(I’ve had this topic in mind for some time but I intentionally did not write about it until now that I am in an established relationship. I don’t want my gentlemen readers to get the idea that this is an invitation to start making any sort of offer. It’s not. Please don’t. If I need a shoulder I have a boyfriend. )
Jon was an expert at affection. He gave the best hugs. The kind that made you feel completely enveloped in love and security. If hugging was a superpower my husband had it. While we were together physical touch was abundant. We were in constant contact: holding hands, leaning on each other shoulders, smacking each other’s butts as we walked by and of course… special married people cuddles. 😉
And then he was gone.
The affection in my life went with him.
It did not take me long to feel the impact of the lack of physical touch in my life. I remember once waking up trembling, it felt like my very skin was crying out to be touched. It was like I was going through affection withdrawals. I sat in bed desperately trying to remember the last time someone intentionally touched me, aside from the quick obligatory goodbye hug. I couldn’t remember.
As weeks passed my hunger for affection grew. I felt like I was wasting away. And then an opportunity presented itself. Someone began to pay attention to me. He was nice and safe and most of importantly… secret. No one knew of his existence.
It was like a scene from one of those old western movies when someone who had been lost in the desert staggers into town… insane with thirst. Do they go sit down in a restaurant and order a glass of ice water? No. They throw themselves into the first horse trough they encounter. That’s what I did. I was so unstable, my grip on reality so loose, I was so hungry for any sort of touch, desperate to escape the pain and loneliness even for a moment… that I ended up sleeping with someone 3 months after my husband died.
I was in such a state of shock and numbness that when I drove home after the encounter I wasn’t even sure if what had happened was real. It was like watching my body go through the motions from the outside. Nothing felt real. I didn’t know for sure if I had imagined it or not until the guy texted me later. All I knew for sure was that hunger had subsided somewhat.
Now, for those of you who know me this will be a huge shock. Up until the moment of this posting only 3 people know that this happened. For those of you who do not know me let me explain the weight of that confession. I had never been with anyone but Jon and we waited until marriage. We barely made it on a technicality. I wasn’t exactly a poster child for purity but still… I’ve never been promiscuous. I don’t do casual sex. It’s not who I am.
Part of me is afraid that this confession will make people think less of me… but honestly none of you could possibly judge me harder than I judged myself for that indiscretion. I hated myself for being so weak. But I hated myself even more because in some ways it helped. For a little while the internal screaming for affection was quieted.
I know my situation is extreme and so perhaps my readership will be more lenient on me. After all, I was out of my mind with grief and so uncertain of reality that I had to constantly hold on to Jon’s ring to remind myself that he was dead and I would stare at the positive pregnancy test to remind myself that I was pregnant. (From my husband, not the slip up, in case this is someone’s first time reading my blog.)
But what about the other single people? I am not the only one who goes to bed alone every night aware of the emptiness beside me. What about those who have gone through divorce or have never had the chance to marry yet? They need affection too. I feel confident in saying that I am not the only one (still) starved for affection in a sea of people.
Why is it that if someone starving steals food we understand, but we have no grace for someone starving for affection? Just as much as our bodies need food, our bodies need touch. I’ve been inching my way towards a psychology degree and the evidence for the importance of physical touch is well researched and documented. We *need* affectionate touch to survive.
Speaking from my experience as a Christian, the church really needs to reevaluate their approach to affection. What if the problem isn’t lust, what if it’s an epidemic of affection deprivation? I feel like as a culture the church is so afraid of the slightest possibility of impurity that affection has been thrown out. Handshakes and side hugs are the standard but those are both very cold.
Jon had a rant against side hugs. I never felt strongly either way about them before but now I hate them. I hate them because they basically say, “I want to make a show of connection but I’m not allowed to let you close.” They’re a wall not a bridge. For me a side hug is a reminder that the affection in my life is limited.
Jon accepted the fact that side hugs were the rule in church (most of the time) but he maintained that they were not real. “No life or love can be conveyed that way.” I have to agree. We have to stop being so terrified that love and affection will cause people to fall down a pit of depravity. Or that they’ll be misinterpreted. If a guy has a hard time with controlling his thoughts then let him chose to not give real hugs, but to restrict the entire congregation to a cold, brief leans against each other as opposed to real hugs is sad.
I understand that not everyone is comfortable with a real hug, obviously I’m not advocating for bear hugging strangers (though, Jon might have done that once or ten times) and this blog isn’t meant to be a rant against side hugs. I just want people to reconsider the interactions they have with the people around them and side hugs are a good example.
People are hungry for affection. They are going to get it wherever they can and if the only way they can fill that void is a series of one night stands they are going to do it. It doesn’t matter what other people think or what their morals are. Starving people find a way to stop the hunger pain. I’m not saying I’ve had a string of one night stands. The one guy was it for me. I’m just saying I have a deep understanding and compassion for people who find ways to cope with the pain of life.
So maybe lets not judge the people around us who are doing the absolute best they can with the cards they are dealt. Maybe lets give people real hugs. Real hugs to single people and widows. Even the ones who have made mistakes. Even the ones with bad reputations.. because you know what… they are the ones who need it the most.
I’ll let Jon finish this blog. As I’ve said before, he gave the best hugs. One day at work some of his coworkers recorded him giving “Hug lessons” since so many people did not know how to give them properly. lol
In case you think affection in church is not proper because it will lead to sexual thoughts… Paul’s expectation was that we were to greet each other with kisses. Think on that a bit. xoxo
Greet one another with a holy kiss.
1 Corinthians 16:20Greet one another with a holy kiss.
2 Corinthians 13:12Greet one another with a holy kiss.
1 Thessalonians 5:26Greet all God’s people with a holy kiss.