It’s really common for people in long-term relationships fall into a “touch trap,” especially in bed. (Singles: there’s plenty here for you too.)
Do you tend to associate physical expressions of affection toward (or from) your partner with sex, partly because early in your relationship, such expressions frequently did lead to sex?
If so, you and your partner may not touch each other much at times when one or both of you aren’t interested in having sex. This also happens because in modern culture, especially through the media, touch and sex are often linked in people’s minds.
As a result, many people are walking around starved for human touch, even if they are in an intimate relationship. Does this include you?
Skin-to-skin touch releases oxytocin, known as the nurturing and bonding hormone, into the system. You may know it’s great for bonding a couple.
But did you know non-sexual touch actually helps a man have stronger erections and women get more easily aroused when they do get around to having sex at another time.
Touch for Survival
The oxytocin released with touch is largely responsible for bonding between newborn babies and their parents and helps a breast-feeding mother’s milk to come in.
It’s well-known that orphaned babies will die for lack of touch, and hospital staff are paid to touch and hold premature babies because their survival and health rates are so positively affected.
But we don’t stop needing touch just because we’ve grown up. One hospital did an assessment of patient care and discovered that the patients under the care of one particular nurse had notably and consistently better recovery rates. When asked what she did that might contribute to better and faster healing, she said, “I touch them. Every time I see a patient, I simply touch them.”
Touch in Intimate Relationships
When it comes to intimate relationships, one partner is often more inclined to be affectionate than the other. Some people are very demonstrative of their affection and admiration with hugging and kissing, caressing and even fondling at almost any time.
Others aren’t comfortable with kissing, holding hands or hugging unless they are fully clothed (which is also beneficial) or are engaged in sexual foreplay. When sex is not on the menu, these people are reluctant to be sensuous in bed, because it could trigger an expectation of sex when they are not really interested in it at the time. Herein the problem…
The “TOUCH TRAP” in Bed
The pattern that often develops in bed is this:
One person (let’s call him or her Lover A) will initiate caresses and hugs, maybe even kisses, wanting to share love, affection and closeness, but not being interested in sex at that time.
The other person (Lover B) may perceive this as an invitation to have sexual relations. If Lover B is too tired or otherwise not in the mood for sex, he or she may pull away, missing an opportunity to share the touching and closeness that both would really enjoy (and the bonding and nurturing that the release of oxytocin will stimulate).
If Lover B is in the mood for sex, the response will be sexual, which is fine if Lover A gets into to mood too. But if Lover A really just wants to caress, kiss, cuddle and go to sleep feeling close, Lover B may feel confused and rejected.
Whether Lover B pulls away or presses for sex, over time, when Lover A just wants to “play kissy face” in bed, he or she may be reluctant to make the move and risk rejection or undesired sex. The situation may reverse at times until eventually, both lovers are afraid to approach the other for physical expressions of affection in bed because it opens up an emotional can of worms.
Talk about it. Explore the possibilities for kissing, loving caresses and affection when it’s understood that you won’t be “going all the way.”
You might even discover that going as far as low-energy genital stimulation, even penetration, without full arousal and orgasm can be deeply emotionally satisfying in a way that complements your lovemaking on other occasions when you have more time and energy.
More Touch Helps Everyone Feel More Connected
Non-sexual touch is a good way for everyone to enhance their oxytocin levels and feel more connected with humanity. Take advantage of the opportunity to hug friends when greeting or parting, trade brief shoulder rubs at your desk with a work colleague, pay for a massage once in a while, hug your parents, your children and/or other family members every chance you get.
If you don’t have nearby parents or young children, you might find a way to bring substitutes into your life by volunteering at a nursing home or offering occasional childcare for friends’ youngsters. The elderly are generally very open to caring touch, and children love to hug, tickle, wrestle and play physical games.
“Spread love everywhere you go: first of all in your own house. Give love to your children, to your wife or husband, to a next door neighbor… Let no one ever come to you without leaving better and happier. Be the living expression of God’s kindness; kindness in your face, kindness in your eyes, kindness in your smile, kindness in your warm greeting.”