. I don't know how many times I have felt the rigid 2x4 hug or just straight up being pushed away. I understand her point of view, but it is really tough.

Mummapsyc said...

I very much enjoyed reading about your emotionally exposing experience with your wife and young family. It has truly resonated with me. I think there is a lack of emotionally honest portrayals of fatherhood and yours has helped me understand another facet of family life. Thank you for being so candid. I'm going to hug my husband senseless when he gets home...