How to Hack Relationships: 3 Ways Physical Touch Helps


May 2, 2013   •   Fact checked by Dumb Little Man

It is astonishing how little one feels alone when one loves. – John Bulwer

Everyone says moving in with a significant other is difficult, but the first week of my life playing house was more difficult and emotionally challenging than I ever expected.

When my husband and I returned from our honeymoon, we moved in together for the first time and a newfound silence fell upon our apartment.

All this new time we were spending together in our new home was mired with a kind of white noise, one I was always aware of and always wanted to replace with joyful conversation and love.

The silence made me feel alone, and — worst of all — it made me feel scared for the years to come.I grew up in a loud and overly affectionate family. Hugs, jokes, and conversation bounced around the house in a constant state of interaction. The house was always full of banter and togetherness. My husband, on the other hand, grew up in a family that is loving in a different way, quiet and respectful of each other’s space.

Silence and independence felt natural to him, but (after years of dates, movie nights, and dinners) I had never sat in a room with him in such silence.

I remember looking over at him and wondering why he wasn’t speaking to me or if it meant that things between us had changed. I even remembering crying to my mother, telling her just how much I missed her and the rest of my family.

Little did I know that all I had to do to feel better was hold his hand.

Getting through that adjustment period took work and immense understanding. One year later, my marriage has been incredibly refreshing and wonderful.

The tools I used to combat the silence and adjust my habits to fit another person still serve me every single day in the relationships I have in all areas of my life.

They are incredibly simple tactics, and they probably aren’t the ones you’d expect.

1. Hold on tight

This may be hard to believe, but much of what I achieved was by getting cuddly.

Studies actually show that physical contact slows down our heart rate.

That includes holding a person’s hand, giving a warm hug, or a hand on the shoulder. Through physical touch, our bodies interpret that there is a meaningful connection around us, and our heart responds by slowing its rhythm a bit.

When I felt extremely upset or emotional, unable to communicate exactly what I felt was missing in our new home, I held my husband’s hand, and the results were uncanny. I almost instantly felt more calm and closer to peace.

2. Watch anger dissipate

We’ve all experienced anger in our lives — sometimes it happens every day! It’s a natural human reaction. But have you ever noticed that you are never usually angry with someone who is touching you at a certain moment? I’ve tried this, and getting angry while hugging someone just doesn’t feel right.

In my personal relationships, I have learned to take matters into my own hands. If an argument is escalating to a place I don’t feel comfortable with, I offer a hug.

The anger gurgling up inside almost always starts to dissipate, and the conversation usually takes a turn for the productive, instead of the destructive.

3. Create connection

Physical touch goes one step further than just calming our anger and slowing our heart rates. It also readies our minds and bodies for connection. When someone touches us on the shoulder, for example, it sparks our attention in a way that is non-intrusive.

It is welcoming, instead.

A few months ago, I remember feeling so stressed and worried, that it only took my husband’s hand on my shoulder to break the floodgates and have tears start flowing down my face. I was tense and uptight, holding tears back with gumption, but physical touch signaled that being vulnerable is okay.

Our connection strengthened, and my tears flowed like a river.

Each and every day that we navigate personal relationships, work relationships, and romantic relationships, physical touch is a tool that we very rarely use to create connection and an atmosphere of peace.

Since I learned how to leverage physical touch to help my relationships grow, I feel more calm within myself and more connected to those around me.

I’d love to hear from you

Is there something about your personal relationships you want to hack?

Could giving a friend a high-five or holding your partner’s hand do the trick?

Are you fearful of hacking your relationships? What concerns you?

Leave your stories and ideas in the comments!

Written on 5/2/2013 by Marcella Chamorro. When Marcella Chamorro decided to quit her job to live every day as if it’s a vacation, she turned her attention to creating a lifestyle that is both meaningful and exciting. Now (as an author, entrepreneur & speaker based in Nicaragua), Marcella guides those who want to quit their jobs, live their dreams, and live a vacation that never ends at The Perpetual Vacation. Photo Credit

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