I have a highly affectionate family. I grew up watching my dad rub my mother’s feet as they relaxed on the couch. My mom rubbed my back daily—sometimes more than once. We hold hands, we hug, we snuggle. Even now. Long after we’ve all passed into adulthood.
I find affection essential in close, loving relationships. Without it, the relationship starves. And for these reasons, I find affection intensely intimate.
Too intimate for just anyone.
If you follow Gary Chapman’s theory in The Five Love Languages—the notion that we can express romantic or platonic love in one of five possible ways (kind words, doing helpful things, giving gifts, spending quality time, and physical affection), and that each person ranks the importance of these expressions differently—acts of service and quality time comprise my top two.
Yet I’d put personal touch in a different category entirely.
I treasure hugs from someone with whom I share affection and appreciation. I won’t rebuff indiscriminate embraces from strangers or distant acquaintances—the reflexive hugs that seem so common today—but I rarely initiate that type of embrace.
People I don’t know well who touch just to touch—for reasons at which I can only guess—make me uncomfortable. You know the type: Although near strangers or barely acquaintances, they rub your shoulder, put an arm around you, caress your back, or touch your hands in casual conversation.
My heightened attention to touch—its ability to flower feelings of companionship, soothing, caring, and love—makes these gestures from someone I don’t know well highly disorienting. Indiscriminate affection from someone with whom I don’t share closeness feels aggressive. Controlling, even. Maybe slightly manipulative.
Do I take it too seriously? Does touch matter too much to me?
How do you feel about affection?