Welcome to my His Needs, Her Needs series where my husband, Rob, and I share our thoughts and reviews of this great marriage resource. If you are just joining us, you can check out our opening post here.
She Needs Affection
I know the author prefaced chapter three a few times by saying that, in general, all men have the same similar needs and women have theirs, but it’s not a rule – some people exist out there with a need different from the norm for their gender. I wish he would have mentioned it again in this chapter, however, because I am one of those different from the norm.
According to this book’s description of affection, it is a very high need of mine, if not the highest. Being a man, with the chapter being told from a women’s perspective, it made me a little uncomfortable. Not ashamed, but maybe a little embarrassed. I had to keep reminding myself that there is a specific area of affection that is most important for me, and that is touch. I need physical affection from my wife to know that she loves me. I haven’t read chapter four yet, but I can say that sex is simply a part of the physical affection I need.
I say with a smile that this puts me at somewhat of an “advantage” over other men, because I know exactly what Harley is talking about in this chapter. He kind of makes men sound buffoonish in trying to understand a woman’s need for affection, but I totally get it – physically-speaking, anyway. And because it’s high on Bethany’s needs list as well, we speak this language well. What I’m not so great at is displaying the other signs of affection that are not physical.
Speaking of languages, I have to bring up another important book my wife and I read before we were engaged: The Five Love Languages (5LL). It is interesting to note the difference between the two books: HNHN says we have 10 needs, 5 are core; 5LL says we receive love best when “spoken” one way. My Love Language is Physical Touch; one of my 5 needs is Affection. Makes sense to me. BUT, in HNHN, Affection also includes kind and tender words of affirmation, or receiving gifts – these are totally different love languages! The combination of the overlaps and the disconnects between the two theories is rather confusing for me. I really have to set the two apart if I am to understand this all.
For all I know, I may find in the next chapter that, according to Harley, my need for physical affection really is all about sex. But I doubt it. So, an odd duck am I: a man who needs affection. Who knew? (I did.)
I am blessed enough to have a husband who is good at affection. He became very good at this while we were dating. He always held my hand, helped me out of cars and sat next to me on the couch. Then children came into our lives. Things got a lot harder. Now it seems like there is little time for affection, mostly because our hands are rarely empty. We don’t hold hands because we each have a child by the hand or on the hip. We don’t hug much because there is usually a child in the way. That being said, we are working towards being more intentionally affectionate. This may sound cold and calculating, but I think sometimes life with kids requires planning for things that used to be spontaneous. (We’ll probably talk about that further in the chapter on sex). It is not calculating to intentionally invest in the other person. It isn’t being fake or false to prioritize something that is important to your spouse for his or her sake.
Rob has always been great about kissing me when he leaves and trying to kiss me as soon as he comes home, even if he has to trip over the kids to do it. But I’ve often felt self-conscious that I have gross breath at either time of the day, and often turn away. I realize the easy solution would be to carry breath mints, but I think it’s more psychological than that. I don’t feel worthy of his affection at times. While I feel exhausted at the end of the day, I rarely feel as though I contribute much to our house. I feel like a sponge. He works hard, brings home a paycheck and I spend it.
But affection is an important habit we both need, both to give and receive it. When he hugs me and ignores the drool on my shirt and the dried oatmeal on my sleeve he is telling me that I matter, that all my efforts, paid or not, are worthwhile. When I choose to sit next to him on the couch when I feel touched out, I’m telling him that he is still a priority to me. Affection, in my opinion, is totally separate from sex. It can improve sex, but it should also be able to exist without it. All affection is not foreplay, at least not in the traditional sense. I’ve begun to realize that when Rob makes regular efforts to be affectionate to me on a daily basis, I feel more attracted to him. So maybe it’s more appropriate to say that affection is like a down payment on future intimacy. Which it is. Like the author said in previous chapters, meeting a need for affection is a deposit in the love bank which strengthens a relationship.
Next we’ll be discussing the topic of sex as we review the chapter He Needs Sexual Fulfillment.
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