Three recent conversations with clients inspired me to write about pleasurable touch, and why most people can dish it out, but they can’t take it. ☺
A client was lamenting the permanent closing of her rural massage center due to the impact of the Corona Virus. I asked her partner if he might be able to massage her. His answer was, “oh no, I don’t know how to do that kind of thing. I’m not a big toucher.”
A long-time couple I know have a wonderfully loving, Facebook-perfect, relationship, but when asked why they rarely, if ever have sex, she honestly states,
“I don’t like the way he touches me. I never have. I just don’t how to change it. “
Another client told me last week that he knows his wife loves to get massaged and caressed as part of their sexual warm-up, but he find’s he can’t do it for more than a few minutes without getting bored and wanting to escalate things sexually.
But here’s a secret that every great lover knows. It’s called ‘touching for your own pleasure’.
There is so much more to touch than laying our hands on another person’s body.
Touch is a language not just between you and your partner’s body, but it’s also a communication between your hands and your brain.
Let me take you through a simple exercise that will illustrate what I mean.
Step 1: Pick up a small object that can fit into your hand easily. It doesn’t really matter what it is as long as it’s easy to hold with two hands.
Step 2: Take a few deep breaths, close your eyes and start to feel the object that you’re holding. Feel its shape, its edges, its contour, its weight. Pretty easy to do, right? Your brain is registering all that information.
Step 3: Slow it down. Really slow it down. The slower you go the more detail your brain is able to notice about the object. Now, you may be noticing the temperature of the object, the texture, the hardness or softness, the smaller things you may have missed in the first round.
Step 4: Now feel what it’s like on your own skin. Is it pleasant to touch? If you run your hand over it, is there something about the object that gives you pleasure? Find the pleasure in what you’re touching, even if it’s just a coolness on your skin, or the weight of it in your hands. Maybe you’re exploring it with more than just your finger tips. Perhaps the back of your hand and, or between your fingers where the skin is more sensitive. Just slow down and notice.
Notice how slowing down, heightens your awareness, and awakens your curiosity.
You’ve just brought mindfulness to your touch. You’ve made the space and taken the time to go deeper into your experience and expand it to include what is already present, just not yet noticed.
Mindful touch is the quality of touch that separates the great lovers from the not-so-great, the passionate from the bored, the curious from the uninspired.
Why start with an inanimate object?
Because we have no obligation to make the object feel good.
We’re not trying to win the object’s approval.
The object has no preferences or expectations for us to meet.
Touching an inanimate object is an exercise that is purely about our own experience of touching.
When was the last time you sat down to pet a cat? We pet a cat to offer them pleasure but we’re also drawn to touch the soft fur, feel it running between our fingers. We enjoy feeling the warmth and silkiness against our hands. We’re touching the cat for our own pleasure.
When we learn how to touch for our own pleasure, our lovers feel the difference in our touch.
Things slow down, touch becomes varied rather than repetitive, and sensation becomes heightened through mutual awareness. We’re both focusing our attention on the experience of touching; giving and receiving.
Through mindfulness we’re drawing out the pleasure of the moment. We’re giving pleasure to our partner and we’re taking our pleasure as well. We’re being fed by the gift we’re giving, which creates a circuit of enjoyment that is felt between the giver and the receiver.
The intention behind your touch is the key to creating the experience you’re looking for.
Consider what you want your touch to communicate before you touch someone.
Choose the form of touch language that matches the communication you want to make.
If your partner is needing to feel comforted. You may be tender, and touch gently to soothe and nurture. You might cradle or rock them in your arms or have their head on your lap, softly stroking their hair.
Feeling romantic may lead you to touch your partner’s cheek softly with the back of your hand, or trace their lips with the tip of your finger or run your hand along the contour of their body.
If you’re feeling passion rising, your touch may be more assertive, like restraining their wrists above their head. Biting, light scratching, tugging their hair, Pressing up against them, body to body. Confidently holding, grabbing and squeezing as you pull them close to you.
If you’re both feeling playful, you might be spanking or tickling or wrestling.
