In some of our recent blog posts, we’ve walked you through the specifics of how to check in on your relationship with your partner (as discussed in How to Recognize a Healthy Relationship — and Improve Yours Today). We asked five questions to help you explore and evaluate your relationship, then get to work improving it.
As a reminder, here are the five questions:
Today, we’re talking about affection — and physical affection, specifically.
Now, I’m going to go out on a limb and say that the term “affection” has a bad rap. It probably conjures up images of PDA (public displays of affection) and teenagers making out by their high school lockers or in the back row of a movie theatre. The thought might make you chuckle. Or roll your eyes.
Stick with me.
Affection doesn’t always have to involve overt, super-public, ostentatious displays of physical connection. You can be affectionate with your partner at home, in your car, at the park. You can do it in big ways and small ways (and often, the smallest things are the most meaningful). What’s important is the emotional and physical connection. Tending to that daily is essential for the health of your relationship.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: give unsolicited affection. If you don’t know your partner’s love language, learn it, and surprise them at random moments with the kind of affection that speaks that language. This builds mutual fondness, strengthens your connection, and enriches your appreciation of one another.
Affection helps strengthen admiration and fondness (the one thing all relationships need). As the Gottmans put it, “sharing fondness and admiration is a friendship skill which serves as the antidote for contempt,” one of the Four Horsemen.
Do you give your partner one long hug or kiss every day? If you don’t, here’s why you should.
One great way to show your partner affection is with a six-second kiss, two (or more!) times each day. It’s what the Gottmans call a “kiss with potential” because lingering just a bit longer than usual pays big dividends for your relationship! (Check out this delightfully long list of benefits!) Six seconds is just enough time to really focus on one another and let your distractions fall away, even for a moment. It’s enough to feel romantic, in a way that a quick peck on the cheek on your way out the door simply can’t match.
Similarly, a long hug can do wonders for helping you to feel loved by and connected with your partner. And yes, length matters. In fact, a 20-second hug with your partner measurably decreases stress, increases oxytocin levels (hello, bonding hormones!), and creates a positive feedback loop between the two of you. Plus, the health benefits of hugs extend far beyond your emotional bond with your partner.
The important thing to remember is quality over quantity. Simply holding each other — and not settling for a quick pat on the back — allows you to connect with your partner’s mind and body in a way that really can transform your relationship.
Turns out Grandma was right: Making Love is about a lot more than just making love.