Touch - Across the Relationship Divide.
I am still in Palm Springs for the weekend. It has been lovely and a much needed getaway. It isn’t often that I have to do nothing, for no one and think only for myself. It is nice to be waited on and to enjoy my time and space. I do miss home and the people who love me and depend on me. This time away has made me appreciate all of them more deeply. Time away always brings perspective...
I spent hours at the pool yesterday. The adult pool which was such a treat since I usually am camped out at the kid pool, surrounded by tiny humans who are fun to watch while at the same time exhausting. I, rightfully, took and relished my spot in the sun at the adults only pool. I felt no guilt whatsoever.
Since I was there for hours, I had the opportunity to people watch. It was all couples. I was an outlier being single and without a partner...again. But I was able to take in some information about my favorite subject, relationships, by watching the couples at the pool. First let me introduce the couples and then I will tell you what I noticed:
Older wealthy couple - they were in their 60s. Seemingly wealthy and seemed to have an easy peace with each other. They didn’t talk much. Just ordered drinks and food and laid in the sun together, separately. There was no bad energy between them. He moved the umbrella to shade her when the sun just got to be too much. They came together, laid together, and then left together. All with little to no conversation or interaction.
OC couple - they were in their 50s. He, not a bad looking guy, a little hefty in the middle but otherwise, attractive. She was gorgeous but a lot of work. She seemed kind (she and I were the only ones trying to save the bees that landed in the water) but she had on a bathing suit that was so complicated that I am sure that it took her like 45 minutes to squish all of herself into it. She had a lot of work done: boobs, butt, lips for sure! She was gorgeous but the kind of beauty that comes with a high price tag and a lot of upkeep. This couple barely interacted. The woman did not ask the man for anything. She asked the pool attendant to move the umbrella, not him. The woman was on her phone the entire time while the husband sat quietly staring off into space either in his chair or in the pool. He looked bored and superfluous. It looked like the kind of weekend I used to have with my husband - a getaway that sounded good until you actually got away together and then found out that you really had nothing to say to each other...
The Foursome - two couples. Couple 1 - obviously not married and seemed to not know each other that well. He was fit and very attractive. He was aloof and seemed uninterested in the woman he was with. You could have mistaken them as friends but for the awkward kiss in the pool. There was no tenderness and only loud drunken rantings by the woman. The woman was already half in the bag by 11 am. She was, at first blush, attractive but upon closer examination, she was out of shape, and seemed to lack attention...for herself, from herself. Her hair was a mess and she seemed uncomfortable in her own skin. If you weren’t paying attention, you wouldn’t have even known that these two people were a couple. You really only got that they were by context. Couple 2 - was a younger woman, probably 30, tall, 0% body fat and tattooed. She had the type of body that you only see on young girls. Thin, lean and totally natural. He was old enough to be her dad and seemed intermittently impressed with her and bored. He seemed excited to be near her but at the same time not really present. They were high as kites and made sure that everyone at the pool knew that they were. The woman showed off by doing incredible yoga moves on the side of the pool, while the other woman embarrassed herself by trying to do the same. This woman’s partner also tried to do them with marginal success. The man of the first couple was sober enough to know better than to even try...even though he was fit and strong enough to pull it off.
The pregnant couple - they arrived late and spent all of their time in the shade reading books on pregnancy and parenthood. Each person having their own book on the subject. They had a lighthearted conversation and both seemed to nervously enjoy their last getaway before everything in their lives changed forever.
The Mormon couple - now this is only a guess on my part. And the reason that I guessed it is that I saw them drink no alcohol, and despite the extreme heat, they were very modest in their bathing attire. The man wore a t-shirt, even in the pool, and the woman wore a bathing suit that covered way more than it needed to. They read books and had quiet conversation. Everything about them screamed moderation and control. They seemed content with each other but I would catch the man eyeing other women at the pool with a look that was somewhere between longing and guilt.
The mismatched couple - pretty attractive woman, man who was on his way to drunk at noon, which seemed from the woman’s response to be a typical Saturday. She was conservative in her suit choice and wore a large sunhat the entire time, even in the pool. He was overweight with a large beer belly and took issue with the yogic, rock climber’s amazing feats poolside. He yelled at her from the other end of the pool, glass in hand and then openly mocked them by trying the same poses with a very undignified result...his resembling Shamu...his wife looked on with an embarrassed smile and nervous laugh. Everything about her demeanor screamed that she wished he would shut up and be quiet and stop emphasizing his most glaring defects. She finally got out of the pool and retreated to the safety of her lounge chair.
Six couples. I do not think that any of the foursome were married to each other. But I include them as contrast because they more than any of the other couples, would seem to be the most likely ones to exhibit what I found lacking in all the other couples...
