I first heard about touch isolation in Mark Greene’s article here on Good Men Project. Later, after I bought Mr. Greene’s book, Remaking Manhood, I had a conversation with my best friend about the topic. We both agreed that platonic touch was an important relational aspect missing from the majority of male friendships.
We each confessed that touch was something we were deeply missing in our friendships.
A hand on the shoulder.
An arm around the neck.
Sitting close; so close shoulders or legs touch.
This is platonic touch. This kind of touch says, “I’m not afraid of you. I appreciate you.”
I teach 8th grade, and I’m glad to report that in the years I’ve been teaching middle school, arguably the most volatile three years of a kid’s life, I’ve seen more instances of boys not being afraid to reach out and show affection for one another. Boys walk with their arms around one another’s necks, they walk arm in arm, they stand so close they touch. I even see them hug. It makes my heart sing!
Men could stand to spend some time with middle school boys and learn something.
I believe that removing touch isolation from men’s lives can have a positive impact on their marriages.
Men work all day with other men whom they don’t touch. They don’t share any vulnerable information with one another. Men keep to themselves. And it’s killing their marriages.
Men live on empty islands inhabited by their fellow compatriots whom they avoid at all costs. Being in such close proximity with others and yet not touching or sharing even the slightest vulnerability with one another numbs a man’s heart and mind. It’s a wild thought that a man can work 8-12 hours a day with another man and still go home feeling lonely and ignored.
When men go home after hours of being near others and yet isolated from the slightest touch, it’s no wonder they sometimes act like cavemen when they see their wives. Suddenly, the man she married is a cat-calling, butt pinching, ravenous for affection man who wants only to make out and roll in the sheets than have a meaningful relationship which includes romance, conversation, and a deep bond of intimacy.
A lot of women in happy marriages with faithful husbands feel just as starved for affection because their husbands only have one thing on their minds when they come home from work. Instead of feeling appreciated and rightly desired, they feel like an object of their husband’s lust.
But what if men removed themselves from their self imposed island of isolation and embraced engaging in platonic intimacy with their friends and colleagues?
I think it could make many marriages a lot more exciting.
If a man went to work and allowed himself to be vulnerable with his male colleagues, perhaps he’d feel less lonely. Instead of conversing only of sports and work, but sharing some feelings and showing some emotion other than anger and frustration, he wouldn’t be as stressed. If he put his hand on his buddy’s shoulder and stood shoulder to shoulder, he wouldn’t feel so isolated. Instead of shaking hands the stringent non-relational way — hands only, firm grip– but linked hands and at the same time cupped his palm around the other man’s tricep with his other hand, he’d have a more intimate, yet very platonic, connection.
If these things happened, often, our hypothetical man would go home feeling as though he was a member of a tribe. Not feeling so isolated from humanity could make him less like a caveman and more like a gentleman when he spots his wife. He will be attracted to her. He will hug her and even give her a kiss — as he should! — but he’ll not feel as though he has to be touched right then because he’s been so alone among humanity all day. Because he spent his day forging pure meaningful relationships through touch and vulnerability, he can carry the same into his marriage each evening. Now instead of demanding touch and affection, he can simply continue what he was doing in a more intimate way and show his wife true meaningful affection.
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