Something new is happening to me. I’m feeling an ache from an empty space in my life. The ache seems to be crying out for something I haven’t felt much desire in — well, forever?
I’m feeling a longing for affectionate, brotherly touch from another guy: a hug, an arm around the shoulder, a tight embrace, an encouraging pat on the back, a caring hand on my neck. And I have no idea why.
In college, I thought I was a physically affectionate person. Truth be told, I simply liked giving hugs and had little to no concept of personal boundaries.
This led to many heartbreaks, like with my friend, Roman. It also meant misunderstanding my love languages for many years.
I finally came to realize how much I valued words of affirmation and quality time. These two love languages speak so much to me. An intentional message or an invitation to be in someone’s presence fills me up incredibly. I get so much from simply being around another person.
Once these two languages were filled, I found myself needing fewer hugs. Sure, I still enjoyed hugs. And people closest to me always got hugs. But it became more about the relationship than the actual hug.
I spent more time learning about the five love languages, retook the test, and it was confirmed: physical affection was my number five.
Recently, though, I realized I had gone too far without physical affection in my life. My wife’s primary love language is physical touch, and I was actually failing to speak to her enough in that way. Convicted of this, I begged Lisa’s forgiveness and promised to change with her help.
As I started working on touch with her, I realized I had also neglected some of my close friends who enjoy physical touch. I told one of my dearest friends about this, and he agreed to help me with touch within our friendship.
Honestly, I began feeling pretty good about my progress with physical touch.
And then came the 2019 YOBBERS retreat.
I gained so much from our weekend retreat; it was truly a blessing. A lot of the guys there expressed physical affection as a primary or key love language, so I was really able to stretch myself.
Coming back from the retreat, I knew I’d be a lot more adept at speaking the language of physical touch.
But something else happened.
Returning home from the retreat, I began feeling something odd — like something was missing. I just figured it was the post-retreat blues, so I addressed it as such.
But as the weeks continued, this missing feeling grew. I began realizing these feelings as rooted in something deeper than the retreat.
I went to my counselor for insight. His thoughts were pretty straightforward:
“You seem to have opened up a part of your life previously closed. And now that it’s been opened, you don’t want to close it off again — which is healthy! Perhaps instead of looking at it as something you want, realize that this is something you need. You need brotherly physical affection in your life. God made you for this, and He wants you to have it.”
It’s one of the few times I was left speechless. I’d never considered that I — specifically, I — needed touch. I’d always considered myself pretty much okay without it.
But I couldn’t deny that the ache I felt was nowhere near a lustful desire, a feeling far beyond any post-retreat depression.
My counselor was right. I realized that I needed affirmation via physical touch from the men around me. My brothers, fathers, mentors — I needed them to affirm me physically as loved, cared for, and respected.
“This retreat helped you realize that it’s okay to need this kind of affection. Don’t close it off again,” my counselor encouraged me.
So, I now find myself stuck in a new struggle: how do I go about getting this physical affirmation and affection? I’m not necessarily surrounded on a daily basis by physically affectionate guys. What does it look like to foster this need while respecting the boundaries of those around me?
And the bigger questions I’m facing: is physical touch going to leap above my other love languages? Will I become a physically affectionate person?
Where does physical touch rank among your love languages, and have you seen it move up or down the scale through various seasons? Do you receive enough regular physical touch, or do you find yourself lacking and yearning for it?