Thursday, July 16, 2009

Re: Cuddling

When Scott and I were dating, we were very cuddly, and I LOVED it! I have always been a very cuddly person, starting with when I was a toddler and would go get in bed with my teenage brother, who was also very cuddly. I remember once when I was a teenager, I leaned on my brother while I was watching a movie at his house or something, and he said teasingly, "You need to find yourself a boyfriend to cuddle with." I told him how much I wanted exactly that.

It took 6 months from our first date for Scott to kiss me, and then it was very awkward and only happened, I think, because all of our friends kept expecting it to and the pressure was on, but cuddling began even before our first date, at 6 a.m. in the football stadium when we were waiting for a madrigal rehearsal to begin to prepare for the homecoming pep rally. I was cold, and Scott came to my rescue by holding me. Wow, I have never felt anything like that before. I felt so safe, so alive. It did not feel sexual to me at all, just sweet and kind of like, "Wow! After 17 years a boy finally notices me and cares about how I am feeling!" That was a new thing for me, really new. Actually, I guess other guys had noticed me before; just no one I was ever really into, and no one that seemed to have MY best interest in mind.

So, cuddling is what I remember most from our courtship. It was really hard on me a few years ago when the cuddling decreased in our marriage until it became virtually non-existent. Scott claimed he had never really liked to cuddle, that it made him too hot, that it was uncomfortable to have the circulation in his arm cut off by the pressure of my body against it. At first it made me really frustrated and confused. We were also having problems with intimacy (read: he rarely wanted sex), and I got the impression that he viewed cuddling as foreplay. I tried to convince him that I loved to cuddle, that I needed to cuddle, and that it didn't need to go any further. I was glad that I had young children to cuddle with, but it wasn't the same.

Then when he came out to me last summer, suddenly he was willing to cuddle again. Actually, not only willing, but he wanted to! I didn't know what to think or how to react, but I just learned to enjoy it again and be grateful for it! I also have learned to be more forward in instigating it. I guess I always expected (or wanted) it to be HIS move, an indication from him that he loved me and loved my body and wanted to hold it. But since I now understand how he works, I am not as hesitant to take his hand first or cuddle up with him first, and he doesn't seem to mind it anymore, like he did for a while! It is awesome!

A week or two after Scott told me about the gay thing, he was having a down day. It was strange to see him down, because he had been so much happier, having found himself, exploring all it meant for him to be gay--to him and to us. We kind of talked about his depression during the day, and he wasn't sure what had brought it on. But instead of improving, it got worse, and by the end of the day when the kids were in bed and we could talk freely, he was lying on the living room floor, depressed, and I asked him what I could do to cheer him up and he said, "Hold me."

Wow. I had probably said that line a million times to him when I wanted his comfort, but I didn't remember him ever saying it to me. I lay down behind him on the floor (spooning), and put my arm around him. As we lay there, we talked, and I seem to remember it being a pretty emotional conversation, about how now that he had figured himself out, he had this overwhelming desire, or longing, to be held by another man. I held him and apologized that I could not be what he needed. It did not hurt me personally to know that I was not enough for him, but it hurt to see that the one I love so much was hurting and needing more than I could ever give him.

Over the past year, he has still had days where he has been a bit down and has honestly told me on those days about his occasional "longings". Either the longings have subsided as the year has progressed, or he has gotten better about not letting them get to him or at least not letting me know that he is feeling them. But anytime we watch a "gay" movie together, I worry about his longings. And honestly, when we have our friends over, and a bunch of single guys are squished together on the couch while Scott sits and talks to them from a separate chair, I feel bad for him.

Why can't he squish with them on the couch? We are not talking about the entangled cuddling that he and I engaged in many times when we were dating, and now do again, but the simple closeness of being with friends: shoulder to shoulder, hip to hip, maybe an arm behind a neck. Some have expressed on Scott's blog post that he should ABSOLUTELY not venture into that territory, but I really don't see anything wrong with it. Correct me if I am wrong, Scott, but I believe he is only talking about slight contact, nothing more than any of us would have with siblings or parents or good friends.

Or maybe we are just deceived, and this is the first step for venturing onto a slippery slope....

But for me, it is to see my best friend, the one I love more than anyone in all the world, happy because he is able to snuggle up with some friend of the same gender while I snuggle up with him (Scott) on the other side...

