Relationships: The power of touch

Recently I ran into an odd story about a man who has an affair and decides to divorce his wife. However his wife has an odd request that in the end; brings her husband back. According to Snopes, this story has been circulating in emails since 2004 and has undergone a number of changes as the story was modified to suit various target audiences. The debunkers classify this as a legend but I myself would be inclined as to label it a work of fiction.
Nevertheless I saw a message in this story which merits some study. Read over the story and we will come back to this issue.

The Story
When I got home that night as my wife served dinner, I held her hand and said, "I’ve got something to tell you." She sat down and ate quietly. Again I observed the hurt in her eyes. 

Suddenly I didn’t know how to open my mouth. But I had to let her know what I was thinking. "I want a divorce." I raised the topic calmly. 

She didn’t seem to be annoyed by my words, instead she asked me softly, "Why?"

I avoided her question. This made her angry. She threw away the chopsticks and shouted at me, "You are not a man!" That night, we didn’t talk to each other. She was weeping. I knew she wanted to find out what had happened to our marriage. But I could hardly give her a satisfactory answer; she had lost my heart to Jane. I didn’t love her anymore. I just pitied her! 

With a deep sense of guilt, I drafted a divorce agreement which stated that she could own our house, our car, and 30% stake of my company. 

She glanced at it and then tore it into pieces. The woman who had spent ten years of her life with me had become a stranger. I felt sorry for her wasted time, resources and energy but I could not take back what I had said for I loved Jane so dearly. Finally she cried loudly in front of me, which was what I had expected to see. To me her cry was actually a kind of release. The idea of divorce which had obsessed me for several weeks seemed to be firmer and clearer now. 

The next day, I came back home very late and found her writing something at the table. I didn’t have supper but went straight to sleep and fell asleep very fast because I was tired after an eventful day with Jane. 

When I woke up, she was still there at the table writing. I just did not care so I turned over and was asleep again. 

In the morning she presented her divorce conditions: she didn’t want anything from me, but needed a month’s notice before the divorce. She requested that in that one month we both struggle to live as normal a life as possible. Her reasons were simple: our son had his exams in a month’s time and she didn’t want to disrupt him with our broken marriage. 

This was agreeable to me. But she had something more, she asked me to recall how I had carried her into our bridal room on our wedding day. 

She requested that every day for the month’s duration I carry her out of our bedroom to the front door ever morning. I thought she was going crazy. Just to make our last days together bearable I accepted her odd request. 

I told Jane about my wife’s divorce conditions. She laughed loudly and thought it was absurd. No matter what tricks she applies, she has to face the divorce, she said scornfully. 

My wife and I hadn’t had any body contact since my divorce intention was explicitly expressed. So when I carried her out on the first day, we both appeared clumsy. Our son clapped behind us, "Daddy is holding mommy in his arms." His words brought me a sense of pain. From the bedroom to the sitting room, then to the door, I walked over ten meters with her in my arms. She closed her eyes and said softly; "Don’t tell our son about the divorce." I nodded, feeling somewhat upset. I put her down outside the door. She went to wait for the bus to work. I drove alone to the office. 

On the second day, both of us acted much more easily. She leaned on my chest. I could smell the fragrance of her blouse. I realized that I hadn’t looked at this woman carefully for a long time. I realized she was not young any more. There were fine wrinkles on her face, her hair was greying! Our marriage had taken its toll on her. For a minute I wondered what I had done to her. 

On the fourth day, when I lifted her up, I felt a sense of intimacy returning. This was the woman who had given ten years of her life to me. 

On the fifth and sixth day, I realized that our sense of intimacy was growing again. I didn’t tell Jane about this. It became easier to carry her as the month slipped by. Perhaps the everyday workout made me stronger. 

She was choosing what to wear one morning. She tried on quite a few dresses but could not find a suitable one. Then she sighed, "All my dresses have grown bigger." I suddenly realized that she had grown so thin, that was the reason why I could carry her more easily. 

Suddenly it hit me… she had buried so much pain and bitterness in her heart. Subconsciously I reached out and touched her head. 