Regardless of how you’re touching, there is as much pleasure to be found in the giving as the receiving.
Another secret that every great lover knows is that touching doesn’t have to lead to sex.
Have a conversation with your partner that touch does not automatically have to lead to sex. Give yourselves both a break from stressful strategy and unmet expectations. When you separate sex from touch, you create an opportunity to be with what’s happening, which is touching for its own sake.
By removing the destination, we’re left to simply enjoy the journey. Be in the moment!
Share this article with your lover and decide who will be the giver and receiver.
Set aside 30 minutes to explore touch from this perspective with no other agenda.
Enjoy your explorations in giving touch by including your own pleasure in every moment of intimate contact.
Find your pleasure in touching, and enjoy the mystery of your partner’s body from a place of openness, curiosity and wonderment.
Let me leave you with a poem that beautifully illustrates the qualities of a lover’s touch.
The Lover asked:
How would you like me to touch you?
The Lover answered:
I would like you to touch me as if you were going away tomorrow, far far away, and you wanted to remember the feel of my body, the texture of my skin, the hills and valleys that make up the landscape of who I am…
I would like you to touch me as if you were blind, knowing that you love me, but unable to see me. Touch my face, my breasts, my belly, my toes… learn what I “look” like, imagine me in your mind as your hands explore my shape.
I would like you to touch me as if your hands were healing hands, radiating love energy with every stroke. Feel the energy penetrating through skin, through flesh, entering into the cells of my body.
I would like you to touch me as if you gained your nourishment through your hands. Feed on me, drink deeply and draw from your touch the love that I hold for you.
I would like you to touch me as if you were feeding me through your hands, as if by your touch I am nourished and sustained. Every inch of me cries out for your touch, yearns to be fed.
I would like you to touch me as if your hand were a feather, lightly caressing the edge of my being.
I would like you to touch me as if your hands were paintbrushes, and as you caress me, you are coloring me in brilliant, sparkling, dazzling hues.
I would like you to touch me as if you were erasing the outer me, allowing me to reveal my inner self to you.
I would like you to touch me as if you had carved a sculpture, and were now feeling its finish, smoothing out any rough areas, enjoying the finished product.
I would like you to touch me as if your hands were fire, burning away the dross and leaving only the pure gold of my soul.
I would like you to touch me as if your hands were sponges, soaking up the essence of my being.
I would like you to caress me as if I were made of dry clay, and by dampening my skin you enliven my spirit.
I would like you to touch me as if my skin were soft velvet.
I would like you to touch me as if you were a musician, and your touch brought forth different sounds from different parts of me.
I would like you to touch me as if I were a rare jewel, precious and valuable.
I would like you to touch me as if I were your Lover.
Most people will understand an ‘erotic menu’ to mean the activities they engage in during sex. But if I ask a client what’s on their erotic menu, they’ll often look perplexed. They’ll start with intercourse, kissing, touching, oral sex but, after these more obvious activities, they realize their list is pretty short actually.
“I mean, how many things can two people do during sex? Was what someone said to me a few weeks ago.
This week a client told me she was doing a Marie Kondo on her closet. She was getting rid of what no longer gave her joy.
We went on to talk about her sex life with her partner and the nagging resistance she has to being touched.
Somewhere along the line she formed a belief system about touch. She couldn’t identify a particular incident that informed that belief system. There was no trauma or abuse. She just knew that when she was touched (even by her loving partner) her body would recoil and she’d shut down.
If you’re in a relationship with another human, disagreements will happen. It’s a given. No matter how much we love someone, you can’t avoid differing opinions and heated discussions.
The secret to a happy relationship is how you navigate these disagreements and move through them to a feeling of resolution. This doesn’t mean finding a solution, it means getting to the point where you both feel heard and empathized with.
In the end we all need to feel respected, even in the midst of disagreements.
Dr. Marshall Rosenberg developed a communication model called Non-Violent Communication.
When I first saw Eve Ensler’s The Vagina Monologues in 1996, One of the monologues stood out to me. It was a woman’s account of being with a man named Bob. This is some of what she wrote.
“…Turned out that Bob loved vaginas..."