Saturday, May 19, 2018

Love Language #5 PHYSICAL TOUCH

Love Language #5


We have long known that physical touch is a way of communicating emotional love. Numerous research projects in the area of child development have made that conclusion: Babies who are held, hugged, and kissed develop a healthier emotional life than those who are left for long periods of time without physical contact. The importance of touching children is not a modern idea. In the first century, the Hebrews living in Palestine, recognising Jesus as a great teacher, brought their children to Him “to have him touch them.”[1] You may remember that Jesus’ disciples rebuked those parents, thinking that Jesus was too busy for such frivolous activity. But the Scriptures say that Jesus was indignant with the disciples and said, “‘Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.’ And he took the children in his arms, put his hands on them and blessed them.”[2] Wise parents, in any culture, are touching parents.

Physical touch is also a powerful vehicle for communicating marital love. Holding hands, kissing, embracing, and sexual intercourse are all ways of communicating emotional love to one’s spouse. For some individuals, physical touch is their primary love language. Without it, they feel unloved. With it, their emotional tank is filled, and they feel secure in the love of their spouse.

The old-timers used to say, “The way to a man’s heart is through his stomach.” Many a man has been “fattened for the kill” by women who have believed this philosophy. The old-timers, of course, were not thinking of the physical heart but of man’s romantic center. It would be more accurate to say, “The way to some men’s hearts is through their stomachs.” I remember the husband who said, “Dr. Chapman, my wife is a gourmet cook. She spends hours in the kitchen. She makes these elaborate meals. Me? I’m a meat and potatoes man. I tell her she is wasting her time. I like simple food. She gets hurt and says I don’t appreciate her. I do appreciate her. I just wish she would make it easy on herself and not spend so much time with the elaborate meals. Then we would have more time together, and she would have the energy to do some other things.” Obviously, “other things” were closer to his heart than fancy foods.

That man’s wife was a frustrated lover. In the family in which she grew up, her mother was an excellent cook and her father appreciated her efforts. She remembers hearing her father say to her mother, “When I sit down to meals like this, it’s so easy for me to love you.” Her father was a wellspring of positive comments to her mother about her cooking. In private and in public, he praised her culinary skills. That daughter learned well from her mother’s model. The problem is that she is not married to her father. Her husband has a different love language.

In my conversation with this husband, it didn’t take long to discover that “other things” to him meant sex. When his wife was sexually responsive, he felt secure in her love. But when, for whatever reason, she withdrew from him sexually, all of her culinary skills could not convince him that she really loved him. He did not object to the fancy meals, but in his heart they could never substitute for what he considered to be “love.”

Sexual intercourse, however, is only one dialect in the love language of physical touch. Of the five senses, touching, unlike the other four, is not limited to one localised area of the body. Tiny tactile receptors are located throughout the body. When those receptors are touched or pressed, nerves carry impulses to the brain. The brain interprets these impulses and we perceive that the thing that touched us is warm or cold, hard or soft. It causes pain or pleasure. We may also interpret it as loving or hostile.

Physical touch can make or break a relationship. It can communicate hate or love.

Some parts of the body are more sensitive than others. The difference is due to the fact that the tiny tactile receptors are not scattered evenly over the body but arranged in clusters. Thus, the tip of the tongue is highly sensitive to touch whereas the back of the shoulders is the least sensitive. The tips of the fingers and the tip of the nose are other extremely sensitive areas. Our purpose, however, is not to understand the neurological basis of the sense of touch but rather its psychological importance.

Physical touch can make or break a relationship. It can communicate hate or love. To the person whose primary love language is physical touch, the message will be far louder than the words “I hate you” or “I love you.” A slap in the face is detrimental to any child, but it is devastating to a child whose primary love language is touch. A tender hug communicates love to any child, but it shouts love to the child whose primary love language is physical touch. The same is true of adults.

