April 17, 2023

Touch Starvation in Relationships: Six Tips

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Touch starvation within relationships

Last week we discussed what touch starvation can feel like when you’re single, but touch starvation is definitely something that can impact anyone regardless of relationship status. Touch is a fundamental human need, playing a crucial role in our emotional, mental, and physical well-being. A note before we dive in: As unique humans, we all experience need for touch at varying levels, and if you’re not someone who enjoys or feels the need for touch this post isn’t as relevant for you. (No use forcing yourself to do something that doesn’t feel good!)

However, if you know touch is a need for you, read on to explore the importance of physical touch in maintaining a healthy connection with your partner and get practical strategies to overcome touch starvation within a romantic relationship.

The Importance of Touch in Romantic Relationships

Physical touch helps build intimacy, trust, and emotional connection in romantic relationships (Gulledge et al., 2003). Regular affectionate touch can foster feelings of safety and attachment (Ditzen et al., 2007), reduce stress and anxiety (Jakubiak & Feeney, 2017), and contribute to overall relationship satisfaction (Debrot et al., 2013). For many couples, it’s crucial to recognise and address touch starvation to maintain a healthy, thriving partnership.

Strategies for Overcoming Touch Starvation

1. Communicate Your Needs:

Initiate an open, honest conversation with your partner about your desire for more physical touch. Approach it gently so that things don’t get tense. Ask your partner about their feelings around physical touch and what their preferences are.

2. Establish a Touch Routine:

Create a daily touch routine that includes hugs, holding hands, cuddling, or gentle strokes. Be intentional and consistent in practicing this routine to build a stronger bond and ensure regular physical connection. Keep in mind that the type and duration of touch may vary based on individual preferences and comfort levels. This might feel odd and prescriptive at first, but with intention over time it will feel much more second nature.

3. Incorporate Touch into Daily Activities:

Find opportunities to incorporate touch into your everyday routines. Hold hands while watching a movie, give a gentle squeeze during a walk, or make hugging before leaving for work a regular routine. These small gestures can have a really positive impact on your emotional connection.

4. Engage in Activities that Encourage Touch:

Participate in activities that naturally involve physical touch, such as dancing, couples yoga, or massage workshops. These activities not only promote physical connection but can also help build trust and enhance communication between partners.

5. Prioritise Quality Time:

In any relationship that’s transitioned out of the honeymoon phase, it can get really easy to let life pass you by and get wrapped up in commitments with friends, family, kids, work – the list goes on! Get intentional and carve out time in your schedules for regular date nights or weekend getaways. Focusing on quality time together can help deepen your emotional connection and create opportunities for physical touch.

6. Seek Professional Support:

If touch starvation persists or you’re struggling to communicate your needs effectively, consider seeking the support of a qualified couples therapist. They can help facilitate open conversations, provide guidance on addressing touch deprivation, and offer tailored strategies to strengthen your connection. You can find a directory of specialised Brisbane couples counsellors here: The Hart Centre. If you’re an individual struggling with how to navigate your relationship and you’d like someone to chat it through with, feel free to book an appointment with us at Golden Thread Therapy.


Touch starvation within a romantic relationship can be challenging, but by recognising its importance and implementing strategies to overcome it, couples can cultivate a deeper emotional bond and a more satisfying partnership. Prioritising communication, establishing routines, and engaging in touch-promoting activities are just some of the ways couples can address touch deprivation and rekindle their connection. If you find that these strategies are not enough or need additional support, seeking professional guidance from a couples therapist can be a valuable step in nurturing your relationship.

Remember, every relationship is unique, and the key to overcoming touch starvation is understanding your own needs and those of your partner. By being intentional and proactive in addressing touch deprivation, you can create a strong foundation for a lasting, fulfilling romantic partnership.


Chapman, G. (1995). The Five Love Languages: How to Express Heartfelt Commitment to Your Mate. Northfield Publishing.

Debrot, A., Cook, W. L., Perrez, M., & Horn, A. B. (2013). Deeds, not words: A daily diary study on the effects of expressed affection in couples’ interactions. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 30(1), 119-135. DOI: 10.1177/0265407512448277

Ditzen, B., Hoppmann, C., & Klumb, P. (2007). Positive couple interactions and daily cortisol: On the stress-protecting role of intimacy. Psychosomatic Medicine, 70(8), 883-889. DOI: 10.1097/PSY.0b013e318148c4c6

Gulledge, A. K., Gulledge, M. H., & Stahmann, R. F. (2003). Romantic physical affection types and relationship satisfaction. The American Journal of Family Therapy, 31(4), 233-242. DOI: 10.1080/019261803902019

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