Skip to main content

Let’s be real. If you ask the general population when they feel the most loved, chances are, most people will say when having sex. I’m not saying that they’re lying, but as Dr. Gary Chapman explains The Five Love Languages, it's a very common occurrence that people—and men especially—mistake their natural drive for sex with thinking that their primary love language is physical touch.

Physical touch may seem like one of the more straightforward of Gary Chapman’s five languages, but in a culture where touch can be misinterpreted on all kinds of levels, it is often the most misunderstood love language as well. As one woman lamented after taking the test and finding out physical touch was her primary language, “Does this mean I have to put out now?”

No, you do not. No matter your relationship status: married, dating, or single, physical touch does not necessitate the need for sexual acts in order to feel loved. Of course, sexual intimacy is important for a happy marriage, but ultimately it's just one possible dialect of many when it comes showing and feeling loved through physical touch.

If your guy is a physical touch guy or if you’re the one who needs physical touch, we've made a handy guide that you'll want to keep in your back pocket.

Slow down, and be in the moment.

It might surprise you to learn that, much like those who need Quality Time, a consideration of how you use time is actually a critical element for the physical touch love language—but you only need a bit. Looking for the right moments to show love through touch takes some practice and intentionality.

Pro-tip: Be mindful when you're in the same space as your significant other. Look for opportunities that give your partner that boost of awesome. As you're shuffling around your space, for instance, and your partner is doing something in the living room, consider taking a moment to gently touch their arm, or playfully poke their back. These gestures might sound small—so small that it hardly takes up any real time—but they can transform your S.O.'s day. For those moments where you are spending real quality time together, be intentional in the way you apply your touch. Holding their hand or playing with their hair will speak just a loudly as words to your loved one.

Don’t assume your partner loves PDA.

Do most people who prefer physical touch love PDA? Probably. But don’t make that assumption, as public displays of affection can carry all kinds of baggage—whether the biases are based on culture, religion or upbringing. Depending on their personality, PDA can make your physical touch partner feel on top of the world, or cause some real, awkward embarrassment.

To make matters more complicated, touch that they might be comfortable with in one scenario may change in another. One woman loved holding hands with her guy everywhere, but the second she was around her family, she didn't want any sort of physical intimacy. If you notice a discrepancy like this, just have a conversation. As you get to know your significant other better, you'll start to notice patterns, which they might not even be aware themselves.

Not all touch is created equal.

You probably have already noticed that there are particular techniques or, as Dr. Chapman calls, dialects that make your partner feel especially loved and others that don't. That's why it's important you're constantly testing out different methods to see what they like. "For some reason, when my fiancée holds me from behind, I feel more love than probably any other way that she could touch me," Andrew Mentock tells Verily. "There is something about her holding me in this way that fills my 'love tank' up quickly. We would not know this if she hadn’t walked up behind me and hugged me one day." So go ahead, no need to get too methodical about it, just play around—and try to repeat the stuff that really strikes a chord.

Plan dates around opportunities that get you close.

When you make plans for Saturday, try to pick activities that enable you to show physical affection. If you're going out to dinner, make reservations at a restaurant where you know you can sit on the same side of the table; if you want to get outdoors, consider archery or putt-putt, which allows you the time and space to linger side by side; or even buy tickets at your nearest theme park, and grab onto your partner's hand as you brace yourself for epic drops. Of course, if you're in the practice of being mindful, all dates provide ample opportunity to get close, but sometimes try and explore some options where physical touch is inherent—as this can make it easier on you if physical touch isn't your M.O.

Make certain moves exclusive.

This is where the "language" part of love language becomes literal. If your guy is a physical touch person, certain signs of affection are going to become a something like a secret dialect, an expression of love that's unique only to you two. So, if you have a particular way that you like to hug your partner, reserve that action for him or her. It's easy to forget this bit of information if physical touch isn't your love language. For example, you might innocently think that your brother might like the same kind of big bear hug, too—but try and refrain and make your physical gestures unique only to that person whose love tank you've been entrusted with. Then you'll really be speaking their language.