Our son came in at the moment and said, "Dad, it’s time to carry mom out." To him, seeing his father carrying his mother out had become an essential part of his life. My wife gestured to our son to come closer and hugged him tightly. I turned my face away because I was afraid I might change my mind at this last minute. I then held her in my arms, walking from the bedroom, through the sitting room, to the hallway. Her hand surrounded my neck softly and naturally. I held her body tightly; it was just like our wedding day. 

But her much lighter weight made me sad. On the last day, when I held her in my arms I could hardly move a step. Our son had gone to school. I held her tightly and said, I hadn’t noticed that our life lacked intimacy. 

I drove to office…. jumped out of the car swiftly without locking the door. I was afraid any delay would make me change my mind…I walked upstairs. Jane opened the door and I said to her, "Sorry, Jane, I do not want the divorce anymore."

She looked at me, astonished, and then touched my forehead. "Do you have a fever?"she said. I moved her hand off my head. "Sorry, Jane", I said, "I won’t divorce. My marriage life was boring probably because she and I didn’t value the details of our lives, not because we didn’t love each other anymore. Now I realize that since I carried her into my home on our wedding day I am supposed to hold her until death do us apart."

Jane seemed to suddenly wake up. She gave me a loud slap and then slammed the door and burst into tears. I walked downstairs and drove away. 

At the floral shop on the way, I ordered a bouquet of flowers for my wife. The salesgirl asked me what to write on the card. I smiled and wrote, "I’ll carry you out every morning until death do us apart."

That evening I arrived home, flowers in my hands, a smile on my face, I run up stairs, only to find my wife in the bed – dead. My wife had been fighting CANCER for months and I was so busy with Jane to even notice. She knew that she would die soon and she wanted to save me from the whatever negative reaction from our son, in case we push thru with the divorce – at least, in the eyes of our son – I’m a loving husband… 

The small details of your lives are what really matter in a relationship. It is not the mansion, the car, property, the money in the bank. These create an environment conducive for happiness but cannot give happiness in themselves. So find time to be your spouse’s friend and do those little things for each other that build intimacy. Do have a real happy marriage!

True or False
Okay, your reaction? Brings tears to your eyes? Hokey? Downright dumb? I’ve read through numerous comments where I have found this story republished and found the entire gambit of reactions. A Katie Mullaly of the site The Buzz Media critiques the story with let’s-go-after-this-with-a-humorous-pickaxe attitude. Barbara Mikkelson of Snopes gives a good history of the story and assessment of its authenticity. Her conclusion is that while they can’t say it’s false, the content of the story seems a little too farfetched to be 100% true.

But what about the idea
The aspect of the story I found curious was the idea of physically touching. In reflecting on that I thought of my own experiences and how the simple act of touching whether it be holding hands or just sitting shoulder to shoulder in a car can elicit a certain intimacy. Even if the other person is a total stranger, the very simple condition of physical proximity can bring out certain feelings of closeness. Being close can start feeling "close", if you get what I mean.

The Power of Touch by Eric M. Watterson
http://www.thepoweroftouchbook.com/
I was reminded of a past relationship of mine where my girlfriend was upset with me as we sat on the couch. As I tried to talk to her and thru the situation we were facing in our relationship, she took her hand out of mine, lifted slightly up off of the couch and moved away from me so that we were not touching at all. I immediately stopped talking and would not continue the conversation before she moved back towards me and gave me her hand back. Why you ask? Removing physical touch is the first sign of a relationship dying and expresses that a person is closing their spirit and heart to being able to truly hear and understand. When you stop the act of physical touch you close your heart and your mind to the love needed to maintain a relationship.

Relationship Help: Advice for Building Healthy and Exciting Love Relationships
Joanna Saisan, MSW, Melinda Smith, M.A., and Jeanne Segal, Ph.D. – November 2010
http://helpguide.org/mental/improve_relationships.htm
Love relationship help tip 1: Keep physical intimacy alive
Touch is a fundamental part of human existence. Studies on infants have shown the importance of regular, loving touch and holding on brain development. These benefits do not end in childhood. Life without physical contact with others is a lonely life indeed.

