The love language of touch and closeness…
When my son was young, his hands would get very dry and chapped in the winter. He would climb into bed, and I would sit beside him and massage his hands with lotion.
Our nightly ritual has a surprising effect. While I massaged his hands, he would tell me about his day – the good and the bad holding nothing back. I learned that this form of touch for him was equated to a trust and openness between us, a safe place for him to be real and vulnerable.
At 25-years-old, my son still loves for me to massage his hands when he comes to visit. His love language is physical touch and closeness, and it is a bond between us.
Physical touch has its limits.
Each person has a personal space or a bubble that is an unspoken sense of who, what, when, where and why they are comfortable being touched. For one person, kissing the person you are dating in public is not ok. For another, holding hands with your parent has an age limit. We all define physical touch and closeness based on our own set of boundaries. It is vital always to respect another person’s comfort zone when it comes to touch and closeness.
Not only is the act of touch important, but the way in which we touch can send a very clear message. A hand on the shoulder has a very different meaning than a pat on the backside. Just because the quarterback does that during the game, doesn’t mean it’s ok to do that to his girlfriend in the cafeteria. His comfort level may be seen as disrespectful and condescending.
The other extreme is the lack of touch and closeness, which fosters feelings of insecurity and neglect. From the time we are born, we have developed a sense of belonging by the touch and closeness of our parents and caregivers. Even something as simple as a touch on the arm causes the brain to immediately release chemicals responding to a good or bad perception. Respecting that sensitivity in others goes a long way to healthy and appropriate touch.
So how do we know what is acceptable to another? Here are some questions to consider in your current relationships:
Do my touch and closeness demonstrate healthy boundaries and not make another person feel uncomfortable?
Do I use touch as life-giving or as a way to get what I want or need?
Is my touch withheld or inappropriate when I am angry?
What are my intentions with physical touch and closeness?
By asking yourself these questions, you will be more aware of how touch and closeness play a role in your life and the lives of those you love. Be nice with your touch.