The Power of Touch: How Physical Contact Can Enhance Relationship Health

In a world increasingly driven by digital communication, the importance of physical touch in maintaining and enhancing mental and physical health cannot be understated. A recent study sheds light on this topic, reaffirming the significant benefits of physical touch—a cornerstone for personal health and the health of our relationships.

The Healing Power of Touch

The study reveals that physical touch—ranging from the warmth of a hug to the comfort of handholding—plays a crucial role in alleviating mental health symptoms, particularly those associated with anxiety and depression. This finding aligns with previous research, highlighting how even inanimate forms of pressure, like weighted blankets, can simulate the calming effect of a hug and help soothe anxious or depressive feelings.

This research underscores a vital component of a healthy relationship for couples: showing affection through touch. Frequent and meaningful physical contact can strengthen the bond between partners, providing comfort, security, and an unspoken affirmation of love and care.

Touch in Early Development and Adult Relationships

The benefits of touch begin from the earliest stages of life. Infants thrive significantly better when frequently held and shown affection by their parents. This early physical bonding helps in emotional and physical development. It sets the foundation for how individuals engage in physical touch throughout their lives.

As adults, the source of touch remains beneficial, whether from a professional, like a massage therapist, or from personal relationships, such as friends or partners. However, the impact of touch from someone close to you, especially in a romantic context, is profound. A regular, affectionate touch from a loved one can reinforce a sense of closeness and intimacy, crucial elements in any romantic relationship.

Enhancing Relationships Through Touch

Integrating more physical touch can be a crucial strategy for couples seeking to deepen their emotional connection. Simple gestures like holding hands during a walk, cuddling on the couch while watching a movie, or ensuring to hug daily can significantly affect the relationship's emotional climate.

These acts of physical intimacy foster an environment of trust and safety, allowing both partners to feel more secure and connected. Furthermore, such gestures can be powerful in mitigating stress and enhancing overall well-being.

Practical Tips for Couples

  1. Make Time for Touch: In the hustle of daily life, remember to pause and connect through touch. These small moments can have lasting impacts, whether it's a goodbye kiss or a welcome-home hug.
  2. Communicate Preferences: Everyone has different comfort levels and preferences regarding physical touch. Discuss with your partner what feels good and what doesn't, ensuring mutual comfort and enjoyment.
  3. Incorporate Touch in Daily Routines: Find ways to incorporate affectionate touch into your everyday routines. Perhaps you can start a habit of massaging each other's backs while debriefing about your day or squeeze each other's hands while making dinner.
  4. Use Touch to Reaffirm Support: During moments of emotional distress, sometimes words are not enough. A supportive embrace can be a powerful way to show your partner you are there for them.


The power of touch extends beyond mere physical benefits—it is a profound communication tool that can significantly enhance the emotional and physical intimacy within a relationship. As a couples therapist, I often encourage a couple in a session to hold hands and make eye contact when sharing something important because it fosters a deeper and more meaningful connection in the moment. As such, I encourage you to explore and increase physical touch in your relationship. It's not just about reducing symptoms of anxiety or depression; it's about nurturing a loving, supportive, and connected partnership. Embrace the power of touch, and watch your relationship flourish in health and happiness.

Hi, I'm Josh Marlar, LMFT. Over the years, I've helped couples through a wide range of difficulties, and one of the more common things I see is a growing sense of disconnection over time. There are many possible reasons for this, and a skilled couples therapist can help re-engage and re-ignite the passion and the romance in a relationship that has gotten stale or worse. If you're ready to make a change, I'm ready to help. 

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Packheiser, J., Hartmann, H., Fredriksen, K. et al. A systematic review and multivariate meta-analysis of the physical and mental health benefits of touch interventions. Nat Hum Behav (2024).