Men Need Touch Too. ~ Freya Watson

Via Freya Watson
on Sep 20, 2013
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‘She’s just so cold these days. You know me—that’s not how I am but I can’t even get a hug or a smile from her, never mind anything else. I’m a decent bloke. It’s not like I’ve ever cheated on her or want to leave, but I need a bit of warmth. I can’t keep living like this!’

Men need to be touched, too.

It seems such an obvious thing to say, never mind write an article about, yet that’s exactly what I find myself doing this week.

After ‘Touch Me… Please‘ found its way back to the front page of elephant journal once again, almost six months after it was written, there were still more comments and private messages from men saying how much they were touched by the piece.

Yes, there were still more comments from women than men, as the majority of my readers (and the majority of readers for material like this) are women. But there were definite themes through some of what the men wrote that have touched my heart, making me take my fingers to the keyboard again.

See, although we may think of it still in terms of women being more touchy-feely than men—being more in need of hugs and non-sexual intimacy—my experience has shown that this bias is not a fair representation of how things really are.

How much of what we expect, and therefore see, is down to social conditioning and upbringing? Do we encourage our sons to be physically affectionate? We may think it’s cute when we see two girls hugging, but what about boys?

And, despite the new-man movement, how comfortable is society with men being affectionate to each-other (or to women), without assuming there’s a sexual element to it?

Through the comments that emerged from male readers of the article, there were several things that struck me in particular.

Firstly, the reluctance to speak openly. While some men left comments below the article itself, more were sent as private messages with a palpable sense of relief at being able to ‘confess’ to the dearth of touch in their lives.

Is it still that difficult for a man in our society to articulate his emotional and physical needs for fear of how others might react? Does the image of the strong, silent, unemotional man still haunt our men so much that they feel somehow inadequate if they publicly admit to needing to be held and comforted too?

Or perhaps they are missing some of the skills that modern women tend to learn as part of their journey into womanhood—how to find emotional support through friends or therapists if necessary; how to develop the communication skills that allow their needs to be expressed and understood.

The second thing that struck me—not for the first time—is that women are as capable of being cold and unresponsive to their men’s needs as the traditional role assigned by society to men. And yet how many times have I heard men speak about their female partner’s coldness, about their unwillingness to even share a warm hug or to hold them in bed at night?

I know each relationship is different, and the normal reasons for withholding affection from a long-term lover usually stems from anger and hurt, but it still makes me wonder how far we’ve come as women if we are still as capable of inflicting the same injury on our men as they have traditionally inflicted on us?

Surely, through our past, we have come to a place of understanding that emotional coldness doesn’t lead to happiness?

 (Not all the men who responded to the article were in this situation, though—some were single, divorced or widowed.)

And third, if you’re a woman in this situation it is relatively easy to find others who will understand and support you. There is much sympathy, and whole industries, devoted to women needing to be physically and emotionally nurtured, although finding a friend or therapist with the gift and ability to touch deeply may still not always be that simple.

And it may still be easier (and more socially acceptable) for men than women to find a temporary sexual partner, either by having a fling or paying for it, but it is so much harder for a man than for a woman to find the emotional and physical comfort that he may need outside of a sexual context.

In a world that still assumes men are after sex, it can be incredibly hard for a man who is only looking to be held not to have his motives mistaken or to be preyed on by women looking for sex and/or money.

Finally, it can also be confusing for the man himself when sex has been the way that men have traditionally found intimacy. The automatic response may be to look for sex rather than non-sexual touch, only to find that it doesn’t really lead to the sense of connection and fulfillment they are seeking at a deeper level.

Even short-term sexual intimacy can be wonderfully fulfilling if we bring to it the elements I mentioned in the original article (intent, presence, trust and love) but not when we try to make casual genital sex a substitute for meaningful connection and touch.

So, in an effort to create a world where both men and women are comfortable with giving and receiving affectionate touch, lets make the effort to drop old male/female stereotypes and accept that we are all human with the same basic human need for love and connection.

And perhaps those of us with keener communication skills and a greater willingness to love can gently lead the way for others into this territory.

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Ed: Bryonie Wise

Photo: via Pinterest


About Freya Watson

How we ground our heart-felt truths into the everyday experience of relationships, work and family is the foundation for a lot of my work. Finding our 'truth' is a challenge in itself, but living it day to day is an even bigger challenge. My books are available on Amazon and you can also find me on Facebook and read more on my blog.


