Excerpts from “The Five Love Laguages” Gary Chapman
“We have long known that physical touch is a way of communicating emotional love. Numerous research projects in the area of child development have reached 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. 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 Power of Touch
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 that leads to 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.
The Body Is for Touching
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. 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 organizations have been formed to help the “battered wife” and the “battered husband.” Clearly our bodies are for touching, but not for abuse.
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 most of 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. Counselors’ 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.
Crisis and Physical Touch
Almost instinctively in a time of crisis, we hug one another. Why? Because physical touch is a powerful communicator of love. 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.
Speak The Language
1. As you walk from the car to go shopping, reach out and hold your spouse’s hand.
2. While eating together, let your knee or foot drift over and touch your spouse.
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 give her a shoulder massage.
5. When 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. When family or friends are visiting, touch your spouse in their presence. Putting your arm around him as you stand talking, or simply placing your hand on her shoulder says, “Even with all these people in our house, I still see you.”
8. When your spouse arrives at home, meet him or her one step earlier than usual and give your mate a big welcome home embrace.”