Imagine your spouse is under extreme stress and starting to get really worked up. What should you do? What does he really need at this moment? Does she need to be alone? Does he need a hug? Should you help solve the problem at hand? How do you get this information? The following are some principles of communication based on different types of touch which can help you find the answers to these questions because, ultimately, you will be able to listen better.
There are four basic types of touch that are used in a therapeutic setting for working with different types of tissues in the body and for different situations. For our purposes here, instead of overly analyzing the information in the following paragraphs, try to feel inside what types of touch are like and then try them out. These things can be done at home!
Interface is a type of touch which creates a very clear boundary between people. It defines a clear point that says “here is where I end and you begin.” This is very important in any relationship, because the same boundary that defines me physically can also create a clear picture of what my role is in a relationship. I know who I am, and it’s clear to me what my goals and desires are and what I am willing to do to achieve them. When a couple has the same goals and desires and decides together about who will do what, they are essentially making distinctions and setting boundaries which define the responsibilities of each person. When both partners are aware of their roles and fulfill them, there is a balance because both partners are working side by side toward the same goals and desires. Although the work itself might look different, the couple is on the same wave-length.
Exercise You can easily practice interface touching. Stand side-by-side or back-to-back with your partner. Now lean up against each other until you reach a point where neither one has to support the other. There will be a perfect balance. It might take a little while to find this point, but once you get it you’ll recognize it without a doubt. Do this for five to ten minutes every day and you will see wonderful changes in your marriage, just through this alone. It can be very insightful to see that a balance can be created without doing much and this will intuitively transfer into other areas of your marriage.
Blending is an overlapping of boundaries. It is a non-threatening, non-intrusive and non-judgmental touch which synchronizes the therapist’s arms with the client’s body. “Non-intrusive” and “non-judgmental” mean humbling ourselves and letting go of any desire to “fix” a person or assuming that we know what the problem is. The inner wisdom of a person has great intelligence and this touch creates a safe place for that wisdom to come forth. It is a great honor and privilege to be allowed to participate in that wisdom when it surfaces. This is a neutral touch and we just listen, wait and follow. Creating this space for your spouse can help build trust in a very powerful way. The power of blending touch builds a safe place for your spouse in which major barriers can be lowered. Your intentions can do miracles for your spouse!
Exercise The following is a fun blending touch exercise to play which can teach you a lot about yourself, your spouse and your relationship. Stand face-to-face with your spouse. Hold your arms up and place your palms together. One person will lead and the other will follow. The leading person moves his hands wherever he wants and the person following has to stick with them. Start with your eyes open, but try this with your eyes closed as well. Take turns leading and following. Pay close attention to the feelings that arise when you lead and when you follow. Are there any differences? Is it easy for you to give up control and follow? When you’re leading, do you trust that the other person will follow you or are you constantly slowing down to make sure they’re there? What do you think that means? This is an exercise that you can do on a daily basis. You will definitely learn a lot.
Streaming is a type of touch in which one person gives and the other receives. Think of a mother and her child; the mother gives so much of herself to her child. The key here is “of herself.” The source of the energy is the mother, and we see many times that it can lead to a depletion of energy. Many massage techniques involve streaming because the message therapist exerts a lot of energy. There is definitely a time and a place for this, but just remember to take care of yourself and refill your own energy tank. Of course, we give and give and give to our spouses unconditionally, but one must refill the tank.
Exercise Sit face-to-face on chairs or on the floor. One person will go first and the other second. Place your hands on your partner’s knees and imagine heat flowing down your arms, out of your hands and onto the knees of your partner. Stop the stream of heat for a few seconds and try it again. Discuss between yourselves what you felt during the exercise, if anything at all. Then switch roles. This is a very important principle because it gives an awareness of our own energy level and how we are feeling.
Channeling in the language of touch is like giving a brachah. In channeling, we are a conduit of energy, not its source, as with streaming. When we give in this way, it does not deplete our energy. In fact, it usually does the opposite. Making a le’chaim at the Shabbos table – that’s channeling. Think about a time when you were inspired to do something and you did it and felt great afterwards. I sometimes get inspired to cook a three-course meal for my wife in the middle of the week. It can take me an hour or two, but I feel energized the whole time and even better once I’m done … as long as I don’t have to clean up!
Exercise Partner A stands, sits or lies down. Partner B places both hands anywhere on Partner A’s body. If there is a place that is hurting that would be a great place to focus on. Partner B should imagine the light of the sun shining down into his arms and out of his hands. Notice the warmth and get feedback from Partner A. Remember that the source of the energy is not inside. In this case, it is imagined as the suns, although other things can be used as well.
What does your spouse need right now at this stressful time? An interface, blending, streaming or channeling touch? Experiment in physical ways how these touches are experienced. The answers cannot be reasoned out. They must be felt and learned by heart.