Monday, July 24, 2006

What's the Name of the Game?

What's the name of the game?
Can you feel it the way I do?
Tell me please, cause I have to know

And you make me talk
And you make me feel
And you make me show
What Im trying to conceal
If I trust in you, would you let me down?
Would you laugh at me, if I said I care for you?
Could you feel the same way too?
I wanna know......
-- Abba, "The Name of the Game"

I've been thinking a lot about whether my wife is telegraphing signs that I make her skin crawl. This goes beyond the whole breath issue, which I have been trying to address with brushing followed by mouthwash two or three times a day and drinking more water. I'm talking about a full blown revulsion to my physical presence.

The aversion to certain types of intimate touching during sex is one possibility. On Sunday evening, I think I picked up on another.

Earlier that day, my wife and I were in the kitchen and I gave her a hug. I gave her what I intended to be an affectionate and innocent kiss on her shoulder, not her neck. She said that was tickling her. It didn't register with me that she was trying to tell me that this was universally undesired affection.

Later that evening, after we had taken the kids for a walk, I did the same thing without much thought. She responded with irritation. After telling me that the kiss tickled, she said that if I was going to kiss her it would need to be on the lips.

Let's abstract that out a bit and compare that with the foreplay resistance and the lack of enthusiasm toward nonsexual cuddling. In each case, she is intentionally restricting the range of physical affection expression. Barricades are going up. Complete avenues cordoned off. The net effect is to pare back the vocabulary that I can use to express love to her.

Given that she wasn't into cuddling earlier in the day, I didn't bother asking her again when we went to bed. After a week of trying to be more affectionate, I see too many things that make me think this isn't the way to reach her. I'm wondering if there is any way to reach her.

One followup item: She did watch the Dateline NBC episode with me before going to bed last night. She was silent during the whole show. Her eyes seemed a little watery and red. Maybe something might have been driving her to cry, and she was fighting it.

I had a sliver of hope that this might start a dialogue; so afterwards, I asked her if she had any thoughts on what she had seen. She said that she didn't. She made a comment on the volatile relationship that one of the couples had, but that was it.

She didn't say whether there were parts that she identified with, and she didn't make any comments on the points that the therapist was trying to make. I told her that if she had any thoughts later on in the week, I'd be willing to listen. I'm trying to keep that door open.
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