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The Love Language of Physical Touch, Intimacy, and Affection

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Physical touch is one of the five love languages. Perhaps it is not surprising that many may automatically assume this love language (LL) is only about what happens behind closed doors in the bedroom, but this is not the case.

Whilst lack of intimate bodily contact can lead to problems in a relationship, the same can be true when there is a lack of affectionate bodily contact, which could consist of a gentle touch of hands, walking fingers along the back, shoulder, or arm, a hug/kiss when departing/arriving or a cuddle when watching a movie.

Affectionate Physical Touch—Examples

If you are not naturally affectionate in your platonic relationships, you are probably not very affectionate with your spouse either. However, if your partner's primary LL is physical touch of the affectionate kind, although being touchy-feely may be out of your comfort zone to begin with, with time you can become much more at ease with performing a variety of of the following with your spouse—and he or she will certainly appreciate your sustained efforts.

  • Tickles
  • Cuddles
  • A light tap on the nose
  • A foot massage
  • Hugs
  • A shoulder massage
  • Gentle stroking of the hair, eyelashes, face
  • A light kiss
  • Holding your spouse, girlfriend, or boyfriend in your arms
  • Nuzzling
  • Tender caressing of the ear lobe

Physical Touch in the Form of Marital Intimacy

For those who have this love language in the form of marital intimacy, they will likely want their partner to frequently:

  • Touch them in a teasing or provocative way
  • Initial sex
  • Show tons of enthusiasm, inventiveness, and/or energy

Partners of those who have physical touch in the form of marital intimacy should note their partner may feel unloved, unwanted, rejected, or a nuisance if there is a mismatch of libido/sex drive.

In particular, much frustration and resentment can ensue if one person almost always has to be the one to initiate copulation, so making a conscious endeavor to do more of the above would no doubt be welcomed.

Sex vs. Affection

It can happen that a couple who both have physical touch as one of their primary love languages can be at odds because one partner, often the male, wants touch in the form of marital intimacy whilst the other wants touch in the form of being touchy-feely in a way that would not be inappropriate with a friend or relative.

Some may find that their partner (often the female partner) may not be inclined to desire marital intimacy when there is a distinct lack of affectionate bodily contact other than when their partner wants copulation. They may feel ignored in a physical sense until their partner is ready to have sex. Some may believe their partner only ever makes physical contact with them when they want sex and as such, they feel like an object rather than a valued spouse.

On Reflection

Sometimes a person who has affectionate touch as their primary love language will actually refrain from spontaneously hugging, holding hands with their partner if they believe their partner always takes their actions as a green light for sex. Moreover, by not initiating the affection they want, their partner may then perceive them as unaffectionate and/or assume they don't want or enjoy affectionate touch!

Conversely, a person who has intimate touch as their LL may hold back from initiating the sex they want because they fear rejection.

If your marriage has the makings for these types of dynamics, do take steps to communicate and turn things around because, if such negative and hurtful dynamics persist for a long time, it has the potential to severely impair the relationship.

Giving Your Partner What They Want as Opposed to Giving Them What You Actually Want

It can be difficult for a person who wants touch in the form of marital intimacy to reign themselves in when they try to engage in the non-intimate form of physical touch with their spouse because once they touch their partner they don't want to stop, wishing to take things further into the realms of intimacy.

If affectionate touch always turns into marital physical touch, it is then that the partner who has affectionate touch as their love language begins to feel taken for granted, or that their partner only wants them for one thing.

Thus, it's worth both partners making the effort to be conscious of what their partner wants and to act accordingly. This applies to life in general with your spouse and is not limited to this LL.

Physical Touch—Scheduled or Spontaneous

Often couples with differing sex drives may designate a certain day(s) of the week for marital intimacy and, although some may feel that this lacks spontaneity, at least it means they can look forward to the event in between times rather than never knowing when the next session will be.

If your partner feels sex-starved, this is a possible way forward. Likewise, if your partner feels affection staved, why not designate a certain day(s) of the week for ample shows of physical affection which do not escalate to marital intimacy.

Whether it's scheduled intimate touch or scheduled affectionate touch, what matters is that your partner is willing to enthusiastically make the effort to meet your needs. It matters that your partner is willing to go the extra mile to give you what you want or need to make you feel loved, valued, wanted.

The thought of scheduling either form of physical touch may feel mechanical and strange but just ask yourself what you have got to lose if hitherto things have not been satisfactory. And as a consequence of such schedules, good, natural, and instinctive habits may well develop and thrive over time.

Scheduled marital intimacy and scheduled affection do not preclude spontaneous sex or physical affection. Moreover, it's imperative to note that your partner will enjoy feeling desired and surprised by you, so do make the first move and spontaneously give them the touch they desire, over and above what is scheduled.

Enjoy and Appreciate Each Other

Some who desire intimate touch over affectionate touch may well find that their partner develops an increase in desire for intimacy once they feel that their need for affectionate physical touch is satisfied and vice versa. In such cases, it's most certainly a win-win scenario.

