The Importance Of Love And Affection In Your Life And Relationships
By: Tiffany Bailey
Updated November 10, 2020
Medically Reviewed By: Dawn Brown
Human beings are social creatures by nature. Some of us may be more outgoing compared to others. At the end of the day, we're all wired for engaging in social interactions with those around us. Sometimes a person needs to be surrounded by numerous friends and be in constant communication with others. Sometimes an individual is content with just their family members or a few select close friends. These needs vary depending upon the individual and their lifestyles, experiences, and preferences. To go without some form of love and affection in our lives, though, can cause problems along the way, especially if this lack of support and interaction begins at a younger age.
How Neglect Can Shape A Child
One of the most important times in a human being's entire life is their years as an infant and a child. During this period is when the most emotional, physical, and psychological growth takes place. From the moment they are born, a child begins to learn about the world around them, and this includes the people in it. You may have heard that "you can never hold a baby too much," and this is true. Being incapable of actual conversation and deeper understanding until a few years after they're born, babies relate to the world in the most instinctual methods of comprehension. They understand if their needs are being met or not. They crave physical attention and human touch. They pick up on verbal tones and learn to read faces before they can ever speak words in return. The experiences during the period in which they fully rely on others will shape them into the person they are as teens and adults. This is why consistent attention and care are so important.
A child that has irresponsible caretakers may be left alone often or not be fed or changed when needed. They cry and cry and hope for someone to help them. When no one arrives, or they arrive too late, this baby's mind is learning that the world is a painful place in which there is not going to be anyone there to love or care for them. They feel isolated, lonely, and afraid, and this can severely impact their brain growth and development for years to come. They never learn at this important age to form bonds and to care for those around them because they don't experience it themselves. They have to be shown by example. Those infants who are held regularly, played with, and cared for are able to experience deep connections with their parents or caretakers. They grow up with a far more positive world view. They also develop skills to form healthy and appropriate relationships as they grow older and make friends and find even more loved ones.
Those who have gone without learning how to form proper social relationships and who have impaired cognitive and emotional development as children often have difficulties. They have been found to exhibit antisocial and delinquent behaviors as children, teens, and even adults. They will often show difficulty in the areas of language development, intelligence levels, and other social and cognitive skills.
With support and treatment, many can overcome the instilled negative beliefs and responses stemming from their infant and child-aged years. The results vary depending upon all of the numerous factors at play in a person's life experiences that can span decades. At the core, though, the lack of love and affection can cause potentially permanent and life-long damage.
Neglect In Adults And The Elderly
Needless to say, age does not always limit when the lack of positive social interaction can be damaging. Loneliness and social isolation in those who need to feel love as adults have been shown to coincide with chronic health conditions and a decrease in overall health for those in their fifties and above. Older individuals with less social interaction and support were shown to have a higher probability of being hospitalized due to health concerns, having longer lasting stays when in a hospital, higher blood pressure, and a higher rate of morbidity and mortality. The potential damage to older adults without healthy relationships and a support system was even compared to the health risks of smoking. The risks of depression were significantly higher as well as the risks of developing conditions such as dementia or Alzheimer's disease.
Aging and becoming less healthy over the years is difficult enough as it is. Fortunately, the benefits of having loving and affectionate interactions with those around you can help reduce some of the stresses and negativity associated aging. Older individuals with families, children, grandchildren, or even good friends stand a much better chance at having improved health in their later years. Those who are lonely and isolated, whether by lack of a support system or their health concerns being severe enough to limit their mobility and interactions with the world, don’t fare as well. Having people around you to lend support, positivity, and friendship makes each day a bit easier to cope with. It also gives even an unhealthier individual something to perk up and look forward to despite any conditions they may currently be struggling with.
What Does Love Look Like?
Love can take many different forms, and these variations can intermingle or exist separately on their own depending upon the individual. In the context of coinciding with affection, though, the relevant types of love would mainly be romantic, platonic, friendly, or familiar. These are the types of love that involve the interaction of a positive manner with another individual. For some, romance is the epitome of love and fills their needs for a passionate form of intimacy with another person. For others, their friends may be the best form of love for their lifestyle, providing them with plenty of close relationships that are like a family they've chosen for themselves. Families are a fantastic example of familial love, which may not always be appealing in that it's the kind of love where you feel strongly for a person but don't always like them (think siblings or parents – they can sometimes drive you crazy!). But familial love can provide the strongest feelings of support when healthily maintained because the relationships are often lifelong and provide ample opportunity for deep bonds, trust, and understanding. Some people may even find the deepest feelings of love to be for their pets. Animals have long been proven to be beneficial to people's mental and physical health regardless of age.