Studies have shown that affectionate touch actually boosts the body’s levels of oxytocin, a hormone that influences bonding and attachment. In a committed relationship between two adult partners, physical intercourse is often a cornerstone of the relationship. However, intercourse should not be the only method of physical intimacy in a relationship. Regular, affectionate touch­—holding hands, hugging, or kissing—is equally important.

Be sensitive to what your partner likes. While touch is a key part of a healthy relationship, it’s important to take some time to find out what your partner really likes. Unwanted touching or inappropriate overtures can make the other person tense up and retreat—exactly what you don’t want.

20 signs that you should end your relationship !!!!
All In London – July 2010
http://www.allinlondon.co.uk/blogs/showblog.php?post=1021
4. You’ve stopped having sex
Sex drive can dip for many reasons, including stress or medication. But if you just stop fancying your partner, and sex becomes a chore or stops altogether, listen to your alarm bells.

5. You’ve stopped touching each other
Touching isn’t just about sex, it’s about affection and togetherness. Casual touching, hugging and holding hands are the signs of a healthy relationship with two people who still fancy each other. If you flinch when he or she brushes against you, it really is time to get out.

6. You’ve stopped kissing
Passionate kissing is emotionally more intimate than sex, so it’s often the first thing to go when two people start drifting apart. If you want to kiss each other but just haven’t got round to it for a while, pucker up. If you don’t enjoy it, see above.

The Impact of Intimacy by: James P. Krehbiel
http://www.familyresource.com/relationships/building-and-maintaining/the-impact-of-intimacy
Sexual expression will not sustain a relationship that is devoid of intimacy. Intimacy, however, will sustain a relationship that may lack significant sexual involvement. I have worked with many couples who have had erotic sex whose relationships have dissolved. I have never worked with a couple whose relationship was built on intimate behavior that has faltered. If intimacy is the cornerstone of a healthy relationship, understanding its nature is important:

  • A partner must take the risk of disclosing emotions with significant others.
  • A partner must be willing to be honest and upfront in communicating, even at the risk of hurting others.
  • An individual must listen and be non-judgmental in communication.
  • A mate must value and cherish those he loves.
  • The issue of intimacy is comprehensive to all significant relationships.
  • The impact of intimacy is much broader in scope than sexuality.
  • It’s the little things that count — remembering birthdays, anniversaries, surprising a partner with gifts, and validating your partner.
  • Demonstrating non-sexual affection, such as holding hands, hugging, messaging, and kissing constitute intimacy.
  • Cultivating intimacy is important when couples are having difficulty with their sexual experience.
  • Conflict resolution is an important aspect of intimacy.
  • Being spiritually and psychologically committed to one’s mate constitutes intimacy.
  • Trust and respect are cornerstones of intimacy.
  • Accepting one’s mate with all of his flaws is a quality of intimacy.
  • Navigating difficult life events in a relationship is a characteristic of intimacy.
  • Establishing a romantic environment and making one’s sexual encounters mutually meaningful constitutes intimacy.
http://krehbielcounseling.com/About__James_P_Krehbiel.html
James P. Krehbiel, Ed.S., LPC, CCBT is an author, freelance writer, licensed professional counselor, and nationally certified cognitive-behavioral therapist practicing in Scottsdale, Arizona.

Final Word
Can the simple act of physically touching evoke intimacy? Can it keep us together? Argue but hold hands. Debate but keep touching. Fight but remain in contact. Break the physical bond and you risk breaking the emotional bond?

The opening story is fiction. It may unbelievable; it may even be a tad ridiculous but it does raise the question of the importance of the various gestures which make up the physical contact we have with our partner: a kiss, a hug, holding hands when going for a walk, arms around one another when sitting on the couch watching TV. It may all add up to an important component of keeping the channels of communication open. It’s easy to remain angry with somebody who’s distant, with somebody you are not touching.

Click HERE to read more from William Belle

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