In marriage, the touch of love may take many forms. Since touch receptors are located throughout the body, lovingly touching your spouse almost anywhere can be an expression of love. That does not mean that all touches are created equal. Some will bring more pleasure to your spouse than others. Your best instructor is your spouse, of course. After all, she is the one you are seeking to love. She knows best what she perceives as a loving touch. Don’t insist on touching her in your way and in your time. Learn to speak her love dialect. Your spouse may find some touches uncomfortable or irritating. To insist on continuing those touches is to communicate the opposite of love. It is saying that you are not sensitive to her needs and that you care little about her perceptions of what is pleasant. Don’t make the mistake of believing that the touch that brings pleasure to you will also bring pleasure to her.

Love touches may be explicit and demand your full attention such as in a back rub or sexual foreplay, culminating in intercourse. On the other hand, love touches may be implicit and require only a moment, such as putting your hand on his shoulder as you pour a cup of coffee or rubbing your body against him as you pass in the kitchen. Explicit love touches obviously take more time, not only in actual touching but in developing your understanding of how to communicate love to your spouse this way. If a back massage communicates love loudly to your spouse, then the time, money, and energy you spend in learning to be a good masseur or masseuse will be well invested. If sexual intercourse is your mate’s primary dialect, reading about and discussing the art of sexual lovemaking will enhance your expression of love.

Implicit love touches require little time but much thought, especially if physical touch is not your primary love language and if you did not grow up in a “touching family.” Sitting close to each other on the couch as you watch your favourite television program requires no additional time but may communicate your love loudly. Touching your spouse as you walk through the room where he is
sitting takes only a moment. Touching each other when you leave the house and again when you return may involve only a brief kiss or hug but will speak volumes to your spouse.

Once you discover that physical touch is the primary love language of your spouse, you are limited only by your imagination on ways to express love. Coming up with new ways and places to touch can be an exciting challenge. If you have not been an “under-the-table toucher,” you might find that it will add a spark to your dining out. If you are not accustomed to holding hands in public, you may find that you can fill your spouse’s emotional love tank as you stroll through the parking lot. If you don’t normally kiss as soon as you get into the car together, you may find that it will greatly enhance your travels. Hugging your spouse before she goes shopping may not only express love, it may bring her home sooner. Try new touches in new places and let your spouse 
give you feedback on whether he finds it pleasurable or not. Remember, he has the final word. You are learning to speak his language.


Whatever there is of me resides in my body. To touch my body is to touch me. To withdraw from my body is to distance yourself from me emotionally. In our society shaking hands is a way 
of communicating openness and social closeness to another individual. When on rare occasions one man refuses to shake hands with another, it communicates a message that things are not right in their relationship. All societies have some form of physical touching as a means of social greeting. The average American male may not feel comfortable with the European bear hug and kiss, but in Europe that serves the same function as our shaking hands.

There are appropriate and inappropriate ways to touch members of the opposite sex in every society. The recent attention to sexual harassment has highlighted the inappropriate 
ways. Within marriage, however, what is appropriate and inappropriate touching is determined by the couple themselves, within certain broad guidelines. Physical abuse is of course deemed inappropriate by society, and social organisations have been formed to help “the battered wife and the battered husband.” Clearly our bodies are for touching, but not for abuse.

If your spouse’s primary love language is physical touch, nothing is more important than holding her as she cries.

This age is characterized as the age of sexual openness and freedom. With that freedom, we have demonstrated that the open marriage where both spouses are free to have sexual intimacies with other individuals is fanciful. Those who do not object on moral grounds eventually object on emotional grounds. Something about our need for intimacy and love does not allow us to give our spouse such freedom. The emotional pain is deep and intimacy evaporates when we are aware that our spouse is involved with someone else sexually. Counsellors’ files are filled with records of husbands and wives who are trying to grapple with the emotional trauma of an unfaithful spouse. That trauma, however, is compounded for the individual whose primary love language is physical touch. That for which he longs so deeply—love expressed by physical touch—is now being given to another. His emotional love tank is not only empty; it has been riddled by an explosion. It will take massive repairs for those emotional needs to be met.


Almost instinctively in a time of crisis, we hug one another. Why? Because physical touch is a powerful communicator of love. In a time of crisis, more than anything, we need to feel loved. 
We cannot always change events, but we can survive if we feel loved.

