You’d never know it to see us  bantering and cracking jokes on Facebook. People are always saying, “You guys are hilarious!” or “You two crack me up!”

You’d never know it if you were my coworker. You’d hear me talking about our lives, how we’re always together no matter what we’re doing, often planning something fun, usually laughing about some line from a movie or some incident from years ago. We’re each other’s best friend. We’ve been together for twenty years, through thick and thin, good times and bad.

Now that we’re older, we sometimes muse about what will happen when one of us passes away. Brian claims he’d never marry again–he says he’s had his wife and he’d never find another one so compatible, so why even bother with a relationship that’s bound to be less satisfying than what he’s known? I just pray I go first, so I’ll never have to face life without him.

And yet there’s something missing; something that’s vitally important–but only, unfortunately, to me.


You’d never notice it to be around us. Like in the photo above, I’d be touching him, or patting his back. I’d give him a kiss on his head when I set his coffee beside him. I’d reach for his hand while walking with him. All of this is accepted. None of it is reciprocated.

There seem to be two conclusion I can draw from that. 1) It’s just his nature. Or, 2) there’s a problem. Well, if it’s  his nature, he sure kept it under wraps nicely when we were engaged. There was no lack of warmth and romance in those days, or even when we were first married. Was that just a special time, and then he cooled back down to what seems, to him, a normal level?

Maybe there’s a problem. I was different when we first married. I was older than him, so I thought I was the leader and the boss. My word was the final word in any situation. I wore the pants–or tried to, anyway. Plus, I wasn’t happy with how he got along with my daughter (who was two years old when we married) so I stood between him and her like a fierce mama bear. I wonder now (and have been wondering for a good fifteen years)  if I killed those tender feelings he used to have for me. He loved me enough to stick around, but maybe not as much as he did in the early days.

Sometimes, I can’t help mentioning it. I try not to. He never takes it well, he always perceives it as complaining and criticism of him, and it never helps or makes a bit of difference anyway. But sometimes, I feel like I’m starving to death, so I ask for a crumb.  I might as well be asking for the moon.

I keep having this delusion that if I can only find the perfect way to explain my perspective to him, somehow the light will break across his face and he will understand. I’ve thought of about a million analogies over the years…like this one:

Suppose our kitchen contained magic cabinets and a magic refrigerator. They were at all times full of delicious and nourishing food, and it was all absolutely free! You could never use it all up, because no matter what you used, it would be replaced by more. The only caveat is, you can’t serve yourself. I have to serve you, and you have to serve me. So every day of the week, I’m going to the magic kitchen to provide three meals a day, and snacks, and whatever else it takes to make sure you are never hungry. For whatever reason, it does not occur to you that I am hungry as well. So very nicely, occasionally, I say, “I’m starving, please look at me; I’m skin and bones, I’m wasting away. The magic kitchen is right over there–completely free and stocked with everything I could ever want. Will you please, please give me something to eat?” And he will inevitably sigh with irritation and say, “You’re starting that again?” or, “I’m tired,” or “I’m busy,” or whatever.

It’s really pretty stunning when you think about it. Why would somebody who loves me find it so incredibly difficult to give me a hug once in a while? Even if he were not especially inclined to be demonstrative, wouldn’t showing a little affection now and then be easier than enduring years and years of discussions about why not?

Another thing. It seems like it would cross his mind that lack of affection leaves me vulnerable. I know that I am responsible for my behavior no matter what, and I have no intentions of straying; it’s not worth it and it causes too much pain all around. But still…seems like a man wouldn’t want his wife wandering through the world with this sort of a need unmet. Suppose the shoe were on the other foot and the problem was sex–him needing it and me being disinterested. Suppose every time he asked for it, I said, “I’m tired. You’re starting that again?” What if I just wasn’t very interested in sex, didn’t particularly feel the need for it, and cared not one whit for his needs and appetites…for the LAST FIFTEEN YEARS. No doubt he would go and find it elsewhere, and then say in all self-righteousness, “What did you expect me to do?”

I did some research to see what the Bible says about affection in marriage, but I didn’t really find anything to fit the bill exactly. There are many references to husbands and wives, but they seem to be more about not depriving each other of sex. That’s not the issue here.

I found this question and answer by Dr. Willard F. Harley, Jr. PhD:

The question and answer are both great. The bad news is that Brian and I read Dr. Harley’s entire BOOK (His Needs, Her Needs) together, about fourteen years ago. It was a good book, generally. Didn’t help, though.

So I don’t know, maybe it’s just time to say God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change. 

Maybe it’s time to just be thankful for a husband who’s here right across this table from me, and not out philandering with a girlfriend or drinking in a bar with his buddies. Thankful for a man who goes to work every day and provides for us. For a good father to our son and a constant source of support and encouragement to me, in spite of a lot of dumb schemes I’ve hatched over the years. For an utter lack of criticism about myself. For someone who never, ever puts me down in front of others. Maybe I’ll just be thankful for a guy who insists on giving me more pocket money every week than I think I’ll need. One who encourages me to go ahead and order those shoes in both colors, when left alone I’d deny myself either one. Maybe I’ll stop and be thankful for a husband who planned a vow renewal for us as a surprise to me; and who had our pastor mention, on the 20th anniversary of the day we met, that he (Brian)  felt his life began that day.  Maybe I should just be thankful for lively, plentiful conversation and…if you’ll pardon me…high quality time in the bedroom. Maybe I should remember that I am surely not his idea of a 100% perfect dream woman, and there must be areas where he finds me less than ideal as well. Maybe I should be grateful he never mentions them.

