Mark pulled wearily into his driveway, looking up at the small house he called home with his husband, Connor. It had been a draining day, physically, mentally and emotionally. When he entered the house, he dropped his gray messenger bag in the hall closet—a thoughtful gift from Connor on his last birthday—kicked off his shoes, and felt his shoulders relax a little at just the familiar comfort of being home.
The gentle noises of shuffling feet and squeaking floorboards sounded above his head, letting him know that Connor was home as well. He climbed the stairs to the second floor, and in the entrance of their bedroom smiled as he saw a bare-chested Connor pull on a pair of comfortable-looking black jeans. His husband’s back was to him, so Connor was unaware of Mark’s presence until the older man wrapped his arms around him and hugged him from behind.
Connor stiffened in surprise for just a moment, then relaxed back into the familiar feel of Mark’s arms. “Hey, babe. Just get home?”
Mark sighed tiredly and nuzzled the back of Connor’s neck. “Yeah.”
Connor turned in his arms and gave him a strong hug. “You sound tired.”
“Rough day,” Mark admitted.
Connor’s face expressed apologetic amusement. “Does that mean I shouldn’t remind you that Grant and JD are coming over tonight?”
Mark dropped his head onto Connor’s shoulder. “Ugh, I forgot.”
“If you really want to, we can reschedule,” Connor offered.
With a sigh, Mark stepped out of his partner’s embrace and shook his head. “No, I don’t want to do that to them. If you can start supper, I’ll shower and change before coming to help.”
“It’s already started. The chicken is in the oven and you made the sauce last night, remember? Noodles, salad and bread are all that’s left and they won’t take long.”
Mark had pulled off his shirt, now matching Connor as they both wore pants, but faced each other shirtless. He replaced his arms around his smaller partner and pressed a kiss to his lips. “Thanks Connor-love.”
“You’re welcome. Go get in the shower. They’ll be here at seven.”
Grant Isaacs and JD Martin pulled up in front of Mark and Connor’s home a few minutes before seven. They were fairly recent friends with the other couple, only having gotten acquainted about three months previously, but they’d already developed a level of trust with them.
Grant looked toward his partner, taking in JD’s appearance. Well-fitting jeans, a snug t-shirt, and a black leather jacket bedecked the man’s well-toned body. His sandy blonde hair was thick and messily styled. He appeared to be the epitome of cool, but one bouncing leg and the neutral expression on his normally animated face revealed that he had some nerves about the coming evening.
Honestly, Grant had some nerves as well. Their dinner with the other two men wasn’t just friends getting together for an evening. Mark and Connor were a couple who were more experienced in a lot of things that he and JD were trying to figure out and form a foundation for, and after an awkward encounter a few weeks previously, Mark had emailed them and offered dinner and an evening to speak openly but in promised confidence if they wanted to ask some questions.
It took three days of he and JD tiptoeing around talking about what they actually wanted to do with that invitation before finally admitting they desired to take the chance and accepted the offer.
Now, however, Grant thought they might both be having second thoughts. He reached across the console and pressed his hand on JD’s bouncing knee. “Hey, it’s going to be alright,” he tried to reassure for both of them.
JD looked toward him and pulled what Grant thought of as his ‘cool mask’ into place. His mouth tipped up, not in a smirk, but more with this grin that looked real but was very fake in Grant’s opinion. His eyes widened in a welcoming way that those who didn’t know him adored, but which Grant always felt was a protective wall getting put into place. JD’s charm was his shield.
“Of course it’s going to be alright. It’s just dinner and some table talk.”
“We don’t have to talk about anything you don’t want,” Grant insisted, something he’d been saying for days.
JD rolled his eyes. “I’m fine, Grant. Come on. They’re waiting for us.”
Not really knowing if he should or could push JD to admit to any nerves, Grant simply nodded and they exited the car, heading side-by-side but without touching to the other couple’s front door.
Mark and Connor looked to each other when the doorbell rang. They weren’t quite sure what they were getting into for that evening either, and knew they would be discussing some things that were normally entirely private to them, but they had conferred with one another about what they were and weren’t willing to share with the younger couple, and planned to respect any boundaries anyone put up that evening.
Mark reached out and squeezed Connor’s hand a moment before going to answer the door. He invited their friends in, offering to take coats, and then hanging them up in the closet before leading them into the kitchen.
Connor was pouring glasses of water at the four set places around the table, but he set the pitcher in his hand down and shook both their guests’ hands before returning to his task.
