Wright Foundation | December 9, 2015

Why We Need
Human Touch

Touch is vital to our wellbeing as humans. From birth, we are hardwired to need and crave the touch of others—so much so that babies will actually die if they aren’t touched.

As we grow up and get older, we may be shamed into believing expressing affection is something we shouldn’t do openly. Perhaps your mother made you believe physical affection was for her benefit and not yours. Perhaps your father withheld affection or you never saw your parents engage with each other in a playful, affectionate way.

Somehow, along the way, we might have lost this ability to express affection through touch, even though we’re hardwired to crave it. We may try to substitute sex as the cure-all for any affection our partner may be craving.

Well, I’m here to tell you, expressing your affection through touch is vital to your relationship—hand-holding, hugging and kissing—these things let our partner know we see them, recognize them in the here and now and we connect with them. It’s part of getting the love you want and deserve.

Fortunately for me, Judith and I are both physically affectionate. So much so, we’ve received a few comments about our “PDA.” …but you know what? PDA isn’t a bad thing. We need to get away from this puritanical concept of physical affection being somehow shameful or only about sex.

Physical affection is about acknowledgment. It’s about honesty. Intimacy and touch show vulnerability. It’s showing a connection and it’s meeting your needs and the needs of your partner.

You Can’t Meet All Your Needs With Sex

In many couples, the guy (and sometimes the woman) thinks if he and his partner have sex, it’s enough for her—all her needs for affection are taken care of. The rest of the time, he withholds. Perhaps sex is seen as the way to reconnect and resolve a conflict when there are still items out on the table.

Rather than engaging in this false intimacy, listen to the yearnings of your partner. Perhaps your significant other says she doesn’t want to talk about things or uses non-verbal affection as a way to make everything okay.

You won’t be fully engaged if you aren’t addressing the real issue at hand. In our new book, The Heart of the Fight, we talk about engaging with your partner in an honest way—not hiding behind sex as a barrier for actual engagement and conflict.

When one partner is naturally more physically affectionate than the other, it can leave a sense of rejection permeating the relationship. There’s this feeling of, “I had my hand slapped away once, so I’m not going to reach out again.”

Express these yearnings, hungers and desires to your partner. Let them know you wish they’d touch you in a softer way or you’d prefer they were more physically expressive. Once you let them know, engage with them on a regular basis!

Holding Back

If you’re a conflict avoider, you might have this innate desire to “make everything okay.” You get sucked into drama triangles, swooping in and trying to rescue everyone, and to be identified and acknowledged. You may hide your yearnings behind the guise of putting other’s needs before your own.

It’s important we express our yearnings rather than trying to smooth things over or telling ourselves we don’t mind going without. If you desire more intimacy, a deeper connection, and more affection from your partner, let them know! Tell them your needs and desires aren’t being met and ask how you can get on the same page.

When we come into relationships, we come with our history or cultural baggage from our family and environment. We’re a product of the way we were raised and imprinting from our parents. As we grow and undertake the transformational process, we may realize some of those patterns are damaging or have no good reason or rationale behind them.

If you’ve watched a parent manipulate by withholding affection or suppress anger and frustration by shutting down, you may think this is a normal way to deal with things. It may be “normal” but it’s certainly not healthy or a good way to strengthen the bond of intimacy between you and loved ones.

Express your affection for others and make an effort to understand their yearnings and desires as well. All of us long to be touched and acknowledged in an honest way by someone who understands and appreciates us. It creates a richer, deeper connection and is a dynamic part of being in a couple.

Join us for the first More Life Training. Kick-off the year by engaging in what I promise will be one of the best weekends of your life. It will give you the tools you need to go forth and ignite your world.

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Wright Living is a division of the Wright Foundation for the Realization of Human Potential, a leadership institute located in Chicago, Illinois. Wright Living performative learning programs are integrated into the curriculum at Wright Graduate University.