I grew up in a family that was not very affectionate. My older brothers and I fought all the time. When I got married, one of my weakest skills was related to affection.
Women need non-sexual affection, and I was not prepared to provide it. For the first eight years of my relationship with Karen, I seldom held her or touched her for any length of time without becoming rough or sexual.
Even when we held hands, I was rough. I squeezed too hard. She asked me to be gentle and tender, but that never felt right to me. I was uncomfortable being physically affectionate—especially in public.
But I was happy to touch her in sexual ways. I remember one time she was standing at the sink washing dishes and I came up behind her, reached around, and grabbed her breasts.
As you might expect, she wasn’t thrilled. She turned around in total frustration and said, “Can’t you touch me anywhere but there?”
I replied, “Sure, but I don’t want to.” And I was being honest. I didn’t want to stop the sexual touching. I was annoying, rough, and entirely complacent about changing or meeting her needs.
Over and over through our marriage, Karen kept telling me how she wanted me to hold her and touch her in non-sexual ways. I figured she was going through a phase. I though she needed to toughen up. I didn’t get it.
I didn’t understand that this kind of affection is a major need in a woman.
Karen never changed, nor should she have. The need for affection is in her basic nature. I was the one who needed to change. But I didn’t think I could do it. It went against my whole upbringing.
One day she was sitting on the couch folding clothes. I sat down next to her and put my arm around her, holding her lovingly. She wondered what I was up to. I explained how I was trying to be affectionate to her in a non-sexual way.
“Keep it up,” she said. “I like it.”
I began to like it, too. I worked hard at this for several weeks until it became comfortable to me. To my surprise and delight, I found that the more affectionate I became toward Karen, the more sexually responsive Karen became toward me.
My obedience to God and honoring Karen’s wishes in this area was a real breakthrough for our relationship and for me personally.
Besides meeting her needs, I found that showing affection to my wife makes my children secure and provides them a good role model. Kids need affection, but they also need to see their parents showing affection to each other.
Women, explain to your husbands how important it is that they touch you in tender, non-sexual ways.
Men, do what you can to meet this important need for your wife. Regardless of your own likes and dislikes, it will meet her needs and improve your marriage in tremendous ways.