My four children were between the ages of maybe 4 and 17 years old when they began dashing out the side door after church each Sunday as soon as the final “Amen.” It took me a few weeks to discover what they were up to, but I was quite amused when it all came to light.
An elderly couple left through that exit door each week, and my children wanted to be outside first to see them leave. He was at least 7 feet tall, and she was maybe 4’ 10” on a good day. He was pretty bent over—probably from all those years bending over to talk to her. My children took great delight watching this sweet couple leave the building holding hands after church. They thought it was sweet that they still loved each other enough after all those years to hold hands.
Later, at their funerals, we learned more about them. The one thing we learned that I’ll never forget is that each night for their entire marriage until he was too old and feeble to continue any longer, he picked her up and carried her off to bed.
As I thought about this, I realized that because of our busy lives, my husband and I didn’t do enough touching throughout the day. I made a mental note to remedy that situation. I’m a large woman, and there is no way I would expect my husband to carry me off to bed, but there were things we could do to touch more, and I made a plan to initiate the process.
I made a concerted effort to hold my husband’s hand while in the car together. We don’t have a dishwasher, so my hands were often rough from being in dishwater, so I took time to put lotion on my hands often throughout the day. The more I reached for his hand, the more I found him reaching for mine. As we sat in church, I put my arm around him and placed my hand on his back or shoulder. As we sat next to each other at the table, I placed my hand on his knee occasionally. My efforts at gentle touching were well reciprocated.
My husband’s morning routine is to sit at the kitchen table while putting in his contact lenses. (As we’ve grown older, he’s added checking his blood sugar, taking his pills, and putting in his hearing aid.) When I walk by, my habit is to run my finger on the back of his neck or give him a squeeze on the shoulder. If I have more time, I’ll give him a 20-30 second neck or back rub. Starting the day off with gentle touch makes an amazing difference in both of our attitudes.
We’ve had to adapt a bit with age. My husband used to squeeze my hand, but my arthritis has made that painful, so now he gently rubs his thumb on the back of my hand as he holds it. My shoulder problems no longer allow me to put my arm around him in church, but I either hold his hand or place my hand on his knee.
No matter how stressful life becomes, things seem a little better and life a little brighter when someone loves you enough to touch you in gentle ways. It’s a good way to start the morning, a great way to take a break in the day, and certainly a special way to end the evening.
I read an article a long time ago about how petting a dog will lower your blood pressure. If that’s true, it surely must be even more beneficial to give or receive gentle touch from your spouse. I know from personal experience that it lowers my stress level. Since stress can cause high blood pressure, I can’t help but think there has to be some health benefit from gentle touch. Even if none of that is true, it certainly is beneficial for a marriage!
My challenge for the week: Make it a point to touch your spouse more often every day. Make mental note of how she/he responds over time. See if life is a little less stressful, a little more joyful, and a little sweeter.
Tudie Rose is a mother of four and grandmother of ten in Sacramento, California. You can find her on Twitter as @TudieRose. She blogs as Tudie Rose at http://potrackrose.wordpress.com. She has written articles for Familius. You will find a Tudie Rose essay in Lessons from My Parents, Michele Robbins, Familius 2013, at http://www.familius.com/lessons-from-my-parents.