My husband is not a physically affectionate person. Once we'd moved into the marriage phase of our relationship, he gave up on kissing, holding hands – the random acts of physical contact that happen in a relationship. I don't like it, but I could cope with it if he weren't so mean when I do touch him. I give him a kiss and he says "What?" – as if a kiss has to mean that I want something. I should have seen the signs when we were dating. I try to be patient, but I keep blowing up. Recently, I accused him of being just like his dad, a person who pushes away anyone who tries to show him affection. Needless to say, the silent treatment ensued, with less physical affection than ever. What's your take? Input from Pam would be welcome too.
Pam (my wife) is away this week on business – so, sorry to disappoint on that score.
But since I know her well (we've been together nearly 20 years), maybe I can attempt to speak for her:
"I certainly understand your dilemma, and I think it's one many married couples face – though in our relationship, Dave's the affectionate one. It's not that I don't love him: I love Dave very much. Not only is he brilliant, I also find him extremely attractive and a good dresser. His writing dazzles my cerebellum, and when I see him with our children I get all … but I digress. What I'm trying to say is, it's just the way I am."
Thanks, fake Pam! It's true: I'm always attempting to drape myself all over her, give her little kisses and so forth, whereas given her druthers she'd be mostly content to go about her domestic business without all this pesky interaction with her mwah-mwah, hugsy-wugsy hubby.
She's like a dude that way, and at first that kind of hurt my feelings. We'd quarrel about it and I would sulk and get all huffy – which, as in your case, only made things worse.
But one day I thought: "Ah, the heck with it, it's just the way she is, I'm going to stuff my little 'hurt' feelings in a sack – I am a man, after all – and keep giving her hugs and kisses whenever I encounter her in the corridors of our domicile."
And it worked a treat! Now I practically chase her around the house, snapping wet towels at her, while she screams and giggles and tries to dodge me. Secretly, I think, she loves it.
With a man, though – well, I'd say ease into it. You're kind of fighting 10,000 years of evolution. Let us digress for a brief moment to take a brief look at The History of Men:
Homo Metrosexualis, a.k.a. "Sensitive Guy," is a relatively recent wrinkle in human evolution. For thousands of years, we men were hunter-gatherers and/or soldiers. We didn't talk a lot because if we did we might startle the quarry, alert the enemy to our whereabouts. We saw no reason to hug anyone except if they had fallen in the field and needed to be carried back to base. We shrugged off flesh wounds, let alone our feelings.
All this is imprinted deep within our DNA. End of lesson.
Me, I'm glad men have opened up and are no longer imprisoned in our armour of stoicism and silence. But we're all evolving at different rates. You say "you should have seen the signs" when you were dating. You could put it another way: You knew what you were getting into. Maybe it's just the kind of guy he is. You say he's like his dad. Well, duh! How our parents nurtured us, or not, is also imprinted deep in our DNA, and just as hard to shake as 10,000 years of evolution.
Your husband's Dad probably figured he showed his affection by being a stern father, a good provider and a faithful husband. (Many men of previous generations seemed to feel this way.) Your husband may think the same: that he expresses his affection adequately through, basically, being a good man.
Maybe probe him a little on that score – there may be more emotional lava under his hard, cool crust than you suspect..
In the meantime, keep the hugs coming. I know it isn't the advice most advice columnists would give ("blah blah seek counselling blah blah") and, of course, there might be something more sinister afoot that could lead you to thumb through the Yellow Pages looking under "Lawyers – Divorce." (In which case, a sensible first step might be counselling.)
But try my method first. Sounds to me like you love the lug, even if he's a little flinchy. Physical affection – touching, kissing – is a powerful frosty-exterior melting agent. Bestow affection without thought of getting it in return and see what happens. Even if he pulls back or cracks wise, just keep up your amorous assault, soldier!
You might be surprised.
David Eddie is an author of Damage Control , the book.
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