Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Physical Touch - The Five Love Languages: Part 1

(Before we start, a big thank-you to my sister Snow for 'donating' the last photograph, and for seeking permission from those involved, so that I could use a 'real-life' picture for an example. <3)

This series of blog articles has been long in coming - I've been planning them out for months, as well as writing and rewriting, then deleting and starting all over again. I don't think I'll ever get them perfect, so what I have come up with shall just have to do.

The next six posts will be on the Five Love Languages. The first five will be in-depth opinions on each of the languages, and the sixth will be a sort of epilogue explaining them as a whole. I will add that I have no particular organization for the posts, so I may address different aspects or opinions for one love language than I do for another - there aren't any bullet-point subjects I'm going to address in every single article.

With that out of the way, let's get started.


I'm starting with physical touch because it's my own love language. And it is the most misunderstood among Christians (mainly very conservative ones and/or legalists), I've noticed. Words of affirmation also gets a lot of hate in such circles, but I won't be going into that one today.

The love language of physical touch is basically when you show someone you care about - family member, spouse, friend, acquaintance, a stranger who needs comfort, anyone at all - love and comfort by touching them in some way. This is the description for physical touch from the Five Love Languages website:

A person whose primary language is Physical Touch is, not surprisingly, very touchy. Hugs, pats on the back, and thoughtful touches on the arm—they can all be ways to show excitement, concern, care, and love. Physical presence and accessibility are crucial, while neglect or abuse can be unforgivable and destructive. Appropriate and timely touches communicate warmth, safety, and love to you.

I can hear the ones unaccustomed to such a love language exclaiming in wide-eyed horror, "Physical touch?!"

Physical touch doesn't have to be intimate in the way it is between a husband and wife, you know.

Here's a question for all of you. Ignoring the fact this is a drawing and not a real photograph - this depicts Jesus hugging a girl. Christians often talk about Christ 'holding us in His arms'. Does that mean they love each other romantically or are dating? Erm... no.  So why does physical touch = romantic thoughts/intimacy with our brothers and sisters in Christ?
Hugs, holding hands, a pat on the back or shoulder, a handshake that goes on for a few seconds longer than normal, dancing, playing with someone's hair (usually in the case of girls, but it doesn't have to be; close friends can too without a problem), high-fives... the possibilities are endless.

The 'love tank' is a concept talked about often when it comes to the Five Love Languages. In order to completely fill a person's love tank (i.e., make them feel completely loved), you need to at least try to figure out what their primary love languages are and attempt to love them in that way.

If their love language is Words of Affirmation, compliment and encourage them a lot. If their love language is Gifts, try to give them a special gift every so often, even if it's something small. If their love language is Physical Touch, give them more hugs and touch them on the shoulder or what-not more often. They will come away feeling totally and completely loved, whereas if you try to show them love in a different way... well, they'll still feel loved, but not as much as if you had shown them you love them (as a friend or otherwise) in the way their love language calls for.

Me, physical touch is my love language through and through. If you want me to feel safe or comforted or loved, hug me or play with my hair or put an arm around me - stuff like that.

There is one misconception about physical touch that I have heard so often it angers me. Yes, angers me.

And that is the lie that physical touch between anyone but a family member means you love someone romantically, or means you will end up loving them romantically, or means that you and whoever it is are a couple.

THAT IS JUST NOT TRUE. I'm sorry for the caps, but like I said, this infuriates me.

Hugging a friend or a person of the opposite gender frequently or even once doesn't mean you'll all of a sudden, one day, have a burst of fireworks explode over your head, hear an angelic chorus playing in the background, and think, "I am in love with this person, and I am going to date them because I will die without them".

Sorry, but no. That's not true. And by the way, dancing with a person of the opposite gender or holding hands with them won't have the same effect all the time either. Just so you know. Neither do kisses on the cheek or the forehead, believe it or not.

Oh, and treating friends of the same gender in that way does not make you gay. (Not that being gay is a horrible and bad thing either, by the way. It is in no way an insult. Go ahead and send the hate mail at me for saying that now. :P)

One aspect of physical touch beyond people who feel romantically to each other, and beyond friends and family who love each other, is comfort.

Do these two people look like they're in love? They might be, but what does it look like they're doing? To me, it looks like he's comforting her.

Just face the facts, people - physical touch is comforting to most people. Take, for example, this video of me:

(Don't laugh. I know I'm bad at dancing. At that point in my life, I had taken exactly two dancing lessons, and danced with another person exactly once.)

Oh my gosh! I'm dancing with a man who isn't a blood relative! And he's touching me! He has my hand in his, and he had an arm around me, and everything! I must be dating him, and we must love each other, and we must be planning to get married (until we break up in a few months' time and call the wedding off).

No, sorry. He's from Ireland, and I asked him to dance with me so I could get a video of it for my friends. (Not to mention he was a very gentlemanly adult and wouldn't feel romantically towards me in the first place). This was the second time after my camera had blinked out on me the first time and not gotten the video. So I danced with an adult man twice.

I am not in love with him. I didn't feel romantically towards him. I was having fun. 

Now, anyone who knows me well knows one thing - I am easily scared. When I got up in front of all those people to dance, I was surprised (I had thought we would dance in the back of the room) and scared out of my mind.