All marriages will experience crises. The death of parents is inevitable. Automobile accidents cripple and kill thousands each year. Disease is no respecter of persons. Disappointments are a part
of life. The most important thing you can do for your mate in a time of crisis is to love him or her. If your spouse’s primary love language is physical touch, nothing is more important than holding her as she cries. Your words may mean little, but your physical touch will communicate that you care. Crises provide a unique opportunity for expressing love. Your tender touches will be remembered long after the crisis has passed. Your failure to touch may never be forgotten.

Since my first visit to West Palm Beach, Florida, 
many years ago, I have always welcomed invitations to lead marriage seminars in that area. It was on one such occasion that I met Pete and Patsy. They were not native to Florida (few are), but they had lived there for twenty years and called West Palm Beach home. My seminar was sponsored by a local church, and as we drove from the airport, the pastor informed me that Pete and Patsy had requested that I spend the night at their house. I tried to act excited, but knew from experience that such a request usually meant a late-night counselling session. However, I was to be surprised in more than one way that night.

As the pastor and I entered the spacious, well-decorated, Spanish-style house, I was introduced to Patsy and to Charlie, the family cat. As I looked around the house, I had the hunch that 
either Pete’s business had done very well, his father had left him a huge inheritance, or he was hopelessly in debt. Later I discovered that my first hunch was correct. When I was shown the guest room, I observed that Charlie, the cat, was making himself at home, stretched across the bed where I was to be sleeping. I thought, This cat has it made.

Pete came home shortly, and we had a delightful 
snack together and agreed that we would have 
dinner after the seminar. Several hours later 
while sharing dinner, I kept waiting for the counseling session to begin. It never did. Instead, I found Pete and Patsy to be a healthy, happily married couple. For a counselor, that is an oddity. I was eager to discover their secret, but being extremely tired and knowing that Pete and Patsy were going to drive me to the airport the next day, I decided to do my probing when I was feeling more alert. They showed me to my room.

Charlie, the cat, was nice enough to leave the room when I got there. Bounding from the bed, he headed off to another bedroom and within minutes, I was in bed. After a brief reflection of the day, I was entering the twilight zone. Just before losing touch with reality, the door to my bedroom popped open and a monster leaped on top of me! I had heard of Florida’s scorpions, but this was no small scorpion. Without time to think, I grabbed the sheet that was draped over my body and with one bloodcurdling shriek, flung the monster against the far wall. I heard his body hit 
the wall and then silence. Pete and Patsy came running down the hallway, turned on the light, and we all looked at Charlie lying still.

Pete and Patsy have never forgotten me, and I have never forgotten them. Charlie did revive in a few minutes, but he did not come back to my room. In fact, Pete and Patsy told me later that 
Charlie never went back to that bedroom again.

After my abuse of Charlie, I wasn’t sure whether Pete and Patsy would still want to take me to the airport the next day or if they would have any further interest in me. However, my fears 
vanished when, after the seminar, Pete said, “Dr. Chapman, I have been to many seminars, but I have never heard anyone describe Patsy and me as clearly as you. That love language idea is true. I can’t wait to
tell you our story!”

A few minutes after saying good-byes to those attending the seminar, we were in the car for our forty-five-minute drive to the airport. And Pete and Patsy began to tell me their story. In the early years of their marriage, they had tremendous difficulties. But some twenty-two years earlier, all of their friends agreed that they were the “perfect couple.” Pete and Patsy certainly believed that their marriage was “made in heaven.”

They had grown up in the same community, attended the same church, and graduated from the same high school. Their parents had similar lifestyles and values. Pete and Patsy enjoyed many of the same things. They both liked tennis and boating, and they often talked about how many interests they held in common. They seemed to possess all the commonalities that are supposed to assure fewer conflicts in marriage.

They began dating in their senior year in high school. They attended separate colleges but managed to see each other at least once a month and sometimes more often. By the end of their
freshman year, they were convinced that they were “meant for each other.” They both agreed, however, to finish college before marriage. For the next three years, they enjoyed an idyllic dating relationship. One weekend, he would visit her campus; the following weekend, she would visit his campus; the third weekend, they would go home to visit the folks but spend most of the weekend with each other. The fourth weekend of each month, they agreed not to see each other, thus giving each of them freedom to develop individual interests. Except for special events such as birthdays, they consistently followed that schedule. Three weeks after he received his degree in business and she a degree in sociology, they were married. Two months later, they moved to Florida where Pete had been offered a good job. They were two thousand miles from their nearest relative. They could enjoy
a “honeymoon” forever.

