Health

How I’m Cultivating Platonic Intimacy Through Non-Sexual Touch

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I kept thinking of Sunny’s words and started looking for opportunities to touch people. I am blessed to have seven nieces and nephews who live nearby and they are the cuddliest bunch of kiddos you could ever want to meet. I try to visit my sister once a week so I can hold her 6-month-old, which is pretty much one of the highlights of my life. That little dear fills up my heart to overflowing.

One day, I was babysitting his older sisters and I sat on the couch next to them, working on an article, when Kiera, the 3-year-old who is the least cuddly of the bunch, positioned herself under my arm. I immediately put my laptop away and gave her a squeeze and we watched cartoons while she fiddled with my ring and played with my fingers.

Of course, that’s an easy way to build intimacy with others. Hopefully anyone with a child, niece, or nephew who wants to cuddle is going to drop everything and open their arms. It’s such a blessing to have those moments, and because it’s as socially acceptable as cuddling with a sexual partner, it’s not a particular reach when it comes to deepening relationship bonds.

Knowing this and wanting to challenge myself, I then set my sights on my family. My middle brother is an extremely affectionate person. If you’re close with him, he’ll likely come up behind you and give you a quick shoulder massage or a head rub (though he’ll make sure to leave you with your hair standing on end, just for a laugh). He sometimes grabs my head in his hands and plants a sloppy kiss on my forehead.

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A few weeks after talking with Sunny about kissing people on the cheeks, I was having lunch with my brother and his wife. As we prepared the food, he came up beside me and put his arm around me. I went for it: I leaned in and put my arms around him, and we just stood there, talking, while he squeezed my shoulder. It was a little scary at first — I’m not as openly affectionate with him as he is with me. But I was so appreciative that he always tried so hard to be so loving to his family members. It felt really good to share that moment.

Then there’s my mom, who always kisses me like a French woman — one peck on each cheek. She told me recently that my brother (the particularly affectionate one) always kisses her on the lips and that she thinks it’s so sweet. Well, damn, I wasn’t about to let him win more points with her than I had, so when she leaned in to kiss my cheek, I turned my head and planted one right on her lips.

The weird thing was it didn’t seem weird. It felt totally natural. And I was so filled with love for her all of a sudden that I gave her an extra squeeze and told her I thought she looked gorgeous.

She called me early the next morning — which she never does — and said, “I just wanted to say I love you!”

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