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So. Physical touch. Honestly, I’m not sure if I will have much to say about this one, because I don’t think about it that much. So I’ll extrapolate from what I know about myself, and maybe one of you touchy-feelers can elaborate for me with your own experience.
Touching can be more complicated than the other love languages. It’s the opposite of something like acts of service or gifts in that it brings you more up-close-and-personal with someone else. It’s a lot harder to go stealth with this love language. My physical touch love tank usually has its cap closed. It takes very specific situations for me to want to be touched, although I do really like, crave or expect it in these situations. Currently, I spend much of my time alone, and physical touch is a vulnerability for me. There have been many instances when I’ve been pressured or even forced to show physical affection to people to avoid making them angry. I’ve detailed a lot of the sexual harassment and even one instance of assault that I’ve been through in another post, and there are times when these experiences haunt me and make me draw away from others.
Gary Chapman also cites physical and sexual trauma as a barrier to receiving physical touch, or even the obliteration of the physical touch love tank. Some people don’t like to be touched for non-trauma related reasons. Some want to be touched but can’t tolerate it for trauma reasons, and may have the desire to work toward receiving and giving it . And some people would have wanted to be touched if it wasn’t for their trauma, but never will be able to, and never will want to be able to.
However, there are also times when I’m having just the worse day, and I go to church to find someone to give me a hug. I’ve discovered who gives the best hugs, and I seek them out, and I can simply tell them, “I need you to hug me,” and they will, no explanation needed. In certain settings, I also enjoy holding hands at church or snuggling while watching a movie. My son and I can spend many an hour on the couch eating popcorn, wrapped in a blanket while I squeeze the life out of him. Or, when we’re at church, we’ll be having a little dance party that involves me spinning him around or him climbing me like a little monkey. With my safe people, touch is life-giving.
So, what do you do when you’re alone? Well, those self-care routines that I mentioned can fill many love tanks at once. Giving myself a full-body exfoliation, spending extra time rubbing lotion into my feet, or paying special attention to my hair and scalp can all achieve this. I might even claim that when I exercise, especially taking the time to really stretch my muscles, can be a form of pleasant no-touch touching.
Also, touching can come from objects, not just a body. For example, I have extremely soft blankets and PJ’s that I where sometimes just for the experience of feeling them on my body. I also love sensations like dirt on my hands when I’m dealing with my poor plants, or feeling a nice warm breeze on my face when I’m outside. If you want to experience physical touch but can’t from someone else, maybe alternatives like these could be a place to start. Of course this isn’t medical advice, but I can imagine that discussing possible accommodations that could allow someone to reach a goal without putting their emotional health at risk can be worth a try in certain situations.
What’s more, if something is bothering my body, like pain or the cold, it can take me out of the game.
So what about God and physical touch? Not a lot of stories come to mind for me, but take for example that washing of feet. An act of service, yes, but a loving physical touch nonetheless. Also, He called children to Him to bless them. And let’s not forget the Judas kiss, followed by all of that physical abuse that was literally lethal. You know, dying for our sins and all. God also uses metaphors in the Bible related to wanting to gather us under His wings like a mother hen. I also like to think that those of us who are heaven-bound have a big hug waiting for us from our Creator.
That’s all she wrote. Physical touch is pretty far down the list, and I don’t need it as much as my top three, but I still do enjoy it when it feels safe. Last but not least, gifts. And since it’s going to be Valentine’s day soon, I’m sure your wallet will have something to say about this.
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“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him.”
~ Romans 15:13