Friday, February 12, 2010

The Right Touch

Male Nude 2
Originally uploaded by

So, it would seem that I have stumbled onto a topic that needs further exploration. I had already started a new post for today, which had me going in a different direction, but I am now thinking that we need to stay with this subject a bit longer.

I want to create a setting where we can have these open and honest conversations about aspects of widowhood that don't normally get discussed. I have participated in a couple of bereavement groups, yet this subject has yet to surface. It has been on my mind for quite some time. I go through periods where my libido is through the roof. I'm not sure if that is because I am missing Michael so much, or if I just need the endorphins that are released by sex. When I go through a difficult grieving time, I find that I don't give this much thought at all.

I can only speak from a guys point of view on this subject. As a guy I have used sex as a way to express my love and devotion, and I have also used it just make me feel better. During these painful days, sex would be a wonderful way to balance my emotions. I think for men, we sometimes use sex as a distraction. It's not always used to communicate or relate to our partner. In other words, it is not always intimacy that we seek. Sometimes it's just a means to an end.

For Michael and I, we talked about sex and intimacy with great ease. Sex was something that was important to both of us. We seemed to have a very similar sex drive, which was nicely balanced prior to his getting sick. We also found that we both enjoyed other ways to communicate our love and affection to each other. We often went to spas together, as we loved being pampered. Before, and after he was diagnosed with cancer, we enjoyed giving each other massages. One issue that did come up for me though, was that I sometimes felt like I was already doing so much for him. I am trained as a massage therapist, having studied massage after finishing graduate school. So, I guess you could say I knew what I was doing. When Michael would massage me, he had a tendency to move through it a bit too quickly, and often wanted it to become more sexual. After spending the day taking care of all his needs, giving a massage sometimes felt like asking too much.

As with the changes in our sex life, I brought up this dynamic about the massages. I was able to explain why I hesitated at times, and things got better between us. So it is all types of touch, sexual, intimate, healing and therapeutic that I find missing in my life. I do go for massages frequently, and they feel great, but I sometimes leave the spa feeling very sad. I'm sad that I can enjoy them, and Michael can't. I'm sad that someone is making me feel so good, and it isn't Michael. I leave there thinking about how in the past we would both have received a massage, and would go home very relaxed, together. I leave there thinking that I won't be touched by another adult until my next appointment, which could be weeks.

This is definitely a dilemma for widows and widowers. What does this do to us in the long run. Without touch, do we become further detached from humanity? The mind and body are connected in such significant ways. I worry about detaching physically from this world, and I worry that I will become emotionally detached from people.

Sometimes when I am alone in my room, I will mindlessly allow my hands to brush the sides of my face. I will gently caress my neck and shoulder. I am trying to find that way that Michael would touch me, or the right place he would touch me. I'm wanting connection, connection to him. I know this is not possible, but it is what I desire. It is what my body needs.

My thoughts are quite scattered tonight. I'm feeling less focused. Sometimes I wonder if this is directly related to the lack of touch. I spend far too much time in my head. I need to find new ways to connect to my world, and make the time to do that each day. I need to utilize all of my senses when I do this. I don't think this will take the place of the loss of sex in my life, but it will help fill some of the needs that sexual intimacy once provided.

I suppose it is yet another way that I have to adjust to my new life. My life as a widower. I don't like this. It just amplifies my feeling of being alone.

I miss his touch.


