As Karoline discussed last week, the Creighton Model System isn’t just a system that approaches human sexuality from a strictly genital viewpoint. And as I have discussed in the past, fertility is something that encompasses the whole human person. We are not people with individual parts that are employed outside of our other parts. We are integrative. Our bodies and souls are a unique composite that need to be understood as a whole.
When we discuss the physical aspect of our marital relationships, it is easy to assume we mean a purely sexually or genitally-based physicality. The truth is that the physical reaches far beyond that. A loving glance, a touch or a kiss as you leave for work. These are aspects of the physical that are essential to marriage. Sadly, many couples relegate their physical touch to only that which leads to sex. But this can lead to dissatisfaction, especially for spouses whose “love language” is touch. Touch is important. Touch has been shown, scientifically, to release the bonding hormone, oxytocin. It has also been shown to reduce stress, anxiety and depression. Holding hands, cuddling during a movie or hugging are all good and virtuous aspects of the human relationship that allow us to bond.
So when Creighton Practitioners talk about the Physical aspect of SPICE, we mean more than just sex. But it is important to recognize that there are two types of touch that we distinguish between. There is affirming touch and arousing touch. Affirming touch is simply the physical contact that we make with our spouse (or others) that builds friendship, love, trust and bonding. It’s the touch that is essential to our being but does not lead to or insinuate sex. Arousing touch lets your spouse know that you would like to have intercourse. It is also a touch that arouses sexual feelings in a person. While both types of touch are conceptually easy to distinguish between, some spouses find it difficult to actually separate them. What could be an affirming touch for one spouse could actually be an arousing touch for the other. This is where it is difficult, or dare I say, impossible to compartmentalize SPICE. SPICE is an integrative, whole-person approach to fertility and life-long love. In order for spouses to distinguish between arousing and affirming touch, there needs to be Communication (part 5 of this series). Spouses need to be able to lovingly approach the “when you touch me like that...” conversation. Failure to do so can lead to disappointment, anger and frustration if one spouse expects to have sex based on physical contact and the other sees it simply as an affirming and loving gesture. I have seen this failure to communicate between affirming and arousing touch lead to resentment.
Physical touch is essential to being. I think one thing the pandemic did for many was highlight how essential the incarnate aspect of humanity is. How often did we long to hug or be with someone in person rather than just on a computer screen? Marriages need that incarnate aspect outside of sex too. This is why the “P” in SPICE is so essential. As you are learning the Creighton Model System, be sure to incorporate a lot of affirming touch!