- What Is the Physical Touch Love Language?
- The Unspoken Loneliness Of The “Physical Touch” Love Language
- Half-assed hugs and handshakes aren’t cutting it
- If we treated other love languages as casually with friends, family, or colleagues as we do touch…
- A lot of the “problem” is cultural
- Touch is not always (and OFTEN isn’t) sexual
- This isn’t about “hiring touch”
- This is about “touch” as part of one’s existing (non-romantic) relationships
- 2. If you are a “physical touch” person…
- 3. If someone you care about is a “physical touch” person…
- 4. Reserve some touch types for romantic partner(s)
- Touch is not always “sexual” — and it is often healing
- Physical Touch
- If Your Partner’s Love Language Is Physical Touch, You’ll Want to Read This
- Slow down, and be in the moment
- Don’t assume your partner loves PDA
- Not all touch is created equal
- Plan dates around opportunities that get you close
- Make certain moves exclusive
What Is the Physical Touch Love Language?
Sex is an important aspect of a romantic relationship, but physical touch as a love language is not all about the sex. A hug, a shoulder squeeze, a handhold, even a pat on the back can be an expression of love that is just as meaningful to your partner.
If you’re in a non-sexual relationship or if you’re unable to have sex with your partner for some reason (long-distance, postpartum, PTSD), don’t worry. We explore easy ways to give and receive physical touch, no matter where you are (physically or mentally) with your partner.
There are many ways to show love to your partner. You can show up to support them at an important fundraiser. You can buy them a gift just because you thought of them. You can squeeze their hand when they are having a stressful day.
Physical touch is just one of the five love languages, according to Dr. Gary Chapman’s The 5 Love Languages.
The others are words of affirmation, acts of service, quality time, and gift giving/receiving.
All five are important, but since we all give and receive love differently, it’s important to know what you and your partner prefer in order to express your appreciation in the best possible way.
If your love language is physical touch, then that means you prefer physical expressions of love over all over expressions (such as verbal compliments or gifts). This may seem self-explanatory, but there are both intimate and non-intimate touches that can and should be used to show your partner love.
Sexual expressions of love are used in most romantic relationships, but what if you live 100+ miles away from your partner? What if you and your partner are waiting to have sex? What if you’re not a touchy person? What if sexual intimacy is mentally challenging for you?
Learning to express your love through intimate touch is possible, even if you’re not having sex with your partner.
Despite what you may have learned about romantic love, sex isn’t everything in a relationship. It’s important, yes, but it isn’t the only physical expression of love.
“Physical touch, specifically cuddling, releases oxytocin, the feel-good hormone that makes you feel nothing can hurt you,” says Clarissa Silva, behavioral scientist and relationship coach. “In addition to the bonding [cuddling] creates between the couple, it also helps boost your immune system.”
Here are different ways to show intimate love through physical touch:
- Kissing—You may feel kissing has to lead to sex, but it doesn’t. Kissing is one of the easiest, most effective ways to show physical love to your partner. You can kiss their lips, their neck, their cheek, their forehead, their hand. In many cultures and throughout history, kissing is or has been shown as an act of respect, greeting, or affection. Kissing is used in all different types of relationships, romantic and non-romantic, and should be prioritized.
- Holding hands—Who doesn’t love seeing a couple walking hand-in-hand down the street? Holding hands with your partner, in public or in private, is an easy gesture that can immediately release mood-boosting endorphins. Parents often hold their child’s hand for protective reasons, but also for physical connectedness. It is one of the best ways to show physical love to your partner.
- Cuddling—Do you cuddle with your partner when you’re watching a movie? When you’re laying in bed? If you don’t, you should. Physically wrapping yourself around your partner can bring you closer together, physically and emotionally. Your partner may prefer being the “big” or “little” spoon, but try swapping roles or facing each other and seeing how that feels.
- Skin-to-skin touching—Touching can be sexual, but it can also be non-sexual and still intimate. Dragging your fingertips across your partner’s back or neck can be an intimate expression of love. Touching your partner’s hair, holding the back of their neck, or even touching their bare leg can be an expressive way of telling your partner you’re there for them, you’re physically attracted to them, and/or you’re in love with them.
