Human beings are made for relationship. This is a well known fact in the field of Psychology and Neuroscience. Even from our early days within our mother’s womb we are touched by the vibrations of our mother’s heartbeat and the sound of her voice, and when we are born we can recognize both. As infants our development depends on the nurture we receive from our caregivers, and a good part of that nurturing involves touching and being touched in loving and caring ways. It turns out that our brains are wired to interpret human touch. Our mind, body, and spirit benefit from it.
When we are touched our brain releases “feel good” neurotransmitters like endorphins, and the levels of stress hormones in the body drop. Furthermore, when humans engage in loving touch, the levels of Oxytocin (the hormone that facilitates bonding and attachment) increase, and heart rates go down. This produces relaxation and a sense of well-being in both the giver and the receiver.
When couples are dating there is a progression in the degree of touch as the emotional connection gets stronger. During the romantic stage of the relationship this happens naturally, but in time it tends to decrease until both partners reach a level of comfort where both initiate loving touch on a regular basis. When a couple is unable to reach this level of comfort in this area, the relationship can easily fall apart. As a matter of fact, touch is an important indicator of the health of the relationship. Studies have demonstrated that the health of a marriage can be gauged, not by the frequency of touch that takes place, but by how frequently each partner responds to that touch.
This does make a lot of sense. If only one partner initiates touch, this may point to an imbalance or emotional disconnect in the relationship, or perhaps the couple has not reached a level of comfort regarding touch with their partner. If partners don’t touch at all, this may indicate that there are unresolved conflict in the relationship. It is true that extroverted individuals tend to be more expressive of their feelings, and introverted ones are less inclined to do so. Nevertheless, the ability to feel comfortable with an appropriate level of loving touch, as well as the ability to respond in kind is crucial to the health of a marriage or dating relationship.
Sometimes couples who at one point were able to find that level of comfort with touch stop being affectionate with each other for various reasons. It could be that they have begun to take each other for granted, or they may have become distracted with other things, or, worse yet, they may have simply become lazy or complacent. Am I stepping on some toes here? I hope so, because this can wake you up to the fact that if you are experiencing a lack of affection in your most intimate relationship, now is the time to address this. Like a plant who is neglected, the relationship will perish without loving care.
What are you doing right now? Working on the computer, or staring at the cell phone waiting for the next text message, you say? Stop right now…go and touch your partner lovingly. Use the language of touch to communicate how you feel. It will be good for both of you. You will be glad you did. Then keep it up on a regular basis.