Expressive Wife


My wife is touchy-feely with several of my guy friends. She hugs them, holding hands with them briefly, touches their arms or legs. While I trust her completely–and the guys too for that matter–I'm uneasy about this. Are there any guidelines on what's acceptable?


You have good reasons to be uneasy. The core issue isn’t about whether you trust your wife and your guy friends. The reality is that we are fallen human beings living in a sensually saturated culture. In light of that reality we have to ask ourselves what does wise, healthy, responsible, and appropriate physical contact between opposite sex friends look like?

One of God’s greatest gifts to us is our ability to touch and be touched. When premature babies are touched and held as a regular part of their hospital stay, the monitors show a dramatic rise in the blood, oxygen, and chemical levels, and they gain weight some 47 % faster than those who are not.

Your wife is either unaware of or ignoring some basic male/female difference and massively underestimating the power of touch to ignite even the smallest amount of testosterone. Men and women interpret and are affected differently by touch. Holding hands, touching arms and legs may seem to be an innocent expression of friendship. Unfortunately, innocence or the best of intentions offer no protection against actions that can easily be misinterpreted and can quickly arouse sexual desires in someone else.

It sounds like your wife is an affectionate woman. Be grateful for that. Are you doing all you can to meet her needs? Do you initiate frequent non-sexual touch with her? Do you hug and kiss her before leaving for work? Do you initiate holding hands with her while you’re walking or in a movie? Do you volunteer to rub her head, neck, back, and feet? Do you still court her? Do you find creative ways to express your love for her?

What she is doing isn’t sin, but it is throwing the door wide open. If sin is represented by crossing the 50-yard line then the wise thing is to not go past the 40. The kinds of touching you describe are going way past the 40 yard line and are at best inappropriate and at worst dangerous. You and your wife need to talk about this, clarify some basic male/female differences and intentionally cultivate new levels of intimacy in your own marriage.

Gary J. Oliver, ThM, PhD
Executive Director at Center for Healthy Relationships | + posts

Dr. Oliver is the Executive Director of The Center for Healthy Relationships, and professor of Psychology and Practical Theology at John Brown University.  He has authored over 20 books and more than 350 professional and popular articles.  Dr. Oliver has over 40 years’ experience as a Clinical Psychologist, Marriage  & Family Therapist and Spiritual Director.  He leads seminars & workshops both nationally and internationally on a variety of counseling-related issues, healthy relationships as well as Emotional & Relational Intelligence (ERI).

Share this post

Share on facebook
Share on google
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on pinterest
Share on print
Share on email