Yesterday I wrote about how teaching our kids appropriate relationships with the opposite sex pretty much requires that you show some affection towards both your kids and your spouse. They need to see healthy relationships, and they need to get some affection from you. But how can you be more affectionate to your spouse and your kids if you’re just not a “touchy” person?

One commenter asked this question on the blog a while ago, and I thought today was a good day to address it:

I have never been very huggy, kissy, and feely. It makes me uncomfortable. Even with my husband. Now sure why this is. But he is very touchy. Not just sex, but just touching, hugging, and kissing. Any ideas on how to enjoy touching? How to get rid of that uncomfortable feeling? How to be more affectionate, to enjoy being together?

Here are some thoughts:

1. Recognize how Important Touch Is

'Photo Hug' photo (c) 2006, Weird Beard - license:

Hugging is actually linked to healthier hearts. One Smart Heart article says:

Well, it appears that human contact through hugs lowers blood pressure and reduces stress, which cuts the risk of heart disease. Hugs have also been shown to improve overall mood, increase nerve activity, and a host of other beneficial effects. Positive physical touch has an immediate anti-stress effect, slowing breathing and heart rate.

Here’s how it works. When you touch and hug, your body produces oxytocin, the bonding hormone that makes you feel closer to someone, and that also reduces blood pressure. So hugging is a good thing!

I have seen these stats before, but I don’t know where they originate. However, I’m pretty sure they’re right:

We need four hugs a day for healthy survival, eight hugs a day for emotional strength, and 12 hugs a day to really grow and be empowered.

If we know hugs are that important, then it’s easier to start “embracing” the idea–and the practice!

2. Be Deliberate About Hugging and Showing Affection

Now that being said, I’m not really a touchy person on average. I’m always touching my husband, but I don’t hug friends very often (though interestingly I have no problem hugging business/speaking acquaintances I don’t see very often. Weird). I have to make a point to remember to hug my mom. I have noticed my older daughter getting like this, too. While she touches her own sister a ton, she doesn’t really instigate hugs with me or with her dad. She hugs some friends, but she’s not overly touchy.

So I just tell myself, several times a day: it’s time to hug Becca. Or, when she walks by me, I stroke her hair, or pat her hand or something. I just reach out and touch. It’s not entirely natural to me, but I make a point of it because I know we both need it.

My younger daughter, on the other hand, I’m always touching because she is a touchy person and she will instigate it. A few years back, probably when Becca was about 11 and Katie 9, I realized that I touched Katie a lot more than I touched Becca. So I made a point of starting to touch Becca more, and it really does help.

Let me tell you about a friend of mine that we’ll call Dana. She grew up in a house that didn’t touch, and so for her, it’s not a natural instinct to touch people. But her husband and her son definitely have touch as their primary love language. So she’s taught herself: When my son is on the couch, sit beside him and rub his back. Or remember to hug my husband when he’s standing in the kitchen.

She found it strange, but she now finds that she really enjoys touch. It’s still not second nature, but she’s proud of herself. And you can do it, too!

Sometimes what it takes to be more affectionate is simply telling yourself: “everytime I see my son do X, I will reach out and hug him.” Or, “everytime I’m walking with my husband I’ll take my hand.” You’ll have to figure out situation-specific times when you will reach out and touch, because you’re unlikely to just think to do it. But as you touch more, you’ll likely find it easier.

Of course, touch can also be difficult when the person that you’re touching isn’t particularly affectionate, either. But don’t let awkwardness stop you. I have known adults who decided, “even though my dad has never hugged me, I’m going to start hugging him.” And he resisted at first, but eventually he found he really liked it. So push past the awkwardness, because physical touch does add a lot to a relationship.

3. Ask Yourself Why You Don’t Like Touch

Look, some people just aren’t that touchy. I’m only touchy in certain situations; in others I’m not touchy at all. There’s nothing wrong with not being particularly touchy. But sometimes it’s  not just that touch isn’t our natural instinct; it’s that when we do touch it causes panic, or discomfort, or anxiety of some sort. That seems to be the case with our commenter, who said that she just doesn’t enjoy touching, and her husband does, and she finds it uncomfortable.

Again, this doesn’t mean that you’re necessarily neurotic or that something’s wrong with you. But honestly, if it is a big issue, then perhaps it’s worth looking into and praying over the issue about whether you have a real need to be in control. Some people really want their personal space, and they don’t want others to invade it, because then they feel panicky. They need their independence and their illusion that they are in control and thus safe.

If that’s the case for you, praying through this is likely a good idea, because it could be hindering your ability to form great relationships. Most people, even if they’re not particularly “touchy”, can learn to touch if they put their mind to it. If you find that you can’t, then the issue may go a little bit deeper. I’d suggest just starting out with small things, like holding your husband’s hand, or cuddling with your child at night. And then build up to more. But at the same time, really pray and talk to someone to see if there are some issues that need to be dealt with.

Whatever you do, though, don’t just use the “touch isn’t my love language, and that’s not a big deal” line. Sure, you may not want to touch much, but touch is good for you, and even if it’s not your love language, you can learn to touch, and everyone will benefit from it.

 Now it’s your turn: Have you had to teach yourself to be touchy? Or do you have a child or a husband who isn’t touchy? What have you done to reach out?

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