Are you a snuggler? A smoocher? What about a hand-holder?
If you’re thinking…hmm, there isn’t a whole
lot of that going on recently…you might want to try a little harder.
According to one study of about 300 college students, people in more
physically affectionate relationships are happier and more satisfied.
How Affection Helps
To be clear, this is not about sex. The
affection that was looked at in this study was limited to kissing,
cuddling, back massages, hand-holding, and stroking and caressing.
Almost all of these types of affection were associated with better
relationships. (For some reason, hand-holding and stroking/caressing did
not have the same significance.) The more physical affection, or PA,
there was, the more likely these men and women were to say that they
were happy and satisfied with their partner and their relationship—and
that they thought their partner was satisfied, too.
What’s more, physically affectionate couples
may even find it easier to work out arguments and disagreements. While
affectionate couples in this study didn’t have any more or less conflict
generally than others, those who gave and received more PA said they
were more able to resolve their differences.
Know Your Partner
Men and women did show slightly different
preferences when it came to different types of physical affection, or
PA. For instance, men seem to like giving back massages more than women
did, while women enjoyed hugging and hand-holding more than men did. Men
and women also had somewhat different opinions on which types of PA
expressed love the most towards their partner.
Of course, regardless of gender, different
people will have different preferences, so ask your partner what he or
she prefers to receive, and to give! Taking your partner’s likes and
dislikes into account could improve your relationship, too. (Also, as
study participants point out, there are more types of loving physical
affection than those mentioned here! Slow dancing, playing with
someone’s hair, and even play wrestling were some of the other PA types
To Keep in Mind
It’s important to note that this study does not actually prove
that being physically affectionate causes better relationships—just
that the two things seem to be associated. It could be the case, for
instance, that people in happy relationships are just more likely to be
However, given what we already know about
how touch calms us and bonds us, and the fact that physical affection is
enjoyable, it’s worth upping the “PA” in your own relationship. It’s
easy, fun, and of course, free. In the future, therapists might even
“prescribe” increasing physical affection to couples who are struggling.
But you can start now!
Looking for more ways to connect and get
closer with your partner? Considering marriage but want to make sure
you're as prepared as possible? The SMART Couples project is offering
ELEVATE, a fun, FREE, research-backed relationship enhancement class for
couples, and Before You Tie the Knot, a fun, FREE, research-backed
premarital preparation class, in Florida counties across the state. Sign up today!
Gulledge, A. K., Gulledge, M. H., &
Stahmannn, R. F. (2003) Romantic physical affection types and
relationship satisfaction, The American Journal of Family Therapy, 31:4, 233-242, DOI: 10.1080/01926180390201936
Courtesy of University of Florida UF/IFAS Extension. For more relationship articles, visit www.smartcouples.org