The first three months were exciting—moving, finding a new apartment, enjoying life together. The only conflict they could remember was over washing dishes. Pete thought he had a more 
efficient way to complete that chore. Patsy, however, was not open to his idea. Eventually, they had agreed that whoever washed the dishes could do it his/her way, and that conflict was resolved. They were about six months into the marriage when Patsy began to feel that Pete was withdrawing from her. He was working longer hours, and when he was at home, he spent considerable time with the computer. When she finally expressed her feelings that he was avoiding her, Pete told her that he was not avoiding her but simply trying to stay on top of his job. He said that she didn’t understand the pressure he was under and how important it was that he do well in his first year on the job. Patsy wasn’t pleased, but she decided to give him space.

Patsy began to develop friendships with other wives who lived in the apartment complex. Often when she knew Pete was going to work late she would go shopping with one of her friends instead of going straight home after work. Sometimes she was not at home when Pete arrived. That annoyed him greatly, and he accused her of being thoughtless and irresponsible. Patsy retorted, “This is the pot calling the kettle black. Who is irresponsible? You don’t even call me and let me know when you will be home. How can I be here for you when I don’t even know when you will be here? And when you are here, you spend all your time with that dumb computer. You don’t need a wife; all you need is a computer!”

To which Pete loudly responded, “I do need a wife. Don’t you understand? That’s the whole point. I do need a wife.” 

But Patsy did not understand. She was extremely confused. In her search for answers, she went to the public library and checked out several books on marriage. “Marriage is not supposed to be this way,” she reasoned. “I have to find an answer to our situation.” When Pete went to the computer room, Patsy would pick up her book. In fact on many evenings, she read until midnight. On his way to bed, Pete would notice her and make sarcastic comments such as, “If you read that much in college, you would have made straight A’s.” Patsy would respond, “I am not in college. I’m in marriage, and right now, I’d be satisfied with a C.” Pete went to bed without so much as a second glance.

At the end of the first year, Patsy was desperate.

At the end of the first year, Patsy was desperate. She had mentioned it before, but this time she calmly said to Pete, “I am going to find a marriage counsellor. Do you want to go with me?”
But Pete answered, “I don’t need a marriage counselor. I don’t have time to go to a marriage counselor. I can’t afford a marriage counselor.”

“Then I’ll go alone,” said Patsy.

“Fine, you are the one who needs counseling anyway.”

The conversation was over. Patsy felt totally alone, but the next week she made an appointment with a marriage counselor. After three sessions, the counselor called Pete and asked if he would be
willing to come in to talk about his perspective on their marriage. Pete agreed, and the process of healing began. Six months later, they left the counselor’s office with a new marriage.

I said to Pete and Patsy, “What did you learn in counseling that turned your marriage around?”

“In essence, Dr. Chapman,” Pete said, “we learned to speak each other’s love language. The counselor did not use that term, but as you gave the lecture today, the lights came on. My 
mind raced back to our counseling experience, and I realized that’s exactly what happened to us. We finally learned to speak each other’s love language.”

“So what is your love language, Pete?” I asked.

“Physical touch,” he said without hesitation.

“Physical touch for sure,” said Patsy.

“And yours, Patsy?”

“Quality time, Dr. Chapman. That’s what I was crying for in those days while he was spending
all his time with his job and his computer.”

“How did you learn that physical touch was Pete’s love language?”

“It took a while,” Patsy said. “Little by little, it began to come out in the counseling. At first, I don’t think Pete even realized it.”

“She’s right,” Pete said. “I was so insecure in my own sense of self-worth that it took forever for me to be willing to identify and acknowledge that her lack of touch had caused me to withdraw. I
never told her that I wanted to be touched, although I was crying inside for her to reach out and touch me. In our dating relationship, I had always taken the initiative in hugging, kissing, and holding hands, but she had always been responsive. I felt that she loved me, but after we got married, there were times that I reached out to her physically and she was not responsive. 
Maybe with her new job responsibilities she was too tired. I don’t know, but I took it personally. I felt that she didn’t find me attractive. Then I decided I would not take the initiative because I didn’t want to be rejected. So I waited to see how long it would be before she’d initiate a kiss or a touch or sexual intercourse. Once I waited for six weeks before she touched me at all. I found it unbearable. My withdrawal was to stay away from the pain I felt when I was with her. I felt rejected, unwanted, and unloved.”