“We’re pretty much ready,” Mark told them. “You have great timing. I’ll just get the garlic bread out of the oven and we’ll be set. I hope you like chicken parmesan.”
“Love it,” Grant assured, while JD said, “Sounds great!”.
Dinner started off with a bit of stilted conversation, but soon the four of them found their rhythm and they enjoyed pleasant talk of jobs, tv shows, and a new restaurant they all wanted to try.
They were at a comfortable juncture when the meal was done and all agreed that they were ready for coffee, but dessert could wait awhile.
They relocated to the living room with their steaming mugs, Mark and Connor claiming the loveseat while Grant and JD took the larger sofa. There was about fifteen seconds of uneasy silence then, before Mark felt it was his duty to broach topic and provide their guests with an opening.
“I think we all know that a key reason for getting together tonight was to talk about an aspect of the relationship Connor and I share, and that it seems the two of you are considering for yours. If you’ve changed your mind about discussing it, that’s fine, but if you haven’t then maybe now is a good time to talk.”
He reached for Connor’s hand and twined their fingers together as they both gazed with open expressions at their guests.
Grant automatically looked to JD, checking to see if he had anything to say. His partner appeared to be leaning comfortably into the sofa cushions without a care, but the mild flush of his cheeks and brief shrug told Grant that JD didn’t want to be the first to say anything.
Clasping his hands between his knees, Grant made himself look Mark in the eye. One side of his lips tipped up in a half smile/half grimace expression.
“You’re right,” he started nervously, and then cleared his throat to shake off the discomfort that he felt was much too obvious. “We do appreciate you being willing to share with us. We don’t really know…anyone…who seems even aware of this type of thing, much less practices it. We’re kind of struggling to really figure it out.”
He faded off after that, not really sure what direction to go in.
Mark nodded at him, his expression empathetic. “Believe me, Grant. We’ve been there. Maybe it will help to just lay our cards on the table.” After a brief pause he continued. “Connor and I have a good relationship, a strong one. We love each other. We help one another. We fight and argue and compromise, and we also practice discipline.” He looked toward Connor, who had a blush like JD’s on his cheeks appearing, and Grant carefully observed the way Mark squeezed his husband’s hand in reassurance before continuing. “I think it’s safe to say that that discipline is one of the foundation stones of our strong relationship, but it’s also intimate and private and can be a little uncomfortable to talk about because most people don’t really understand it.”
Grant’s chuckle was a bit forced and self-conscious. “Yeah,” he agreed.
“Connor and I are under the impression that the two of you are looking to have discipline as a part of your relationship as well.”
Grant again looked to JD, but his partner wasn’t making eye contact with anyone, and his leg had started to bounce again.
“We are,” Grant finally replied, but even he heard a bit of a question in his tone. “I mean we’re trying, but it kind of seems to make things worse instead of better sometimes, and I think I’m just screwing things up and confusing JD a lot,” he admitted.
That quiet confession did bring JD’s eyes up to his. The younger man looked surprised at the words, but then he seemed to make a decision, swallowed nervously, and opened his mouth to add to the conversation.
“No, Grant. You’re not the one confusing me. I think you’ve worked really hard to be clear…but, I am confused.”
Grant shook his head. “I don’t understand.”
JD ran a hand through his hair. “I’m confused about…who I am,” he said roughly. “And about what all this is supposed to look like, or be, or…something.”
That explanation didn’t help Grant at all, but Connor seemed to grasp JD’s frustration.
“You’re confused because everything outside of you says you shouldn’t want what you do, but inside you crave the things a discipline relationship says it can offer like stability, safety, and a very deep level of trust in another person.”
JD’s head jerked toward Connor in surprise, his eyes wide before his head bobbed in a nod. “Yes, that’s it exactly.”
Connor nodded in return. “I know that feeling. I take it you, like me, lean toward the submissive side of the relationship, and you’re struggling to accept that as a good and right thing for you.”
JD crossed his arms and leaned back into the sofa, looking like a conflicted movie star in both pose and expression. “It’s not…manly.”
“Yeah,” Connor stated with a rather awkward chuckle. “I’ve had those words in my head too.” He looked directly, but with compassion, at JD. “Whose voice do you hear saying that? I’m 99% certain that it’s not your own.”
JD shrugged, but Grant knew the answer to that question as soon as it was asked. “You hear your mom and dad saying that, don’t you?” he asked with quiet sensitivity.
A sigh from his partner was the only response, but for Grant that was still a confirmation. He turned to their two hosts, feeling like he should explain a little.
