Physical intimacy in a relationship is an important touchstone for many couples — and it's not just about sex. There's also activities that involve physical touch, like holding hands, massages, and even being relaxed enough to throw your legs on top of your partner's while you're watching a movie. And it's important that you're getting enough physical intimacy in your relationship.
As for how much you should be touching, there's no bar to measure yourself against. Instead, it's about what works for you and your partner. "I think this is a very personal thing that varies from couple to couple," relationship therapist Aimee Hartstein, LCSW tells Bustle. "The real issue isn’t whether or not there is enough physical intimacy, it’s whether or not the two individuals are on the same page regarding intimacy. What might be enough for one couple might be too little for another. There’s no gold standard but if one person wants to be kissing and cuddling all the time and the other is actually a bit shy or uncomfortable with intimacy then there is likely to be a mismatch. So if you feel good about the amount then it’s all good! If you don’t, then something is not aligning for you and you should talk to your partner to see where they are at."
So how can you be sure if you and your partner have enough physical intimacy? Here are the signs, according to experts.
1. You Know What You Need
The first step is being aware of your needs. Are you an especially touchy person? Know what that looks like. "You need physical touch," Anita Chlipala, author of First Comes Us: The Busy Couple’s Guide to Lasting Love, tells Bustle. "If physical affection is one of your top needs, you risk feeling more unloved without your partner being consistently physically present."
If this sounds like you that's totally fine — you can definitely get those needs met — but it's important to know that that's what you need. You're far more likely to be on the right track with some self-awareness.
2. You Use Touch To Communicate
Physical touch with your partner won't always be sexual. When it's at its most natural, it should feel like a form of communication. "Touch is more than a physical act," Dr. Martha Lee, founder and Clinical Sexologist of Eros Coaching, tells Bustle. "It can also represent acknowledgement ('I hear you'), empathy ('I wish I could make you feel better'), and love ('I want to hold you, and be close to you'). As such, the physical act can translate to emotional closeness and connectedness — which we know can release oxytocin (feel-good hormones) and endorphins (pain relief) in the body."
It can be as simple as an arm around their shoulder if they're feeling low or a random peck when you're feeling especially loving. Touch is its own separate language.
3. You Can Talk About It
You should feel comfortable talking about how much you're touching — especially, as Hartsein says, if you feel like there might be a mismatch. "Assumptions and mind reading usually lead to misunderstandings and hurt feelings," Sameera Sullivan, psychologist and founder of Lasting Connections, tells Bustle. If you can talk about it openly then it's a good sign that you and your partner are both getting what you need.
4. You Touch Throughout The Day
Is touch something that only happens right before sex? Or is it a part of your daily routine? "Hug and kiss each other before you leave for work, or when you return home," Lee says. "Give affection to each other during quiet moments of the day. Hold hands while walking down the street, watching a movie, or between courses at a restaurant. Shower or bathe together. Ask for a massage and give one in return. Subtly keep your hand on your partner’s leg, or on the small of their back, to maintain a physical connection." If that sounds like you and your partner, it's a good sign you have enough physical intimacy in your relationship.
5. Your Sex Life Is On Point
Everyone's sex drives are different — so how much sex you have each week is up to you as a couple. But, you need to make sure you're both having your needs met. "Sex is often seen as something we outgrow or can easily go without, but sexuality and intimacy are an expression of our life force, creativity and love, and must be expressed to be fully realized as a people," Lauren Brim, a sexual wellness coach and author of The New Rules of Sex, tell Bustle. Have a conversation with your partner to make sure you're satisfied.
6. You Don't Crave Touch
When you're not getting enough physical intimacy, you crave it — you can feel the need physically. “We have a huge demand for touch and human contact that we don’t have met,” Travis Sigley, a cuddle therapist, tells Bustle. “Our supply in our daily lives is dismal.” If you feel like you're content with the amount of touch in your relationship, there's a good chance you and your partner are doing something right.
7. Your Touching Is Relaxed
Being relaxed and comfortable with your partner comes out in different ways. “I think it is the little things,” psychologist Nikki Martinez tells Bustle about couples who have enough physical intimacy in their relationship. “They are free to be themselves, to joke around, to express their opinions, to be honest with you, to sit around in sweats all day." And if your touching feels almost unconscious, that's a sign that it's really integrated into your relationship. It shouldn't be something you're always worrying about or going out of your way to do — when you're really comfortable, it's almost habitual.
Not everyone is a touchy-feely person and that's totally OK — everyone has different needs when it comes to physical intimacy. So figure out what you and your partner need and make sure that you're both feeling fulfilled. Whether it's sex, massages, or holding hands, having enough physical intimacy is all about what works for you as a couple.