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Ben Nadel at cf.Objective() 2017 (Washington, D.C.) with: Susan Brun
Ben Nadel at cf.Objective() 2017 (Washington, D.C.) with: Susan Brun ( @sbrun9 )

Holding Hands, The Moment, And The Relationship

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One of the very few times that I have ever lost my calm demeanor was with a woman who refused to hold my hand. Well, she didn't refuse to hold my hand exactly - she refused to hold it "appropriately"; she did one of those open-finger, "I'm gonna let you do all the work," kind of hand-holds. And I wasn't about to have any of it. I tossed her hand away and said something to the effect of, "If you don't want to hold my hand, you don't have to; but don't you dare half-ass it." There's obviously some back-story here that I'm not sharing; but, what got me so upset was the fact that this woman allowed the "moment" to alter our "relationship" in a way that I felt was completely inappropriate.

When it comes to relationships, I see them as existing in two mostly separate modes: the Moment and the Relationship. The "Relationship" is the living collection of agreements that we (she and I) have made about what we want our relationship to be like. For example, holding hands, sleeping in the same bed, and saying, "I love you," before getting off the phone are all activities that we use to define what our core relationship is like. These activities define who we are and how we feel about the other person at the most fundamental, core level.

The "Moment", on the other hand, is the turbulent hodgepodge of ups and downs that we experience on a daily basis. These moments are marked by fleeting feelings of love, trust, hope, anger, happiness, jealousy, etc. that live above the foundational layer of our relationship. Over time, the aggregation of these moments can, and should influence how you feel about your loved one at that foundational level; but, with the rare exception, I don't see any reason why any single moment should change the way you feel about a relationship at its core.

Because these two aspects of a relationship exist in parallel, to me, it makes sense that fluctuations in the momentary experience should leave the core experience unaltered. So for example, even if I was angry with my loved one, I would still hold her hand, I would still sleep in our bed, and I would still say, "I love you," at the end of a phone call. These three gestures demonstrate how I feel about her at a fundamental level and no momentary experience is going to change that.

To allow the momentary to change the fundamental is to make an extremely profound statement - one that should be done with much caution. Of course, statements are only as strong as one allows them to be. After getting into Tara Parker-Pope's book, "For Better: The Science Of A Good Marriage," the impact of our actions is influenced heavily by the love styles of those we care about. The view that I have expressed above might be considered one of a "Logical" love style; however, if I my loved one does not have logical love style tendencies, she might not care to hold my hand while angry nor appreciate that I want to hold hers.

As an interesting aside, the For Better book explains that hand holding actually has a measurable impact of the body's physiology. Holding a loved one's hand actually quiets the parts of the brain that deal with stress and pain, acting along the same pathways that an analgesic (pain killer) would. How amazing is that! When you are with your lover, you actually feel less pain. I'm sorry - the human body just blows my mind.

Reader Comments



Thanks. I like to touch on non-ColdFusion topics occasionally :) Plus, my knee hurts; and when my knee hurts, it just makes me more emotional.


You sure it wasn't just that you have huge hands and it hurt for her to spread her fingers that far apart? I had a buddy in school whose older bro had sausage thick fingers (ended up playing catcher for the Milwaukee Brewers til he got injured or something) and I remember his girlfriend was this tiny little thing with very delicate hands... I always thought "sheesh, how does she even hold his hand without it hurting?"


This statement is very true: "...hand holding actually has a measurable impact of the body's physiology...."

Having someone physically close to you that you have feeling for allows us to feel at ease and protected. This in turn calms the mind and reduces stress.



Ha ha, I knew that wearing this ninja suit day-in and day-out would finally pay off!


It's pretty awesome. Using fMRI machines, they can actually view the brain activity during hand holding to see what parts of the brain respond to physical touch. The since is really amazing.


Wow, man. I lurk 99% of the time via my rss reader, but I just had to come out and say this was a great post. I love how your brain works.


Is she gonna read this?? And if she does, how do you think she'll take your blogging it? (just curious) and what is your thought on blogging real-life relationship events? (traditionally I've understood that people take it as taboo?)


Interesting! I didn't know about the effect that occurs through holding hands.

I'm one of those people with small hands with not a lot of fat, so it can be painful if my hand is squeezed too hard (can't tell you how many times I've felt like being crushed to death when shaking hands). But my hubby and I do hold hands - it makes me feel safe and that someone cares for me and is watching out for me especially when we're in an area with lots of traffic (I'm deaf and wear hearing aids, so I don't always hear when a car is coming close by or a group of people walking up behind us).

Sounds like the woman (I assume you're no longer with her) had control issues.


For a slightly different take on hand-holding, one of my greatest joys in life is that my kids- who are now 15 and 17 (a boy and a girl)- will still spontaneously hold hands with each other, even in public. We're a very physically affectionate family all around (my parents, who have been married 50 years, never walk w/out holding hands), but the fact that K & M still like to hang onto each other is just nifty. :)


While I see some validity in your point of view, mine differs slightly in how I see relationships. Relationships are 'inclusive' of the moments shared between people, not exclusive or separate. Our lives are comprised of a series of 'moments' and our relationships often reflect how we act/react to these moments ... and with that said, taking your 'moment' out of context really isn't fair. As you already stated, you left out some 'back story' ... so if this back story is really another collection of moments ... you see where I'm going with this right?

I've heard that marriages that end in divorce are often over 2 years before it actually happens, and I think there's something to that. With only a few exceptions, most relationships rarely end because of just one particular moment ... although it's usually the final moment that we remember the most (the last straw so to speak) ... however, it's usually not the ONLY reason (again, with few exceptions).