Why We Need Love
Human beings thrive off of social interaction and forming relationships, regardless of whether it's with a friend, a relative, or a pet. People have an inherent need for experiencing strong bonds and needing love to avoid the detrimental effects of real or perceived isolation and abandonment. The type of love an individual craves determines the course of their entire lives. Without it, it's very likely that a person will completely lack any drive to fully live their lives and may even experience depression and other health concerns.
Those who desire families will be provided with a lifetime of experiencing the joys of parenthood and often marriage as well. Individuals who enjoy meeting others will pursue a lifestyle that allows them to come across many different people from many different backgrounds. They will have a variety of relationships and experiences expanding their understanding of other human beings and other cultures. Those who aim for finding romance are satisfying their physical needs regarding the inherent impulses to procreate as well as enjoy the thrills of passion and intimacy with another individual. People who love animals may not only be able to provide a loving home for a pet in need, but they can also reap the benefits of that often unconditional and loving bond. Pets have even been proven to lower stress levels, improve blood pressure levels, and help boost emotional and social development in children. Oddly enough, even a love of something material such as money has its benefits when it comes to inspiring people to work hard to achieve their goals and succeed in the financial world.
What Does Affection Look Like?
Affection can be defined as "any touch intended to arouse feelings of love in the giver and recipient." This can be anything from a kiss with your significant other or spouse to holding hands with someone close to you. A hug, holding a puppy or a baby, or even just stroking someone's arm or back qualifies as physical affection. These are done with the intent to express our love for another person or animal. Even among friends, a hug or a pat on the back signifies positive emotions for the other individual. All of these gestures are necessary for building strong bonds in our relationships.
Why We Need Affection
To love and to feel loved is important. And, to express those sentiments and be the recipient of such actions confirming love are essential in cementing the love and the bonds with those close to us. Gestures of affection help an individual more easily feel the love that someone has for them. As stated in the studies referenced above, physical touch is practically a necessity for human wellbeing and meaningful relationships.
In romantic relationships, a lack of affection or intimacy can cause doubts and feelings of neglect in a partner and lead to conflicts and concerns. It's okay to tell your partner, "I need love and affection in this relationship" because those two factors are the backbone of a healthy bond to last you a lifetime. Love and affection are expected when dating or exclusively being involved with another person, especially in more serious and long-term commitments. Family members have close bonds with one another when they're comfortable with showing their emotions via hugs and other forms of physical contact. This especially applies to children, who learn to express themselves better as well as feel validated when receiving affection from their parents, siblings, and other relatives. Friendships may not always require as much affection to be strong. Yet, small gestures of an appropriate nature expressing your love and appreciation of someone close to you can go a long way in deepening the level of trust, comfort, and closeness you share with that other person.
Love may be the desired emotion itself, but affection is the key to expressing it to those important to you in your life. Sometimes, though, we have difficulty expressing our love to others or asking others to express their love to us. Online therapists and in-person therapists can help you learn tools that are most beneficial to you so that you feel comfortable giving love and asking for it.
How BetterHelp Can Support You
If you're still curious for more information on love, affection, and how to properly express these sentiments with your loved ones, BetterHelp has online counseling resources available to guide you on how to process your emotions and the expression of them to better your relationships. With the convenience of flexible scheduling as well as being able to access the website from the comfort of your own home or from wherever you may be at the time, this resource is a great option for learning more about how to express yourself and form even deeper bonds with the most important people in your life. Below are a couple of counselor reviews from people experiencing similar issues.
“Charlie is the greatest therapist I’ve ever had. He is unbelievably knowledgeable, incredibly hands on, and fantastically caring. He has changed my life in every way imaginable. From my business (150+ employees in 15+ countries) to my love life, he has made every aspect better. Charlie will be a part of my weekly agenda every day until he retires.”
“I started with Amy back in June, I was a little nervous about starting to see a therapist, because I had never done that before. Amy immediately put me at ease. I was having a lot of issues in my personal life and issues with my family and Amy has helped me tremendously. I could not be happier with Amy. She is very kind, understanding and every single session we have had, I have taken something very helpful away with me. Our sessions have been more helpful to me than I could possibly explain here. Anyone lucky enough to get paired with Amy, will not be disappointed.”
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