Trauma made me believe that touch was the furthest love language for me.
When someone tried to hold my hands, they would go numb, and I’d spiral into a panic. Falling asleep next to a man was impossible, with my body jolting me awake every so many minutes. I would do an odd combination of shrinking and jumping when even my favorite friends unexpectedly put their hands on my shoulders.
Even when I healed and found myself in a relationship that felt safe enough to be affectionate, there were times I withheld it because I was scared or triggered. Or if I felt like we were disconnected, it felt somehow wrong to be physical because everything got so warped in my mind and nervous system.
But in doing the work to heal lately, I’ve learned it’s actually one of my top love languages, right after acts of service.
You can find your love language here.
It turns out I’m a deeply affectionate human.
I love to snuggle, curling up in someone’s arms or burrowing into the sides of my friends as we sit and watch movies. I’ll link my arm with yours as we stroll, embrace you in the biggest hug when I see you, and kiss your cheek goodbye. I’ll scratch your back and rub your shoulders before draping over you in a loving embrace. I have no weirdness about sharing a bed and platonic snuggles as we sleep.
I’m also very content to be alone.
To sleep in my big bed with just the cats.
To go long stretches without touch.
To be without any closeness at all.
I’ve remembered that I love touch, but I’ve also learned I don’t need it.
I’ve learned to be with myself, to find peace in the spaces where people once were. To find calm and comfort in the distance even when someone is right beside me.
And there’s something really freeing about it.
To know that I’m not broken or damaged but content and secure. To be able to give my love and affections freely when I choose and with the people I want to love, but also have the skill and acceptance of knowing when I want to be left alone—when my body and nervous system want to swim in the space of nothingness.
So, what has it looked like to reclaim touch as a primary love language?
Well… it’s involved touch!
Allowing myself to be more affectionate and expressive with my people.
Having new experiences while I date casually and connect with new men.
That said, it’s also involved deeper process and healing work.
I faced the traumas and wounding that made it something I stopped wanting as much or caused me to become withholding of affection when I felt hurt or unsafe.
With process work, we clear on a deep, cellular level, and one of my favorite feelings after this work is the sense of blankness. I can’t remember why touch was so scary and hard. I don’t understand why I’d withhold it when I want to repair or connect with someone. I’m not scared to give it freely because I’m not afraid of what it might lead to. Intellectually I understand why it became so hard and scary, yes. But in my body and nervous system now? Nope. Nothing. It’s all cleared out.
This means I’m able to begin forming a new relationship to touch and create entirely new neural pathways around it.
It feels so good and loving to explore again, for myself and others.
The truth is, we can always heal our trauma, but it still shapes who we are.
It alters our preferences and can completely rewire even our oldest ways of being and personality traits.
I’m no longer a ball of trauma, and I have a new relationship with touch and space. There’s nothing wrong with either, and I can swing between them with ease now. There’s no fear, judgment or reservation, and I can just be exactly where I am in each moment. And the truth is, I probably appreciate physical space so much more now than I did before trauma. That’s how it goes.
It’s just one way trauma has shaped who I am, what I prefer, and how I want to be in the world, even if it’s no longer a point of pain or triggers.
Do you know your love languages?
And have your life experiences altered your relationship to them at all?
If so, what needs to be healed? And what needs to be reclaimed?