“JD and I have a…shaky…relationship with his parents. They aren’t cruel, but they don’t really approve of us. It’s not exactly for the reasons most people would guess though.” He looked to JD for permission to keep going, and got it with a barely-there head nod. “JD’s parents have always been involved in the film industry; not as top-billing actors, but with minor parts, or as personal assistants, and occasionally as secondary producers. They have movie star images in their heads for what roles men and women should be. Women are delicate, graceful and beautiful, like Marilyn Monroe and Audrey Hepburn. Men are strong and unbending and powerful, like John Wayne and Sam Elliot and Clint Eastwood.”
“And James Dean,” JD said under his breath.
Mark and Connor looked from him and back to me, and Grant knew they were starting to make a connection, so he nodded as he verified their thoughts. “JD is named for one of his parents’ favorite movie stars.”
“JD…James Dean,” Mark said with a surprised smile. “You actually look like him now that I think about it.”
“James Dean…Martin!” Connor followed up on his husband’s statement, and Grant felt more than saw JD flinch when his last name was added in.
“James Dean Martin,” Grant confirmed.
“You can see why I go by JD,” his partner stated.
“All that to say,” Grant continued, “His parents tend to insinuate that real men, such as they perceive JD’s namesake, aren’t gay, so they can’t accept that he is. There’s also the belief that I’m not good enough for him as well, because I don’t fit their mold of a manly man either.” He turned and faced his partner. “I would assume that you feel they really wouldn’t appreciate the idea of discipline or submission in a relationship, especially to me, and that bothers you a lot too.”
JD ran a hand through his hair, ruffling the locks which still fell back into a perfect and attractive mess. “It shouldn’t bother me.”
Connor shook his head. “No, JD. It’s ok that it bothers you, but there are two things you do need to consider.” Both JD and Grant gave Connor their attention. “One is that there is no reason why your parents have to know about the intimacies of your and Grant’s relationship. My parents certainly don’t, and neither do Mark’s. So what they would think about it doesn’t need to be relevant. The other is that you need to decide for yourself if a discipline relationship is what you truly want, or do you feel better and safer following societal norms?”
Grant watched surprise, resignation, and uncertainty flow through JD’s eyes, and he felt a little saddened and defeated to see those emotions. But then JD’s cheekbones became more defined as his expression morphed to one of determination and acceptance. He didn’t actually voice his decision, but his next words brought hope to Grant.
“How did you two figure out what you were doing and what worked for you?” JD questioned.
Mark and Connor both smiled a bit wider, and the four of them all relaxed a little more into their seats.
“Trial and error,” Mark then said, responding to JD’s question. “And there was a lot of error on my part in the beginning. I still feel guilty about some things even though it was so long ago and Connor has graciously forgiven me.”
Connor put an arm around Mark’s shoulder and hugged him. “Always, and it wasn’t as awful as you think it was.”
Mark turned his head to kiss Mark’s cheek, but then gave his attention to Grant. “I’m the authority in our relationship when it comes down to needing one of us to pull rank, and it’s a lot of responsibility that I floundered with at first. I take it you’re also the one the two of you have decided should have the final say-so?”
Grant nodded. “That is one thing JD and I have discussed quite a lot between us. We’re both struggling to figure out the details of how to make it work. Do I always have the ultimate authority? Does JD have to gain permission for everything? We agree that he’d rather not be the primary decision-maker, and I prefer to have a little more control in what goes on, but we’re confused if there can and should be a balance. It feels elusive.”
Mark hummed a noise of understanding. “At least you are asking the right questions and talking about it. In that sense at least, you’re starting off better than Connor and I did.”
“How so?” Grant asked.
A sad smile graced Mark’s mouth. “Well, Connor and I didn’t discuss roles or desires when it came to authority and submission outside of the bedroom at first, and we’d been together for almost two years before discipline really started, but about a month before we did sit down and talk it out, we went through a bad patch that almost separated us.”
Grant and JD both gaped at the two clearly in love and established men before them. “What happened?” Grant asked.
“It was a build up of things for both of us,” Mark explained. “Little things that became a huge, messy big thing. One day we ended up in an ugly mess because of how I handled a situation. Connor hadn’t gotten home from work yet one evening. He was over three hours late and I’d been worried sick. I couldn’t reach him on his cell…”
“My battery had died,” Connor interrupted.
“I couldn’t reach him at work…”
“I was in a teleconference.”
“And when I drove to his work in a panic, he wasn’t there.”
Connor looked rueful. “He came after I finally left and I ended up running out of gas at the side of the road because I wasn’t paying attention to the gauge.”
