Love Languages: Physical Touch

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WORDS // TAYLOR MAY

Love Language. According to Gary D. Chapman there are five of those. They are different aspects and tones of love that certain people feel, speak and understand better than others. Among those are giving out kind words of affirmation and appreciation, giving and receiving intentional gifts, spending quality time together, doing service like things for one another, and…. physical touch. That last one sounds so gross… but it’s the language I happen to speak best. 

Physical touch is… well… uncomfortable for those who aren’t down to embrace the whole, “I-just-met-you-but-I-really-like-you-so-I-think-we-should-hug” thing. Which is unfortunate, because touch is a powerful tool. It is probably the most direct and efficient way to show someone love or to receive love. Something wrong? Just give me a hug. Feeling sad? Well hey, I’ll sit closer and rub your back. But us touchy people can get into some trouble because, not everyone is the same way. A kind word is rarely offensive and no one is ever too quick to turn down an act of service. But there is nothing more awkward (or frequent) than a step to the side when an embrace isn’t welcomed. Physical touch has the most immediately gratifying effect, but also the swiftest let down. 

And I have to get over that most of the time. 

My family has always been touchy. I still kiss my grandfather on the lips for goodness sake! So for me, a lingering hug is not just normal… it’s expected. But for many, touch is an idea that is tainted because of neglect and/or abuse or maybe even just annoyance. It’s one of those boundaries many people don’t cross because it’s simply too invasive and personal. When someone offers a handshake to my hug though, I’ll admit that I don’t automatically think of possible negative experiences. Instead, I’m quick to feel dismissed and unloved. It is one of those languages that is simple to speak when it is a natural part of who you are, but nearly impossible to utter if it’s foreign. This leaves a giant disconnect between the hug-ee and the hug-er. 

Sadly, I can’t just ignore all of this and go on hugging, kissing, and holding everyone’s hand! All there really is to do is compromise and seek to understand. I’m so grateful for Chapman’s analysis on love and how we all speak it differently. The main point, I gather, is not to simply harness our own love language, but to learn how to communicate it to our friends and our loved ones and to begin to understand how to love them with theirs. Affection, gratitude, and love are all such powerful feelings. But they are all given and received in various ways. 

I’m in a bible study group that meets every Monday. The best part about it? Every one of us takes a second to embrace when they walk in the door and when they walk out. I’m not sure how comfortable everyone is about it — or even aware of it for that matter — but it brings me so much joy. It breaks down barriers. There is a certain humanness to physical touch that is essential to relationships, friendships and marriages alike. I wish that there was nothing awkward or painful about it, but there is. Everything good can go wrong. I hope to see the day that physical touch is restored along with the rest of the love languages. The day that they are all perfectly comprehended and perfectly dispersed. 


LETTERING // SAM PALENCIA