Couples Counseling: Psychological intimacy leads to affectionate touch

This article describes four studies showing that “people who felt more cared for and supported by their partners tended to engage in more affectionate touch”. Psychological intimacy in relationships leads to physical intimacy.

Affectionate touch refers “to physical touch that is intended to communicate care, warmth, and affection — such as hugging, hand-holding, cuddling, and kissing. These types of touch behaviors are crucial to the development of social bonds and are common across romantic relationships.”

“Until now, little research has considered factors that motivate people to engage in affectionate touch. Study authors Tatum A. Jolink and her team propose that the provision of touch within a relationship might have to do with perceptions of intimacy. Perceiving one’s partner as more caring and supportive should promote psychological intimacy, which then prompts a person to engage in intimate behaviors — i.e., affectionate touch. The researchers conducted four studies to explore this.”

In the initial study, “people who rated their partners as more responsive reported having engaged in more affectionate touch with their partner the previous month — even after controlling for sexual activity.”

In the second study couples kept a daily diary for 2 weeks. “Those who felt their partners were more responsive reported more instances of affectionate touch throughout the two weeks — even after controlling for attachment style.”

“‘The current evidence suggests that finding ways to promote perceived responsiveness within romantic relationships can make way for more affectionate touch within them,’ Jolink and colleagues note. ‘This is true for both members of the dyad, as the interpersonal process may theoretically jump start a mutual process that translates to cumulative physiological benefit by way of increases in affectionate touch.'”

Increased psychological intimacy predicts greater levels of affectionate touch in romantic relationships

Elaine Korngold, LPC, offers individual and couples counseling with a focus on increasing psychological intimacy between two monogamous partners. Contact Elaine to learn more.