We are born wired for human touch. If we go through a significant period of time without it, we begin to physically crave it. We literally become hungry for skin to skin contact. It has been reported that infants who lived in orphanages died from lack of touch. They were clothed and fed but not held, rocked or cuddled. As humans, we need touch to survive and thrive.
Skin hunger is primarily applied to adults who have been without touch for long time. Since we can ask for and receive affection, many of us will not experience the extremes of skin hunger. But for couples who don’t touch each other, what is the effect?
Many couples disconnect from each other due to lack of touch. Particularly in long term relationships, touch reduces to a quick peck on the cheek for the daily greeting and that’s it. No hugs, no hand holding, no cuddling, no spooning, none of it. Some couples do not even sleep in the same room because one partner snores. If this occurs long enough, the relationship withers and dies.
Jim Butcher states:
“There is a primal reassurance in being touched, in knowing that someone else, someone close to you, wants to be touching you. There is a bone-deep security that goes with the brush of a human hand, a silent, reflex-level affirmation that someone is near, that someone cares”.
This is the essence of human touch, “bone-deep security”, which explains why infants died without it. Security is one of the basic human needs for survival. It may also explain why couples who go without consistent touch begin to feel insecure about their relationship. Couples who have children often get some of their skin hunger satisfied through hugging and cuddling their children. That may satisfy some of their individual touch needs but it does not feed their relationship with their partner.
Individuals and couples must reach out for touch. If you are single, make sure to hug your family members and friends. Schedule regular therapeutic massages. Pets can help too, although they do not replace human contact.
If you are a couple, you must make an effort to go beyond the peck on the cheek. Done swiftly and in passing, it does not satisfy the need for more intimate connection. Your busy life can still allow for moments of meaningful contact. Sit together if watching TV, spend time snuggling in bed (even if you end up separating later because one of you snores), hold hands often, run your fingers through your partners hair, massage their shoulders after a long day, put your hand on their lap while driving… the list is endless.
Touch is one of the most important investments you can make in your relationship. When conflict rises between you, the history of your shared touch creates a foundation of security. The body remembers it well and helps balance any irrational thoughts caused by an argument or disagreement.
Consistent, meaningful touch says, “I look for you. I care about you. I need you. I love you”.