Anyway, thanks for sharing yet another story from the 'Heart of Ben' ... it's always nice to share in these moments with you. ;)




Ha ha, thanks my man :)


This event happened many years ago with someone I don't much speak to any more (feel free to hold that information in the context of this conversation in any way you like). I don't think this blog post will ever cross their path.

Typically, when I talk about how I think, I don't like to bring other people into it. But, this was a rare case in which I felt the context might lend value to the conversation.


No, no longer together. This was years ago.


I think perhaps I chose poorly for the names of the stuff I was defining. I also see these moments as inclusive rather than exclusive and as things that should be reflective of how you feel about the other person. I also feel that these moments, over time, absolutely change the way you feel about a person as a whole. Like you said, you might remember "the straw" that broke the camels back; but that was only the last event in a series of events.

All I meant to say is that I don't think that any particular moment should outweigh (with a few exceptions) the base, fundamental feelings you have for someone.

Perhaps the example of hand-holding is not the most easily relatable one. Take, as another example, sleeping in the same bed. The way I see a relationship, no matter what kind of fight I got into, I would never go sleep on the couch.


That makes sense... somehow when I read this, I didn't clue in that this was over and done with. Context.. its everything sometimes lol.



Context is always helpful. After this "episode", we actually were together probably for another year and half and broke up on totally unrelated issues.


@Ben- You *do* have a habit of hanging onto things you should have gotten rid of ages ago, don't you?!*coughshortswithholesinembarrassingplacescough* ;)


@Ben and all,

The Five Love Languages come to mind. Trust me, reading the ToC will save you time:

1 Words of Affirmation
2 Quality Time
3 Receiving Gifts
4 Acts of Service
5 Physical Touch



I'm looking forward to it - already have it in my reading queue. Trying currently to get through "Total Leadership", but it's not holding my attention. I'm thinking of skipping over it.



No! Don't waste the time! You can get what you need from the ToC! That's the book in a nutshell, and you can fill in the blanks. In other words, if you do find yourself reading it, skim it fast.



Oh, I misunderstood what you meant - I thought you meant by just reading the ToC, I'll see how good the rest of the book will be :) I'll give it a quick skim, see if it looks promising.


I hate beating a dead dog, but it relates. :-) When I read this post, it reminded me of, once again, "7 Habits of a High Effective (or Successful) Person". (sorry to bring it up again). In the book, it talks about this very thing...and the collective influence many of these "moments" put together have on a relationship. I guess one point here that I don't think has been made which is made in the book is that while there are these moments, there are also "countermoments", I am going to call them. It is possible for things that are bad to happen, but things also that are good on the other end of the spectrum to happen that balance the bad things out. An example would be if you were one of those people who, as a pet peeve, hated someone being late. And the person you dated ended up being late for something, but then later made it up with something that was just as good as what they did was bad, sometimes it has a balancing effect on the relationship.

The book puts it a lot better than I can, but speaks of an "emotional bank account". When you have a moment with someone that takes a toll on you, it "negatively" affects your "balance"...that's making a withdrawal. On the other hand, they do something fabulous for you, that's a deposit. At the end of the day, the end of every day, your bank account should be should be even or in the positive. Over time, it should stay in the positive overall. If you have people in your life where your bank account is in the negative, you should limit your time with those people, if you can. On the other hand, if you can, increasing your time with people with which you have that bank account in the positive is a very good thing, indeed. :-) And, this applies, too, to relationships between family members, colleagues, friends, and just about any other relationship you can think of, including, of course, your significant other. I can't tell you how much understanding this concept helped me to grasp and put perspective on the relationship with my mother!!! There are other relationships that this has helped me put in the proper perspective as well. Anyway, just a little food for thought.

in regards to the comment about appropriate material for a blog: I thought, even if it were someone you were currently with or had just ended it with, that you approached the topic in a completely professional manner, and that's what I think is important. I think when it becomes in appropriate is when you are insulting and disrespecting the other person.

In regards to the human body: amazing...I agree! I studied hypnosis as a method of pain control, and it is truly amazing. I knew of a guy who had his leg sawed off with no pain numbing medication...using only hypnosis. And he didn't make a peep. I have witnessed other people going through similar pain without hardly a sound or showing of pain while undergoing hypnosis. Truly amazing.


The very lowest form of communication between two people is verbal. After a long enough time together to be able to call what you have a "relationship", you should know each other's hearts. Once you have that, the nonsense that we say to each other is inconsequential (unless, of course it is abusive, which should go without saying).
I often tell my couples who come to me either for counseling or pre-nuptials, to not expect to "feel" in love consistently. There are days, and then there are days.... :)
Love is not a feeling, nor an emotion; it is a decision that we make every day of our lives.
The things that bind us together are not the daily verbal exchanges, or even the hand-holding for that matter, but those things that make us feel that we are actually sharing another person's life, and he/she is sharing ours.
As for the physiology? Absolutely! That's why people who live in happy "couple-dom" have lower blood pressure, lower cholesterol levels, higher elevations of endorphins, selenium, and all those neurotransmitters that keep us vital, stable, and alive.

I believe in love. I believe in compassion. I believe in human rights. I believe that we can afford to give more of these gifts to the world around us because it costs us nothing to be decent and kind and understanding. And, I want you to know that when you land on this site, you are accepted for who you are, no matter how you identify, what truths you live, or whatever kind of goofy shit makes you feel alive! Rock on with your bad self!
Ben Nadel