February 17, 2015

Let Me Be Loved: Physical Touch

Physical Touch is perhaps the most common, and easiest of the love languages to understand. It’s been scientifically shown that human beings need physical touch for health and happiness, and this most likely why many people initially assume that Physical Touch must be their language. Of course, like Words of Affirmation and Acts of Service, it has its own set of challenges as well and three wonderful ladies and one great guy have offered a few thoughts on this language.

Every day you should reach out and touch someone.  People love a warm hug, or just a friendly pat on the back.  ~Maya Angelou

How do you feel loved through Physical Touch?
Allison DeWolf:  Hugs are a big one for me. A touch on the back or comforting pat on the arm goes a long way, as well.

Victoria Rose: A simple pat on the back, quick hug (even side hugs), or brief touch on the arm/shoulder is enough for me to feel acknowledged and appreciated.

Elaine J Dalton: It’s easy to feel loved with a simple touch, a meaningful kiss, a well-timed hug. Sometimes just holding hands can make me feel loved. When my husband and I were courting, we would often take long walks with our arms around each other; we felt secure and loved when we did this. In church we would hold hands and trace lines with our thumbs. Whenever he is upset, I give him a hug and if he’s too busy for a hug, I’ll rub his shoulder. This use of touch to communicate love has continued with our baby daughter; I’ll rub her head to calm her down or coax her to sleep. I often find myself hold her hands when she’s sleeping or kissing and cuddling her spontaneously. I don’t know what her love language will be as she grows older, but she seems pretty content to communicate through touch right now.

Andy: People talk about physical touch a lot, and I'm guessing it's the best-known of love languages. To me, that makes a lot of sense--hugging, holding hands, cuddling, you name it, it's a very direct way to be present to the other. For me in particular, I like to express this language by dancing. Some people might be puzzled by that, other people will understand completely. For me, dancing is a way to do something with someone and to be physically present at the same time, and it's fun as well.

What do you see as some challenges to feeling loved this way?

Allison DeWolf: It can be difficult to let people know that physical touch is my love language without seeming desperate. As someone who naturally comes across as distant, people don’t assume that I like touch, which leads to not feeling loved. I’ve found it helpful to express this to those closest to me, and they’ve responded positively.

Victoria Rose: In my experience, most people do not have or understand the love language of physical touch. It can also be challenging because physical touch is not exactly acceptable in some places (like work). This can be very trying in any kind of relationship from acquaintanceship to romantic. In addition, while I have not yet been in a serious romantic relationship, I know that it will be a difficult challenge to not get too physically involved.

Elaine J Dalton: Surrounded by a loving husband and baby, I don’t feel too many struggles to feel loved anymore. But when I was growing up, it was a different story. My mother isn’t a very touchy person at all, though she’d make an effort in the form of a goodnight kiss and an occasional hug if we seemed like we needed it. Due to not knowing what my love language was growing up and being raised germaphobic/wary of getting too close to people, I found it hard to express my emotions toward relatives and friends, as well as feeling loved myself. I relied on the other love languages, but it wasn’t my primary one. Thanksgiving was my favorite holiday because there was always a round of hugs between everybody when we arrived and when we left. My dad isn’t a very touchy person either, so the only times I remember getting hugs from him were when I was very upset or when my mom made him hug me. In our teens, my sister and I would give him goodnight kisses, which he seemed to really enjoy. Since I got married and moved out, my dad has gotten more comfortable with hugs and sometimes he’ll nonverbally ask for kisses, which is very cute.

Andy: Obviously, they both come with challenges and problems. Physical touch is a love language that, for many reasons, is difficult to negotiate. Not only do different cultures have differing ideas of what is appropriate in everyday situations, but different individuals within those cultures have diverging preferences and boundaries. Making sure you don't transgress those involves a lot of patience, attentiveness, and communication.

When you want to let your loved ones know how you feel, what do you do?

