You’re out for dinner with another couple and can’t help but notice how touchy-feely they are in subtle ways: The husband puts his arm around his wife and squeezes her when she says something funny; she rests her hand comfortably on his arm while he’s telling a story. Seeing these displays of affection makes you smile, but it also acts as a reminder that your partner isn’t as affectionate as you’d like him to be.
So what’s the best way to encourage more physical affection? Dr. Pepper Schwartz, chief relationship expert at perfectmatch.com and professor of sociology at the University of Washington, shares the best ways to go about giving and getting more physical affection from your partner.
1. Act, don’t ask
If you lead by example, your partner will follow suit. “If you have to ask him to be more affectionate, you’re already resentful that you have to ask. Plus, it puts pressure on him,” Schwartz says. No one responds well to criticism. Schwartz suggests “setting the tone each and every day until it becomes a habit.” This lays the groundwork for more opportunities for affection.
2. Change your interactions
When we’re separated from our partners during the workday, our interactions over email and text messages tend to be business-like by nature. Schwartz suggests coming up with a loving phrase to use when signing off on emails, to change the very nature of how you relate to each other.
“Think about ways to sign your emails — ‘Love you much,’ ‘Thinking of you,’ ‘Thanks darling’ — to make your messages affectionate and warm instead of in a business context,” he says. By maintaining contact during the workday, you show your partner just how loved they are, and this shows them how you want to be treated in return.
3. Give good greetings
When your partner gets home from work, always greet him, making his arrival home something to expect. “No matter what you’re doing, make the effort to pause and give him a kiss,” says Schwartz. “You never ignore them.” It’s an easy way to make your relationship more affectionate and it will continue to grow in that loving direction.
4. Kiss like you mean it
Do you tend to just peck your partner on the lips or cheek instead of really kissing him with meaning? To make your kiss more meaningful, Schwartz suggests letting your lips linger, and maintaining eye contact following your kiss. “It’s not just a little peck that says ‘Nice to see you.’ The kiss really has to be a kiss.”
5. Connect in casual ways
The Beatles “I Want to Hold Your Hand” is a catchy, sweet song that really captures the need men have for physical affection. “That connection of hands is a very important way of showing feelings. It’s an exchange of positive energy that’s warm and comfortable and that creates a sense of bonding,” says Schwartz. “Hold hands whenever you can: when walking down the street, at the dinner table, at a party, without it being sexual. It says we’re a team; we’re connected.”
6. Give to get
By expressing affection in all the ways listed, Schwarts says that sooner or later even the most reluctant partner will start mirroring your behavior and reciprocating your affection. By continually showing him how rewarding it is to be affectionate, he’ll get it.
For most men, love and physical affection are an inseparable package. Rather than demanding that he show you more affection, and pressuring him to compliment you and sit-down for an orchestrated make-out session, use these techniques to really show him what affection is.
“By touching him and telling him you love him, and by giving him a warm relationship which is physical, it’s a really good way to reach his heart — and of course he will reach yours too,” says Schwartz.