We lose a lot when we stop talking to each other and checking in with what we want or need. Perhaps today is a good day to intentionally create stronger communication with a loved one.
Excerpt from The Touch Crisis:
“How about we go practice some martial arts in the park today?” My friend James asked, as he watched me shove a load of massage sheets into the wash machine at my house. “You mentioned you wanted to refresh your skills before heading overseas.”
I closed the machine and threw a scoop of soap into the drawer. “Nah, I’ve already done about fifteen hours of massage in the last few days. I should probably let my hands rest.”
Besides, I’m restless and would rather run than hang around and practice right now. I’d probably get annoyed and irritated and no one needs that. I really don’t want to do anything for anyone else right now, including him.
“You sure? I’ve been playing with releases and tweaking the techniques to be easy on you and play to the strength you have in your kicks,” he encouraged. “Plus, when we get back I can cook some dinner for us while you finish your laundry and client work.”
“How about we go for a run? I should get some cardio in,” I replied, moving past him to get to the kitchen and empty my lunchbox. And I just think I’m too brain-dead to learn anything anyway. “There’s plenty of time to practice before I leave.” Maybe his knee is hurting him again. I should probably make sure he’s okay before I force him to run. “How is your body feeling today anyway? Are you in any pain?”
“Nah,” he said, playfully puffing up, “I’m tough. I can handle any kind of run you throw my way.”
…As our friendship grew, he was respectful with his physical contact. We had great communication around touch boundaries which gave us opportunities to be causal about it, touching each other for emphasis when we talked, plus tons of hugs and snuggles when we were watching movies. I could tell when he was in a lot of pain, which he often was, being an ex-racer and having had many crashes on cycles. If I started giving him little massages, he would tell me not to get into a healing role with him. He said that he was open to getting some massage here and there, but that he didn’t want to become a project or for me to get into work mode. It was hard for me to find the line between offering healing touch and not stepping into healer mode. Sometimes, he would stop me and tell me not to give massage unless he could reciprocate; so, I taught him some massage techniques so he could work on my arms, shoulders, and neck. The intention was to create some reciprocity and balance.
I’m not even sure what or when it happened, but somewhere along the line I did shift into the healer/caretaker mode because it was so natural to me. And as our friendship changed, our level of communication did not keep up with what was needed in order to allow the whole relationship to shift with our changing needs, wants, and experiences. Eventually, we both stopped paying attention to how we were feeling about touch. I didn’t realize until much later that I had started feeling like I was over-giving. My brain would justify it with “I’m the one who asked if I could try that technique,” or “I am the one who started working on his arm because I was bored with the movie; so since I had initiated it, it felt unfair to be upset and demand something different.” Right? Nope. Not at all.
Suddenly, subtle layers of inequality had settled into my body and into my deeper consciousness. Because I didn’t make a choice to tune into myself and see what was really truly going on, I started allowing other aspects of our friendship to exacerbate the feeling of inequality. Suddenly, his being twenty minutes late, even when communicated, became an issue and another bit of evidence that he didn’t value the friendship. Stuck in my own story of over-giving, I had no idea that he was feeling the same…
The communication balance had broken because our intentions were not clearly expressed. The safety of the culture and communication that we had so carefully built between the two of us was dissolving. The nurturing warm feeling it had offered both of us was replaced with confusion, desperation, and neediness.
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