One of the benefits to being in a relationship with someone whose love language is physical touch: you can express love without having to speak, without having to do the dishes or go out and buy a gift. Physical touch is one of the easiest ways to be intimate with your partner and even though it is physical, it can create emotional intimacy.
Physically touching your partner is one of the best ways to build a bridge and increase feelings of connectedness. When your partner gets home from work, you might kiss them or hug them, which can immediately release some of that day’s tension. These are simple but meaningful gestures.
Some non-intimate touches can lead to intimacy, but can be a great alternative for couples who are looking for ways to express non-sexual love through physical touch:
- Rubbing your partner’s back—When a friend is dealing with a difficult or upsetting situation, touching them is a normal reaction, and this form of touch can be just as effective in a romantic partnership. Rubbing your partner’s back, or massaging them, can signal to them that you’re there for them and that you love them. You can also rub their arm, their hand, or another part of the body. Just make sure you’re communicating with your partner and making sure they are comfortable with it.
- Sitting side-by-side—Sitting close enough to be touching your partner is an easy way to signal that you love them. Maybe you’re out to dinner or maybe you’re at an event and you want to show your partner love, but don’t feel comfortable kissing them or holding their hand. Sitting with your hips or feet touching is a non-verbal way of connecting with your partner.
- Tickling—Some individuals may not to be tickled, but tickling is a physical expression of love. Not sure if your partner s this? All you have to do is ask. Communication is an integral aspect of any successful relationship, even if your love language is physical touch.
Notice when you argue or disagree with your partner, you often move physically away from them. It’s not always easy to break the tension following an argument, but often the best way to reconnect is to close that physical distance and touch your partner.
You’ve probably heard of the phrase “makeup sex.” Reconnecting physically with your partner can signal that the argument is over and that you’ve both moved on. However, not all couples want to be sexually intimate following a fight. Hugging, kissing, or even holding hands can be just as meaningful.
If you’re long distance, cuddling, kissing, and holding hands isn’t an option, but video chats have made it possible to be together when you’re not actually together.
Body language is just as expressive as verbal language and if your love language is physical touch, then body language can be just as important.
When you’re on video chat with your partner, make sure you’re giving them your undivided attention. Move to a quiet space. Turn off your TV. Make eye contact, and use inviting body language to show that you’re physically with them.
Silva recommends planning a video date. Set up a date and time as you would if you were in the same place and do everything you would if you weren’t long distance. This could mean getting dressed up, setting up candle light, preparing wine or champagne. Do what you would normally do but with video instead.
Other ways to show physical touch from a distance: blow each other kisses, send them gifts that physically remind them of you (such as a sweatshirt of yours, a stuffed animal, or a sachet of your perfume or cologne), and talk about physically touching each other. It may not be the same as the real thing, but our imaginations can be a powerful tool which long-distance couples should utilize.
Romantic relationships often require physical touch to thrive, but sex isn’t the only way to show your partner how much you love them.
You can wrap your arms around their waist in the kitchen or hold their hand while watching a movie together or kiss their cheek in the morning before work.
Sometimes the simplest acts of love are the most impactful, especially when it comes to physical touch.
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The Unspoken Loneliness Of The “Physical Touch” Love Language
Google “friends love language” or “how to show friends you care using their love language” and you get a myriad of ideas for the other four: gifts — easy, words of affirmation — why not?, quality time — of course!, and acts of service — sure!
But when it comes to “touch,” there’s only one suggestion, which comes up again and again: give a hug “hello,” and another when you say “bye!” (Maybe an extra thrown in if they’re feeling particularly low.)
But that’s it.
And while that may seem enough, the reality is that these rushed, empty gestures aren’t meaningful, and leave others feeling limp-hearted.
Half-assed hugs and handshakes aren’t cutting it
Many adults (especially those in U.S. culture; we’ll get to that) just don’t touch each other. When we do, it’s rigid and brief: a side hug, a quick pat and release, a handshake, a tap on the shoulder.
