We know that touch has healing powers. Mums stroke babies and they laugh and walk around. Lovers timidly take each other’s hands, and at that moment thousands of butterflies beat their wings inside. We embrace a friend who is going through a difficult time, and we know that our shoulder will be a support for him.
Of course, the touching of our partners is of particular importance. If we and our beloved have an honest, warm and healthy relationship, in most cases his or her touch will give us exceptional pleasure.
But is it worth touching your partner if he or she is currently talking about something that makes him or her nervous?
On the one hand, it seems that with our hands we can reduce our loved one’s stress level and express support. On the other hand, we often don’t even try to hug someone who is feeling bad because we think, “He should definitely be alone right now.” What if we make things worse?
Why do we even need to touch each other? Aren’t words enough? On the one hand, touching means that we are in a close relationship with the person we are touching. It’s a way of showing that we will be supportive if needed. This confirms the results of a study published in the journal Social and Personal Relationships.
Psychologists from Syracuse and Carnegie Mellon Universities (USA) studied how partners’ touch affects us in moments when we are afraid or difficult. Their study involved 210 married couples. The volunteers first answered questions about how satisfied they were with their relationship.
The process of partners communicating with each other was videotaped to explore the non-verbal side of things
The researchers asked one of the partners to tell the other what makes them nervous. The stress-inducing factor could be anything from problems at work to ailments and quarrels with loved ones. The only thing was that the subject of the stress could not be about intimacy between the participants. Spouses were given eight minutes to talk about a particular problem, after which they were asked to switch roles.
It turned out that the touch of loved ones does make a big difference. Those participants who were stroked and “comforted by hand” more than others during the conversations reported that their self-esteem increased and, conversely, their tension decreased. And they were also more likely to report being able to cope with their problems.
Importantly, both those ‘touching’ participants who listened and those who shared their problems perceived their partner more positively than those who touched their loved ones less often and received ‘stroking’ from their partners less frequently.
It turns out that touching another is beneficial in either case. Touching helps create a safe haven that avoids excessive distress, scientists believe.
So the next time your loved one starts complaining about an obnoxious boss or your partner tells you about another argument over parking, just pat her or him on the arm
Even if it doesn’t make your loved one update their CV or think about buying a garage space, it will make them feel a little better. Science backs this up.