And yes, I guess that would be like me cuddling with a straight man, or a straight husband cuddling with another woman, but somehow it doesn't feel the same to me. The straight husband has the wife to get the woman's touch that he needs. I have Scott to get the touch from a man like I need. It doesn't matter if he is gay or straight, he is still a man, and I am attracted to him! But he gets gyped, because he does not get the touch of a man that he needs.

Maybe I am out of my mind, but it feels right to me. I am willing to risk the slippery slope to help Scott be as happy and fulfilled as he can be, while still staying in a monogamous relationship with me. We have been doing our best to follow the promptings of the spirit and do what is best for us, and so far, it seems to be working out. So hopefully, if this is the wrong thing, I pray that the spirit will be with me, with us, to know that it is not the right thing. I have faith that Heavenly Father will answer this prayer for me when the time is right, and before we start sliding, uncontrollably, down hill.

Thanks for your concern, for your opinions, for your encouragement, for your input. But please remember that ultimately this decision is up to us, and I trust Scott enough to know that he will not do anything that I am uncomfortable with. That is the beauty of open and honest communication. Neither of us is ever afraid to express what we really feel or think about something that has happened or might happen.

Now, for those of you who hang out at our house sometimes and are now "awkward" at the thought that you are expected to fulfill Scott's need for man-touch, please don't be! If giving him a handshake or a hug or a pat on the back is all you are comfortable with, then by all means, don't do any more than that. Just as this has to seem right to Scott and I, it also needs to feel right for anyone else who might be involved. Please be open and honest with us as well, if needed.

Thanks. :)


BigRedHammer said...

I admire the support you both give each other. Cuddling can be a great event. I think most people are hard-wired to seek that human touch. I myself am working on the "don't touch me" vibe I seem to put out so I can get some of that friendly touch.

Sarah said...

BRH, you and Aaron are welcome to come over anytime for a friendly cuddling event! Thanks for your support.

David Baker-@DB389 said...

Sarah... You are amazing but you knew that already! I loved your disclaimer at the end with "expected to fulfill Scott's need for man-touch, please don't be" it cracked me up because for me it wasn't needed. I can be totally open to just everything (when I am over) :(

Sarah said...

David, we miss you and hope you are well. If (when) you ever come back, we expect a visit!

Terri said...

I wrote a long, almost genius response but of course lost it when I went to post! :-)

Okay, maybe not "genius" maybe just somewhat thoughtful, but still...

Unfortunately I'm off to have a root canal and will have to come back and recreate my literary masterpiece! But thanks for you quick and thoughtful response. If I survive the root canal - which is doubtful considering the DDS phobia I have - I will be back!

Frank Lee Scarlet said...

I have often been told that I was born on the wrong side of the ocean...I love Europe, and I seem to fit in better over there. For instance, I have always not liked ice in my drinks. When I went to Europe, I found that there, it is *normal* for people to NOT have ice in their drinks. It was so liberating to see "there's a place for us"!
Also, in the time I have spent in Europe, perhaps the the biggest difference I noticed between Europeans and Americans was touchiness. I am also a really cuddly person in my family and very touchy in conversation, etc. Generally, Americans don't touch (rugged individuals that we are) and Europeans touch all the time--no big deal. Here again was a cultural difference I found liberating! Here in America, I rarely, if ever, am able to casually touch my friends on the arm or shoulder without them feeling uncomfortable. In Europe, my friends and I could touch each other all the time in conversation (e.g., on the wrists and arms, that sort of thing) and it was so natural.
Maybe that sort of applies here. Americans in general have an aversion to physical contact, and as Scott said, Mormon culture furthers this aversion by adding an almost paranoid moral dimension. I dunno.
Best of luck, I know that you will make the right decisions for you!

Sarah said...

Terri, I am waiting... :)

Frank, I love your thoughts on this. I have never thought about the cultural aspects of touch. I've always found touch to be very important to me, and I have loved being a part of this MoHo community, where hugs instead of handshakes are the norm.

If attitudes about touch in America were like those in Europe, there would have been no issue this past week or so on the Main Street Plaza. Seeing one man put their arm around another man and kissing them on the cheek would not be considered immoral or uncomfortable for anyone else that might have seen it, but rather a normal sign of friendship. Since Americans are largely comprised of European ancestors, why are the cultures so different on this? Hmmm. Interesting insight. Thanks!

