I hadn’t expected Rex to take my hand when he first did. We were in college when we met and I trusted him right away – something that I rarely did with men in those days. I looked into his eyes and felt like I had always known him and that we were important to each other from the start, but it wasn’t immediately romantic.
Through the year we got to know each other better and we talked. A lot. We didn’t go out on dates – we just talked and walked and studied together for what seemed like the longest time.
Then one day he was talking about home, his family and working on the sheep farm. He got this look in his eye and I knew what it meant. He was going to ask me to come home with him. And he did.
He told his mom he was bringing a “friend” home. She was a little irritated to find out the “friend” was a girl. He should have told her, of course, but at that time we really were nothing more than friends. I’m sure it was evident we liked each other that weekend, but he didn’t touch me (except when he was helping me repel down a mountain that Saturday) so there was not a lot of evidence to his mom that there was anything more between us.
I have this bad habit of picking at the dry skin on my fingers, sometimes making them bleed. I can stop it for long periods of time and then suddenly for some reason it will rear up again. Rex knew that. Apparently that was all the excuse he needed.
Sitting in church, right next to his mom, he picked up my hand to stop me from picking at my fingers and then just kept holding it! I was thrilled. I was also a little embarrassed because, well, right in front of his mom for the first time. Oh my! LOL. We held each others hands a lot over the next coming weeks.
Several years went by as we both served missions for our church, I moved to Tennessee, he got engaged and un-engaged to someone else, I moved back to Utah. We spent a lot of time just being friends again before we got engaged and married. Near the end of that process we began to hold hands again.
Early on in our marriage, we went to a family gathering holding hands and saw a family member. She could not have known, and we didn’t know, the effect her words would have in strengthening our marriage much more than we ever would have imagined.
“Look! The newlyweds are still holding hands.”
The two of us, individually, promptly resolved this wouldn’t be just a newlywed thing. We would always hold hands. It surprised me when years later we both talked about it, because I didn’t know he had the same resolve I had when it happened.
Things haven’t always been rosy for us. There have been periods of time when we were irritated with each other. We’ve had a few disagreements and arguments here and there. Despite all the talking, we have also had some real communication problems. That hand holding has been part of the thing that brings us back and keeps us together.
We don’t hold hands all the time. If I am walking with any speed then it can be difficult for me to comfortably hold his hand. There are definitely times when both hands should be on the wheel when driving. When our kids were young, our arms were full of them. Like any normal couple, off and on we just need our alone time.
We do hold hands often though. Even more so since we got back from Italy in where we walked the streets, museums and ruins, looking at all the architecture, art and food, though not on the night of the shoe in Florence – I’m not sure how possible that would have been!
Occasionally, we hear a man or woman comment on our hand holding and I know some of them are struggling or are just in a bland place in their marriages. My guess is a few of these people think or feel some variation of “my relationship isn’t like their relationship”.
I hope though, that every so often, it will spark in her a suggestion of taking her husband’s hand for a minute or thirty seconds or even ten. Or a notion in him to scoot near to her on the couch or the pew. Or if nothing else, a possibility of waiting till he is asleep and then gently, without waking him, touching her arm to his back. It won’t solve big marital problems, but maybe, just maybe it will be the first or final life line that begins the healing.
What little thing has kept your relationship healthy or healed it?