Following up on yesterday's blog post about what we should and shouldn't withhold from our spouses, I received a question:
[D]o you kiss and hug someone with whom you don't feel close and by whom you don't feel loved?...Kiss and hope you'll eventually feel it? Hug and enjoy feeling close to he who talks to you through gritted teeth?
This is a great question. I did not mean to imply kisses and hugs should never be withheld, only that withholding them to manipulate your spouse to give you more of them won't help a marriage.
Don't kiss and hug if it doesn't make you feel good about your relationship. In this case, search for every little sign that you really are loved, setting aside your expectations about how you ought to be loved.
Gritted teeth are a sign of resentment, of unmet expectations. You can't do much about your mate's unmet expectations, but you can do something about your own. Stop doing whatever makes you feel resentful (including kisses and hugs), and let go of your ideas of how you ought to be loved.
Expect to be loved (i.e., do not accept any behavior that a decent human being would protect you from if a stranger did it, like physical harm, believable threats of harm, or emotionally damaging diatribes or snipes), but try not to expect love will be shown through fairness, gifts, shared activities, loving words, emotional support, conversation, or taking out the trash before the garbage truck arrives. While you're tapping your foot waiting for any one of these, you're missing out on the others. You're not noticing them or you're actively discouraging them.
If there's something you need, ask for it. If your mate cannot or does not provide it, find another way to get it (without violating the integrity of your vows). I find that it helps to really drill down on needs that begin with the words "I need him to..." You are powerless to meet such a need, but it's usually not your real need.
For example, if you need an orderly kitchen, it doesn't matter that he's the cause of the disorder, because he's not the only one who can create order. If you need more praise or more deep conversation, he's not the only one who can provide it. Even if you need more physical touching, there are massage therapists, dance classes, facials, hospitalized children, nieces and nephews, and pets who can provide a good bit of touch and bring your need down to a level he may be more comfortable dealing with.
It's amazing how much a relationship changes -- and how quickly -- when any of the resentment in it is drained. I love hearing the astonished reports of those who try it.