We had a few friends over tonight and I cuddled a bit with 4 different MoHos at 4 different times. Two of them came and snuggled up with me, the other two I deliberately chose to sit close to. It kind of felt like an experiment to me. We didn't plan it, but it gave me the opportunity to observe my own reaction. It was nice; not awkward, not intimate, just friends hanging out and/or offering comfort and companionship to one another. It was casual enough that even though our children were around, it did not seem to be weird to them either to see our friends sitting close to me.

Scott, how did you feel about it? And how did you feel about the fact that you were not cuddling with anyone? I think that it will help us warm into it, and then when you get to cuddle up next to someone, I can observe how I feel about it.

As Phillip has commented tonight on Scott's blog, it is all a matter of figuring out what works best for us, adjusting when necessary, and realizing that what works for us may not be what would work for someone else.

Good to be Free said...

Thank you guys so much for posting about your thoughts and experiences. While I doubt that outside cuddling while married would be appropriate for every everyone, I have to say that you guys are doing something that has to be done in a MOM marriage. You are realizing that the problems, and solutions to those problems, aren't the same as a hetero marriage. While they may seem similar at first, especially to those who don't find themselves in this situation, they carry a different dynamic (I was going to say more difficult, but that would be a judgment call I can't make).

I believe there is a reason that so many MOM marriages fail. We don't look outside the box enough for solutions to our unique problems. The one-size-fits all approach to fixing a marriage doesn't always work when the variables are changed so much..

We (the other MOMs) eagerly await your experiences as this is new territory for us all and as we discover for ourselves what solutions we need, it is nice to see someone coming up with their own as well.

Jenz said...

"But he gets gyped, because he does not get the touch of a man that he needs."

With the utmost respect for you and Scott's relationship as it stands...I wonder who is really getting gyped in this situation. It just makes me a bit nervous for you both.

I wish you both the best in deciding how far this will go.

Sarah said...

Thanks, everyone, for your feedback.

Okay, Scott. I vote that we be done with this topic. Some don't understand what we are really saying here, and what we actually mean by cuddling. We got some interesting comments, and now I would like to propose that we continue to take things a day at a time and figure out what seems best when in the moment, experimenting a little and continuing with our open communication to figure out how it is working and making sure that it is not a detriment to our relationship.

Scott said...

I've been meaning to respond to this one, especially because Sarah specifically asked for my feedback in her comment:

Scott, how did you feel about [me cuddling with our MoHo friends]? And how did you feel about the fact that you were not cuddling with anyone? I think that it will help us warm into it, and then when you get to cuddle up next to someone, I can observe how I feel about it...

As I read it, "How did I feel about you cuddling with them?" means "Did it bother me to see you cuddling with another man (rather than cuddling with me)?"

That one's easy to answer: It didn't bother me in the least. As you stated, it was only comfortable friendly contact, and I didn't see anything at all wrong with it.

The second question might be a bit trickier. I think you're asking: "Did it bother me to see you cuddling with guys when I was sitting by myself, not cuddling with guys?" That is, was I jealous, not of them, but of you?

I think that if there had been any hint of an "I can do this but you can't" attitude it would have bothered me. If there had been any obvious indication that our friends were happy to sit next to you on the chair but unwilling to do the same with me I would have been a bit hurt by that.

But to me it seemed mostly just that the situation lent itself to you sitting with them for a few minutes, while I was up and busy doing things and had fewer opportunities to sit at all--let alone to cuddle--so it didn't bother me so much.

I think that there was still some element of "I wish I could be doing that", but it was nothing more than a minor twinge.

I realize that Sarah has sort of closed this subject, but to those two have expressed concern (specifically Jenz): What, specifically, do you see the potential repercussions of an "open cuddle" policy being? Do you believe that it will lead to my being unfaithful to Sarah? That a cuddle will turn into something more serious while her back is turned?

My personal feeling is that Sarah and I are open enough about everything that things would never get to that point without a significant amount of discussion and agreement first. The fact that we are even having this discussion seems to me to indicate that wherever Sarah and I end up we'll have arrived there thoughtfully and carefully, having considered every step along the way.

I also don't personally believe that there's any reason casual cuddling needs to go anywhere at all, but even if I'm wrong, I have no intention of doing anything that would violate the trust that Sarah has in me.

Thanks, all, for your love and concern!