Science

2 Ways ‘Affectionate Touch’ Can Revive A Failing Relationship

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Many people come to therapy craving affection in their relationships. They might say things like:

“I can feel him pulling away from me, he didn’t even hug me this morning.”
“I wish he was more physically affectionate. He says all the right things, but I just don’t feel like he really wants me.”
“I’ve honestly been feeling really lonely. It’s starting to feel like I’m living with a roommate rather than a partner.”

As a language of love, touch emerges as a silent but powerful communicator of emotions, desires and intimacy. Research published in the International Journal of Psychology has shown that the deprivation of touch has even been linked to depression, anxiety and physical ailments. Even the most platonic forms of touch are an essential element in binding romantic partners together and fostering deeper emotional connections.

Here are two reasons why touch is transformative to romantic relationships.

1. Touch Heals The Mind And Body

Science has long recognized the profound impact of touch on physiological well-being. It all begins with a hormone called oxytocin, often dubbed the “love hormone” or “cuddle hormone.”

Released in the brain during moments of physical intimacy, oxytocin plays a pivotal role in forging emotional bonds between partners. It promotes feelings of trust, affection and attachment, creating a sense of security and closeness.

The benefits of touch go even further. Research has shown how interpersonal touch contributes to a lowered stress response by decelerating one’s heart rate and blood pressure while also reducing cortisol production, the hormone associated with stress. Remarkably, touch can even alleviate pain through its effects on our serotonin levels.

Physical affection also triggers the release of endorphins, the body’s natural mood lifters, leading to feelings of happiness and relaxation. A loving touch can serve as a potent antidote to the pressures of daily life, helping partners feel grounded and connected during challenging times.

2. Touch Enhances Individual And Relationship Well-Being

Research has revealed that touch enhances one’s positive emotional states, feelings of intimacy and leads to greater psychological well-being.

Furthermore, the power of physical touch extends beyond the moment, weaving enduring memories into the tapestry of a relationship’s story. A 2022 study showed how shared positive activities, such as engaging conversations, shared leisure time, fun activities and joint laughter—all of which involve physical proximity and plenty of opportunities for warm touch—can enhance relationships and allow individuals to view their partners more positively. These moments of closeness, whether during a romantic getaway or a quiet night at home, become cherished memories that partners can draw upon during difficult times.

A 2023 study found that affectionate touch is associated with the greater degree of love between partners. Thus, touch can communicate love, desire and commitment in ways that often surpass verbal expression. A loving touch on the cheek can convey affection, while a reassuring hug can offer solace and understanding. These seemingly small touches convey profound messages, reminding partners that they are cherished and supported.

Here are some ways to incorporate more physical affection into your relationship.

Create regular opportunities for touch. Simple gestures such as holding hands while sitting or watching TV can promote closeness. You can make date nights a priority and choose activities that involve physical closeness, such as dancing, cooking, skating, partner yoga or even just a romantic walk. You can also establish bedtime rituals that involve affectionate touch, such as cuddling for a few minutes before going to sleep.
Be mindful during goodbyes and reunions. Make it a habit to greet or leave each other with a long and warm embrace and take the time to show affection rather than rushing out the door. This shows your partner that they are an important part of your day.
Embrace spontaneity. Surprise your partner with unexpected touches throughout the day, like a quick shoulder rub or a gentle caress, or offer each other massages to unwind. You can be spontaneous and generous in your displays of love without waiting for a special occasion.

Remember that the key to successful implementation of these strategies is mutual consent and comfort. Always respect your partner’s boundaries and preferences when it comes to physical touch, and communicate openly about your desires and needs in the relationship.

Conclusion

Touch is not merely a physical act but a profound means of emotional expression and connection that has the power to improve one’s overall well-being, strengthen emotional bonds, enhance communication and foster love, intimacy and relationship satisfaction. Making a conscious effort to engage in affectionate touch with your partner can deepen your connection in ways that words alone may not achieve.

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