“SPOTLIGHT” Author Rebecca Reilly from the Rave Reviews Book Club
Rebecca Reilly is a retired pastor, a massage therapist, and the author of Christian Sex and Marriage—It’s Complicated.
The Power of Casual Touch
Kaila’s Story – Married 28 years
We’ve been married a long time. I’m not attracted to him anymore. He’s hurt me too much. I don’t want to touch him, much less have sex with him.
Mia’s Story – Married 13 years
It’s not his fault. We’ve just grown apart. I don’t know what to do. I know I don’t want a divorce, but I don’t want him to touch me either.
Anne’s Story – Married 4 years
Everything he does drives me crazy. I don’t know why I married him.
Melina’s Story – Married 21 years
There’s too much resentment. Too much neglect. He’s a good man to other people, but he doesn’t pay attention to me. I don’t think of him fondly.
My heart breaks as I read and listen to stories of marriages on the brink of destruction. Sometimes, intense counseling is necessary to aid healing. Check with your church and with people you trust to find a counselor who understands and supports your faith and is trained to help you in your situation.
When affection for your spouse disappears, it does not need to be lost forever. You have a powerful God who fills you with powerful love. “For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love and self-discipline” (2 Timothy 1:7). You have the almighty God of the universe to fill you, sustain you, and love you as you are.
The focus here is on you. What can you do to rekindle your love and affection for your spouse? How committed are you to allow God to change your heart? Can you do the work needed without expectation that your partner will ever return your love? Because if you focus on changing your mate into something you want, nothing but frustration, anger, and pain awaits.
If you are willing to risk rejection, to give more than you thought possible, and to try day after day after day, casual touch is a powerful tool to spark a dying love.
Research studies across the board demonstrate that affectionate touching is essential for emotional development; it also eases physical pain, slows the heart rate, drops blood pressure, and speeds up recovery from illness. In other words, touch has the power to heal.
Affectionate touch heals physically. It heals emotionally. And it heals relationally. Casual touch says I love you, and you are important to me. Most importantly in this case, casual affectionate touch begins to build a love bridge that reaches from you to your spouse.
When you make the conscious and deliberate step to act out an emotion you once felt, your heart begins to feel again. Not the first time, not the second, and maybe not the third. But if you desire to love your spouse, and you demonstrate that love before you feel it, amazing things can happen. There is power in demonstrating love without feeling the emotional tie. By choosing to love, by using your mind to consciously decide to demonstrate affection, affection grows. Love grows.
If possible, ask your spouse to hold you every morning and every night—just a thirty-second hug. Asking brings your spouse onto the love bridge. It helps build the affection for him or her, too. If you cannot ask, you must step forward and do. Hug. Hold. Be physically close for thirty seconds.
Reach for his hand whenever you can. Put your arm around her as you walk or sit. Two, three, four times a day initiate affectionate touch. Come back and try again later if your partner pulls away. Let him or her know you need to touch and be touched. You will not give up on your relationship.
What do you have to lose? It does not compare to what you have to gain.
How Do I Touch You? Let Me Count the Ways
When it comes to casual touch, it is best to trust your instincts. If you think about touching your spouse, do it. Catch his or her eye and smile; just a second adds power to your message of love.
Hold hands whenever possible.
Hug each other. Hold on a few seconds too long.
Play footsies under your dinner table.
Put your head in his lap as you watch a movie or the news.
Pull her head to your lap and give her a scalp massage. Cup her head with both hands and slowly move your fingers in circles. Ask her how it feels. Does she want it softer or harder? You can also gently pull strands of hair. Move across her scalp as you pull.
Use your fingernails as you stroke up his forearm.
Give her a hand massage. Use lotion and your thumb to give steady pressure.
Use his electric razor to shave his face. Have him lie down in bed. Use gentle strokes to put him to sleep.
Massage her feet. Use lotion. Press your thumbs in circles across her arch. Run your fingertips along the base of her toes. Rub her heal across the palm of your hand. Just touch, smooth, and pamper her.
Giving your spouse a full body massage does a lot of wonderful things for your relationship. If you make this a regular part of your life, you might want to purchase a fairly cheap portable massage table. If not, the sofa or bed works, but can be hard on the body of the giver. Start with gentle pressure. You are giving and receiving touch, not trying to release knots. Smooth, long, confident strokes feel good. Use lotion, and try to avoid jerky movements. Women tend to carry tension in the muscles around their neck. Do not squeeze too tightly. Ask how the pressure feels and adjust. Men tend to carry their tension in their lower back. Use your thumbs and push up and down along the spine (one thumb on each side), then use the heel of your hand to press from the spine toward the hip in the lower back.
The buttocks hold large muscles. You can roll your fist across them, or use the palm of your hand to go deeper. Again, ask how your pressure feels and adjust.
When massaging the legs and arms, begin at the extremities (feet or hands) and move toward the heart. Long, firm, gentle strokes feel good and are comforting.
One of the most relaxing massages is one done on the face. Begin with your fingertips at the center of your spouse’s forehead. Bring your hands down to his or her temples, one hand on each side. Move your fingertips in circular motions over the temples. Repeat several times. Press one finger on each side of the bridge of the nose. Move your fingers, pressing over the sinus area. Use your fingertips to rub circles over the joint of the jaw, and then gently massage the outer part of the ears. Finish with a scalp massage.
On Your Own
Look in the mirror and remind yourself of these facts every day:
- God knows my every fault, and He loves me deeply.
- I am worthy to be loved.
- I am a masterpiece created by the God who invented beauty.
- God blessed me with talents, some of which I have not yet discovered.
- God has forgiven me. I must forgive myself.
- It is right to love myself. I see value in who I am.
- I am a work in progress. I like where I am going.
- In 2 Thessalonians 1:3, Paul says, “We ought always to thank God for you, brothers and sisters, and rightly so, because your faith is growing more and more, and the love all of you have for one another is increasing.” Do you believe your love for your spouse can increase? What can you do to help your love grow?
- Affectionate love and sexual love go together in good marriages. Which type of love is strongest in you? Which type of love is strongest in your marriage? Do you see the value in working on each type of love? Why or why not? What strategies do you have for working on affectionate love? On sexual love?
- What keeps you from casually touching your spouse more often? Can you change that?
- Count how many times you casually touch your spouse in one day. Add to it the next day.
Sometime this week, say these things to your spouse:
- You are worthy to be loved.
- I am worthy to be loved.
- I need to touch you. I need you to touch me.
- Can I give you a massage?
- I think about you when you are gone.
- I’m glad we’re friends as well as lovers.
- I need your affection.
- You make me happy.
- I love you. I’m glad I married you. I’d marry you again tomorrow.
- What is the most sensitive part of your body to touch?
- What do I do that that tells you I love you?
- If we were in a room full of people and couldn’t have sex, what five things could I do to show you I want you, I need you, and I love you?
- Did you see/feel a lot of affection when you were growing up?
- How can we model affection for our children?
Just an Idea
- Take a walk. Hold hands the entire time.
- While watching television, exchange scalp and neck massages. One partner sits on the floor in front of the other. Switch half way through the show.
- Do a mundane chore together (washing dishes, folding laundry, etc). Casually touch often throughout the time you work.
- Bet a fifteen-minute back massage on the next sporting event you watch together.
Purchase Rebecca Reilly’s
Christian Sex and Marriage—It’s Complicated
Amazon Paperback: http://bit.ly/SexMarriagePB
Barnes and Noble: http://bit.ly/sexBN
Follow Rebecca Reilly:
Website (sign up for her newsletter): rebeccareilly.net