When’s the last time you hugged your partner?
Can you remember the last time you stopped in the middle of whatever you were doing, walked over to your partner, slid your arms around them and just held them? Turned off all the electronics and just sat together and talked? Snuggled in bed in the morning before rushing through preparations and work and meals and life…
There was a period of time, in our life together, that we never did any of that.
To say I have intimacy issues is probably putting it lightly. I don’t much like to be touched.
No. That’s not the truth of it. I love to be touched. To feel fingers grazing along my skin, or lips teasing the tiny hairs at the nape of my neck, or to be pulled into an embrace and snuggled till I can’t breathe.
Letting people close enough to touch me freaks me out. It can take years of face-to-face interaction for me to be comfortable enough, which, to be honest, is one of the reasons I’m glad we don’t venture out to play parties or munches yet. And people who try to get close enough to touch without my permission remain “creepy” in my mind for… just about forever, unless I’ve known them a while, and know their intentions are good.
I have this body-buffing zone that extends to an inch beyond my fingertips in all directions. And I will find a way to inconspicuously move away if people step into it. Letting people closer than that all but gives them permission, in my mind, to touch. And it’s not a far leap from accidental touch, to intentional and unwanted touch.
This is one of the many after-effects of what started as accidentally brushing up against someone and quickly turned into being raped by my boyfriend’s roommate. A quirk I pretend was always there so I can pretend I’m unaffected by the violation.
I am affected. I avoid touching or allowing people to touch, even accidentally, because, in my mind, touching gives the wrong impression.
M put a rule into place, ages ago, that I’m not to allow anyone to touch me in a sexual manner without express permission or orders from him. And I snuggled down into it, wearing it like my badge of permission to retreat from the world.
I’ll cross the street to avoid accidentally touching someone if the sidewalk is narrow and there’s snow or water in the gutter. M says not to let anyone touch me, so I’m just following orders! As if I don’t know he’s not reasonable enough to understand accidentally bumping into a stranger when there’s no room to avoid it, or being tapped on the shoulder when someone’s trying to get your attention, or… any of the other possible ways strangers come into contact on the street.
I start to tremble with fear if the store clerk’s fingers accidentally brush mine when she’s giving back my change. If someone holds my change out in their hand in a way that forces me to take it from them, I sort of panic for a minute, and calculate, as quickly as possible so no one will notice, the best way to take it without actually touching them.
I’ll stand on the bus if there are no seat sections completely empty. And you best believe I’ll find a way to stand where I’m not touching anyone.
As much as I love them, I rarely ask to go to bars, or clubs, or concerts because there’s too much accidental touching. I hate shopping because people are constantly bumping into me as if I’m invisible. And I haven’t been fitted or measured for a bra mostly because the woman would have to touch me.
This wasn’t where I was going with this. Heh. I fully intended to avoid commenting on sexual assault this month.
It took six years, almost breaking up, and vowing to repair our relationship for me to be comfortable even trying to fix my intimacy issues with M. It took catching myself intentionally turning sideways when I sat on the loveseat with him so we wouldn’t accidentally touch for me to understand and accept that I have intimacy issues. And it took a week of (mostly) stepping away from the computer to realize what I’m really missing because of my intimacy issues.
We played Monopoly (The limited edition Lord of the Rings version. One ring to rule them all. Yes, we are that geeky.) on my birthday. He kicked my ass. I mean, stomped it. Hard. And we talked the whole time, cutting up and laughing.
I tweeted a little. Mostly busting on him. But then I got so wrapped up in him, I sort of just forgot about it.
We met each morning with a long, lazy cuddle in bed. Sometimes they led to sex, but mostly we just laid there holding each other. Pressing gentle kisses to each other’s shoulder blades and collar bones. Holding hands, legs intertwined, sighing softly into each other’s necks.
The phone didn’t ring once. Except on my birthday, but that was to be expected. My family pretends to be a family on holidays and birthdays. The big ones, anyway.
When we sat together on the loveseat, and I turned sideways to avoid accidentally touching M, he’d turn his body toward me and lean on me instead of the back of the couch. And we’d sit like that until he got uncomfortable (we think he may have fibromyalgia, or something similar, but he won’t go to the doctor).
I didn’t get claustrophobic or uncomfortable when he followed me around the house while we were talking. He does that. He’ll tell me to do something, and then follow me around the house talking to me while I’m doing it. It used to make me crazy. Those moments when I was following orders were my alone time. My me time. And him pushing his way into my me time was more intimacy than I could stand. Now, it makes me smile.
I’m getting better.
It’s taken realizing how much I was letting my past affect me. And then admitting it to myself. And ya know, I think I’m done letting the past affect me.
But you’re still standing too close. I’m just gonna sit over here, and put my stuff on the chairs on either side of me. You don’t mind shouting to talk to me, do you?