He gets up from the couch to walk into the kitchen, and as he passes by her he places his hand on her shoulder, just for a brief second.
Love tank fill up.
She sees that her friend doesn’t have the usual smile on her face at church, and without asking a single question, she just embraces her into an enormous God-sized hug.
Love tank fill up.
They are on a date, early in the relationship. They haven’t said “I love you” or kissed or anything yet. As they watch the concert, he reaches over and quietly grabs her hand. For the first time.
Love tank fill up.
They’re at the movies, sharing a popcorn and anticipating the show. As the lights dim and the previews begin, she rests her head on his shoulder and puts her hand on his knee.
Love tank fill up.
While for some spouses physical touch equals s-e-x, more often than not, it’s a very non-sexual love language. Speaking physical touch is simply a physical expression of your affection and love for them, given in an adoring and tender way. And most of the time it’s small gestures given in high frequency.
How can you know if the country you’re traveling to is a physical touch one? Here are a few ways to tell:
- They touch you. Sounds easy enough, right? But it’s easy to miss. If it’s a friend, it might be one who loves to hug you — for any reason, any time and every time. Maybe it’s your husband reaching out to put his hand on the small of your back as you walk together into the restaurant. Maybe it’s your parent or sibling brushing your hair away from your face while you talk, or giving you a foot rub. Maybe it’s your child who continually asks for her back to be scratched. The acts of touch themselves to not have to be long — they can be quick and brief moments — but they happen frequently.
- They ask for touch. Again, easy, right? But if physical touch is not on your radar, it’s easy for it to go unnoticed. Do they frequently ask for back rubs? Does your husband joke about the lack of intimacy in your relationship? Sometimes those are longings to be touched physically disguised as “help” or fun.
- It can be disguised as closeness. Often, someone who speaks physical touch will put themselves in physical proximity to you. If you’re working in the garden, they sit on the porch reading. If you’re in the kitchen cooking, they’re at the counter on a stool near you. If you’re on your computer, they’ll plant themselves in the same room. They just want to be as near to you as possible.
Here are some easy ways to speak physical touch to your loved one:
- Touch them. I know — DUH. But sometimes we complicate uncomplicated things, right? When you walk by your spouse on your way to the kitchen, place your hand on their shoulder without a word and then keep moving on. When you’re meeting with a friend, reach out and grab her hand as she shares, or embrace her into a hug that’s just a little longer than you normally are comfortable with. With your kids, just scoop them into your lap for a snuggle, even just a couple of minutes several times throughout the day.
- Let them touch you. When your parent begins stroking your hair, resist the urge to shrink and hide. If you’re driving with your spouse somewhere and they reach out and grab your hand, give it a little squeeze and hold tighter than normal. If you’re watching a movie with a friend and they sit by you on the couch, don’t scoot over to the side as far as you can. Be an open touch canvas.
- Be near them. Bring your laptop into the living room if they’re watching TV and work in the same room as them if you can. If they’re working in the yard, go sit with a book on the porch. You don’t have to engage in conversation or quality time for closeness — simple physical proximity is more than enough.
Don’t not touch. For physical touch speakers, the avoidance of touch is a deafening silence. Even more so, don’t touch with any harmful intent — even if it doesn’t seem harmful to you. Don’t snatch papers away from them harshly; don’t shrug out of their hand-holding with disdain. Try not to do the “stiff as a board” hug where you stand there with a blank expression, arms dropped to your sides — or one-armed side-hug that communicates you think they might have cooties.
The hardest thing about physical touch is initiating it, particularly if you grew up in a non-affectionate household. Speaking another’s language is always uncomfortable. But to the recipient, it’s not so much about succeeding as it is making the effort. If you don’t speak physical touch, but allow a sibling or friend to snuggle into you while you watch a movie, love tank fill up.
The key to making all this work is grace and motive. If you trust your loved one’s heart is to please you, it makes it so much easier to forgive them for not being fluent and for mispronouncing a few words.
At least they’re trying.
What about you? Are you a physical toucher, or is your spouse? What has and hasn’t worked for you?
(I can’t end this without saying…if you’ve experienced pain from physical touch previously in your life — through abuse of any kind — please seek professional help and understand this love language cannot be spoken or received without true healing in your life. Find a professional Christian counselor who, through prayer and training, can guide you toward restoring this expression of love in your life.)
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I loved this simple and powerful explanation and the reminder to make it about grace and motive. I am going to try and me a “toucher” outside of my comfort zone this week beyond my immediate family.
This is one of mine, too, and not hubby’s. (Julie – let’s form a club!) ;) YES to the “just being near or in proximity” to one whose love language is physical touch. Just. Yes. That’s what it’s all about for me. You are such a natural “Teacher”, Monica. I love the way you lay out these posts with examples, definitions of what is, what is not, and challenges to apply. Thank you for taking on this series. It’s so good for relationship building (and I’m loving how you’re including examples in friendships, too!)
This is so me and so NOT hubby. I try and understand but its tough when all I want is a hand hold, arm around me, etc. He has gotten better than he used to be just wish it came naturally to him. :)