“I was so scared I was almost in tears when I left his work,” Mark stated, “and then I saw him walking along the road in the dark as I drove home. I almost hit him. I was so relieved and so angry and so frustrated at feeling no control over the stress of the night that when I pulled over I ended up hugging him, yelling at him without letting him explain, and then bending him over my knee at the side of the road and walloping his backside.”
Mark looked a little pale after that confession, while Connor’s cheeks had gone a deeper red.
“I still say that I did deserve that spanking, although I went from cursing him to crying while it was happening,” Connor told them.
Mark shook his head. “Deserved or not, I didn’t have Connor’s consent to do that, and that is the number one thing that should be established between a couple in this type of relationship.”
Connor nodded his agreement. “Mark’s right. I was really upset after that spanking, but I eventually realized that it wasn’t because he spanked me, it was because we didn’t talk about it—before or after it happened.”
“You didn’t talk about it afterward?” Grant repeated in surprise.
Both hosts shook their heads. “I felt horribly guilty about what I’d done,” Mark admitted. “I could hardly look at Connor for days, much less talk to him.”
“And I felt that I’d screwed up so badly that he couldn’t stand my presence,” Connor added. “We didn’t know what to do, and while we gradually began surface level talk again, the distance between us kept getting wider.”
There was a minute of silence before JD, his voice almost desperate, asked, “How did you fix it?”
Grant noticed Connor’s grip on Mark’s hand tighten before he answered. “I came home from work and Mark was packing his clothes.”
Instead of squeezing his hand back, Mark put both arms around his husband, pulling him as close as possible without actually putting the other man on his lap. “I felt so awful about what I’d done that I was certain it was unforgivable, and with the distance between us, I thought that Connor probably wanted me gone but didn’t know how to say it.”
“Instead, when I saw his bags, I ended up just sitting down in the hall and starting to cry,” Connor told them.
“That wasn’t all he did,” Mark continued the story. “He kept saying ‘I’m sorry! I’m sorry’, over and over again. I had no idea what he was sorry for, and I just felt worse because I just knew his misery was all my fault.”
“To make a long story short, Mark sat down next to me and hugged me, and started telling me how sorry he was. I didn’t understand what he meant either, but we finally started talking everything out, and we got to an understanding that we didn’t actually want to break up, but we didn’t know where to go from there.”
There was a pause and Grant leaned forward a little in his seat. “So how did agreed-upon discipline actually start? How did you figure out what to do?”
“We kept talking about things for another week,” Mark explained. “Initially it was a lot of things that were bothering us about one another—pet peeves, misunderstandings, etc. Then we moved into what we wanted for the future, both from our relationship and our own personal goals and desires. At that point it was a matter of figuring out how to support one another and maintain our relationship.”
Connor nodded. “I was actually the one to first prod us toward defining our relationship roles and what it would mean to fulfill them. I wanted and needed someone who could help me prioritize and balance my life and commitments. I tend to feel like everything in my life should be a number one priority, but that’s an impossible way to live and Mark admitted that my tendency to overcommit to other things sometimes left him feeling like he wasn’t one of my priorities.”
Nodding, Mark continued with Connor’s point. “I was hurt because I often felt dispensable when other things came up, but I was hurting Connor by not stepping in when he was clearly stressed and overwhelmed. He thought I wasn’t caring about his struggles, that I was just ignoring them, and ultimately him, by doing nothing.” Mark paused to kiss Connor’s temple. “Once we voiced those issues and came to an understanding of one another’s points of view, we were able to discuss solutions.”
“And you settled on a discipline relationship?” Grant asked.
“Not immediately,” Mark told them. “Initially we wrote out the areas or types of support we wanted from each other, and that led to a mutual agreement that I would assume control—even demand it—when Connor or I felt his priorities or stressors were getting out of hand.”
“Eventually though, we realized that wasn’t enough,” Connor put in. “I’m very good at arguing for what I want, even when it’s not the best choice, and sometimes I’ll admit that I manipulated Mark with my contentions. For a brief time, we started to argue more instead of less, because I wasn’t used letting someone else manage my life and initially I resented him trying to do that; although, I also resented it when I’d ‘win’ our fights and wouldn’t let him take control of the things stressing me out.” Ruefully, Connor shook his head. “I was a mess, and still very unhappy and confused. I just didn’t really know how to let go on my own.
