Many spouses long to be touched by their beloved more or in a different way. Maybe you’re among those couples for whom physical affection fell off after marriage or the newlywed years. Or maybe touch has never been your relationship’s strong suit.
Let’s get back on track. Or on track for the first time! Here are six kinds of touch every marriage should have and/or foster.
- She nudges her husband with her elbow to get his attention before speaking.
- He reaches over and wipes a smudge from her cheek.
- She taps her husband’s shoulder and points out something interesting.
All of these are touches you wouldn’t do with a stranger but would do with a family member or friend. You’re in relationship with such people, so there’s an amount of casual touching that’s not only allowed but expected. There’s no particular emotional message being sent, other than the underlying familiarity you have with one another.
When a marriage is in trouble, even casual touches like these can disappear. If you’re nervous to touch your spouse in a familiar way, then you need to do some work on your relationship and perhaps even see a counselor.
- He gives her a foot rub.
- She massages his sore shoulders.
- He palms her forehead to check for fever.
- She puts his hair in a ponytail (true story with Spock’s pandemic hair).
Sometimes we need another to help care for us in some way. It could be small gestures like those mention here or bigger ones, particular in times of health crises or other adversity. For instance, my husband did a lot of caretaking for me when I was on pregnancy bed rest.
Such is our calling as we pledge ourselves to one another “for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health.” One of the many advantages of marriage is having a companion to care for you when needed.
Hopefully, this is done out of love more than obligation, out of commitment more than duty. That’s not to say we’ll always enjoy the caretaking moment, but we engage in that physical touch because we are connected to and support one another. “No, I don’t want to tweeze that hair coming out of your ear, but I will. And that says True Love as much as anything.”
- She starts to cry, and he pulls her into a bear hug.
- When he announces he’s lost his job, she reaches over and squeezes his hand.
- She asks if he still thinks she’s beautiful, and he cradles her chin in his hands and smiles down at her lovingly.
Disappointment, doubt, grief, frustration, anger—any number of negative emotions can hit us at various times, and the reassuring touch of our spouse can settle our hearts and heads. We may still feel bad, but we at least don’t feel alone.
When we need that reassurance and don’t get it, we can feel even more lonely. Not only are we facing difficulty, we should have support but don’t. Oftentimes, it takes great calm and courage for a spouse to provide that needed reassuring touch when their mate is in the midst of negative emotion. Even seeing our spouse in pain can be stressful to us, or we worry about getting caught up in the storm, but we can be our spouse’s buoy or even anchor in that storm.
Physical touch can reassure us of the presence, the concern, and the love of our mate.6 Kinds of Touch Every Marriage Needs. "Physical touch can reassure us of the presence, the concern, and the love of our mate." via @hotholyhumorous Click To Tweet
All of the three touches above—familiar, caretaking, and reassuring—could also be provided by a family member or friend. Next, we have three touches specific to your marriage relationship.
- He slips his hand into hers as they walk toward the store.
- She cuddles next to him as they watch TV.
- He pulls her close as they slow-dance to the music.
Romantic touches signify “we are a couple.” They display and nurture intimacy, without being sexual.
Romantic touches might include some kinds of kisses, like a peck or a soft kiss, and go beyond familiar to personal and private. This is the kind of affection that if you showed another, you’d be crossing a line. But with your spouse, it’s special, endearing, and reinforcing what it means to be “one flesh” (see Genesis 2:24, Mark 10:7-9).
If you haven’t had much of this in your marriage, spend a lot of time here!
Some marriage counselors have found that requiring couples to hold hands during therapy or to/from the office helps spouses rekindle interest, and research has shown that a 20-second hug produces oxytocin, the bonding chemical or “love hormone” that helps us feel connected with another. If you’re out of practice, it may feel rote to touch one another romantically at first, but you’ll eventually move from awkward to amorous.
- He plants a long, lingering kiss at the nape of her neck.
- She palms his chest and slowly moves her hand down his torso until it rests right above his “happy place.”
- They close in and passionately kiss for several seconds, minutes, or who-knows-how-long—because time disappears.
Will sex happen? Maybe, maybe not. But sensuality is definitely happening. And whether or not sex comes next, this kind of touch is sexy stuff that can give you wonderful feelings about yourself, your spouse, your marriage, and life in general.
Ideally, sensual touch doesn’t lead to sex every time. Rather, it’s enjoyed for its own sake, as a show of intimacy, desire, and passion. Moreover, it sets the overall tone of your marriage so that when sex does happen, it’s even more pleasurable and satisfying.6 Kinds of Touch Every Marriage Needs. "Ideally, sensual touch doesn't lead to sex every time. Rather, it's enjoyed for its own sake, as a show of intimacy, desire, and passion." via @hotholyhumorous Click To Tweet
Hint to the gents out there: A lot of wives tell me they’d like more sensual touch without the expectation of sex immediately following. As frustrating as that may seem at first, investing in this kind of touch could lead to more sexual interest and confidence from your wife, meaning ultimately more and better sex. But don’t just do it to get more sex. Do it because it’s awesome.
- He lowers his mouth to her breast…
- She unzips his pants and…
- He settles himself between her legs and…
Yeah, all of those end with ellipses (…) because erotic touches are the physical affection that happens behind closed doors or in the privacy of your own space. Yes, they’re sexual, but not merely sexual. They are intended to create arousal, excitement, desire, and passion.
If the erotic touches in your marriage don’t stir something inside you, then you may need to change something up. Perhaps it’s due to trauma from your background, or a misunderstanding of sexuality, or physical or relational issues, or needing to improve technique (see 7 Reasons You Don’t Want Sex). But whatever it is, you should address it so that eroticism can be present in your marriage bed. Such touches should feel good.
Erotic touches should also take time. They are leading somewhere, but they feel good on their own too. Make sure to draw them out and savor the sensations.
If you need it after that last section, go grab a cold shower. I’ll wait. ~wink~
Okay, now that you’re back, let’s sum up the six touches every marriage needs.
Now ask yourself which, if any, your marriage needs more of? For those in less satisfying marriages sexually, don’t skip right to erotic; rather think through how all of these touches create an atmosphere of security that allows for the vulnerability needed for sexual intimacy.
And if you’re having great sex already, you might have neglected caregiving or romantic affection and need to work on those areas.
Take a look at the list, maybe discuss it with your beloved, and consider what kind of physical touch you can expand in your marriage.
His left arm is under my head, and his right arm embraces me.Song of Songs 2:6, 8:3