Focus on the Family

Meaningful Touch in Marriage

The same need for meaningful touching we see with our children is equally important in a marriage.

by John Trent, Gary Smalley

The same need for meaningful touching we se with our children is equally important in a marriage. One wise husband realized the importance of this need during a difficult time his wife was experiencing, and it did more to minister to her than anything else he could have done.

When Marilyn was getting dressed one morning, she noticed something that didn't seem quite right. She found a small lump on her breast that she had not been aware of before.

Marilyn wasn't overly concerned, but she knew enough from reading magazines and watching television to know that she needed to get it checked. She told her husband, Art, what she intended to do, and then called the doctor for an appointment. Two weeks later, Marilyn went to the doctor to have a biopsy done on the lump. Three days after her appointment, she was lying in a hospital bed facing a radical mastectomy.

For Marilyn, the hardest thing she faced after the surgery wasn't her recovery, but what Art would think of her now. Would she still be attractive to him? How would he feel about touching her? Questions like these ran over and over n her mind.

The morning she was to be released from the hospital, Marilyn and Art were alone in her room. Her husband sat on her bed and took her hands in his.

"Sugar," he said, "I want you to know something. You're as beautiful to me now as you were on our wedding night. Don't you ever forget that."

Then Art looked over to make sure the door was shut, winked at her, and said, "After you get home and get rested up, we're going to have to get the lock fixed on the door."

Marilyn hugged her husband, and tears came to her eyes. She knew exactly what he meant by that last statement. Early in their marriage, when someone had forgotten to lock the door, one of their boys had walked into their room at a most inappropriate time. The result was that a new lock was installed on the door the next day. "We're going to have to get the lock fixed on the door" became their private password to an intimate evening.

What had concerned Marilyn was not only how her operation would affect their sexual relationship, but also whether it would keep Art from touching her outside the bedroom. His words and actions that morning assured her that this important element of the blessing would still be a part of their relationship.

Sexual touching is important in any growing relationship; however, it should not be the only time a couple touches. Our friend, Dr. Kevin Leman, notes this in his book Sex Begins in the Kitchen. He points out that genuine intimacy is developed in the small acts of touching in the kitchen, or walking through a mall together hand in hand, or sitting close together on the sofa watching television.

Speaking of "sex beginning in the kitchen," we heard a true story from a recent participant in a seminar who tried to apply the concept of meaningful touching with his wife, and it left him in an embarrassing situation!

After hearing the concept of meaningful touch talked about over and over, it really stuck with this man. One afternoon after cutting the grass, he came in to take a shower and clean up. He had left the bedroom door open, and when he finished his shower he walked over to the rack to get a towel. From where he stood, he could see his wife standing in the kitchen preparing their dinner.

What a time for meaningful touching, he thought to himself. Without a moment's thought, he ran down the hall in his birthday suit and burst into the kitchen to give his wife a big hug. What he couldn't see from the bedroom or as he raced down the hall was his neighbor's wife who had come over to visit. That shocked neighbor saw a great deal more of this husband than she had ever expected! His timing was terrible, but no one could fault his commitment to meaningfully touch his wife!

Meaningful touch can enrich your relationships in many ways. Psychology Today reported that, regardless of gender, people who were comfortable with touching were also more talkative, cheerful, socially dominant and nonconforming; those uncomfortable with touch tended to be more emotionally unstable and socially withdrawn. Those more comfortable with touch were less afraid and suspicious of other people's motives and intentions, and had less anxiety and tension in their everyday lives.

Yet as powerful as it is, touch alone is not enough to sustain a growing marriage. Researchers at the University of Illinois used three measures of intimacy to assess marital satisfaction and happiness. They found that each form of intimacy made its own important contribution. However, conflict and divorce potential were most closely linked with a lack of the next two elements of the blessing – emotional and verbal intimacy.