Tender touching is one way that we demonstrate affection towards another person. When you tenderly smooth back your partner’s hair, squeeze his shoulder as you join him on the sofa, massage her feet at the end of a workday, and hold hands walking down the street you are offering security, comfort, connection and loving awareness to each other.
Intentional tenderness fosters safety and emotional stability that supports the foundation of your intimacy, reinforcing the message that you are valued and you value your partner. Feeling known, seen, and heard allows you to be vulnerable with a trusted partner in a meaningful way.
The daily practice of mutually offering tender touch contributes to the well-being of your relationship, your connection, and your intimacy. A connected couple is capable of navigating difficult relational seasons such as job stress, aging parents, ill health, raising children, and loss or grief. While none of these life challenges are easy, they are made more manageable when you feel that you are not alone. Touch reminds us that we are in a partnership and you have my back.
Tenderly touching your partner is especially vital when either or both of you are facing challenges or conflict. 60 seconds of hugging releases dopamine into the body, calming the stress response and regulating the need or desire to flee, fight, or freeze. Touching plays a significant role in brain development and wellness. Infants deprived of touch do not thrive. Massage has been proven to normalize the stress response in infants and children. 45 minutes without the touch from a mother, causes laboratory rats to express stress hormones in much the same way that humans respond.
My husband and I have made a conscious commitment to making daily tender touch a priority in our relationship.
- We chose to sleep in a queen size bed so that we are always within arm’s reach of each other.
- We kiss good bye whenever one of us leaves. And we stop and pay attention to the kiss and the tenderness of the moment. No pecks for us.
- We kiss hello when we return to each other.
- We hold hands walking down the street. Yes, we are that “old” couple walking down the street looking quaint.
- He rubs my feet every night without me asking.
- I give him back rubs.
- We sit close on the sofa.
- We reach for each other in our sleep, spooning frequently.
- We hug, long, deeply, and often.
- Sometimes tender touch is a knowing look we exchange, some secret moment that we share. He sings to me. I read to him.
- Every so often we dance.
The importance we place on touching was actually a topic of conversation for us on our first date. Our intentional promise to reach for each other, touching, holding, and cherishing is firmly rooted in longing that surfaced for each of us in our early childhood development. Healing in the relational paradigm is our best hope of finishing the unfinished parenting of childhood. We are uniquely drawn to partners who can give us the very things that we longed for in childhood. My husband and I have found refuge, safety, and tenderness in each other’s’ touch. And this has been immensely healing for each of us.
Tender touch has no agenda, asks nothing in return and is freely and affectionately offered. It is a living demonstration of loving and cherishing each other. Look for the moments in your relationship when you can wholeheartedly see your spouse from his perspective. Listen without the need to respond or react to her story. Invite him to tell you more about how she feels or what he thinks. Validate what you hear and try to imagine what it is like to be the person you love and experience her feelings and his challenges. And then, take your beloved in your arms, and hold each other closely. Breathe into the embrace and heal.