Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Starving For Affection

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.


  1. Reading this and tearing up because this exactly how I feel...

    1. Hi Sometimes tired, I describe stonewalling in the post published before this one, "In The Disease: Walking on Land Mines and Stonewalling."

  2. This makes me cry, too. It's the same in our home. I didn't know my husband was an alcoholic. I see it now.

  3. I cried when I read this- I could have written it- it's a heartbreaking way to live, and seems to have no solution...

  4. I'm at work reading this, and I had to step out because I am crying - this post so acurately details where we are right now, and it's heart breaking. But I must say, it's nice to know I am not alone, even though I hate that anyone would have to go through this pain. Thank you for writing this, thank you so much.

  5. I completely understand and can relate. Same story in my life.

  6. Me too. Though it's comforting (yet sad) that others are going through this, it was hard to read at the same time.

  7. I am in my own bed, separate rooms, he is drinking downstairs, only married four years, no intimacy, I feel so lonely why are we here

  8. And here I thought I was the only one who felt that my bf wasn't attracted to me anymore. He has issues getting erect too. We haven't been intimate for 3 months now, and it is weighing heavily on me. I seriously thought it was me, but after reading this I now realize it's the disease. Thank you for posting this!! I still don't understand why they don't seem interested in touching, hugging, kissing, or being intimate? Where does this come from? I'm lucky I have my puppy to keep me warm and comfy every night, because without her I know I'd be feeling a very deep loneliness.

  9. That was so beautifully written, and so accurately describes our household too. We just talked (again) last night, we'll see how it goes...

    Thank you so much for putting a voice to this! I felt like I had no right to be so lonely and so unhappy because it's not "that bad." There's a roof over our heads, food on the table and my husband is a gentle man. But these feelings of loneliness, starvation for affection and depression within the marriage are real and valid.

  10. It's 3am here and I've just found myself on my couch while my husband sleeps in our bed. My recognition of his disease and all of it's consequences have just come to light for me. I tried to talk to him last night, but all he said was, 'So, you're saying I have to stop drinking forever?' He's 20 years older than me and I always thought he was so together, someone I could trust, someone that could finally love me the way I have always needed. He barely even touches me now and I lay awake at night, crying silently, trying to will his touch, but it never comes. This is one small part of a great despair and loneliness I feel. I'm sorry you all are suffering, but would like to say thank you for this safe place to just feel and be.

  11. Made me cry. But the table is turned in my situation because I lose all attraction to my husband when he's been drinking. He is annoying, loud, repeats himself a lot and smells. He doesn't try to make me want to be intimate. He just expects it. I hate this, so I avoid him. This seems to give him another excuse to drink. Or accuse me of "having a secret life" or cheating on him. When he's sober, which is usually only before noon when he's not working, his eyes twinkle and he's the person I fell in love with.

  12. I am in the same situation with not being very attracted to my husband intimately anymore when he drinks, which is all the time.I am still very lonely, have been for about four to five years now. We have been married for 17yrs. been a couple for 23yrs. I'm 46 and I still love him and have tried on many occasions to be intimate. The thing is, when we are intimate, there is no kissing, or stroking, just getting right to the point. One time he asked me if I was done yet, and that I should get dinner started. (WHAT?!) That pretty much ruined it for me right there. This was a failed attempt on my part thinking we could revive our marriage. Now I'm just pretty much giving up......I have to consider weather or not I am willing to live the rest of my life feeling so out of love now. I love him, he's the father of my children, just not 'in love' with him anymore. As the years go by, I grow less tolerant with his selfishness. It's only a matter of time for me.

  13. This post made me cry too. I have been with my boyfriend for 10 years, and we have split up several times, but as we love each other, always get back together. Whenever we get back together, things get better - he gives me a lot of attention and we seem to get on well. But then things always seem to slip back to where they were. Me - wishing he'd stop drinking a bottle or two of wine every night and wanting to spend time together sober, and him - resenting me for nagging him and using that as an excuse to drink. (The vicious cycle goes on!)

    For years, we have spent the evenings in different rooms, and when we go to bed, if he does ever try anything, I reject him as I hate him when he's drunk - annoying, obnoxious and repeats himself. He too always goes straight for penetration, without a hug or a kiss. I just can't switch into sex mode when I rarely receive affection. One of the worst nights is when he decided to go to sleep in the spare bedroom with his laptop. I could hear his moans as he masterbated. We broke up shortly after that. He is a lot better now. Although now he doesn't seem to want sex at all. I know I should leave him, but I do love him when he's sober. Why do we do this to ourselves?