“Then one day I was at a gas station, filling up my tank, and at the spot across from me I saw a mother and little boy. The child was yelling from the car that he wanted to work the gas pump and the mother told him ‘Absolutely not’. The boy continued to yell, and then got out of the car and tried to take the hose from his mom. When she held onto it, he fought with her more, even though she kept telling him it was dangerous and to get back in the car. In my head I thought that the kid needed some firm discipline in his life to make him obey, and it was like a switch flipped in my head. I realized that I was arguing and fighting with Mark in much the same way, even though I knew he had my best interests in mind. I also remembered the spanking he’d given me at the side of the road several weeks earlier, and even though it had embarrassed and angered me, it also had driven home that he cared and had been worried about me; and that I really needed to let him know when my scheduled veered away from the norm.
“So.” Connor took a deep breath. “When I got home, I started searching for information. I googled things like ‘adult discipline’, ‘household dynamics’, ‘authority in same sex couples’, etc. Some sites took me to rather…interesting…links.”
“Porn,” Mark said with a laugh.
Connor chuckled, his face heating again. “Yeah, there was quite a bit of that, but I was also led to sites and articles that were helpful. Some topics, like the BDSM world and dominant/submissive slavery type things were definitely not what I was looking for, but I read some articles about discipline within a domestic household and things like having a Head of House and established rules and consequences. I’ll admit, some of the things I read seemed really old-fashioned and not quite what I wanted from Mark, but the majority of what I read made sense and I started to wonder if maybe Mark and I could implement it in our life together, just modify it to suit our needs.”
“And we found that is vitally important,” Mark interrupted. “There’s no one-size-fits-all mold. Each relationship is unique to the people who share in it, and a discipline relationship should be modified to fit that particular relationship…no one else’s.”
Grant took that bit of advice to heart while Connor picked up from where Mark had interrupted him.
“Yes, you need to do what works for you,” he agreed. “Anyway, I printed off a couple of the more helpful articles and then waited for Mark to get home.” He chuckled a little, and both Grant and JD thought it sounded like he was laughing a bit at himself. “I was really nervous to bring this up to Mark. I worried he’d think I wanted something totally weird or that he would be repulsed by this suggestion. At the same time, I worried he’d think it was a great idea and that I’d end up getting walloped quite a bit more than I actually wanted to.”
Before Grant could say anything, JD spoke up with the exact question in Grant’s head. “Did you actually want to get…walloped?”
“Well, no,” Connor laughed. “But I wanted the security that I felt just from reading about these type of relationships. It felt like…” Connor paused as he considered his words. “If you don’t mind a bit of a metaphor; it felt like for a long time Mark and I were living in a tent. We were happy together, and our shelter protected us from a bit of rain and wind, but we couldn’t live there forever. A bad storm could blow our safety away, and that left me insecure. Introducing discipline into our lives was like starting to build a solid house, and once that house was built we’d have the strength of wood, bricks, and steel to protect our relationship. Does that make sense?”
The three other men in the room all nodded. JD spoke softly from his seat on the couch. “It makes a lot of sense. I feel like Grant and I have been getting hit with a lot of ‘storms’, but we haven’t figured out how to withstand them yet.”
Grant looked saddened by that. “I hate that JD feels like that, and that’s what we’re trying to fix, but it hasn’t happened yet.”
Mark nodded. “It’s hard when we can’t fix things quickly, especially when you feel like the primary one responsible, isn’t it?”
Grant agreed readily. “I feel like a failure sometimes.”
“Grant! You’re not!” JD spoke abruptly, his hand gripping at Grant’s arm. “How can you think that when I’m the one who’s always screwing up?”
Grant started to reply, but Mark interjected before he could speak. “JD, I’ll tell you what I know Grant is thinking. You are not always screwing up. The back and forth of blaming yourselves or each other is an easy trap to fall into, and it doesn’t go anywhere. You both have different but valid perspectives on your struggles, and you both have responsibility. When you have time alone, you should talk to each other about ways you’re feeling guilty or like you’re failing, hear one another out, but don’t fall into the habit of casting or claiming blame, ok?”
A little startled, both men offered slow nods as Mark’s words sank in.
“Good,” Mark said with a gentle smile. “Now, I think you both were basically agreeing that you want to build a sturdy ‘house’, but weren’t sure how to lay the foundation, right?”
“Yeah, that’s a good way to put it,” Grant agreed.
“Then we’d like to offer you…well, if we’re sticking with the metaphor Connor gave, we’d like to give you a tentative blueprint,” Mark offered. He reached for a folder on the coffee table and handed it to Mark. “Inside that are some of the things Connor and I wrote down and worked on when we started moving in this direction.”