14 Responses to “Men Need Touch Too. ~ Freya Watson”

  1. Kate Stockford says:

    I am accused of being cold, unaffectionate and aloof by my partner and father of my child. He's right……it wasn't always this way. He is a man man who feels intimate and connected through sex, his idea of affection is grabbing my ass. My non-sexual affection needs are not being met and it has been discussed, I am in therapy to find ways of dealing with this, find new ways of expressing my needs all of which is met with resistance from him. "The therapy obviously isn't working" he says because I am still cold, unaffectionate and aloof. Yep, I get that men need affection too and am very aware that not all men are like mine but I am always a little suspicious, it's never cut an dry, it take s two to create an unaffectionate situation and we are all, more often than not, victims of our own neurosis, our own hang ups. It so easy to blame the other when we really need to go inside and heal what is there. xx

  2. Muks says:

    This is such a beautiful piece of writing. These days both my OH and me have colds and don't cuddle as much. It is not fun 😉 I especially like the paragraph towards the end of this article, where you write that many men try to find intimacy in genital sex. I used to be like that, as a woman, but figured that meaningful touch can be worth so much more.

  3. SexyInMy60s says:

    'Victims of our own neurosis"

    Until/unless as Kate reminds us, 'we go inside and heal what is there', we will forever be stilted in our physical, mental, spiritual growth.

    It's never too late. My life began at 50. It just gets better. Just do it. Your Self will thank you in countless ways.

  4. Valter_V says:

    Thank you, Freya.
    You hit the nail on the head multiple times in this article.

    I could only hope that women could understand this need of ours, as much as you do.
    Alas, stereotypes, rejection and judgment are much easier ways to cope with difficult relationships ("Hey, it's not ME, it's YOU!").

    Through a long journey to develop my true self, I'm now totally comfortable with expressing affection phisically.
    But most men are not that comfortable, even here in Italy. Our Western culture teaches shame and suspicion about body contact.
    And even many women, that I'm sure are as hungry about touch as anybody else, avoid physical contact and affection because they're afraid and defensive.

    Yes, we need to be vulnerable to touch and be touched, but it's worth it.

  5. Ruby says:

    I would gladly kiss that neck and hold him all night long and be held in return. In fact, my heart regularly aches for just the connection you are speaking of. Just saying. Coming from a physically, mentally and emotionally healthy single female. It is tough to find safe places to find such a beautiful & trusting connection. i wish that gift for all men and all women.

  6. Freya Watson says:

    No, it's never cut and dried, and your comment touched my heart – it's such a lonely place to be in. The difficult part about relationships is that it is a co-creative effort and when two people are out of sync with each-other's needs, it does take both to bring it back into harmony again. But hang in there with what you're doing. I've been in the same place and took the same path you're taking now – turning my energy inwards to find my own balance as best I could – and yes, that was the best thing I could have done. xx

  7. Seb says:

    Thank you, thank you so much for writing down what I think everyday…

    These stereotypes are so anchored in our culture that I doubt they'll be broken down any time soon, but it feels good to be understood and know that there's quite a lot of people out there who're just like me / us.

    But you're right when you say it's difficult for men to be comfortable with this, and mostly to communicate about it, most of people just don't get it and misjudge you, which could really be damaging in all kinds of relationships, when you've just wanted to be honest.

    I couldn't agree more with you and also with Valter_V.
    Thank you again for sharing this 🙂

  8. chris says:

    Thank you so much Freya for your wisdom, sincere efforts and fine writing to bring to light such an important topic as non-sexual touch in our lives. I was one of those guys that suffered a real lack of touch in my 23 year marriage for all the reasons you stated. The funny thing is that I did not realize I was missing it until it built up in me and came out as low grade frustration. I also did not have the skill or knowledge on how to manage my energy if I did get touch and turn on happened. I take full ownership for this now as I realize and accept that it is up to me to understand and take care of my needs. Learning that if I had choice and could decide not to have a goal or destination once affection and contact was happening released so much in me. I could value touch for touches sake. After a transition and my new status as a single , I made the decision that I would take action by creating as much touch like this as I could handle and see what happens. This meant with everyone in my world, friends, family, new people I met, too romantic interests. I wanted to create contrast in my life to see what worked for me and I was willing to push my edges and find out. I will tell you what has happened. I have an abundance of opportunities and more touch than even I could imagine. I believe this is possible for everyone.

    Here are some ideas I have been using and that have been helping others communicate desire for loving touch and create more connection and contact in a healthy way. I have been experimenting with how many ways and variety of people and relationships I can feel connections that are nurturing and warm. The activities range from hugs with random strangers , to massage exchange , cuddles with friends , new acquaintances etc. , snuggle dates and snuggle parties. I am single myself but know that this can work and add a new element to an existing relationship.

    1) Communicate how you heard about these articles and the need for touch and your want to explore this in a non-sexual way
    2) Make a clean and clear request – Would you like to snuggle ? May I offer a hug?
    3) Create an agreement- examples: permission will be asked each step of the way and a verbal yes before proceeding ( may I touch your arm ) on the time duration ( 15 minutes) the boundaries ( Non-Sexual touch ) and the Intention ( Human Contact, being held, feeling support )
    4) Agree a time and place
    5) Start the connection ( with a new person especially ) by practicing the making and receiving contact requests and getting a clear yes – Creates safety, trust, and mutual respect
    6) Thank the person for taking care of themselves if you receive a no thank you at any time
    7) Set a timer, stay within the agreements and complete the container by getting up an out of the space
    8) Thank the person for their time, presence and loving energy
    By the way there are also a number of organizations and meet up groups that have been creating events and activities that are catering to this very real and acknowledged need we all have for contact. My organization hosts snuggle parties and one on one snuggle sessions for men or women for those times when you want or need something other than the more traditional methods. Think of these as similar to any other alternative healing modality like massage, energy work etc. The time is now to have more touch in our lives.

