He did it more than any other that I've dated. Perhaps because the situation just lent itself to it more often, but I think in part, because he knew it meant the world to me.
It was a simple gesture, one that might get overlooked after years in a relationship, but it always caught me off-guard; not the gesture itself, but the way it made me feel. He would come up behind me and wrap his arms around me and just stand there, holding me, without saying a word. I remember it most often as I was in the kitchen cooking, but he would do it while we waited on a table at a restaurant, too. The moment I felt his arms around me, I always had to stop whatever it was that I was doing. The emotion it caused in me was so strong, I wanted to savor it, to relish it, to close my eyes and take it all in. I would lean my head back against him and exhale.
He never said a word.
He didn't need to. I could hear him loud and clear. There wasn't a bone in my body that didn't understand his message, that didn't understand his intention.
"I've got you," the embrace said. "Go ahead and fall."
It's no simple or common thing to feel that safe. There aren't many times in my life that I have felt that secure with someone else. But in that moment, if only sometimes in that moment, I felt safer than I ever had. I could exhale. Truly. I could stand and feel arms around me - arms willing to hold me up, if need be. To hold me tight, to hold me back, to just hold. In that enclosure, I felt free.
It wasn't just a promise of security from being alone. It wasn't just something that said, "I'm here." It was a moment that told me that I didn't have to take care of it all. I didn't have to be everything. "I've got you," meant he had whatever it was that I might need. If that was nothing more than a hug, he was there. If that meant I needed someone to make some serious decisions with me, he was there.
I've thought about that a lot recently; maybe just because it doesn't happen anymore. But I have come to realize that the embrace was a far different experience for him. There's no real way in that sort of embrace for me to have wrapped my arms similarly around him. Even if I tried to replicate it, our size difference would have made it an awkward experience instead of an enveloping one. For him, perhaps, it filled the masculine desire to provide, to give safety, to give security, to give strength. Perhaps just my head falling back against him was enough for him to feel as cared for. I'll never really know.
But of the things I miss most about being in a serious relationship, this is high on the list.