You’re running late for work and forgot to kiss goodbye; You’re busy when your partner gets home and distracted with the kids jumping all over you to have a hello hug; At night you watch TV while your partner’s on the iPad, and they fall asleep before you even get to bed…
Any of these sound familiar? You’re not alone. Millions of couples are in an intimacy deficit. We are so self-involved at times, and/or so focused on being great parents, that we can go hours, days, or maybe even weeks without touching our partner.
And I’m not talking about sex. Physical touch, whether sexual or non-sexual is an important part of maintaining emotional intimacy in the marriage.
Psychologist Susan O’Grady depends on Dr. John Gottman’s guideline of five positive interactions to every negative interaction in a healthy relationship.
She writes, “But it’s important to remember that intimacy doesn’t necessarily mean sex. in fact, non-sexual touch is vitally important, both in itself and to improve sex lives. For each sexual encounter, it’s important that couples have at least five episodes of non-sexual touch. I use “five” loosely; a 15-1 ratio would be wise. Touching your partner several times a day allows closeness and intimacy to grow in a natural way.”
(It feels like most popular songs are about sex, but there have been one or two hits about hand holding… for good reason!)
There are so many reasons physical touch is important, and it’s been studied around the world with people of all ages. The findings have been amazing, identifying some incredible emotional and physical health benefits that come from touch. This research is suggesting that touch is truly fundamental to human communication, bonding, and health.
Watch this video from Dacher Keltner, about compassionate communication, touch therapies, and proof that “to touch is to give life.”
But I’m so tired…
It’s possible you have a low libido and fear that any touch will be an invitation to sex. You’re just too darn tired. And you’re right – often this will be your partner’s intention, but sometimes it won’t be. It might just be a yearn for closeness and bonding. Rejecting all opportunities for physical closeness creates additional distance, which over time likely leads to your partner making fewer attempts to touch you out of frustration and feelings of rejection.
If this is a major problem in your relationship, you could say something like “I have felt us drifting apart, and I want to get close again. Because I’m often tired and don’t feel like sex, I want to know that it’s okay for me to touch you without it being an open invitation for something more…”
Here are some common scenarios of couples who lack physical intimacy
- Too busy with kids and work to have time alone
- Can’t remember the last time you hugged
- Pass each other in the house without touching
- Touch your children more than you touch each other
- Sex is fast and efficient and includes very little foreplay or afterglow
Need some ideas for non-sexual physical touch?
- Caressing your partner’s cheek
- Touching your partner’s back as you walk past
- Fixing your partner’s collar or necklace
- Tickling the inside of your spouse’s arm
- Walking holding hands or with your arms around each other’s waist
- Giving a neck and shoulder massage
- Sitting close enough so that you are physically touching legs or arms
- Briefly rubbing your partner’s back while watching TV or standing at the kitchen counter
- Playing footsie with each other
- Kissing or nibbling your partner’s ear
- Giving a soothing foot rub
- You get the idea…
And one thing I should also mention – intimacy can also be created through eye contact. Many couples will go for days without looking directly into each other’s eyes.
So touch, touch, touch away! And build a bridge to more intimacy in your relationship.
Interesting facts about touch
- Touch is the first of our senses to develop (read this story about the development of babies who don’t receive daily touch http://www.newyorker.com/science/maria-konnikova/power-touch)
- Relationship expert Peter Saddington recently listed 9 of the top reasons couples get divorced. Ranking at #4 was a mismatched libido, stating men often wanted sex more than women. Nonsexual touch, however, is often crucial for women to feel loved and connected—a necessary ingredient for wanting more sex! When couples fail to meet each other’s physical needs, the disconnect becomes a vicious cycle that feeds their discontent. And when a couple isn’t getting the sexual and nonsexual touch they want in a marriage, they go looking for someone else (which is why affairs are also on the list of the top reasons people divorce).
May the Love be With You
Need more intimacy in your relationship?
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