Touch is an amazing communication tool that is frequently overlooked in marriage. Now that may seem a strange comment. I mean, we think of marriage and we think of hand-holding, kissing, and sexual intimacy – we think of touch. But touch is not just limited to romantic touch.
I recently had lunch with a pastor from Vietnam. We were discussing marriage characteristics in this country as well as those in Vietnam. Touch, or lack thereof, was one item that caught my attention. It has not been uncommon for a couple in that country to have been married for decades and have never kissed or held hands. While there have been some cultural reasons that have contributed to that, the relational impact has been huge. As they have helped people to learn to touch one another, the changes beginning to take place in the marriage have been overwhelming.
When people touch (we’re not talking about sex here, but hugs, touching the arm or shoulder, and so on), their oxytocin levels go up and their heart rates go down. We even reap some of the same benefits when we are the initiator of touch. Touching is one of the most fundamental ways of fostering communication with your partner. And how reciprocal the touch is can tell you a lot about the relationship. Depending on the stage of marriage where a couple finds themselves, there reciprocal touch may be more or it may be less. But over time, couples usually adjust to each other’s touching habits and comfort zone. If they are unable to do this, in has been known to derail the relationship. Couples who are more satisfied with their relationship tend to touch more. However, a true indicator of long-term health is really around how often your partner touches you in response to your initial touch. As one researcher stated, “The stronger the reciprocity, the more likely someone is to report emotional intimacy and satisfaction with the relationship.”
With that in mind – I encourage you to be aware this week of how much you initiate non-sexual touch as well as how frequently you respond in kind to your partner’s touch. You just might be able to touch your way to a new level of satisfaction.