was just made, but I had no idea what that request was exactly.
But I’ve been trying to lean into my discomfort lately to see what I can learn. So, even though I was worried it might trigger hurt feelings in one or both of us, I put my hand over his and asked with uncertainty, “What does that mean?”
He looked at me quizzically and said “What do you mean, ‘What does that mean?’”
Honestly, his answer surprised me, because his response seemed to indicate that either it didn’t mean anything, or that I was supposed to know what it meant. But the truth was, I was really confused. I assumed that touch meant something. That it was a request for something. But I didn’t know what that something was!
I told him I felt like I was just given a message written in code, but after digging all the way to the bottom of the cereal box, I still wasn’t able to find the decoder ring.
In the spirit of continuing to lean into discomfort, I added “I’m confused. It’s like you are speaking a language I don’t understand. Like we were sitting here talking and watching videos together, and all of a sudden, the conversation has shifted and it’s now in a foreign language that I don’t understand. Like, do you want to stop watching videos? Do you want to cuddle? Do you want to fuck?”
He continued to look at me quizzically, and asked “Why do you need to know where it’s going? What if I just want to touch your thigh and that’s it? Or what if I don’t know where it’s going yet?”
I tried to explain it another way. “It’s like I’m standing here cooking in the kitchen and you’ve just come in and started yelling at me in another language. And I’m worried that if I don’t understand what you are saying, when I offer you some fried chicken, when what you really wanted was some apple pie, that you are going to get upset with me and not want to come back to my kitchen.”
He laughed at my food analogy and looked at me sweetly and said “I just want some physical connection. I’m not sure where it’s going. What do you want?”
The defensive part of me wanted to take the spotlight off of myself and respond: “I don’t have anything I want right now! I was sitting here happily with you when YOU made a request for something by putting your hand on my thigh.”
But the lean-into-discomfort part of me took a deep breath and shared “Oh. You want connection through touch. Okay. I can understand that. I want that sometimes too. I guess it’s just a language I don’t feel as fluent in, and sometimes feel pressure around, so when you initiate it, I can feel a little anxious and uncertain. Having some words added to the touch helps me understand and therefore feel more relaxed.”
As I was explaining this to him, I started laughing at how ridiculous it is that even though I’m an introverted person who needs a lot of time alone and isn’t really a touchy person, I am also a sex and relationship coach who spends much of her day with other people, helping them explore physical intimacy!
In that moment, I remembered the 5 Love Languages online quiz we had taken years ago. Looking back, it’s no surprise my love language is “quality time” and my husband’s is “touch”. While we both have gotten better over the years at speaking each other’s love language, what I realized sitting there on the couch is that they are, and will continue to be, foreign languages.
The best part of this story to me is that there really isn’t much more to the story. Nothing else “happened”, but at the same time, it feels like a lot happened. Perhaps it was just the simple act of sharing my discomfort and acknowledging my anxiety paired with the fact that he seemed more curious than offended by my discomfort and anxiety. But the whole experience allowed me to have compassion for the fact that learning and speaking a foreign language will probably never be as easy or straightforward as speaking in my native tongue.