I would love to have him wrap his arms around me, or smile at me and touch my face. I’d love to have him call me “baby.” I will always want that.

But there are other things in life, too.






12 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Teresa
    Oct 06, 2014 @ 04:32:38

    You’ve given me a lot to think about. I am grateful for the abundant affection I receive from my fiance, and in fact I can’t imagine not having it. However… I think I’d give my left big toe to have the amazing kindness, discretion and conversational camaraderie which you are blessed with from your husband. I am more likely to receive impatience, criticism and tense spurts of conversation which I continually pray won’t “turn into something.” I think you’d be envious of me in some ways, as I find myself envious of you. I have a snuggly, affectionate man, but I don’t have the generosity of word and deed from him that I so desperately want. A lot to think about.


    • Sweet-Water-and-Bitter
      Oct 08, 2014 @ 00:37:09

      Please do, think hard. You are not married yet. Don’t settle for a life of walking on eggshells. My FIRST husband was that way–either all kissy kissy or angry and not speaking to me about some ridiculous thing not worth fighting over. I’ll take the non-snuggly nice guy any day. This sounds like I am putting you down in response to your very kind comment. That’s not my intention. I’m just saying, you’re not married yet. You still have a choice, and you don’t sound very happy.


  2. Lesley
    Oct 07, 2014 @ 10:11:38

    It is so brave for you to share this post – and my heart goes out to you. I think there is a way to renew affection if it was there originally- I read a book called Fascinating Womanhood by Helen Andelin. I read it from cover to cover, and put into practice the ideas in each chapter. I believe I already had a good marriage, but over the weeks and months I saw a dramatic change that I could not have imagined!. The wonderful thing is that I just quietly practised those ideas and did the “home- work and did not tell my husband until much later, when things had changed. I did not coerce or try to change him in any way. As you can see from the hundreds of reviews on Amazon, it has been utterly transforming to loveless, affection-less marriages. Some reviews are negative and mocking, mainly from those with strong feminist views. I am praying for you. Lesley


  3. Helene
    Oct 09, 2014 @ 17:41:37

    I appreciate your thankfulness immensely. I am going to be doubly grateful for my not perfect husband who has developed into a fabulous snuggler over the years. I’ll say a prayer too for joy in your marriage!


  4. Sweet-Water-and-Bitter
    Oct 09, 2014 @ 21:46:18

    Thank you, friends. Lesley, I have read the book, but maybe I’ll read it again. You know, on a side note…I find that books I read on Kindle just don’t stick with me as well–no doubt because I can’t leave them lying all over the house and pick them up to flip through again at random moments. :-) Thanks to both of you, Helene and Lesley, for your prayers!


  5. Tammy
    Oct 09, 2014 @ 21:56:51

    Has your husband had a medical check up. Many underlying medical problems can manifest themselves with a lack of affection or interest – high blood pressure or blood pressure medications, low testosterone or other male problems, diabetes. Men can suffer from low testosterone as early as their 20’s and many people have diabetes – type 2 for years without knowing it. Just a thought


  6. Sweet-Water-and-Bitter
    Oct 09, 2014 @ 22:01:51

    Thank you, but the problem is not with his sex drive. He has a normal interest level in that area! This is something else entirely. Although your comment does bring up a point…almost every article I’ve ever read about lack of affection will say, “My husband only shows affection when he wants sex.” Mine does not show affection even then! (I mean yes, DURING….but not as an enticement or prelude!)


  7. Nita
    Oct 10, 2014 @ 11:51:29

    Gosh, knowing my husband since I was 15yrs old, I’d appreciated his affectionate nature. Both him and I are touching talkers and have to fight the temptation to touch while we talk to people. His family wasn’t very affectionate but I come from a family of huggers. I believe that was a good reason why he seemed to be starved for it as a teen. Now he and I still hold hands, we debate constantly and kiss to make up. 21 yrs and counting.


  8. Erin | It All Matters Mom
    Oct 10, 2014 @ 13:45:06

    There’s an excellent book called “The Five Love Languages” and one of those languages is physical touch. That is clearly one of yours, and clearly not one of his. It’s worth a read to see how you can better understand each other. Just a suggestion. Thanks for being so open and honest!
    Stopping by from the Faith Filled Friday link up!


  9. Jessy from Our Side of the Mountain
    Oct 11, 2014 @ 01:46:33

    Interesting post! Will your husband read it? I need affection! I need hugs and kisses and rubs and snuggles. It would be hard not to have it. Your husband seems to offer so many other things though. And we’re all not perfect.


    • Sweet-Water-and-Bitter
      Oct 11, 2014 @ 11:01:01

      No, to my knowledge he doesn’t read the blog. Sometimes I wonder if he peeks, but if so, he’s never admitted it! :-) In fact, nobody that I know in “real life” is aware of the blog. I like it that way and I think it enables me to be more honest and transparent…although I do try to write in such a way that I would not be mortified if some friend of mine did find it. It’s certainly possible…I link up in dozens of places, sometimes using photos of myself! Thanks for stopping by.


  10. Carrie
    Oct 11, 2014 @ 23:24:02

    It seems as if I am the one in my marriage that isn’t comfortable showing affection. I know it stems from what I experienced growing up and from what I witnessed. I know the harm shaped me. I’d love to be the woman you are – the openly affectionate, fearlessly touching and kissing. I know men need it. And so my prayers will be for God to slowly unlock my heart. If its possible at my age! Thank you for this today. Visiting from The Brew.


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