Understanding the Love Language of Physical Touch
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People have preferences for how they communicate about love. They tend to express and receive messages about love using a certain love language. Recognizing and understanding your partner’s love language can help to communicate about love. Better communication can help the relationship flourish. The couple can feel a stronger love and more satisfaction in the relationship.
What Is a Love Language?
Pastor Gary Chapman theorized about love languages when he published his book “The 5 Love Languages” in 1992. In his book, he described his observations of how people communicate about love. He labeled these styles of expressing and receiving love as love languages. He defined five distinct love languages:
Words of Affirmation
When someone identifies with words of affirmation as a love language, they feel love through expressed words. They like communication about love to occur with spoken or written words using kind language with a warm and soft tone. They tend to respond to praise, compliments and encouragement.
This love language suggests that someone feels love through the time spent with their partner. They want the focused attention that can come with quality time. This attention helps foster the sense of togetherness this person associates with a loving relationship. With this love language, the person treasures the quality of the time spent together over the quantity of time. They want the time spent together to focus on each other, not the phone, computer or someone else.
Acts of Service
Acts of service are the things one partner does for the other partner. When someone’s love language is acts of service, they feel love when one partner does something for the other person. The acts should be expressed with positive thoughts and energy. Some common acts of service include errands, household chores, cooking or home repairs.
In this love language, giving and receiving gifts are seen as an expression of love. The gift itself and the time spent obtaining it symbolize the love between the partners. This person does not necessarily equate love to the size or expense of the gift. They feel the love associated with the thoughts and efforts put into the gift.
The physical acts of affection communicate love in a relationship with physical touch as a love language. This person needs the closeness of a physical connection with their partner to feel the love with their partner. Physical touch can include different types, such as sex, kissing, hugging, holding hands and cuddling.
Physical Touch as a Love Language
When someone’s love language is physical touch, the person feels love primarily through the physical closeness that comes with physical touch. They mainly express and receive feelings of love through gestures of physical affection. Physical touch is a silent way of feeling loved. They prefer a hug or kiss to feel loved. They want this touch more than the words “I love you,” a present or a special dinner. A kiss good morning communicates love much more than making the morning coffee.
Likely, when someone’s primary love language is touch, they associate touch with love in other types of relationships besides their romantic relationships. For example, when they see a couple walking down the street holding hands, they may assume the couple is in love. In a parenting relationship, hugging their child indicates the love between them. Conversely, if a child withholds a hug, it can be very hurtful and make them feel like the child does not love them or is angry with them.
Why Does Physical Touch Feel So Good?
Physical touch can trigger the release of oxytocin. When couples touch each other, more oxytocin is released into the body. This oxytocin is what likely contributes to the physical touch feeling so good.
- Help people feel more bonded together
- Decrease stress levels
- Feel a greater romantic love for each other
Research has demonstrated that physical touch fosters other relationship benefits that help touch feel good:
- People feel more bonded to their partner
- Increased emotional communication with their partner
- The relationship feels stronger
- Lower levels of distress when together
- Decreased loneliness and increased connection
- Greater feelings of emotional comfort with the partner
Signs Your Love Language Is Physical Touch
- You feel loved by a hug, kiss or other touches.
- When your partner greets you with a long hug, you feel a deep connection and sense of being loved.
- You feel uncomfortable sitting beside your partner without touching or cuddling.
- You feel loved when you hold hands with your partner in public.
- Little acts of physical affection are special to you.
- You enjoy holding hands, kissing and other means of displaying affection in public.
- You feel upset or hurt when your partner does not grab your hand or put an arm around you in public.
- You feel like your partner really loves you from spontaneous physical acts.
- You enjoy and feel very connected to your partner when the relationship has lots of touching, cuddling, kissing and hand holding.
- It would be difficult to date someone who does not initiate physical affection.
- You feel special and loved by those hugs and kisses.
- You continually touch your partner without thinking about it.
- You feel loved when your partner initiates physical contact with you.
- When you have a bad day, a touch from your partner helps you feel much better.
- You cannot wait for a hello kiss and hug when you first see your partner.
- You prefer a hug, a kiss or cuddling to a gift, prepared meal or verbal expression of love.
How To Show Love Through Physical Touch
If you recognize that your partner’s love language is physical touch, it is important to learn how to show your love this way. Using physical touch can help strengthen and enhance the relationship. Your partner will feel more loved and supported. You can use intimate and non-intimate ways of physical
Sex is a highly intimate form of physical touch. There are many other ways to engage in intimate levels of physical touch, including:
- Holding hands
- Skin-to-skin touches
- Sleeping against each other
- Pulling your partner in close
- Placing a hand on the partner’s leg
Non-intimate touches can be great for those situations when you want to communicate with your partner through physical contact but cannot have that intimacy. Perhaps the kids are in the room, you are not in an appropriate location or time is not on your side. Non-intimate touches can strongly communicate your love for your partner:
- Sitting next to each other at a restaurant or other event
- A shoulder or back rub
- Rubbing or stroking your partner’s arm, head or hand
- Touching feet together under a table
- A kiss on the forehead, cheek or hand
- Giving a pat or squeeze when walking past each other
- Resting your head on your partner’s shoulder
- Brushing your partner’s hair out of their face or pushing their hair behind their ears
Physical Touch in Long-distance Relationships
A long-distance relationship can present challenges when physical touch is a love language for one or both partners. Finding ways to express love using the language of physical touch will help nurture the relationship.
Video chats offer the opportunity to connect with a long-distance partner physically. The couple can see each other and use body language to communicate through a video chat. A smile or wink on camera can go a long way to expressing love. Partners can also use physical gestures to express love, such as blowing kisses or giving air hugs.
Long-distance couples can use video chats to have a video date. On a video date, the couple spends time together as if on a date in person. The date can include eating dinner, having drinks, listening to music or even creatively playing a game together.
Some other ideas to simulate physical touch with your partner in a long-distance relationship are:
- Give your partner a piece of clothing that would remind them of you.
- Give your partner a body pillow or giant stuffed animal for snuggling or sleeping.
- Send your partner something that smells like you (lotion, shampoo, cologne, perfume).
- Send your partner a massager.
- Treat your partner to a massage, manicure or pedicure.
- Surprise your partner by having dinner delivered.
- Send your partner comfort items (favorite coffee or tea, cookies, scented candles).
- Send your partner a snuggly blanket.
When partners struggle to communicate or express love to each other, it can cause much stress and strain the relationship. Learning more about your partner’s love language can help to strengthen the bond and improve the relationship’s quality.
If you or someone you know is having trouble in a relationship, the Nobu app can help. Nobu offers several different options that can provide support and assistance. You can access free mental health support, including learning coping skills, journaling prompts and goal setting. You can also connect to a mental health professional to help address trauma and other issues during online therapy sessions. The app is available for download on the Apple Store and the Google Play Store.
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- Hughes, J. and Camden, A. “Using Chapman’s Five Love Languages Theory to Predict Love and Relationship Satisfaction.”Psi Chi Journal, 2020. Accessed August 26, 2022.
- Schneiderman, I. et al. “Oxytocin During The Initial Stages of Romantic Attachment: Relations to Couples’ Interactive Reciprocity.” Psychoneuroendocrinology, February 27, 2014. Accessed August 26, 2022.
- Tejada, A. et al. “Physical Contact and Loneliness: Being Touched Reduces Perceptions of Loneliness.” Adaptive Human Behavior and Physiology, May 26, 2020. Accessed August 26, 2022.
- Watson, S. “Oxytocin: The Love Hormone.” Harvard Health Publishing, July 20, 2021. Accessed August 26, 2022.