  9. Seantrevor says:

    I feel that if there were non-sexual loving touch between human beings the World would be a much better and happier place to live. I’m a single man with no desire to get married, and never have used a woman to satisfy my sexual needs. I hold Christian values, and try to put them first. There are lots of times I feel lonely and all I want is a loving hug, but have begun to learn that one has to love oneself first before loving anyone else. Self respect and self control are necessary to maintain a sane outlook , for I think the world has gone mad!! I don’t believe in ‘doing your own thing’ , as you end up destroying your personality and wasting your life.

  10. otionblog says:

    Thank you for your beautiful article. The words really resonated with me. Yes, men seem to biologically feel the desire to have sex more often, but of course non-sexual affection is important to them, and it must be confusing for them to be brought up being marketed to as sexual addicts or predators, especially if, as is the case for many men, that description does not suit them at all. Just as it is confusing to grow up as a woman, seeing images everywhere of women as sexual prey. _My partner and I recently did a long distance stint, and what he found particularly difficult, apart from just missing me, was not having the emotional outlet to speak his mind to me, and also not receiving any physical affection – whereas I can spill my heart to and hug my friends all over the world, these are luxuries that he doesn't really find outside of our relationship.

  11. I have written a few times about this same thing. As a mother of sons I know how valuable it is to touch our men, from birth all the way through life. The trouble is we somehow think it will unman them to hug them too much. Then as they get older the only touch that is deemed acceptable is sexual touch because that is the only way they feel that they can get close.
    Keep hugging and touching your boys, through adolescence. It won't make them gay and frankly the world would be a better place with more loving touch.
    Here's my latest blog offering inspired by your story

  12. Owen Marcus says:

    Great post. 35 years as a Rolfer and 17 leading men’s groups I have to agree—men are touch and intimacy deprived.
    There are the cultural restraints men grew up with, but as you point out there are the ones that women also grew up with. Together both men and women hold back.

    Sometimes as men we are shy. Being trained by previous lovers we are out of sync with our current lover. We hesitate asking or trying new means of emotional and touch expression because of our previous trainings.

    All the aspects you listed in your post are very true. Both sexes are deprived of the basic emotional and somatic needs. We take touch, love making, and communicating too seriously. If we could be innocent like a child and play with touch we all would be better off.

    We find in our men’s groups men start learning the art of masculine emotional expression which has some important distinction from how women experience and express their emotions. For example, as men learn to be vulnerable and assertive at the same time they feel better about themselves, men respect them more and women melt.

    This emotional expression translates into physical expression. As a group of men open up to the trust and the emotions they feel, they naturally start touching each other. It’s not uncommon to see a man wrap an arm around another man has he’s sitting next to him. We all hug each other at the beginning and ends of the meetings.

    The increase emotional and physical expression in these groups quickly generalizes to a man’s home. Men’s partners come up to me to thank me for the group and how much more expressive their partners are. This means these men are allowing their partners in—they are allowing themselves to touch by these women’s emotions and touch.

    My suggestion is if we want to shift this, we create safe masculine environments for men to learn the natural masculine way to receive and give touch. Just like with emotions, in this culture we assume the way to do it is the way it always was done. Since we left the tribe 10,000 years ago men have been home less requiring women to fill in the emotional and touch gaps. They did a great job, but they did as women.

    Men need men to show them their natural emotional and touch groove. If you want to support a man—sponsor a man. Encourage him to join a good men’s group. Short of that, watch the documentary film about our men’s group (Sandpoint Men’s Group): About Men.

  13. Russell says:

    I'm just sharing my piece here..
    I'm 35 and single, been that way for a while with a date here and there.. I long for a more deeper connection and writing about this seems harder than I thought.. Having someone to talk to is good, but having a partner you can trust seems very nurturing and a great way for a couple to grow. I believe that trust allows a person to open and become vurnable, having someone to trust makes it possible.. I love touching and I love to be touched. It does make a man feel good!!!wanted…

  14. CJ says:

    Really? It’s easier for women to get non-sexual touch? From whom? I am a woman and I don’t know any men or women who want to touch me if they can’t fuck me. If I hang out with men for “snuggles” they inevitably end up with a hand in my pants and responding to my “what are you doing I said I didnt want to be sexual,” with frustration. I would be more than happy to offer non-sexual touch but theres never an opportunity.