If we treated other love languages as casually with friends, family, or colleagues as we do touch…
- Quality Time: hanging out for mere seconds, during which you do not maintain eye contact or discuss anything that might imply or inspire connection beyond a cursory level, and leaving before anything builds
- Gifts: tossing the same superficial, meaningless item to everyone in your life as you walk by without caring about their reaction
- Acts of Service: half-assing help absentmindedly, wandering off when it’s “good enough” but before it’s to even a fraction of their satisfaction
- Words of Affirmation: regurgitating the same empty phrase to every person in your life; the affirmation equivalent of “how are you?” in which your words culturally are not meant to be taken as genuine
This is the equivalent of “touch” offered in most non-romantic relationships.
And without sufficient touch, people with this language feel deflated, demotivated, disembodied, frozen.
Rebecca K. Reynolds writes:
“[Touch] is one of my top two love languages — and I absolutely hate it. In a heartbeat, I would trade with anyone else for any of the other gifts. It feels barbaric and ignorant. Dangerous. Vulnerable.
It’s funny. It’s wretched. I’m not sure what the answer is to this dilemma.”
A lot of the “problem” is cultural
The United States, in particular, is both hyper-sexualized and yet utterly terrified — of their own shadows and the implications of simple touch.
Rebecca K. Reynolds writes:
“In other countries, platonic friends walk arm-in-arm and kiss one another on the cheeks. All those things are done as natural out-workings of a love that has absolutely nothing to do with human sexuality.”
And she’s right. I’ve traveled to nearly 30 countries and still, every time I travel and see straight men walking arms linked, or straight women holding hands, I surprise myself with how much this still surprises me.
Some of my friends and colleagues here in the States are from other countries, and they will openly hug, dance, kiss each other on the cheeks, lounge side by side on couches — all without a second thought. Our uptight viewpoint is our problem and hinges largely on us (and perhaps our Puritan past.)
Touch is not always (and OFTEN isn’t) sexual
Touch between non-romantic people is often deliberately stifled. And some resources do reassure us,
“You can speak the language of physical touch to friends and family. Touching does not have to be sexual.”
But even these sources go on to include only very limited examples, many of which are either a.) parent-child (e.g., “a child whose love language is physical touch may enjoy when you rub her back”) or b.) still distinctly “at arm’s length” (e.g., literally “setting your hand on the person’s shoulder.”)
Which is why Rebecca K. Reynolds writes:
“Most of the touch people I know struggle to even talk about it openly because in a hypersexed world, the public assumes any reference to touch equals a desire for intimacy.
How strongly can I emphasize that this is absolutely not true. Though sex involves touch, it’s not the primary manifestation of this love language.”
“This love language isn’t rooted in sex drive or lust.”
“It’s about needing to feel safe, anchored, and seen in a world that feels dangerous, chaotic, and anonymous.”
She goes on to specify,
“Sadly, human touch people often walk around with a tank so empty, it would take a long, awkward time to fill… adults who carry this need are virtually starved to death…
As someone who is married, in a loving and regularly intimate relationship, I thought it might be helpful to say…”
“This isn’t lust, nor is it resolved by regular sex.”
“This is more an innate need to be constantly surrounded by a mass of golden retriever puppies, the need to constantly stand in the crash of an ocean, or the need to feel breeze on your arms.”
This isn’t about “hiring touch”
I understand that there are services, both sexual but also non-sexual in nature (most notably massage, but also services such as “cuddle-for-hire”) that may satisfy a need for human physical touch. That’s not what this is about.
It’s not just about “being touched.”
It’s about being touched in a way that demonstrates care, ideally by the people you care about.
This is about “touch” as part of one’s existing (non-romantic) relationships
For those with the “physical touch” love language, touch as an integral part of feeling rapport, care, and connection with anyone — friends, family, colleagues — and just as in romantic relationships, not having touch as part these contexts means not recognizing or “receiving” the psychological benefits.
We can’t take on the world and we shouldn’t try, but in corners of our lives, we’re permitted to play with norms, to challenge them, to pick our battles and make space for each other’s (and our own!) physical forms, and honoring them.