In general, when one partner has the level of touch they desire, regardless of which type of bodily contact it is, they will likely feel more inclined to meet their partner's needs and speak their love language, be it words of affirmation, gifts, acts of service, quality time or physical touch. It won't necessarily happen overnight, but it can happen.

Gary Chapman's book, The 5 Love Languages, has lots more on how to fill the love tank of a partner whose primary LL is physical touch. From a brief look inside the book, the writer of this article was able to get a good feel for what the book was about and if it might be helpful to her relationship. Later, having read the entire book, she was indeed able to gain a wealth of beneficial insight and inspiration on all five love languages.

As detailed below asking for, and openly communicating about, what we want can be difficult for a variety of reasons.

It pays to become more and more comfortable with uncomfortable conversations.


Communicating Desires in the Real World

Please remember your partner is not a mind-reader so you need to clearly and respectfully communicate what it is you would like more, or less, of. Also, remember this is a two-way street, so do take the time to solicit and consider their feelings as well. And yes, it is frustrating if you have already told them what you would like and they haven't taken it on board. And, of course, nobody wants to feel like a nuisance!

To complicate matters, you may believe that if you have to actually request affection or sex, then when it subsequently happens, it just doesn't count! In an ideal world, we would all just get precisely the amount and type of physical touch we desire without saying a single word. But please don't hold your breath waiting for the ideal world to materialize!

Think about it—surely asking your partner for something and having your partner make effort to go out of their way to try to give you what you have requested has got to be better than asking for something and your partner not making any effort to accommodate you, or not asking and continuing to not get what you would like (given your partner not being a mind reader)!

So here in the real world, to help make the desired shift in the physical touch aspects of your relationship, you can explain all the above to your spouse, or have your partner read this article to open up a dialogue. It's wise to aim to have a continuing dialogue on this for the future, remembering that our wants and needs can change over time.

In this real world, what counts is continually trying to grow as a couple to accommodate both expressed and unspoken wants and needs as far as possible. Each person has a responsibility and a right to ask for what they would like without feeling or being made to feel needy, demanding, or like a nuisance.

Reminders and clarifications may indeed be necessary from time to time but, in relationships, what really counts is being able to have all those potentially uncomfortable, honest conversations on an ongoing basis without undue recrimination or crippling embarrassment.

So be bold with your soulmate. Keep speaking up, and over time, such conversations become less and less daunting. For both parties, honest, open communication, listening, and making due effort to improve things, are all preferable to simmering, unknown, or silent resentments.

This also means that if you are asked to do something which, on careful consideration, you are not prepared to do, you have the right and a responsibility to let your partner know that you choose not to do as they requested—without recrimination or undue reproach.

Respecting each other's right to choose is important. With both parties knowing how far their partner is comfortable and prepared to accommodate expressed affectionate and/or intimate physical wants and needs, and with both parties knowing where they stand, confusion and resentment can be reduced or excluded.

If you wish to go further to explore and develop other areas of your relationship, The 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman can help you make a measurable difference overall. With a partner who was not at all inclined to sit and read a self-help book about relationships, the author of this article found the audio CD version of the book an ideal method to get Chapman's message across to her partner, and it has lived up to its promise to help couples build and sustain the love in their relationship for the longer term.

With the audio CD, she could listen with her partner and/or separately, at home or in the car, for example, to gain great insight on what could be practically done to help each other feel more appreciated and wanted. Of course, her relationship isn't perfect and probably never will be, but the insight given in the book regarding physical touch as well as several other key areas proved a great way of bringing back much of that loved-up feeling that often disappears when initial infatuation fades.

Listening vs. Reading

Touching Expectations

When you set about being more physical in a way that your partner will appreciate, don’t specifically go looking for something in return from your partner. If your partner feels uncomfortable in that they know you are only about getting something in return, it can all backfire somewhat, and demanding or expecting an immediate and dramatic change in your partner can cause you to give up on your endeavors before it becomes a seamless habit.

It may be easier said than done, but do sustain your physical touch efforts in the knowledge that making your wife or husband happy is an awesome feeling indeed. Do what you do for the right reasons, and you might be surprised at how much you enjoy it just for what it is and nothing more.

Couples who learn how to express themselves better and better respect and accommodate physical touch preferences, both affection and/or intimate, without taking each other for granted and without taking advantage of each other, are well on the road to contentment in terms of this LL.

About Refraining From Modelling, What you Desire More of?

Forget about tradition—for example, if you are a woman who wants more sex, don't behave in a way that will encourage your husband to accurately say "but I didn't believe you really wanted more sex because you NEVER initiate it."

Likewise, if you're a man who wants more affection, don't feel embarrassed to be the one to initiate it. As the saying goes, be the change you want to see. Aim to find a balance initiating what your partner wants, and what you want.

Unsure About Your Language?

If you or your partner would like to do the love languages quiz, just click here to find out your own love language.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2014 Ebonny