JD leaned in closer to Grant’s side and they both looked at the pages within the folder as Grant opened it. Each sheet had been typed and printed. The top one said “Goals” and had bullet points down it.
“That’s a combined list of the personal goals we each had,” Connor explained. “The other pages are copies of the articles I had Mark read when I first brought up discipline, and the last couple pages are…um…some of the rules and consequences we initially started with.”
The blush had creeped back up Connor’s neck and cheeks at that admittance, but he didn’t seem against offering the information.
Grant slowly flipped through the pages, with JD skimming each sheet with him.
“I don’t know what to say. I really appreciate this,” Grant acknowledged.
JD was appreciative too, but his focus was on something else entirely. “You had a curfew!” he exclaimed as he read over the “Rules” from Mark and Connor’s initial foray into discipline.
“JD!” Grant scolded.
The younger man grimaced as he realized his behavior. “Oh…sorry.”
“It’s ok,” Connor assured. “And to answer your question, I didn’t exactly have a curfew. Mark just wanted me to let him know if my work schedule changed, or if I was going to be out at night later than ten pm.”
“And I also called Connor and gave him the same curtesy if my schedule changed,” Mark added.
“But, according to this, you could tell Connor if he had to come home,” JD stated as his eyes continued to stare at the paper in his hand.
Mark nodded. “Yes, that’s one of the rules we agreed to between us. Remember, JD, that Connor had—has—equal input into the way we do our relationship. He agreed to that standard and to the consequence of not abiding by it. Also remember that how we did things or do things currently doesn’t mean you and Grant have to do it the same way. What we’ve given you is just a guideline to help the two of you establish a foundation for yourselves, ok?”
JD relaxed somewhat and smiled. “Yeah, thanks.”
“If you want to talk more or have questions, you can, but maybe now would be a good time to have dessert and talk on less intense subjects,” Mark offered.
Everyone nodded at that, and the rest of the evening passed pleasantly.
Later, after Grant and JD had said good-night and headed home, Connor was filling the dishwasher while Mark brought in the empty coffee mugs from the living room. He set the cups on the counter, and then pressed into Connor’s back and hugged him from behind. Connor stopped his chore and leaned back into his partner.
“Now that we’re alone for the night, why don’t you tell me what had you so stressed out when you came home today?”
Mark sighed and didn’t deny his earlier tension. “It was a rough day at work,” he admitted.
Connor turned in his arms, hopped up onto the counter, and put both his arms and legs around his husband. “What happened?” he asked once he had Mark enveloped within his hold.
Mark pecked his lips, and then put his own arms around Connor and gave in to a full-bodied hug. “A lot of things happened, but what bugged me so much was an incident with Don Ensen and Principal Broomer.” He sighed before continuing. “Our culture is really messed up, ya know? Broomer approached Don because Don had apparently hugged one of the students. Her little brother has been diagnosed with leukemia and she was upset and crying. He was just trying to comfort her, Connor, and he got called to the carpet for ‘inappropriate conduct’.” He pulled back a little, but his face was sad. “Don would never be inappropriate with a student, and I personally believe that there is nothing wrong with hugs. People need hugs. I remember in college reading an article that physical touch is a need for most people, and that most of us need an average of twelve positive touches a day—hugs, pats on the back, etc.—to maintain good emotional health. It also said that the majority of people are touch-deprived. And no wonder! We’re not allowed to touch one another anymore. Everyone read perversion into friendly, caring touches. I just…” he sighed again. “I just feel bad for Don and for that student, and for everyone who can’t see the difference between getting a hug and getting molested. It just makes me wonder at the culture we live in.”
In response, Connor pulled Mark into a gripping embrace. “It is messed up, hon, but I’ll always trust your touch.”
They held each other like that for several minutes before pulling apart. In silence they finished cleaning the kitchen, and then moved upstairs to hold one another on their bed and watch a movie. Both carried their thoughts with them. Mark considered the events of the day and hoped his fellow teacher was having a better night. Connor’s thoughts drifted from Mark’s comments about his stressful day to their evening with Grant and JD. He realized then that he rarely saw the other couple touch throughout the evening. No hugs or hand-holding. Just the occasional tap on the arm or pat on the back. He wondered about that, and realized that he and Mark hadn’t addressed an important aspect of their relationship with the other men—comfort and aftercare. It was an oversight, but not one that could be ignored. Resolving the next day to call JD and bring up the matter, he settled more securely into Mark’s side, thinking how he was glad that he could touch his own husband freely.