What's The Big Deal With Sex? Expressing Love Through Touch
Physical touch can either make or break a relationship. It can communicate hate or love, acceptance or rejection. With children, physical contact is vital to nurturing. Research shows that babies who are held, hugged, and kissed develop better emotionally. In times of crisis, hugging communicates empathy and support. At work, a hand shake communicates a friendly greeting. According to Dr. Gary Chapman, one of the 5 love languages is that of physical touch, which is a powerful vehicle for communicating marital love. (For a brief introduction to the 5 Love Languages, read this article, or to take the free online test, follow this link).
If you or your spouse's love language is physical touch, you feel loved and secure through physical touch such as holding hands, kissing, embracing, or sexual intercourse. According to Dr. Chapman, there are different types of touch that require different amounts of time and energy: explicit and implicit physical touch. It is also important to point out unloving physical touch that must be avoided to maintain a healthy relationship.
Explicit Physical Touch
- Requires your full attention.
- Takes more time and understanding.
- Back rub or massage.
- Making out.
- Sexual foreplay.
Implicit Physical Touch
- Takes only a moment.
- Requires little time, but much thought.
- Putting your hand on their shoulder while pouring a cup of coffee.
- Rubbing against them as you pass by in the kitchen.
- Putting your arm around their waist when walking down the street.
- Holding hands while grocery shopping.
- Hugging or kissing before leaving for or coming home from work.
- 'Under the table' touch.
Unloving Physicial Touch
- Abusive or hurtful.
- Irritating or uncomfortable.
- Unwelcomed or unwanted.
- Demanding it be in your time and your way.
Learning to Speak the Language of Physical Touch
In marriage, the touch of love may take on many forms. As Dr. Chapman writes, "once you discover that physical touch is the primary love language of your spouse, you are limited only by your imagination on ways to express love." Your best instructor is your spouse, only they know best what they consider a loving touch. It is important to communicate when certain touch is uncomfortable and for the other spouse to reciprocate with respect. Remember that what you find pleasurable, may not be pleasurable to your spouse. Not all touches are created equal. Try new touches in new places and let your spouse give you feedback. Respect their desires. You are learning to speak your spouse's language.
To be perfectly honest, this is not a huge need of mine, in fact, it is the least of all 5 of the love languages. Guess what is my husband's top love language? It is physical touch. This is the area I need to work on the most in order to make my husband feel 'seen', appreciated, and loved. I need to be mindful and aware, to consciously make an effort to initiate physical contact. I need to linger in a hug longer until he lets go. I need to grab his hand first when we're out for a walk. I need to show him that I want him through my touch. I need to be willing to initiate sexual intimacy as well.
I have found that a lot of these things are a lot harder for me to do since having a child. Especially when our son was a baby and not walking, I had what felt like constant physical contact, because I had a baby on the hip, nursing or giving lots of affection to. It is normal that when a woman is nursing, libido goes down, so that has not helped me either. It helps knowing that there are different seasons even in a couple's sex life. I think my husband would agree that although sexual intimacy is important, the physical touch throughout a day is equally as important. I need to remember to seize the moment with small or quick implicit types of physical contact--rubbing his neck or back, stroking his arm, grabbing his butt, giving kisses--all these don't require a lot of time, but much more conscious thought. These little things will make a big difference in our relationship, overall. I need to take an action step listed below to help me stay mindful of meeting my husband's needs.
If physical touch is your spouse's love language, but it does not come naturally to you, ask your spouse what kind of touch is meaningful to them. Start by showing implicit acts of love throughout the day. Kiss them before they go to work. Give them a long hug when they get home from work, and don't let go until they let go. At least once a week, make time for, and be the one to initiate, explicit physical touch.
If physical touch is your love language, what are meaningful expressions of love that help you feel loved? If this is your spouse's love language, what ways have worked for you to express love to your spouse? What ways can you express love to children through physical touch?