Portland Marriage Counselor: Touch Matters in Relationships

March 19, 2014 by

There has been a lot written about how to maintain a healthy sex life in a long-term relationship, but what often gets overlooked is just how important nonsexual touch can be.

A hand on your partner’s arm, a kiss on the cheek, a long hug—these gestures may seem like little things, but they make all the difference. Affectionately touching your partner reminds them that you care for them and that they have your support. Touch affects us physically, emotionally, and psychologically, allowing us to become more connected than ever to our partners.

What Happens When We Touch?

We feel less stressed. There’s a reason why a warm hug after a difficult day feels good. When you and your partner touch, you lower your blood pressure and your cortisol levels. Because cortisol is a hormone associated with stress, lowering its level makes us feel more relaxed and less anxious.

We strengthen our bond. Cortisol isn’t the only hormone affected by touch—our brains also release oxytocin when we come into physical contact with someone, which reduces fear and increases trust. Oxytocin is often referred to as the “bonding” hormone because it makes us feel closer to the person who triggered its release.

We communicate non-verbally. Verbal communication is obviously important in any relationship, but sometimes it’s hard to find just the right words to express your emotions in the moment. Touch can communicate a wide range of feelings—love, concern, longing, happiness, empathy—and can show your partner how you feel when words fail you.

We show our partner that we love them. According to Dr. Lyubomirsky, author of “The Myths of Happiness,” happy couples average five positive verbal and emotional expressions towards each other for every one negative expression. Touch is an important part of emotionally expressing your love for your partner. No matter how long you’ve been together, touch can be an important reminder that you’re still there for one another.

If you’re not a naturally demonstrative person, you might be uncomfortable with the idea of working more physical touch into your relationship. However, if you begin making a conscious effort to gradually increase your moments of touch, it will begin to feel more comfortable.

You and your partner can also schedule an appointment to see a Portland marriage counselor if you want to learn more about how to strengthen your long-term relationship.