None of the couples exhibited any touch. They didn’t help each other with sunscreen, they didn’t hold hands, hug in the pool, snuggle, kiss, or show any signs of physical affection. Not one time. The closest any of them got was to stand awkwardly next to each other in the pool. Even the drunk and stoned foursome remained at a distance, the disconnect so pervasive that it was not even bridged by alcohol and pot.
Now, of course, these were just my limited observations over a few hours. They might touch each other all the time and were having an off day...but I doubt it. Not one of the couples seemed at all interested in making real, physical contact with the other. It was so understated that I could have missed it except that everyone of the couples exhibited the same lack of contact so it became hard to miss. It was prevalent with every couple at the pool besides these six as well. No one, not one coupled pair, seemed at all interested in making the effort to reach out and touch their partner.
Now I am not saying that they all should have been acting out a scene from Caligula at the Ritz-Carlton pool but it was a bit astonishing the lack of any contact or affection being expressed, even after several rounds of drinks.
If you are a believer in love languages, and I am (somewhat), every single man I have ever known has physical contact as their first or second love language. And here were six men in relationships where what most men desire most completely and utterly lacking. To the contrary, the women all seemed to be quite content. None of them looked unhappy or any worse for the disconnection. The OC woman and the older couple woman, clearly seemed they were getting their needs met by shopping and cosmetic surgery.
I just kept watching for some sign of affection. Some sign that they are happy to be together. Some real indication of warmth, adoration or love. There wasn’t even sexual tension. It was missing except for the pregnant couple whose evidence of sexual tension laid largely in the woman’s protruding belly. Even with them, there was a lack of warmth and closeness that I felt sorry for because, I know all too well, that it is likely only to get worse in short order.
My friend, also a divorce attorney, and I laid there marveling at the relationship fodder that lounged about us. She had a different lens with which to view the situation, she was looking for evidence of affairs. Clearly both of us are totally jaded...
But I saw no passion at the pool. In fact, the lack of passion or seemingly any real interest in the coupledom that surrounded us, made me incredibly sad. I will own that I have no idea whether my observations were accurate but I don’t think it really matters whether I am correct about the whole of these people’s relationships or whether I just observed a bad day. I know that what I saw was a pervasive and across the board issue in most long term relationships: an absence of touch. Life gets busy and it is easy to allow the daily grind to stand between you and the other person. The effort required to reach across the table and brush your wife’s hair out of her face or to reach over and rub your husband’s neck, too much to add to an already overwhelming life.
Honestly, it kind of broke my heart. All of it. Sad for the couples who seemed like they were not really there, going through the motions of relationshiping and praying that they would get a gold star for the effort. All of them seemed somewhat lonely and alone. Disconnected from the people that they should be most connected to...
But it made me realize that I need more touch in my life. That I stay on my side of my relationships way too much. I want to hug my children and parents more. I want to touch and be touched more...even in Corona times. Perhaps especially in Corona times. I do acknowledge that the virus has had to play a part in all of this but I don’t think so much at the pool yesterday. These people are all sleeping next to each other every night. No reason not to kiss or hug or hold hands...
It made me wonder if there are any happy couples. If anyone really feels better in a committed relationship or do most of them end up being versions of the couples I saw at the pool: comfortably close but disconnected, bored, lost and longing for something that they can’t quite put their finger on...I have a friend that says he has a low level of depression while in a committed relationship...I totally get that and think that I saw evidence of that yesterday.
I wanted to go up to each couple and talk to them. Ask them to touch each other more. Just to start there. To introduce, perhaps for the first time, tenderness and concern into their most intimate pairing. Now, I know that would have been weird but their lack of contact made my own lack of contact even more pronounced because it evinced a promise that even a committed relationships feels and looks lonely. Which honestly made me feel better about myself. At least I am alone, alone.
It was excruciating to me to see so many couples, spending a lovely weekend away together and seeing the whole thing as kind of a sham. I wanted to do something, anything to push them together. To make them see what they are missing in their lives. As a casual observer, perhaps I could see what they were too close to view.
Or I could just be so jaded that I have completely lost perspective...regardless, I saw something that I didn’t want to re-create should I ever be in a committed relationship again...touch. So I am going to start practicing now...even during Corona. Not with strangers but with the people who are within my inner circle that I can touch. And I am going to remember that if I should be so lucky to end up the other half of a pair, I am going to make sure he feels how much I want him, love him and adore him. I am going to reach out and touch him as often as I can. It won’t guarantee any kind of success or outcome, but it might prevent us from ending up lying next to each other at a lovely pool feeling and looking like strangers. What I learned yesterday was that touch is vital, touch is the bridge over which all other intimate acts occur...without it, there is a glaring and deep chasm over which many relationships divide. And while I can only do my part, I am certain that practicing being a more physically demonstrative person can only help foster and grow intimacy.