I was reminded recently how powerful and healing a loving touch can be. One of my clients, Jimmy (not his real name) was talking about the feelings of insecurity, loneliness, resentment, and self-doubt he felt after having sex with his girlfriend. Jimmy had been a victim of childhood sexual abuse, and has felt conflicted about sex for most of his life. The perpetrator of the abuse had coerced Jimmy into performing oral sex repeatedly and would yell for him to do it again and again. Jimmy felt he was never good enough to please her. He carried this need to perform into all of his sexual relationships throughout adolescence and into adulthood.
It is particularly difficult for Jimmy to feel wanted if the woman he is with does not initiate physical contact. In his current relationship, his girlfriend has expressed a preference and a need for him to "be the man" and initiate sex. He feels further pressure to play the role of leader/initiator that he thinks is expected of him by our society. Ultimately, this puts him in a role where he does not feel wanted by his girlfriend, but used.
Jimmy trembled when he shared how important this need to feel wanted was for him. His words were poignant and beautiful. "Feeling wanted would make me feel like I exist. I'm a living breathing person. Sometimes I just don't feel human. I am floating around in life (like the feather in Forest Gump), with no connection to anyone or anything. I could fall in love with anyone who made me feel human. The simple touch means so much. The whole world could be falling apart around me and it would not matter."
I think we often overlook how the small things we do either tear people down or build them up. For Jimmy, small, gentle loving touches initiated by someone who loves him would mean so much. In your life, consider the things you can do that can meet the unmet needs of the people you love. If you are in a relationship, talk to your partner. Ask them what you can do that helps them feel loved, and then do it frequently and with a willing heart. It may mean more to them than you will ever know.