Consider This is a column focused on how important elements of a woman’s life look in single life and in marriage. This week, we’re considering the role of physical touch in the lives of single and married women. Read Cecelia’s essay about physical touch in her life as a single woman here and Shannon’s about physical touch in her life as a married mother of five here. Today, they respond to each other’s experiences.
Cecelia (single) to Shannon (married)
As I read your essay, I was struck by the experience of being “touched out.” It never really crossed my mind that others—and possibly me at some point—would feel that there is too much touch in their lives! It made me think back to my childhood as one of five children and wonder if my own mother had similar feelings, relishing the physical touch of her children at some times and seeking solitude from it at other times. I’m sure she did! This realization also made me appreciate my current relationship with physical touch more. One day, I may look back on this time and wish for the control I have over when and how I receive physical touch, which I had viewed as a bad thing.
I had also assumed that once I was married, my desire for physical touch would be fully satisfied—problem solved. But based on your experience, marriage comes with different challenges related to physical touch—like how the constant touch of your children affects you and your husband’s sex life. I hadn’t thought about the connection between the two in that way, but it makes total sense. I was also surprised that even as a married woman with children, you still look to your female friends and family to satisfy your need for non-sexual physical touch. How complex our feelings about physical touch can be!
The differing experiences with physical touch you and your husband had growing up resonated with me, and how it carries over into your own romantic relationships. My family is similar to your husband’s family; we’re pretty stoic, rarely expressing deep emotions verbally or physically. I haven’t always been used to casual touching, romantic or otherwise. Through dating people with more affectionate family backgrounds, I’ve learned to open up and also express my needs clearly. I’ve often thought about how I want to raise my own family someday given how hard it was for me to open up in that way. I definitely want my children to grow up with physical touch being a regular part of their life so they can embrace it—and literally embrace others!
Shannon (married) to Cecelia (single)
Your description of your nomadic life fascinated me. There are days when I fantasize of what it would be like to be single and have freedom like you have, but clearly I have underestimated the hardships. Reading your words took me back to my time as a single woman navigating the world of dating and how hard it was to make sense of the balance between my need for physical touch and my need for emotionally healthy relationships. I felt shocked, however, when you said it’s not uncommon for weeks to go by without being touched at all. While motherhood is a sacrifice of my physical autonomy at times, the isolation you experience is another kind of cross to bear (one that I didn’t experience, because I married young).
I’ve heard it said that human beings need eight hugs every day, but so often we wait for others to initiate instead of doing it ourselves. I teach my kids about our need for daily hugs, and my oldest in particular is very concerned that the little ones get their daily dose! Even though I often feel “touched out” by my children, getting a hug from a friend meets a different kind of need in me; I feel seen and valued as an individual, apart from my identity as “mom.” Your experience helps me understand the importance of touch among friends more deeply.
Do you have an experience about physical touch you'd like to share? Tell us here, and your response may be published by Verily at a later date.