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Why is touching an important part of a relationship?

Madeleine M. Castellanos, MD
Psychiatry
When couples have difficulties that lead to an avoidance of sex, there is often also an avoidance of touching each other for fear it might lead to sex. If you don't have a good amount of non-sexual touching with your partner, then every physical contact is expected to be sexual. This creates an atmosphere of tension, coldness, and isolation.

Just by touching each other on the arm or the hand when you are sitting side by side, you can create an atmosphere of comfort and relaxation. It has been found that there are special nerve endings called C-tactile fibers that produce a feeling of calmness and well-being when stroked slowly and gently. C-tactile fibers are found over the arms, legs, back, and forehead, and explain why it can be so soothing to be touched in this way. This type of touch also helps alleviate pain, and we are instinctually aware of this every time we reach out to stroke someone's arm who doesn't feel well.

A wonderful benefit of touching is that it releases a small amount of oxytocin, the neurotransmitter that helps us bond and feel confident and connected. Both men and women benefit from it's release, although the main function of oxytocin is to produce uterine contractions during and after childbirth. Oxytocin also produces stronger orgasms in women, which is why stimulating a woman's breasts during foreplay and touching her all over leads to a more dramatic sexual experience for her. Cuddling and staring into each other eyes are other ways of increasing the flow of oxytocin, and increasing the bonding between you both.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.