In this fast-paced world, slowing down to be intentional in the effort to foster connections with those in our lives has become more important than ever. A powerful way to foster connection with those in our lives is by showing affection. Whether it be with your romantic partner, friends, or children, the impact of genuine displays of affection can be incredibly profound. Throughout this blog, we will explore various aspects of showing affection in different relationships and offer practical tips and personal insights on how to nurture your connections and express affection!
When you think of affection, what comes to mind? This answer can vary greatly depending on numerous factors including preference in love language, personal history/upbringing, cultural norms, personality, personal comfort, current life circumstances, and more. Having self-awareness to understand and respect these contributing factors for yourself and others can lead to more fulfilling connections with those you value in your life.
Affection can be defined as a complex emotional state that is generally characterized by feelings of warmth, tenderness, and care towards someone or something. Affection is often fueled by a desire to express love and closeness through various gestures, words, and more. The type of affection that you may choose to express to someone will differ depending on relationship dynamics and often requires open communication with them to better understand how they wish to receive affection. Now that you have a better understanding of what affection is and what can impact it, let’s dive into what affection looks like in various relationship types.
Affection in Romantic Partnerships:
Romantic relationships flourish when affection is a core component of the partnership and kept at the forefront. Tailoring your expressions of affection to match your partner’s preferences is a genuine way to show that you care. Examples of affection in romantic partnerships may include physical touch, verbal expressions of love, acts of service, asking how to show up and providing support through life’s challenges, shared goals, parallel play, romantic gestures (writing love notes, planning surprises, etc), and recognizing and understanding your partner’s love language.
My husband and I have truly seen how much having a child can impact your relationship over the last 2 years. Having a toddler and both working full-time jobs can make it challenging to remember to make one another a priority. A way that we have addressed this has been by scheduling routine relationship check-ins to explore what support and affection we need depending on what life looks like at the time and through couples counseling to navigate the life transition of having a child. (Yes, therapists can have therapists too!) If you are interested in learning more about relationship check-ins and how they can benefit your partnership, check out our blog titled “How To: Relationship Check-In“.
Affection in Parent-Child Relationships:
The importance of affection in parent-child relationships cannot be overstated. It lays the foundation for a child’s development and fosters trust and security. Examples of affection in parent-child relationships may include positive reinforcement, creating safe and open communication, physical touch, quality time, imaginative play, active listening, shared interests, celebrating milestones, affectionate rituals (bedtime stories, holiday traditions, etc), and respect for individuality.
Each kiddo is different in what makes them feel loved and cared for. My daughter is a big lover of reading and physical touch through hugs and holding hands. Recently, I splurged on creating a cozy reading nook decked out with a huge adult beanbag chair, warm lighting, and more. We have been starting and ending our days with snuggles and reading a few of her favorite books in this corner and it has been the best way to start the day and how to decompress before bed. Toddlers are rather simple beings and this small gesture alone leaves her feeling energized and truly loved.
Affection in Friendships:
I will say it…fostering friendships in adulthood is HARD. Between juggling work, self-care, being a parent, being a partner, and showing up as a friend…it just doesn’t seem like there are ever enough hours in a day! Authentic friendships thrive off of mutual understanding, support, and the ability to show up genuinely as you are. Showing affection in your friendships can lead to building a lasting connection and a safe space for vulnerability. Examples of affection in friendships may include sharing personal experiences, making it a priority to schedule friend dates (lunch, face timing, phone calls on the commute home, etc.), celebrating their wins (whether big or small), small acts of kindness (thoughtful note, gift card to favorite coffee place, etc.), reciprocity, shared laughter, active listening when they are speaking, and more.
Many of my close friends live over an hour away which can make it hard to plan quality time together and can feel rather isolating at times. A way that I have remained in contact with them over the years is through a group chat that is full of laughter, memes, and sharing all of life’s wins and challenges that we try our best to be active in AND giving ourselves the grace that life happens and it might take 3-5 business days to respond (lol). We also plan trips to visit each other or to enjoy a concert or festival together which gives all of us something to look forward to!
Affection in The Workplace:
In all honesty, many of us spend the majority of our waking hours with our coworkers…for better or for worse (lol)! The people you work with end up getting to know many different sides of you and it can be normal to want to express affection to show your appreciation. While most professional settings have clear and distinct boundaries compared to personal relationships, incorporating an appropriate degree of affection can foster a more positive and productive work environment. Aspects of affection and care in the workplace may include team building, recognition of appreciation, mentorship, empathetic and flexible work arrangements, inclusive practices, and positive interactions.
A unique approach the owner of our practice, Alyssa, has taken to show affection to our clinicians was providing a short survey upon starting that explored in what ways we feel appreciated and what support from a boss looks like. This was the first time in an employment arrangement where I had a boss approach employee appreciation in this way and it is truly refreshing! A simple sentence of gratitude sent in Slack, being receptive to feedback when necessary, or bringing fresh fruit and muffins to Monday’s staff meeting has made all the difference in morale and fostering a work environment where I genuinely enjoy attending every day!
Overcoming Challenges in Affection:
Challenges when trying to express affection are common and can arise from communication barriers, societal norms, life stressors, and more. At the core of it all, open communication is a key component in nurturing connections and expressing affection in all types of relationships. If you need support, seeking professional guidance can assist with identifying underlying issues, building emotional intelligence and awareness, addressing relationship dynamics, improving communication skills, and more.
The expression of affection in relationships deepens the emotional bond, fosters a sense of security, and creates resiliency for lasting connections. Strengthening connections through genuine affection, love, and understanding is a true necessity for a fulfilling and enriched life. If you find yourself struggling to nurture the connections in your life, our counselors are here and ready to walk alongside you on the journey of exploration and growth. Reach out today for a free phone consultation to see which of our counselors would be the best fit for you!