What Is the Physical Touch Love Language?

By: Jon Jaehnig

Updated February 01, 2021

If you've ever done something for someone you love and they seem unappreciative or if someone you love has done something for you and it left you confused, you might have picked up on that different people experience and express love in different ways.

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Dr. Gary Chapman has identified five "Love Languages" that people use to communicate love with one another. One of these is Physical Touch.

If you and someone you love don't speak the same Love Language, it doesn't mean that you can't communicate. It just means that learning a second Love Language may make your relationship more intimate.

Here we'll talk more about the idea of Love Languages and introduce each of them. However, we'll be focusing on Physical Touch.

What Are Love Languages?

If you've never heard of "Love Languages" before, it might sound a little silly. This is just a deeper exploration into the commonsense principle that different people experience love differently.

The five Love Languages identified by Dr. Chapman are Words of Affirmation, Acts of Service, Receiving Gifts, Quality Time, and Physical Touch. These languages are spoken between you and everyone who you love, including your romantic partner, your parents and siblings, your children, and others.

Love Languages are probably at least partially determined by the Love Languages that we are exposed to or aren't exposed to growing up. Therefore, like spoken languages, you can start out with one or two that you are really well versed in naturally but that doesn't stop you from learning new ones as you meet new people. Some people never really master another person's Love Language but letting them know that you are trying usually makes a big difference. If you can't pick up a loved one's Love Language, don't give up – trying to learn more about how they experience love will help you to learn more about them and strengthen your relationship.

If you don't know your Love Language, check out that link at the top of the section for more information and a brief, free quiz. If you're having trouble speaking the same Love Language as someone close to you, consider having them take it too so that you can connect with them in the way that means the most to them.

The Physical Touch Love Language

If Physical Touch is your Love Language, you feel love and express love to others through physical contact. People may have called you a "hugger," you may value a firm handshake, or you may highly value sex as a mark of intimacy and trust with your romantic partner. Of course, how you express physical touch varies based on your relationship with the individual, how close you are to them, and where you are at the time.

Physical Touch isn't just a Love Language. It's a biological language as well. Complex conversations are carried out in our brains by messenger molecules that impact our emotions and some physical reactions. One such messenger molecule is called oxytocin (also sometimes called the "cuddle chemical"). It's released when we are in physical contact with others. On an emotional level, it makes us feel calm and happy. On a mental level, it helps us form trust, build social bonds, and even recognize other people. Both emotionally and biologically, physical touch is very important to a healthy relationship.

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The Great Things About Physical Touch

There's a lot to be said for Physical Touch as a Love Language. For one thing, everyone gets it. It may not be everyone's Love Language but it’s easier for some people to understand and use than some of the other Love Languages.

Further, physical touch adapts very well to different stages and different contexts. It's easy to hold someone's hand, shake their hand, or give them a quick hugno matter where you are and what's going on around you. In many ways, that's also what makes the things that only romantic partners do alone so special – it's a kind of physical touch that is so different from any other kind of expression of love.

Physical touch also doesn't need to take a lot of time or cost any money. Long and extravagant gestures can be appropriate or appreciated but a quick kiss in passing or a rushed hug on the street can be exchanged in just a moment while still brightening a person's day.

Things To Be Aware Of If You Speak This Language

Not everything about this love language is perfect.

While everyone understands the importance of Physical Touch as a Love Language, different people move at different speeds and have different ideas of what is appropriate and where, especially if it isn't their first Love Language. If this is your Love Language, it is very important to communicate with others to understand what kind of physical touch they are comfortable with in various circumstances or at different stages of your relationship. It's one of the easiest Love Languages to mistranslate, and if you and your loved one aren't on the same page, it can cause big problems. Even two people who both speak this Love Language may move at different speeds or have different ideas of what is or is not appropriate in different circumstances, making miscommunication easy.

Further, if this is your Love Language, long distant relationships can be very hard. This is one of the only Love Languages that doesn't travel well. Words of affirmation can be exchanged via text message. Gifts can be sent in the mail. Acts of service can include a number of remote activities. None of this is true of Physical Touch.

Finally, Physical Touch is a Love Language that some people abuse. They may say that physical touch is how they express their love but use that expression to press another person into physical touch that they are uncomfortable with. It can be difficult to tell the difference but someone whose Love Language is really Physical Touch will probably progress slowly through "bases" and will want to move into things like sex later than sooner precisely because of how much these things mean to these people.

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What If Physical Touch Isn't Your Love Language?

If physical touch isn't your Love Language but it is the Love Language of someone close to you or if you and another person both speak this Love Language but speak at different speeds or dialects, it's important to talk to them about it. Both of you need to engage in physical touch that everyone feels is appropriate and enjoyable.

Just because Physical Touch is your loved one's Love Language, that doesn't mean that you need to let them touch you in ways that you are uncomfortable with. If you're uncomfortable with a certain degree of physical touch, you can still work on your relationship with your loved one – just do so by staying in your comfort zone. Don't wait for them to come to you.Touch them in the ways that you think is appropriate. Your making the effort will let them know that you really do care about them even if they're ready for something more and you aren't.

Alternatively, if Physical Touch is your Love Language and not your partner’s or if you both share the language but you are more fluent in it, it is important not to pressure your loved one. It is also important to understand that if they're on a different page than you when it comes to physical touch, it doesn't mean that they don't love you. You can grow closer to them by slowing down and spending some time where they are. If they have a different Love Language, learn it. Use it to communicate with them, and let them use it to communicate with you.

What Next?

Speaking a different Love Language than your loved one can be frustrating, especially at first. That's why it is so great that there are many Love Languages. You can express love in many different ways and many different things can mean that your loved one loves you even if they don't express it in your favorite way. Any expression of love should be meaningful and cherished, and learning new ways to express love can only deepen your relationship.

For more help expressing love in healthy ways and opening yourself up to experience love in romantic relationships, consider talking to an in-person or online therapist.

If you’re curious about online therapy, evidence shows that online therapy can help people experiencing a range of life’s challenges, including relationship issues. For example, one meta-analysis examined findings from 92 studies (involving a total of 9,764 people who participated in online therapy for various reasons). The meta-analysis found that online therapy is as effective as face-to-face therapy.

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To dive a little deeper into your own attitudes on love, expression, and communication, consider exploring the BetterHelp site for more educational articles like this one, including articles on the other Love Languages and more on Love Languages in general. In addition to publishing educational articles like this one, BetterHelp has a service that connects individuals with thousands of licensed and professional counselors and therapists over the internet. Remote counseling gives unprecedented access and choice when it comes to the availability of counselors and therapists and at a price considerably lower than seeing counselors and therapists in person. Read below for some reviews of BetterHelp counselors from people experiencing similar issues.

Counselor Reviews

“In the short time that I have started speaking with Pat I have made big improvements in my relationship. Pat has a way of instantly making you feel comfortable and he really listens. The exercises he gives are unique to your situation and they really are a big help.” 

“I'm happy I had counseling with Glenn. I used to struggle with anger and trust issues towards my husband when I first talked to Glenn. He listened to me attentively and asked questions delicately and politely. I felt that he cared about my case and really wanted to help me. And he did help me solve my relationship problems. Glenn tought me to forgive, manage conflicts, and express and receive love. Now I enjoy my close and intimate relationship with my loved one, and there's no place for anger and hate in me any more. Finally I feel understood, supported, happy and calm. And I'm so thankful to Glenn for guiding me there.”

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