I read somewhere once that newborn babies who aren't held and nuzzled and hugged long enough will actually stop growing. And that even if they are receiving proper nutrition, they'll die. Our need for touch, whether empathetic or intimate, is so strong that it is connected to our very survival.
This morning I awoke to watch as our cat approached me, urgent and needy, purring as she too reached out and asked to be touched, scratched and rubbed. To be loved. Even animals have the instinctual necessity for physical affection.
Years have yawned over my loneliness, and I have dishonestly brushed away my own aches, telling myself that a lack of intimacy must be normal for a couple of our years together. That it means we have a stronger more mature love that doesn't necessitate such displays. That some of us just aren't as affectionate as others, that well, I'm just the giver and he's just the taker and that's our dynamic. Despite it all, I still feel lonely.
My husband, I think, is very physically attractive. When he is distant however, as he is now, and when he is cruel or neglectful, dishonest or self-amused, he is no longer so approachable and I find myself disliking him with adrenaline-filled intensity. At other times he seems to shimmy away from my touches, returning with limp hugs and weak pecks. When the stonewalling was at its worst last year, there was nothing in return.
Here, I should note that there is such a difference between affection that is given and requited, and affection one receives from their spouse unprovoked. One instance is a reply in kind; the other is a reaching out, an acknowledgement. "I see you, I love you." What I would do for a surprise hug at the stove while I cook his dinner, or wash the dishes, as he used to do.
He seems so far off now that I daydream desperately of being able to travel back to last Friday to visit with the man who brought me roses, to hug and kiss him, to be held by him. I cannot recall the last time we were physically intimate - probably a month and a half ago, which is long for us. Last week I initiated but he stopped before we went to the main event.
"I - I don't know what's wrong with me." He threw up his hands.
"What is it?"
He looked at me with his head to one side.
"...I'm not erect."
When I asked if it was me he assured me it wasn't. "Women always think it's them, just so you know", I said.
I've pondered endlessly if perhaps the flowers were an attempt at giving it another try - him hoping I'd fall at his feet and into bed and all he had to do was give me those flowers and it would go from there. And when that didn't happen, he remembered our failed attempt, resented me for not trying again, and the stonewalling began. Who knows.
In the early morning when my husband is turned towards me, I turn my back to him and shuffle closer to him, making it just so easy for him to put an arm around me should the thought flicker in his mind for even a millisecond. When the final alarm sounds and he is out of bed for good, I am crushed. This is the closest we will be for the next 18 hours and no contact leaves me sad and rejected. After he is gone, at times I go back to sleep for a couple hours. All of our animals climb onto the bed, and I relish in feeling my dog's back against mine, or being able to hold her as she lays without a fight, enjoying the attention.
The other night I came home late from a friend's small get together to find my husband asleep on the couch, curled up and facing the wall. In his sleep his anger was gone, his face was soft and sweet. There was no tension. My husband who had ignored me for what seemed like an unbearable eternity was now vulnerable in front of me. I took my advantage.
I bent down and spooned him. I stroked his arm, kissed his cheek. I breathed in his smell and felt the cool then warmth of his skin. Something in me let go and was relieved. As I got up, I again stroked his arm and rustled his hair with my fingers.
I glanced over him and watched as a ripple of goosebumps slowly raised down his leg to his foot.