Research has shown that it takes 8 to 10 meaningful touches a day to maintain physical and emotional health. Studies show that "touch signals safety and trust, it soothes" (source). Physical touch not only benefits you as an individual, it increases the level of intimacy in your marriage as well. The health of your relationship is dependent on a lot of different things and this is one of them. Even if you are not an affectionate person, you can find a way to get those touches in without feeling smothered or getting irritated. Remember that "touch signals safety and trust", two things that are a want and a need in marriage. Being intentional and making physical touch a priority, no matter your love language, will benefit both of you individually and your marriage as a whole.
As a mom, I can tell you that I definitely reach my quota for 10 touches, usually before 10 am every day. Between the baby, the toddler and the dog, I'm being loved on and grabbed at constantly, even during nap time because the dog cuddles with me while we nap. So I understand that at the end of the day, some of you might be touched out and looking forward to taking back your personal space after the kids are asleep.
It's so important to find a time and a way to be affectionate with one another daily, but not necessarily in the way that you might be thinking. You might feel like you are getting all of that love from your children throughout the day, but your spouse may not be and the love and affection between husband and wife is different than that between parent and child. Whatever your stage in life and no matter how much time you have to spend together each day, you can increase your physical touch in the simple ways listed below.
Snuggle in the morning - Before the kids are awake, in the time between hitting snooze on your alarm and getting out of bed, or on those late mornings when there is nobody to take care of and nowhere that you need to be. You won't always get an entire morning to stay in bed so take advantage of the time that you do have and cuddle up together for a few minutes.
Share a lingering goodbye kiss - Most mornings Joe and I are rushing to get both kids out the door and get to work. Most of our goodbye kisses are a quick peck before we part ways. Taking a few extra seconds to really make that kiss count won't be something that you regret and it won't make you late for work either.
Greet each other with a hug - How do you say hello when you see each other again after being apart? When we were dating, I couldn't wait to kiss Joe and be back in his arms when I'd see him after a long day. Now I'm ashamed to admit that most days, I'm just excited to have my parenting partner home to help me out and usually don't even think about it. Take the time to be intentional and affectionate when one or the other of you comes home.
Hold hands and talk - When you have conversations, rather than standing across the room or sitting across the table from each other. Sit on the couch facing each other and hold hands while you talk. That simple act won't just give you another moment of physical contact, but that intimacy will help you communicate on a deeper level and hopefully keep disagreements as discussions rather than arguments.
Touch knees while you eat - Joe and I sit next to each other at dinner every night and I always turn my knees so that they're touching his under the table. It's simple but has been a nice little way to connect every day while we laugh, talk and eat as a family.
Play footsie under the table - When we were dating, Joe and I were never the sit-on-the-same-side-of-the-table-at-the-restaurant couple, unless we were out with other people. And then, admittedly, we'd hold hands. I remember holding hands through an entire meal once early on in our relationship. I'm still not sure how we ate... Now, I like to play footsie with him under the table when we're out to eat and sitting across from each other. It's not even really a conscious thing, it just happens and I love it.
Dance in the kitchen - When you're doing dishes, prepping a meal, or even just at the end of a long day. Turn on some music and spend a few minutes dancing together. The break from your daily responsibilities will be welcome and holding each other close while you sway to the music will be in nice.
Hug your spouse from behind - When I'm making dinner or cleaning the kitchen, Joe will often come up behind me and wrap his arms around me. Sometimes I push him away, letting him know that I have stuff to do and don't have time for a break, but that's something that I'm working on not doing anymore. I know that it only takes a few seconds to turn around and hug him back and the mess that I was attacking will still be there when I'm done.
Sneak a kiss - Just the other night, Joe and I were kissing in the kitchen before dinner. We turned to see Bensen watching us from the floor below. When Joe asked him if we should kiss again, he giggled and said, "no!" I stole another kiss anyway. ;) Later that night we were all sitting in the front room playing. I was on the floor with Emmy and Bensen was running around mopping the floor and reading stories. Throughout the night, he'd run over to me and plant a kiss on my lips. This happened probably four or five times and I couldn't stop laughing. It made my day! Steal kisses from your spouse whenever you get the chance!
Hold hands while you fall asleep - Joe doesn't love to cuddle at night in bed because he gets too hot and uncomfortable. Instead, our feet are usually touching or we hold hands as we drift off to sleep. It still has the same affect and falling asleep in each other's arms does and I enjoy it just as much.
Make physical intimacy a priority in your marriage and remember that it doesn't always have to be as involved as it sounds. Taking that time to love each other will strengthen your relationship and help you remember your role in each other's lives as husband and wife when you may be knee deep in parenting or other life responsibilities.
Which of the ideas listed above will you incorporate as a new ritual in your marriage today?