2. If you are a “physical touch” person…
Options that may work to build an outlet:
- Build hobbies that offer physicality with others — dance, acroyoga, skydiving, massage courses. They may still not be enough for you and if that’s the case, that’s fine. But hobbies these do help me.
- Encourage/support/warmly receive hugs when you get them.
- Return the gesture with the other person’s love language. If you don’t know it, ask or figure it out. (e.g., if they are “words of affirmation,” say “thank you — you’re a good hugger.”)
- If touches from strangers feel too intimate, it’s okay to say so.
3. If someone you care about is a “physical touch” person…
Touch them — in the way they’d to be touched. (Usually warmly, gently, and deliberately.) At a bare minimum, hold on to hugs a bit longer. They will melt, and not sexually. Touch this is rare, and they will treasure it.
- They want real touch in the way “words of affirmation” people want a real compliment.
- They want thoughtful touch in the way “gifts” people want a thoughtful gift.
- They want a caring touch in the way “acts of service” people want things taken care of.
- They want an attentive touch in the way “quality time” people want focus.
They want a hug that lingers. They want someone to hold space.
4. Reserve some touch types for romantic partner(s)
Physical touch is in my top three languages, and my partner has “physical touch” as one of his top as well.
I will happily hug colleagues and cuddle friends, but some touches are reserved for my partner alone: besides sex and kissing (which, obviously), touches “a palm on the back of the neck” are only his.
Touch is not always “sexual” — and it is often healing
It is very fundamental to our way of being, and it’s not just “touch” people but all of us, really, that benefit from human to human contact.
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By the time a child is 9 years old, he or she is better able to identify and express his or her feelings about love than when he or she was younger. Parents still have to keep in mind that children this age have a limited attention for and limited interest in such things as helping you determine their love language. The following online “game” should help you in your research.
Tell your child you would help solving “The Love Language Mystery Game.” Explain that you need him or her to look at a list of “clues” and that these clues are comments that parents sometimes make to their children. Your child will see a set of 20 clue boxes, each with two comments.
He or she must pick one of the two comments in each clue box which comment they better. Explain that at the end of all the clues, you and your child will see their results and solve the mystery.
If your child asks what the “mystery” is or what it is about, you can simply explain that it's a game in which parents are trying to learn what makes kids happy or what they to hear their parents say.
To give this a game- effect, you should secretly write on a piece of paper what you think your child's love language is (words, touch, time, service, gifts).
Do not let your child see your guess but tell him or her that you have written down your guess and will find out at the end of the game if you guessed right.
After your child has received their results at the end of the “game,” reveal your guess and tell your child if you guessed correctly.
This activity will have been little more than a game to your child to see if he or she got the same answer to the “mystery” that you got. He or she will have little clue that you're using this information to further confirm or clarify your guess about his or her love language.
Because children expect games to end in a “reward,” tell your child at the end of the “mystery solving” that, whether or not you guys ended up with the same answer, you'll celebrate by doing something fun together (i.e.
, eating a favorite snack, watching a movie, playing a game of your child's choosing, etc.).
Some children will help “solve the mystery” and be satisfied not asking any questions.
If your child happens to inquire about this so-called mystery you wanted help with, give a brief explanation of the love languages and tell your child that you just want to make sure he or she recognizes and receives your love.
Depending on your child's maturity level, he or she may be able to share his or her thoughts on the matter and further clarify his or her love language.
You are now ready to introduce your child to “The Love Language Mystery Game.” After you click the button below, you'll see a brief set of instructions that explain to your child how to take and score the profile.
Because of your child's age and potential questions he or she may have, be prepared to read the instructions to him or her and answer any questions he or she may have.
Have fun, and enjoy unlocking the mystery of your child's love language!
Love Language Profile for Ages 9-12
The 5 Love Languages of Children
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Children and parents a will experience firsthand the power of the love languages as they cuddle up and spend precious time together reading this book over and over again.
