Let me preface this entire post by making it clear that I have nothing against couples who decide to postpone physical affection (i.e. kissing, full-on hugs) until marriage. If you have the willpower to wait till then, more power to you! At the same time, I can’t say that it is entirely healthy for all couples. I do understand that even the most innocent physical affection can go too far too fast. Yet, I can’t emphasize enough how much I firmly believe in touch during courtship (notice I said COURTSHIP). I feel that for many couples it is actually helpful rather than hurtful.
I’m sure some of you may have read Dr. Gary Chapman’s book The 5 Love Languages. For those of you who haven’t, Dr. Chapman breaks down the basic needs of married individuals. He defines these needs as love languages and lists five. These languages are words of affirmation, acts of services, receiving gifts, quality time, and physical touch. Married or not, these love languages apply to everyone. Though Josh and I aren’t yet married, we both know each other’s primary love language. His is definitely quality time! Josh loves to spend time with me with others, but also needs alone time with me. Refusing to acknowledge or meet his need for quality time emotionally drains him and puts a strain on our relationship.
I, on the other hand, am more of a mix. I have two competing love languages, words of affirmation and physical touch. Josh also recognizes the importance of meeting these two needs. If one of us continually fails to meet the other’s needs, the results can be disastrous. Physical touch is no exception to this rule. In the past, Josh has (unknowingly) not fulfilled my need for physical touch. He wasn’t “speaking” my love language. Rather than doing the appropriate thing and verbally expressing myself, I chose to become bitter and pull away. At the time, he had no idea what my two love languages were, which just made it all the more difficult for him to address the issue. Today, I’m happy to say that we both know each other’s love languages and are better able to meet each other’s emotional needs.
I say all of that to emphasize the fact that physical touch (to many) is just as important as the other love languages. If Josh were to never kiss me or hug me or put his arm around me, I guarantee you I’d start to feel emotionally starved. Ask anyone who shares this love language with me and they’ll completely agree. Though touch does not define a relationship, its power must not be underestimated. Physical affection is not love itself, but it is the very product of love. Thus, its absence is often perceived as the absence of love.
In marriage, couples who rarely touch often feel distant from their spouse. They begin to feel unloved, though they might not admit it. This principle is true for all romantic relationships. While lack of touch is most detrimental in marriages, it is crushing in all relationships. Ignoring the need for touch can destroy the emotional closeness between two people. In an article written by Dr. Chapman, he states that physical touch “communicate[s] that you care” and that “a hug is worth more than a thousand words”. To the person whose love language is physical touch, something as casual as a kiss on the cheek or a quick hug can brighten their entire day.
So, I challenge you to learn your spouse or significant other’s love language. Learn what they NEED. If it’s words of affirmation, genuinely encourage them each day! Quality time? Mark spaces in your schedule to put work or school aside and spend one-on-one time with them. Is their love language physical touch? Even if you’re not the most touchy-feely person, always make a conscious effort to give them meaningful hugs and maybe even a kiss on the forehead. Something as small as learning to speak each other’s love language can make a world of difference!
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