I’ll be very honest with you – this is totally not my love language. Please don’t misunderstand me – I’m not some cold-hearted, frozen person who can’t stand the feeling of another’s touch. No, I’m just not a huge touchy-feely person. I don’t need to be held in order to feel loved. My husband, on the other hand, is very linguistic in the physical touch language.
A perfect example: I come home from a long day at work where I was told I was doing something completely wrong. All I want to do is be alone and muddle through what happened (or maybe forget about it altogether). So, I find something to keep myself occupied – making dinner. This way my hands and mind are too busy to rehash the ugly details of the day. Husband also has a rotten day and comes home from work to find me bustling around the kitchen. The only way he wants to resolve the bad at work is to wrap his arms around me and hear about my day. So when I don’t want to snuggle up and tell him everything (or stop what I’m doing for very long), he takes offense and feels like I don’t love him.
What’s going on here?
- I don’t want to stop what I’m doing because if I do, I’ll be ambushed with the negative thoughts I’m keeping at bay. So long as I’m busy, my mind is preoccupied and I won’t have to be upset, sad, or mad. The one thing I’m looking forward to is sleep, because there I won’t be obsessing about what went wrong. If I stay busy enough, I’ll completely wear myself out. Him wrapping his arms around me will only cause me to break down.
- He just wants some attention and to know that I’m happy to see him. The one thing he’s been looking forward to all day is coming home to me. Wrapping his arms around me and rubbing his cheek against mine will make everything horrible disappear and he can finally relax.
In his book The 5 Love Languages, Dr. Chapman says quite bluntly, “Physical touch can make or break a relationship.” If your partner’s primary love language is through touch, it’s very important to understand how they need to be loved. To these lovers, touch communicates every emotion – from love to hate, from happiness to sadness. If you refuse them a hug or holding their hand, it’s the same as telling them you hate them (sometimes even worse). For us not-so-touch-feely people, we can’t fathom why something as simple as, “I really don’t feel like snuggling right now because I have headache” would sound the alarms in our partner’s heads – but it does. And if we withdraw our physical affection even further, it can cause severe damage.
So what does Dr. Chapman suggest? Why, learn your partner’s dialect, of course. Everyone experiences touch differently and not everyone likes the same things. Just like food, touch is a preferential taste. Do they like kissing more than snuggling? Do they like to hold hands in public? Do you like to have their feet rubbed (or maybe they have a phobia of them aka hands off)? Do they like to be tickled in fun or is that just irritating?
In his book, Dr. Chapman shares actual stories where he encountered couples who were dealing with each love language. The story for “physical touch” really hit home because I could see my relationship in this couple. They started off in the honeymoon phase, but things quickly went south when real life sunk in. As the husband began to withdraw into his work so that he could be successful, the wife took this retreat personally. Why? Because she’s a quality time lover, just like me. It wasn’t until they went to counseling that they realized the husband’s language was physical touch. As he explains in the book, “In our dating relationship, I had always taken the initiative in hugging, kissing, and holding hands, but she had always been responsive. I felt that she loved me, but after we got married…she was not responsive…I don’t know, but I took it personally. I felt that she didn’t find me attractive. Then I decided I would not take the initiative anymore because I didn’t want to b rejected. So I waited to see how long it would be before she’d initiate a kiss or a touch or sexual intercourse.”
The entirety of what this man was sharing absolutely hits home for me, and I would assume that I’m not the only wife who’s heard something like this. And if you haven’t, well my hat is off to you. I have an irritating habit of finding something of interest and 100% of my attention goes towards that. When we were dating, my focus was on my relationship, then work. After we were married and my husband was studying for his big exam, I was forced to turn my focus elsewhere. I learned to do things for myself and I plowed head first into my newest hobby – scrapbooking. I also threw myself into projects at work so that I would be focused and productive. After living this way for 9-12 months, I was pretty self-sufficient and pretty self-focused. When my husband passed his exam and – for lack of better terms – returned to our marriage, I was in my own little world. And I was happy there. I had my routines and my hobbies – he was no longer the sole focus of my attention.
Now, I wasn’t ignoring him, but to him I’m sure it seemed like I was. The wife in the book puts it perfectly: “I would go weeks without touching him. It didn’t cross my mind. I was preparing meals, keeping the hour clean, doing laundry, and trying to stay out of his way. I honestly didn’t know what else I could be doing.” This is exactly how I viewed our life. I was doing all sorts of things and taking care of/running the house. I felt being in the house together at night and on the weekends was enough, because for me, this counted as quality time. But for him, it still was as if I wasn’t paying attention to him! And for me not to engage with him physically screamed “I don’t love you”.
I wish I could say I figured this out before it was too late. But I didn’t. I’m sitting here now, miles away from my husband, and just now piecing together where things may have gone wrong. In no way did my lack of physical affection cause everything that has transpired between us in the past 12 months, but it certainly didn’t better our situation. And honestly, I feel like our situation has the “chicken or the egg” conundrum. Did his behavior cause my to physically withdraw or did my lack of physical affection cause his spastic behavior? Like the conundrum, it will never have a “right” answer, so what’s the point in arguing about it? I wish I would’ve realized that a few months earlier, rather than contentiously arguing with him about this. As I read recently and have been holding close to my heart:
And so I want to leave you with these tips that I’ve been collecting over the past 6 months that I’ve been apart. Ok, let’s be honest… more like the past month since prior to that, I was in a very dark and angry place – a place where I didn’t even want to think of physical connection with my husband. (I said I was been honest!!) Don’t allow yourself to get to that point where you begin to hate your significant other. Try to be open and understanding that it takes two to make it work and two the break it apart.
~ Here are some tips I’ve learned ~
- Sit close together – whether it’s at home, at the theater, or at a restaurant. Bonus: put your hand on their leg or rub your feet against theirs.
- Rub your cheek against theirs (unless there’s stubble – then don’t, because that hurts)
- Engage in horesplay – tickle, poking, chasing (only if they like this)
- Dance with them – even if there’s no music
- Give them a hug – longer than 5 seconds – and ask them, “do you know how much I love you?”
- Kiss them on the cheek or on the forehead
- Touch their arm while speaking to them (or while standing next to them in public)
- Reach out and take their hand
- Give one another shoulder, foot, or back rubs (or full on massages if you’re good like that!)
- Cuddle every chance you get
- Give passionate kisses – as of you’ll never see them again
I hope you found these ideas insightful and useful for your physical touch-loving partner. Be sure to share with us your favorite ways to express love through physical touch!! See you next week!! ❤️