Tonight, my husband, the Darling Beloved, and I were watching TV. He put his feet up on the sofa, and I came over from my place on the floor playing with our cat to poke around on his leg.
Rubbing on his leg, I realized I had not really looked at it for a long time. And so I focused on studying him--his skin, the line of his muscles, his toes, even his always-need-cutting-toenails. I looked at his knee, and traced the space behind his knee. What surprised me was how warm and fuzzy it made me feel towards my always-loved husband.
Touching between spouses so often gets written as being about sex. Which, let's face it, is a lot of what makes marriage fun. But there is a lot of touching in marriage that has nothing to do with romping in the covers. We brush each other's hair, we rub things that hurt. We hold hands when we're afraid, or happy, or just lonely. As we get older, or sick, we touch each other as nurse, as surrogate parent, as friend.
I once read of a Buddhist monk who was regaled with the wonders of a vacuum cleaner over his little stick broom. He listened politely, and when urged to get a vacuum of his own refused. "How will I know my room? With the vacuum I can clean my room much faster, but now I know every crack in the floor, every corner I have to brush a little harder because dirt accumulates there. I know which part to leave alone where the spider lives, who kills pests. I remember meals I have made, friends I have eaten with, memories that this room holds. I like knowing my room. I do not need your vacuum.
Spouses are often the first ones to notice health problems. The husband or wife knows the spots that weren't there last season, the lumps that have just formed, the places where skin and flesh do not lay correctly against bone. Or, they know these things if they have been spending the time to get to know what makes their spouse's body tick. Reaching out to my husband tonight reminded me how important it is just to touch him so I can know him. Knowing how his skin lays, what parts are swollen, or tense, or sore, allows me to love him better.
As with many things, the physical mirrors the spiritual. Taking the time to really get to know the physical landscape of my husband's body means I spend time with him. Spending time with him greatly increases the chance that I will talk to him, and get to know him--know the inside of his mind, his hopes, his dreams. We spend a lot of time together. Perhaps we've become content with superficial communication. Perhaps, like my study of his knee, I need to really focus on getting to know him--even the shadowy places that aren't as much fun as his sense of humor and intelligence. Maybe I need to know more about his fears, his insecurities, the things he wishes would change. Knowing more about the bad as well as the good allows me to knit our bonds closer, to make him feel safer, and to strengthen our happy little home.