Love is a Full-Contact Sport

Dear Kat:

As you know from The Five Languages of Love by Gary D. Chapman, we all have a primary need for the expression of love in one of five ways. According to Chapman, those five expressions of love would be (numbered according to the book, not in order of importance):

1. Words of Affirmation - Letting your love know that they are amazing, and gorgeous and wonderful and all the ways you see their light!

2. Quality Time - Time spent being truly "with" your love, listening, talking, touching, being completely in their presence and present with them.

3. Receiving Gifts - Gifts given with love are valuable as they are a symbol of a thought or feeling, a physical manifestation of the love felt for you. 

4. Acts of Service - Doing things that assist your love, whether it is paying a bill, cleaning a room, making the bed, tasks that mean something to your love can be signs of deep love.

5. Physical Touch - Loving touch to a human with physical touch as the primary love language is the most important way to communicate safety and love.

My primary love language is physical touch. This does not automatically mean sex. It means I need physical proximity with my children, family, friends and lovers or significant others. I feel best when we can have a kind energy exchange by being in the same space physically.

I believe my boys may also be primary physical touch lovers too. They love to cuddle and get a back scratch or sit on my lap. It immediately calms them, makes them feel safe and loved. So vital to children to feel secure and loved. When I have not been with them for a while, they can't move more than a few feet away from me. My daughter likes to be near me too, but when the boys are, she walks away (they are her younger brothers, after all..so annoying, according to her) and she will hunt me out later. She doesn't like as much physical touch any more, but she does like a hug, or when I put my hand on her back or head (I have to respect her pre-teen need for space) or she will just sit by me or talk to me while standing close.

So, for me, love is a full contact sport. Hugging and kissing and touching an arm or hand or head, is vital to my own well-being. With my friends, a hug when we see each other then a lot of physical proximity while chatting is just the cure for whatever ails either of us.

The same is true with my family. I went to visit my grandpa last spring and I first saw him, he was in bed, under the covers, so I just plopped myself on top of the covers, and snuggled up next to him. I needed to be close to make up for the year I had not seen him. It fills up my love quota for my Grandpa in a very short period of time, to just get close.

My Mom - I will still sit with her on a chair that is too small sometimes. She will laugh and say I am too big for her lap now (I am like 4 inches taller) but I will squeeze next to her anyway. My Dad, still will give me a kiss and hug when I see him, and that does the job quickly with him too.

For my significant others, there is not enough time to absorb them into my skin. I want to have some part of my body exchanging energy with them at ALL TIMES. It becomes like this physical pull in my gut that insists that part of me needs to have contact with part of them..A LOT! And, again, not always sexual, sometimes just love. It is an expression of love that is pulled right from my soul and heart.

When I do not receive enough touch, or the touch is not kind, it can be devastating. When I do not feel physically "wanted" through touch in a primary relationship (i.e., significant other), it causes me to question myself and my ability to love or be loved. 

Children with a primary love language of touch, if touched unkindly, will carry that for years if they do not figure out a way to resolve it. As a physical touch person, I am grateful that I did not institute spanking as punishment for my children. I do not want touch to be used as a tool for creating conformity. That distorts love for children with physical touch as the primary language.

Touch is a basic human need. There is nothing that can replace it. Science is catching up with the realization that touch is vital to human growth and well-being. Americans, it seems, are grossly under touched when compared to our actual needs and other cultures. 

Touch them anyway. Touch has become taboo in a litigious society where a few people have spoiled it by touching in a way that is not in any way kind or appropriate. Don't let that stop you. Touch can create a connection that was not there previously by "building an energy bridge" between you and whomever you decide to touch. It is rarely sexual (unless it is supposed to be between two consenting adults) and incredibly vital for releasing hormones that create peacefulness and a feeling of well-being.

Touch heals. Infants in NICU (neonatal intensive care unit) due to premature birth or other complications are often placed on the skin of the mother or father when they are not able to leave the NICU. This is because skin to skin contact for a baby is calming, releases healing hormones and aides in brain development. It also does these same for the parents. Babies from over crowed orphanages have serious emotional connectivity issues when they do not receive enough touch or presence (having someone truly "with" you, not distracted or somewhere else mentally). It can take years to "undo" the damage of not receiving enough kind touch due to a decrease in "happy" hormones produced by their brains and an increase in cortisol, the stress hormone.

Hug your friends. Touch someone's arm or shoulder gently while talking to them. Hug your children. Ask them to sit by you during a movie. Rub or scratch someone's back. It is good for both of you. It is good for everyone.

Let's stop pretending we don't want to be touched and get out there and touch each other - KINDLY...and with permission. Technology can't replace human touch. I hope it never does. Because we truly need to touch each other to feel connected and important and whole.

Loving touch can save the world. It is a full-contact sport. Let's start playing it that way.

Kat, I believe you have already read Gary Chapman's book, but if you haven't, please do. The 5 Love Languages is really great reading for anyone. It helps with understanding anyone you love. And if you are not sure what someone you love has as a love language, look at what they do to show love. Do they like to touch you a lot? Make a lot of eye contact while talking to let you know that they are really there with you? Do they like to get you something "just because" or do little tasks for you? Pay attention and you will figure it out. Or, even better, you can ask them which best suits them? 

I can't wait to see and hug you again, Kat!  I love you!