One of the most powerful expressions of love to your spouse is to extend non-sexual touch through the day. This is easy for those who are naturally wired this way. You are expressing something and you reach out to your mate’s hand, leg or rest you arm on their shoulder.
But many spouses aren’t “touchy,” unless they are making an play for sex. That’s why non-sexual touching requires mindfulness and intentionality.
A Psychology Today article on touch references research revealing that the frequency of touch rises at the start of a relationship (no surprise!), peaks early in marriage…and then tapers off. WHY?
Don’t Touch Me
Sometimes wives shy away from physical contact because it tends to lead into a sexual advance by their husband. They stop trusting that it is about giving care or love, and instead view it as a “move” to get in bed.
So men: can your wife trust that when you reach for her it isn’t a non-verbal ploy for sex? Can she trust your intention to be about giving TO her (love) and not getting FROM her (selfishness)?
Sexual abuse, particularly as a child, can cause some women (and men) to avoid contact. For them, it is subconsciously linked to the trauma they experienced. In these situations, it takes courage to get professional counseling to be able to engage in healthy marital physical contact.
Other times life just gets busy and we stop caring enough to reach out. We take each other for granted and don’t invest in the little things that will propel the marriage forward.
Here are some important reasons to initiate regular touch in your marriage:
Touch Increases Connection
Research has shown that the more couples touch each other, the greater their experience of marital satisfaction. It communicates value and worth. It provides a non-verbal connection that can communicate a variety of different emotions. In fact, in 2009 a DePauw University psychologist clinically demonstrated that we can communicate up to eight distinct emotions through touch.
By simply walking past your spouse and touching their back, you help them connect with you. Reaching over to hold their hand communicates love. Hugging good-bye increases your mate’s longing for you in your absence. Holding each other for a moment in the press of a busy day simply says, “I’m glad we’re doing life together.”
Touch reduces stress—for both of you!
You can help your spouse reduce stress with non-sexual touch. Hormones that create stress are greatly reduced in the person receiving the back rub, a gentle stroking of the hand or leg, or simply being held for a few moments. There is something calming that is translated through physical contact. BUT, what research has discovered is that the person who is doing the touching has just as great a reduction in the stress hormones!
Touch helps you function better as a team
Did you know that research has shown that the greater the physical contact among teammates in NBA games the more successful the team’s season? High fives, shoulder bumps—you name it, he more there is physical contact among team members, the greater their success.
As a couple, you are teammates in life. Your ability to sync up with each other is significantly increased when you touch each other. And the more non-sexual touching you can do, the greater your success (and satisfaction!) as a couple.
When your spouse reaches out to you, be sure that you touch them back. This “touch-back” is an important factor in a couple bonding with one another. Laura Guerrero writes that “the stronger the reciprocity, the more likely someone is to report emotional intimacy and satisfaction with the relationship.”
So touch each other often through the day! Hug! Kiss! Hold hands! Put your hand on their shoulder! Kiss their cheek! Cuddle! Be intentional and enjoy each other as you Build Your Marriage!