Then Patsy said, “I had no idea that that was what he was feeling. I knew that he was not reaching out to me. We were not kissing and hugging as we had done earlier, but I just assumed that since we were married, that was not as important to him now. I knew that he was under pressure with his job. I had no idea that he wanted me to take the initiative.

“He’s right. I would go weeks without touching 
him. It didn’t cross my mind. I was preparing 
meals, keeping the house clean, doing his laundry, and trying to stay out of his way. I honestly didn’t know what else I could be doing. I could not understand his withdrawal or his lack of attention to me. It’s not that I dislike touching; it’s just that it was never that important to me. Spending time with me is what made me feel loved and appreciated, giving me attention. It really didn’t matter whether we hugged or kissed. As long as he gave me his attention, I felt loved.

“It took us a long time to discover the root of the problem, but once we discovered that we were not meeting each other’s emotional need for love, we began to turn things around. Once I began to take the initiative in giving him physical touch, it’s amazing what happened. His personality, his spirit changed drastically. I had a new husband. Once he became convinced that I really did love him, then he began to become more responsive to my needs.”

“Does he still have a computer at home?” I asked.

“Yes,” she said, “but he seldom uses it and when he does, it’s all right because I know that he is not ‘married’ to the computer. We do so many things together that it’s easy for me to give him the freedom to use the computer when he wants to.”

“What amazed me at the seminar today,” Pete said, “was the way your lecture on love languages carried me back all these years to that experience. You said in twenty minutes what it 
took us six months to learn.”

“Well,” I said, “it’s not how fast you learn it but how well you learn it that matters. And obviously, you have learned it well.”

Pete is only one of many individuals for whom 
physical touch is the primary love language. 
Emotionally, they yearn for their spouse to reach 
out and touch them physically. Running the hand
through the hair, giving a back rub, holding hands, 
embracing, sexual intercourse—all of those and 
other “love touches” are the emotional lifeline of 
the person for whom physical touch is the primary 
love language.

1. Mark 10:13.
2. Mark 10:14–16.

If your spouse’s love language is Physical Touch:

1. As you walk from the car to the shopping mall, reach out and hold your spouse’s hand. (Unless, of course, you have three preschool children with you.)

2. While eating together, let your knee or foot drift over and touch your spouse. Be careful you are not rubbing the dog.

3. Walk up to your spouse and say, “Have I told you lately that I love you?” Take her in your arms and hug her while you rub her back and continue. “You are the greatest!” (Resist the temptation to rush to the bedroom.) Untangle yourself and move on to the next thing.

4. While your spouse is seated, walk up behind her and initiate a shoulder massage. Continue for five minutes unless your spouse begs you to stop.

5. If you sit together in church, when the minister calls for prayer reach over and hold your spouse’s hand.

6. Initiate sex by giving your spouse a foot massage. Continue to other parts of the body as long as it brings pleasure to your spouse.

7. Run the water in the Jacuzzi and announce to your spouse that you are looking for a partner to join you.

8. Riding down the road together, reach over and touch your spouse on the leg, stomach, arm, hand, or…If he or she says “stop!” by all means put on the brakes.

9. When family or friends are visiting, touch your spouse in their presence. A hug, running your hand along his or her arm, putting your arm around his as you stand talking, or simply placing your
hand on her shoulder can earn double emotional points. It says, “Even with all these people in our house, I still see you.”

10. When your spouse arrives at home, meet him or her one step earlier than usual and give your mate a big hug. If you normally meet at the door, go to the garage. If you normally meet in the
garage, go to the street. Then, as the car turns into the driveway, stop your mate, lean into the lowered window, and give him or her a kiss. If you normally meet at the street, hide in the 
parking area and step out as your mate opens the door and give him or her a hug. (Be sure your mate sees you before you hug him or her.)

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