Gary Chapman, author of “The 5 Love Languages,” believes there are five different ways to express and experience love; words of affirmation, quality time, receiving gifts, acts of service, and physical touch. Chapman argues that, emotionally, people need to receive love, and that by identifying and understanding our primary love language, we’re able to help each other feel deeply loved, and wholly appreciated.
As an advocate for hugs, and a frequent initiator of high-fives, it came as no surprise that my primary love language is physical touch. I thrive on all of it; casual hand-holding, a compassionate shoulder-touch, a tight squeeze, massages, fist-bumps, fingers through hair, a cheek-caress, snuggling.
And kissing, oh my.
But in singlehood, I lost so much. I felt crippled by the overwhelming realization that my main source of touch was no longer available to me, and that loss was loudly apparent on bad days. I never anticipated the difficulty I’d experience with learning to self-soothe.
“I find my worst days are those laced with tension headaches, an ailment I often avoided with a man’s soothing hands—hands that once so lovingly erased the kinks. Without the soothing hands, which have now been replaced with IB Profen, I’m so obviously reminded of my loss of companionship and my overwhelming sense of loneliness.”
—Just Keep Swimming, 10.1.13
Tackling life’s low-points solo is a challenge. Often, you are responsible for playing your own comforter. Because when you’re partnerless, petless, and childless, there is only you to prep the macaroni and cheese, and ready the bed for a night of snuggling, which you will do with your pillows. Not a human. Having a primary love language of physical touch, which doubles as your means for allaying woes, and requires a second living being, will make this ten times harder.
So, I adapted.
Now, bad days are eased with delicious carbohydrates. Stressful projects, a glass of wine. Explosive rage, a run. Tough decisions, my journal. Total overload, a bubble bath. Heartache, a bottle of tequila and an overweight Chocolate Labrador Retriever. I’m also convinced ice cream can solve 95% of the world’s problems, at least temporarily. When all else fails, I run home.
These are my comforters.
Greater still, I developed a support system strong enough to withstand Armageddon. These select few women and men, in addition to my family, have become an indispensable, invaluable source of comfort. For them, and all of the love they provide, I am deeply grateful. They are my most precious givers of touch. They are my reminder that, despite my singularity, I will never suffer a bad day alone.
“She said the moment I forget my loneliness is the moment I’ll be ready for someone new.”
—Just Keep Swimming, 10.23.13
I’ve forgotten my loneliness. It quietly withdrew from my forefront so long ago. Still present, yes, but buried in limbo awaiting an opportunity to resurface. For the lonely, if you have one person that cares for your head and your heart, you will never truly be alone.
But on the heaviest days, when the weight of the world feels much too heavy to carry, it floods me. I am only human, and while my strength knows no bounds, my ability to self-soothe is limited. Being a creature that experiences the greatest amount of love through physical touch, I crave to collapse into another person; someone who willingly accepts shouldering my weight, if only for a short while.
And whispers, as I do for others, “everything will be okay.”