His touches - not inappropriate, just simply holding my hand and putting an arm around me when we twirled - calmed me down. They comforted me. His hug and the kiss on the cheek at the end helped me to stop shaking. And then when it was my turn to sing karaoke (something I was point-blank terrified about) came around, it was him who stood by my side and reassured me in the same way he did while we were dancing - putting a hand on my shoulder, giving me a hug or two, etc.

Yes, his dance moves got a bit goofy in the beginning. He was a pretty silly and loves-to-make-people-laugh guy. There was nothing inherently wrong with it.

He wasn't being inappropriate. Trust me, he wouldn't have been with dozens of adults, my brother, and my mom standing right in front of him filming. He was just being a friendly guy who was perceptive enough to notice that when he hugged me or patted my shoulder, I stopped shaking. Nothing more, nothing less. He is from Ireland, a place that - from all the Irish people I've met in person - is unafraid of physical touch among friends.

As for me, I never fell in love with him, I never thought he had any ulterior motives, I never wanted to date him - none of those things. I simply was comforted and having fun. All I was thinking was "I've never danced before and he's so friendly, maybe he'll dance with me; it would be a new experience and I'd like to try dancing at least once in my life" and "I told my sisters I'd get a video of me dancing on this trip".

Physical touch is comforting. There is a reason people hug each other and hold each other after a love one dies. There is a reason children cling to their mothers. There is a reason children in orphanages in impoverished areas who don't get touched or held by anyone grow up to have mental and emotional problems. There is a reason friends and family hug one another when they say goodbye.

Physical touch - being hugged, being held, an arm around your shoulder, and all those things - is one of the main ways of showing comfort. The feeling of someone hugging you lets you know that you are not alone and that there is someone who is going to support you - mentally, emotionally, and physically if need be - in your struggles.

We are all family in Christ. Biological brothers hug biological sisters all the time; fathers hug their daughters and mothers hug their sons. Romans 16:16 even states:

"Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the churches of Christ greet you." (NASB)

Now, that probably - judging by how kisses on the cheek are apparently a somewhat common greeting in Italy - means a kiss on the cheek. I'm not telling all of you to greet everyone with a kiss. That is a bit overboard.

What I am saying is that back in the times of Jesus, things like that were normal. Usually between people of the same gender, from what I can tell (but I am not extremely knowledgeable about the Bible yet, so feel free to correct me), but the principal stands, considering so many people can't even hug someone of the same gender without being called 'gay'.

Most Christians are big on the idea that 'we are all brothers and sisters/family in Christ!'. And you know what? I agree.

And it is because I agree that I say we should stop treating each other like strangers and potential wives or husbands, and start treating each other, first and foremost, as siblings. 

Give each other a hug without worrying about what people will think (unless, of course, the person you are thinking of hugging doesn't like hugs; then show respect, as you would to a sibling). Don't be afraid to hold hands with your best friend, whether they're of the opposite gender or not. Hold someone who is crying, whether they're the same gender or not. Comfort each other with hugs when you're sad or hurting or crying because you have to say goodbye to your friends.

Thank you to Sarah Millz for taking this photograph, and to those involved for allowing me to use it!

Just don't be afraid to hug someone because you 'might develop romantic feelings for them'. The world won't end if you do; unless you have no confidence in your ability to handle such things in a mature, kind, and gentlemanly/ladylike way. And if you're afraid of the fact that 'loving someone like that is dangerous and it hurts'... well... all relationships cause pain. Families cause pain, friends cause pain, significant others cause pain.

Love hurts. It wouldn't be true love - Biblical love - if it didn't hurt. If it was completely painless, where would the preciousness in it be? It would not be as special, because there would be no effort needed. No risk. It would show you only care about a person as long as it doesn't hurt you. You don't care enough about them to love them no matter what. Just a thought.

I think that's all for this post. Keep an eye out for the next post in this series - Words of Affirmation.

God bless,

Theodora Ashcraft


  1. ^_^ Some very good insights, my dear.
    I personally draw the line at hand holding, as I think that's more of a couple thing. Though I could see if a guy was in a really distraught and emotional state I might hold his hand then. And I hold hands with guys when we're praying and jumping off chairs and they're helping me down off high places XD
    Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts, love :)

    1. Thank you. ^_^

      Ah, right. *nods* That does make sense. I'd draw the line too, unless you'd been friends for, like... over ten years, unless you feel comfortable about it sooner. XD I did say 'best friends', I think... *checks* Ah, yep. :)

      You're welcome. <3

  2. Well said, Princess! Thank you for sharing!

  3. Yesss, this. I know that when I'm having a bad day, a hug clears it up immensely. Usually, a large majority of the problem is that my 'love tank' was low in the first place. Well said. :)

  4. Thank you. This was encouraging and has helped me to put some of my uneasiness on how to interact with guys, including my guy, in certain areas, to rest. I am not the love by touch sort of person, but I need to be so I can be a good wife and mother. Thank you. ^_^

    1. You're so welcome, Catherine. ^_^ I was hoping it would help someone. Just remember that you shouldn't do something if it's super uncomfortable for you! It's totally fine to learn how to be more love-by-touch, but don't go so far that it starts to be a chore. :) Remember to keep an eye out for yourself.