Published February 26,1981
QUESTION: We have been married just over one year, and there is something about my wife that I do not understand. Every once in a while, she will want me to hold her in my arms for no apparent reason. I will ask her why, and she will just say, “Hold me.” Not long ago I mentioned this to a friend of mine and he says his wife is the same way, particularly when she is irritable or upset. What is so great about a man holding his wife in his arms?
ANSWER: Such are the mysteries of life, my friend, and I am not sure I have the answer. But let’s see if we can probe it a bit.
As I have talked to various groups of married couples about love, I always ask the wives this question: “If you had to choose between being told you are loved and being shown you are loved, which would you choose?” Almost without exception, the answer is, “Show me” (Actually, they say they would prefer both, if possible), and holding your wife in your arms or just simply touching her, is a powerful way to show her you love her.
It is apparently very difficult for the American male to be affectionate by touch without being sexual. Nor do we often see the need to do so. Yet in his book "Love Life for Every Married Couple," Dr. Ed Wheat, marriage counselor and physician, has indicated the importance for husbands to touch their wives in nonsexual ways.
Dr. Wheat notes, “A tender touch tells us that we are cared for. It can calm our fears, soothe pain, bring us comfort, or give us the blessed satisfaction of emotional security. As adults, touching continues to be a primary means of communicating with those we love, whether we are conscious of it or not. Our need for a caring touch is normal and healthy, and we will never outgrow it.”
Dr. Wheat continues, “But if touching is so valuable and pleasurable, why is it necessary to advise couples to do more of it? The answer lies in our culture. While our western civilization is highly sexual, it frowns on or ignores touching apart from sex. This is particularly true for men, for there are only three acceptable kinds of touching in today’s world: the superficial handshake, aggressive contact sports, and the sexual encounter. Men have been conditioned to turn to sex whenever they feel any need for loving closeness. No wonder experts believe that our extreme preoccupation with sex in this society is actually an expression of our deep unsatisfied need for the warmth, reassurance, and intimacy of non-sexual touching.”
Dr. Wheat concludes, “Physical contact is absolutely essential in building the emotion of love. Anything else you do will be of little avail unless you learn to touch each other often and joyfully in non-sexual ways. If you would like to kindle a flame in your own marriage, then begin to show your love through physical touching.”
In the popular Broadway musical, “My Fair Lady,” Eliza Doolittle sang the song “Show Me” to her lovelorn admirer, Freddy Eynsford-Hill. The words were as follows:
Don’t talk of stars burning above,
If you’re in love, show me!
Tell me no dreams filled with desire,
If you’re on fire, show me!
Here we are together in the middle of the night,
Don’t talk of spring! Just hold me tight.
Anyone who’s ever been in love, will tell you that
This is no time for a chat!
Haven’t’ your lips longed for my touch?
Don’t’ say how much, show me!
Don’t talk of love lasting through time,
Make me no undying vow
Show me. Now! . . .
My advice to a husband is to frequently touch your wife and hold her in your arms when she wants you to. And don’t bother asking why. As the title of the old church hymn states. “Sometime We’ll Understand.”
Published December 7, 1989. A few weeks after Susan and I were married, we had an experience that was mildly distracting. We were riding along the freeway in our Corvair, and she nonchalantly reached over and turned on the car heater.
There was only one problem. I was sweating at the time, so I nonchalantly reached over a few seconds later and turned the car heater off. She gave me an icy look. Literally. She was cold, and I was hot. And neither of us believed the other.
At the time we were newlyweds we discovered a basic difference between us. Susan liked warm temperatures and I liked cooler ones. At the time of our discovery we each thought the other was playing games. Little did we realize that response to room or environmental temperature is a basic difference between males and females.
The late Paul Popenoe, founder of the American Institute for Family Relations in Los Angeles, wrote a brief article on the physiological differences between the sexes. Here are a few of his observations:
- Men and women differ in every cell of their bodies due to the basic difference in the chromosome combination that determines whether we are male or female.
- Women have greater constitutional vitality because they normally outlive men their same age by at least three to four years in the United States.
- The sexes differ in their basal metabolism – that of women being lower than that of men.
- Men and women differ in skeletal structure. Women have a shorter head, broader face, less protruding chin, shorter legs and a longer trunk. And for what it is worth, the first finger of a women’s hand is usually longer than the third finger. With men the reverse is true. And boy’s teeth seem to last longer than do those of girls.
- Women have larger stomachs, kidneys, and livers, but smaller lungs.
- A woman’s thyroid is larger and more active. It enlarges during pregnancy and also during menstruation. It makes her more prone to goiter, provides resistance to cold, is associated with smooth skin and a relatively hairless body. There is also a thin layer of subcutaneous fat that is an important element in personal beauty. The active thyroid also, according to Popenoe, may be a contributing factor why most women laugh and cry more easily than do men.
- Women’s blood contains more water and 20 percent fewer red cells. Since these supply oxygen to the blood cells, she is more prone to faint.
- With a differing muscular structure, men and women differ in sheer strength. Men are 50 percent stronger than women.
