I didn’t know I wasn’t affectionate.
According to Vice, psychologists are now referring to it as Skin Hunger and technology is making it increasingly more common.
We were a few months into our relationship when he brought it to my attention.
I think I was doing dishes or something where I wasn’t really focused on him. His words hit my ears like bombs going off, “You don’t really hug me.”
I felt the defense rising from my toes like you see a thermometer turn red when heat is applied to it. I was ready to tell him why he was wrong, but I searched my brain for evidence and found none.
I whirled around to see the sadness in his eyes and I knew he was right. I also saw that it was something he needed.
I softened my voice and responded, “I didn’t know I wasn’t doing it.”
He frowned and looked at me, puzzled, “How could you not know?”
I shrugged my shoulders as I walked toward him, wrapped my arms around his waist and pressed my head to his chest. I stayed there until he wrapped his arms around me and I felt his body melt into my embrace. From that moment, I decided I needed to be more affectionate towards him.
As time went on, I had to examine my behavior in situations where affection was either occurring, expected or requested. I paid attention to what was happening in my body.
The first thing I noticed was I felt uncomfortable when other people were being affectionate in front of me. When I witnessed parents cuddling their children, especially older children, I felt resistance within me. My muscles tightened and there was a feeling of rejection at the sight. My mind knew it was right, but I also heard alarm bells going off. As, I processed my feelings I felt irritated and jealous. A part of me longed for the ease with which they showed each other love.
Being freely kissed, hugged or comforted felt alien to me.
I have always felt an invisible boundary when it comes to receiving touch, love or physical affection. I used to say, “we are not a touch-feely type of family” and I didn’t think much about it until I saw how many other people are. Then, I had to question if I’m not affectionate or was it signaled to me that affection wasn’t something I could or should expect.
Then I encountered men and women who ignored my recoil from their offer of affection and pulled me defiantly into embrace until I surrendered and allowed myself to be comforted.
It was a joke to them, but it awakened within me a craving I didn’t know existed. I had suppressed my desire to be held. I had conditioned my body to function without platonic intimacy. Rejection taught me not to try.
It was as if the rain had fallen over land after a long drought. I felt nourished.
Affection and physical intimacy is vital to our survival. Studies have shown that infants being touch deprived has led to changes in their DNA. Children who are deprived affection from a parent experience more anxiety and depression. There are mental health benefits to hugging which releases oxytocin, “the cuddle drug” which creates emotional bonds. The touch deprived are more likely to experience stress and other health ailments including mental health challenges.
As I understood that I had been depriving myself of affection, I decided to allow myself to be something I couldn’t which was affectionate.
My boyfriend was welcoming. He would open his arms any time I felt the urge to show affection and it was amazing how naturally it came to me. It became more frequent and random as I knew it was okay and I wouldn’t be rejected.
The Revelation for me was, “I am a touchy-feely person”. I still haven’t given myself permission to do it with everyone yet.
Now I am more apt to offer a hug when I see someone struggling or having a rough day.
In a relationship, it’s no question that there will be “low stakes” physical intimacy where I am simply showing my love or providing comfort. Now, I understand how important it is for others.
I want to be held and there is no reason I shouldn’t.
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