Allison DeWolf: I actually tend to show love however I know the person best receives it. If I don’t know that they prefer touch, I don’t use it.

Victoria Rose: I generally give hugs when greeting and saying goodbye to someone I know. This may sound disturbing, but I like long hugs that leave you with a happy sigh. Creepy I know….

Elaine J Dalton: One of the most common ways this language shows love is through a hug or a kiss. Some people will show love by putting their hand on your shoulder or arm, linking arms when walking or touching you for brief moments throughout the day. Massages are another wonderful way to demonstrate this language; I love massages partly because I have a bad back paired with a heavy baby, and partly because they make me feel so loved. It’s touching that my husband will take the time to rub all my sore spots. I do the same for him, and I’ll rub our baby’s little bumps or her back and feet to express my love for her.

What advice can you give for showing Physical Touch speakers love?

Allison DeWolf: Hugs hello. Hugs goodbye. And not creepy hugs, or too-long hugs, but meaningful hugs that say “I care”.

Victoria Rose: As previously stated, a simple pat on the back, holding of hands, and hugs lets me know that I am loved and appreciated. I also love massages and having my hair brushed (yeah, I know that one is odd, but it feel so good!).

Elaine J Dalton: The best way to love this language is to embrace it. If you’re someone who doesn’t like to be touched very often, you’ll probably have to endure a few extra hugs sometimes and check to make sure your loved ones actually feel loved. A hug or a kiss is so simple, yet so powerful to someone whose language is physical touch. A hug won’t kill you, remember. And if you’re like me, with physical touch as your language, and were raised to deny it, you’ll have an interesting experience learning how to communicate with it. That first tentative hug or kiss will steal your breath and leave you wanting more, like a desert thirsty for water. At the same time though, it’ll be uncertain ground. You’ll want to explore your new territory but the boundary lines will be unclear. Do you hug your co-workers now or just shake hands? What do you do when a stranger is upset and you want to comfort them? Everyone has their own limits; it’ll take a bit of a hit-and-miss strategy to figure out what yours are. I’m still figuring out mine!

Any final thoughts you’d like to share?

Allison DeWolf: Learning my own love language and those of my friends has been really helpful. For example, I was having a hard day, and my friend who really dislikes physical touch gave me a big hug. It meant so much more coming from her, because I knew that she was loving me as she knew I received it best. At the same time, I know that her love language is words of affirmation, so I make sure to thank her when she gives me a hug, or verbally express my appreciation for her.

Elaine J Dalton: One of the most powerful experiences I’ve had with physical touch was my pregnancy. Once the awful morning sickness wore off, I had this amazing adventure going on. There was a tiny precious little baby growing inside me! Those first few movements were breathtaking. My husband felt her move before I did {he cheated by putting his hand on my belly and concentrating while I just figured all that funny movement was gas or cramps}, and his reaction was incredible. His eyes lit up and he looked so happy. As the baby grew and my belly popped out, I would sit for hours stroking my belly and picturing the little acrobat inside. Even when the kicks became painful, I wasn’t in a hurry to deliver the baby. I wanted to savor this unique experience of having life inside me. It was amazing to carry her, empowering to deliver her and a little confusing about what to do with this tiny baby girl afterwards. For a hour or two after delivering the baby, I tentatively held her, wondering if I would hurt her if I held too tight or in the wrong position, yet not really wanting to put her down. I figured it out eventually. That pregnancy was an experience I’ll never forget and one I look forward to repeating with more babies over the years.

Millions and millions of years would still not give me half enough time to describe that tiny instant of all eternity when you put your arms around me and I put my arms around you.  ~Jacques Prévert
Want to read more?
Let Me Be Loved: Introduction
Let Me Be Loved: Acts of Service
Let Me Be Loved: Words of Affirmation

1 comment:

  1. This is mine! I don't find long hugs creepy either, as long as there is some sort of unspoken 'long hug' signal or we've just had a deep talk.


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