  1. to me your thoughts are quite cohesive. this is something i've wondered about, not your cohesive train of thoughts but of lack of human contact. i never had it really, not until my Dragon. my parents did not touch or hug each other or me, as in d-i-d n-o-t touch. my first husband was disgusted at the thought.

    but my Dragon touched all the time. virile and hungry all the time. sometimes i think we were given to each other more than me to him to help him and be there for him. without sounding arrogant, i sometimes like to think he was a gift to me so i could be touched and cared about and loved. he would do it almost without thinking. we'd be sitting together watching a movie and he'd finger comb my hair or play with my fingers. it didn't have to lead to anything. it was simply the warmed of an intimate connection.

    as for sex, it was lovely if i may use that word. he taught me. no details added. just, he taught me on all the levels ~physical, emotional, spiritual. it was often and i was very much allowed to touch him. it was nothing like i knew from before. thank God. Dragons run hot. and yes, as you put it, his being gone "amplifies my feeling of being alone." now i only get hugs from my daughter once a week. no other actual human contact.

    i, also, miss my mate's touch. you are in my thoughts and prayers. in my heart.

  2. Thanks for sharing this. I too, have physical affection from my kids, who are all very demonstrative, but as we know it is very different from the touch by other adults. It doesn't need in a romantic way to feed us.

    When I first met Michael, he was not the most comfortable being affectionate in public. There are many obvious reasons why two men have to be careful about this, but in time he learned to increase his comfort level. Michael used to tell me often that ours was the first relationship that he received so much affection. He said that his past couple of relationships didn't have as much simple hugs and kisses. He loved that I often wantd to give him simple physical contact.

    For me, I couldn't stop myself, I loved him so much.

    Take care.

  3. Don and I had always had a lot of physical contact - I kind of think that people who spend a lot of time outdoors hiking, canoeing, etc... develop their own ways of making contact throughout trips and such. You help each other with your gear, or help carry stuff, and you stop to hug, hold hands, etc. We always made a lot of eye contact, smiles, etc.. as we also worked together a lot over the years. We liked to rub each other's backs, give foot massages, etc.. but once again, due to Don's illness, we didn't touch too much during the final months before he died. He had tumors in his ribcage and spine, so even the slightest pressure hurt, so we couldn't hug at all and I couldn't rub his back except in the lightest and most superficial way. Once he started taking EGFR inhibitors, his skin became so damaged and painful that the only time I really touched him much was to rub moisturizing creams onto his feet and hands. We did hold hands when we went for drives - I did the driving as he was on heavy painkillers. About a month before Don died, he lost his voice so that he could only speak in a raspy whisper which I could barely understand unless I was sitting right beside him. That seemed like the ultimate evil blow. Last, he ended up unconscious on a ventilator while I sat beside him, holding his hand or his ankle for the last few days. Looking back on all of this, I realize how angry I was (and actually still am) at the cancer for how much pain and suffering it caused my husband, and how it increasingly came between us - if that makes sense. I now find that I have very little interest in physical contact. I think it might just be the "loner instinct" in me that makes me not care whether or not I am around people, or have contact with them. I think there are other forms of contact that work for me -- having my dogs which are pretty demanding of attention - they like to walk along, brushing against my legs when we're out hiking, or sit with their heads pressed against my shoulder when we're resting. I also find it nice to work around the moths that I photograph as they often climb onto my hands and wrists. That kind of contact might drive others sort of mad, but I'm so accustomed to it that working around my moth lamps late at night is relaxing and sort of other-worldly. It's not exactly a replacement for human touch - it's just different and nice in its own way.

  4. I too depend a lot on our animals. In the evening our dog and cat are usually sitting on my lap, or around me. The cat is very affectionate with me, which always feels like an extension of Michael and his aunt, who we got the cat from when she passed away two years ago.

    I still go to bed feeling disconnected though. I think I will just have to get used to all this. Thank God for the extra pillows (Michael's), as they tend to get plenty of attention from me during the night.

  5. Animals can be great company. Sabrina bridges that time between Don's death and now as we had her for 9 years before Don became ill. I dread losing her as she is getting to that age where anything can happen (anything can happen at any age, but the odds are now running against her). When she is gone, that will be one more connection that is lost. However, for the moment, I think we are both good company for each other.
    Re: disconnected feelings. I had that more when I was back home trying to sell the farm last spring. Can't explain why there more than here, but it just was.