The truth is that learning to speak someone else’s love language can feel weird, arbitrary and fake at first. Poly writer Ferrett describes this awkwardness, and counsels everyone – regardless of their relationship style – to suck it up and learn to speak your partner’s love language anyway. It’ll pay off later.
However, the flip side is that you have to gently, constantly remind your partner to keep taking those baby steps to speak to you in your love language. You have to remember when they’ve failed yet again to do the one thing you’ve asked them to try to do, that it’s probably not malicious. It simply didn’t occur to them because it’s not how their brain works.
Find Ways to Break the Touch Barrier.
The term “touch barrier” has been used by dating coaches and pick-up artists alike (in ways that are sometimes creepy and consent-obscuring), but I believe that in the context of a married or long-term co-habitating couple, it takes on a special connotation. Probably you two have already been physically intimate in some fashion, whatever that looks like in your relationship, so it’s not a matter of touching someone for the very first time.
Instead, my sense is that in a marriage, spouses can get so used to practical touching moments (handing off a baby, folding laundry together) that it becomes difficult to initiate sensual or sexual touching moments. It’s important to challenge the experiences that pile up that reinforce the sense that you’re domestic partners first and foremost, because as Esther Perel has brilliantly noted in her TED talk, security and arousal are often at opposite poles of human experience.
So, what are some ways that you can (consensually, of course) initiate touch with your spouse outside of daily tasks? My spouse, whose main love language is physical touch while mine is most definitely not, suggested playing a game where we competed to see who would remember to lovingly touch the other person first as soon as we both entered the same room. Who won? We both did – it helped put affectionate touch on my radar more often, and he got his touch needs met more frequently.
Even if you’re intelligent and good at relationship communication, and even if you’ve got a background in gender/sexuality studies like I do, married sex can pose unique challenges. Take advantage of resources like Adult Sex Ed Month here at Kinkly to stay engaged in learning about not only concrete sex topics but also what sex means to you!