- A woman’s heart beats more rapidly than does a man’s. (Eighty beats per minute for women: 72 for men). And her blood pressure is 10 points lower than her male counterpart’s, and it varies from minute to minute. But she has much less tendency to high blood pressure – at least until after menopause.
- And finally, (Are you reading this, Susan?) women tolerate higher temperatures better, and consequently lower temperatures worse, than do men because of metabolic differences.
Just think. It has taken me 25 years of marriage and earning a Ph.D. to finally figure out why Susan and I have the battle of the thermostat. And all this time I thought she was just being obstinate.
Published December 27, 1979. By now the Christmas presents have probably been put on the shelves or back into boxes for storage. As you sit there trying to recover from the seasonal celebration may I ask what you gave your spouse for Christmas? Was it the usual shirt, tie and socks or nightgown and perfume?
When it comes to gift giving, we frequently think of material things and such have their appropriate place during the Christmas season. But there is one gift we all desire but relatively few give or get. It is the gift of time.
It is unusual how a husband and wife can live in the same house, sleep in the same house, sleep in the same bed, share the same meals, travel in the same family car, and yet spend so little time together on a person to person basis. In fact, Dr. Stephen Glenn of the Family Development Institute in Washington, D.C. has reported that on the average, a husband and wife in the United States spend approximately 13 minutes a day talking to each other on a personal basis. You are probably thinking right now that you and your spouse spend more than 12 minutes a day talking to each other. But do you? According to Dr. Glenn, meal times do not count because “conversations” such as “please pass the butter” or “is there any more casserole?” are less than helpful to strengthen marital relationships. Most table-talk is nothing more than simultaneous monologues, and with children present it is also difficult to carry on an on-going conversation about where the marriage is or is not going.
Other types of time together might be classified as “duty time” or going places a couple are supposed to go. These may include PTA meetings, special engagements, and even church meetings, depending on one’s religious orientation. At such functions there is little time for personal interaction.
Watching movies and television doesn’t count either unless you have acquired the knack of intimate conversation over popcorn or conversing regularly every 13 minutes during commercials. And much of the so-called conversation that does occur between husband and wife often deals with the mechanics of day-to-day routines, of running the home and rearing children.
How much time do you and your spouse really spend each day talking together about your relationship, about personal concerns or how you feel about each other? Do you attain the national average of 13 minutes, or do you fall short? When the children were in bed, the television off, and all other distractions minimized, so you could simply talk about each other to each other?
If you start out with just a few minutes a day you could soon be average. Then if you want to be above average, you can add one more minute a day, for a total of 14 minutes.
Published October 4, 1990. I came across an interesting book the other day titled, “The Book of Inside Information.” It is a compilation of tips and comments sent out in a biweekly newsletter called “Bottom Line.” The newsletter deals with such topics as money, health, success, retirement, cars, taxes, fitness, education, shopping, home, and marriage.
- Keep marriage realistic. Honeymoons may recur, but marriage is a day-by-day relationship between changing humans. Sacrifices and heartache are challenges you must expect.
- Don’t be afraid to say something nice. Compliment one another on appearance, considerations, and so on.
- Show affection. Hold hands, touch, kiss – even in public.
- Don’t let the children divide you. Keep your shared responsibility to the children separate from your responsibility and loyalty to your mate.
- Don’t let in-laws make inroads. Good relations with relatives are an advantage, but don’t let them influence you against your spouse. Talk about the problems that in-laws create – and solutions to those problems.
- Grow together intellectually. It won’t work 20 years later if one partner has progressed while the other has slipped backward. Openly discuss shared goals and the intellectual expectations of one another.
- Fight when necessary, then forget. Bring things that disturb into the open – even if it means conflict. Seek solutions. Ultimately there are no winners or losers. Compromise as much as possible, and then downplay the conflict. The next, far better state is making up.
- Don’t confuse honesty and cruelty. Honesty that has no purpose except to hurt the other is a false virtue. Protect your mate’s feelings.
- Be forthright financially. Set realistic expectations about money and its problems. Work toward shared financial goals.
- Don’t let careers diminish the marriage. Overachievers can let careers shut out the spouse. Ironically, bad marriages often diminish the career. Together work out the right balance. Point: It’s easier to get a decent job than a good spouse.
- Do things together. Couples that work and play together also stay together. (Allow your spouse enough independence, too.)
- Cooperate sexually. Everyone is vulnerable sexually. Talk, explore, experiment. Communicate with one another, and protect each other’s feelings.
- Keep talking – even when it’s tough. Barriers of silence and non-meaningful communication only grow and become more impenetrable. The more difficult it seems, the more important it is to keep communicating – especially about communicating.
- Don’t get self-righteous. Each of us has flaws and inhibitions. A good marriage takes these into consideration. Overlook the petty irritants. If your spouse forgets to screw on the toothpaste cap, just do it yourself and forget it.
- Keep positive. Keep the relationship upbeat. Turn problems into opportunities for greater understanding, and work toward creative solutions and projects.