If Your Partner’s Love Language Is Physical Touch, You’ll Want to Read This
Let’s be real. If you ask the general population when they feel the most loved, chances are, most people will say when having sex. I’m not saying that they’re lying, but as Dr.
Gary Chapman explains The Five Love Languages, it's a very common occurrence that people—and men especially—mistake their natural drive for sex with thinking that their primary love language is physical touch.
Physical touch may seem one of the more straightforward of Gary Chapman’s five languages, but in a culture where touch can be misinterpreted on all kinds of levels, it is often the most misunderstood love language as well. As one woman lamented after taking the test and finding out physical touch was her primary language, “Does this mean I have to put out now?”
No, you do not. No matter your relationship status: married, dating, or single, physical touch does not necessitate the need for sexual acts in order to feel loved. Of course, sexual intimacy is important for a happy marriage, but ultimately it's just one possible dialect of many when it comes showing and feeling loved through physical touch.
If your guy is a physical touch guy or if you’re the one who needs physical touch, we've made a handy guide that you'll want to keep in your back pocket.
Slow down, and be in the moment
It might surprise you to learn that, much those who need Quality Time, a consideration of how you use time is actually a critical element for the physical touch love language—but you only need a bit. Looking for the right moments to show love through touch takes some practice and intentionality.
Pro-tip: Be mindful when you're in the same space as your significant other. Look for opportunities that give your partner that boost of awesome.
As you're shuffling around your space, for instance, and your partner is doing something in the living room, consider taking a moment to gently touch their arm, or playfully poke their back. These gestures might sound small—so small that it hardly takes up any real time—but they can transform your S.O.'s day.
For those moments where you are spending real quality time together, be intentional in the way you apply your touch. Holding their hand or playing with their hair will speak just a loudly as words to your loved one.
Don’t assume your partner loves PDA
Do most people who prefer physical touch love PDA? Probably. But don’t make that assumption, as public displays of affection can carry all kinds of baggage—whether the biases are culture, religion or upbringing. Depending on their personality, PDA can make your physical touch partner feel on top of the world, or cause some real, awkward embarrassment.
To make matters more complicated, touch that they might be comfortable with in one scenario may change in another.
One woman loved holding hands with her guy everywhere, but the second she was around her family, she didn't want any sort of physical intimacy. If you notice a discrepancy this, just have a conversation.
As you get to know your significant other better, you'll start to notice patterns, which they might not even be aware themselves.
Not all touch is created equal
You probably have already noticedthat there are particular techniques or, as Dr. Chapman calls, dialects that make your partner feel especially loved and others that don't. That's why it's important you're constantly testing out different methods to see what they .
“For some reason, when my fiancée holds me from behind, I feel more love than probably any other way that she could touch me,” Andrew Mentock tells Verily. “There is something about her holding me in this way that fills my 'love tank' up quickly. We would not know this if she hadn’t walked up behind me and hugged me one day.
” So go ahead, no need to get too methodical about it, just play around—and try to repeat the stuff that really strikes a chord.
Plan dates around opportunities that get you close
When you make plans for Saturday, try to pick activities that enable you to show physical affection.
If you're going out to dinner, make reservations at a restaurant where you know you can sit on the same side of the table; if you want to get outdoors, consider archery or putt-putt, which allows you the time and space to linger side by side; or even buy tickets at your nearest theme park, and grab onto your partner's hand as you brace yourself for epic drops. Of course, if you're in the practice of being mindful, all dates provide ample opportunity to get close, but sometimes try and explore some options where physical touch is inherent—as this can make it easier on you if physical touch isn't your M.O.
Make certain moves exclusive
This is where the “language” part of love language becomes literal. If your guy is a physical touch person, certain signs of affection are going to become a something a secret dialect, an expression of love that's unique only to you two. So, if you have a particular way that you to hug your partner, reserve that action for him or her.
It's easy to forget this bit of information if physical touch isn't your love language. For example, you might innocently think that your brother might the same kind of big bear hug, too—but try and refrain and make your physical gestures unique only to that person whose love tank you've been entrusted with.
Then you'll really be speaking their language.