The benefits of human touch for a relationship are often underestimated. A recent study, which was conducted online with participants aged 20 to 40, asked: “Where do you prefer to be touched by your partner?”
Participants were also asked to name one or several body parts where they like to be touched. The results showed major differences between men and women in this regard, however, both men and women ranked the back and the neck as the top two places they like to be touched. Here’s why human touch is vital to cultivating a thriving relationship:
Why Touch Is Important
Touching and being touched are fundamental ways in which humans interact, and are actually instrumental to our health and well-being. This is especially true during childhood, with children needing touch almost as much as they need food and water. The benefits of human touch include stress relief, an improved mood, and even pain reduction.
Human beings actually have two touch systems, namely the factual (discriminative) and emotional. The latter system is mediated by a different set of sensors and nerve fibers to the former and conveys information much slower. The emotional touch system could include a hug from a friend, a mother’s touch or intimate contact between romantic partners. All of these kinds of emotional touching activate parts of the brain that are crucial for social bonding.
The aforementioned online survey allowed participants to submit their answers anonymously. It found that the participants, which consisted of 53% women and 47% men aged 20 to 40 years old, like to be touched in the following places:
1. The Back
Some 64% of women and 50% of men prefer to be touched and caressed on their backs. The good news about this is that the back can be touched almost anywhere, and at any time. The truth is that most of us are even okay with colleagues and friends touching our back occasionally.
Touching the back leads to the release of oxytocin, which is commonly referred to as the love hormone. Oxytocin levels increase during hugging and lovemaking, and it is found in greater amounts in people who are in relationships in contrast with those who are single.
2. The Neck
Being a part of the body that’s always on show, as well as being a very intimate area, the neck is a rather unusual spot. A study consisting of 1,368 European participants showed that people are more reluctant to strangers, acquaintances or even distant relatives touching their necks.
With that being said, people feel differently about having their necks touched by their intimate partners. The survey showed that some 55% of female respondents and 39% of male respondents admitted to enjoying having their neck caressed by their partner. These findings are perhaps no surprise – the neck has a high concentration of light-touch receptors that go wild for gentle kisses and soft caresses.
3. The Runners-up
The next most preferred areas for women were legs and thighs (25%), followed by the shoulders (23%). Some 20% of male respondents said they enjoyed having their heads and hair touched, and a further 15% of them said they enjoyed having their arms and legs touched.
Intimate vs. Non-intimate Touching
The survey indicates that touching that represents companionship and support is far more significant than touching intimate areas that have the greatest potential to bring pleasure. With that being said, intimacy is still crucial for cultivating a strong and lasting relationship. The essential thing to take from this is that touching should not be limited to intimate times only.
Affectionate physical behavior, such as hugging, has been shown in studies to reduce stress levels and blood pressure. Such behavior has an even more profound impact when people are in relationships. This is especially true during the early months of a romantic relationship – we’ve all felt how eye contact in combination with touch stirs butterflies in the stomach.
The importance of touching grows and diversifies as a relationship matures. For example, a daily cuddle can strengthen a relationship and enhance feelings of love, which are very important. In addition, less fighting occurs when physical affection is prioritized. Showing signs of physical affection during a conflict can often lead to it being resolved much more quickly.
The Benefits of Human Touch for a Relationship
Life can sometimes seem like a never-ending rush, so a hug or a touch can go a long way toward strengthening a relationship. For some couples, this comes naturally, however it might require a little more effort for others. Whichever end of the spectrum that you’re on, keep in mind that the simple act of human touch is a great way of bringing the spark back if and when you run into trouble in your relationship.
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