The Road to Affection

Remember the movie Castaway? Chuck Noland washes up on a deserted island after surviving a plane crash. He eventually learns how to meet his basic needs, but he lacks one important thing: human love and affection.

In a search for companionship, Chuck "relates" to a volleyball he names Wilson. Chuck shares his deepest emotions with Wilson — his hurts, frustrations and loneliness. Over time, Wilson becomes a cherished "friend."

Chuck eventually makes it back to civilization only to discover that everyone he cared for has moved on with life. The movie ends with Chuck standing alone at a dusty crossroads. The image epitomizes the powerful need we have to feel loved.

Unfortunately, many husbands and wives don't feel loved, even in their own homes. They're just like Chuck: alone at a crossroads.

One of the best ways to guard against this is to develop an affectionate marriage. Every time a couple gives and receives affection, they wrap a layer of protection around their marriage through meeting their spouse's need to feel loved. You and your spouse can learn to love each other so that you both know you are loved. It begins with understanding the three ways by which we demonstrate affection.

Which one best describes you or your spouse?

The Head Person is intellectual, factual and more responsive to details or knowledge. This is the type of individual who would say, "I told you, 'I love you,' and if I ever change my mind, I'll let you know." People who give and receive affection primarily with their head can often be unknowingly insensitive to the needs and feelings of others.

The Heart Person is a big "feeler." This person is aware of the emotional experiences going on with others. If you're one who responds to affection through the heart, though, you can be easily hurt or offended.

The Hand Person connects with other people by doing things. To this person, acts of service mean everything. But those who show affection in this way can become so busy with their activity that they miss what's going on around them emotionally or intellectually.

         Establishing an
    Affectionate Marriage

1. Show affection often, but don't confuse affection with sex.

2. Talk about what pleases your spouse, but never withhold affection to punish your spouse.

3. Plan spontaneity into your marriage; don't wait for your spouse to show affection first.

4. Be patient with an unaffectionate spouse, and don't keep score in your marriage.

5. Try new things to please your spouse, but don't be critical if your spouse fails.

The healthiest relationships are those in which couples give and receive affection in a balanced way, using all three of these expressions. Here are some tips to help you show multidimensional affection to your spouse:

Loving from the head.
Find out what interests your spouse. If your husband sees everything with a bottom line, approach him with facts. Communicate in terms he'll understand.

Loving from the heart.
When communicating affection to a heart person, use words that develop vivid emotional pictures. Consistently use powerful expressions like "I love you" and "You're the most important person to me."

Loving from the hand.
To love this way, get in there and do it. With my wife, I've learned that there are a few things that mean a lot to her: if I clean up my messes, work in the yard or fill her car with gas. When I show affection through my actions, I fill her need to feel loved.

Include a healthy dose of physical touch to whatever expression of affection is needed by your spouse. A tender touch on the hand, a hug or a back rub will go a long way toward magnifying an expression of affection.

Multiply your spouse's feeling of being loved. Find out how to give and receive affection — and fuel up your relationship for a journey of affectionate love.

Taken from Focus on the Family magazine, February 2005.
Article copyright © 2005, Randy Carlson.
All rights reserved. International copyright secured.
Used by permission.

Randy Carlson is a marriage and family therapist, the host of the radio program "Parent Talk OnCall" and president of
Family Life Communications, Inc.