What’s Your Touch Language?

Written by: Sara Nasserzadeh, PhD


Published on: February 22, 2024

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Sara Nasserzadeh, PhD, is a sexuality and relationship expert. Her new book, Love by Design: 6 Ingredients to Build a Lifetime of Love, is out now, and an adapted excerpt is below.

One of the essential elements of any intimate relationship is touch. The touches we give, the language we use, and our overall energy and actions around each other all come together to shape our sexual connection.

Touches that signal that you are in a sexual relationship should be distinct and not something you would give to or receive from anyone else. They are powerful connectors and reminders of the unique erotic potential in your relationship. For example, if you’re kissing your partner’s forehead, which may be what her father used to do when she was a kid, this could be a welcoming gesture, especially if she is in pain or needs reassurance in uncertain times. But when you want to highlight the physical attraction that you have for her and want to invite her to interact with you as a lover, then a different kind of touch might be more inviting: A kiss with a sense of anticipation—lingering your lips near each other without kissing for a few seconds, or even a little nibble of the earlobe or the back of the neck—might convey the message and be more of a reminder of your unique dynamic.

It can be helpful for you and your partner to create a touch lexicon to better communicate what types of touches you each prefer.

Creating Your Touch Lexicon

Touch is a language all on its own. How do you say “I love you” or “I want you” or “I fancy you”? What about “I’m sorry,” “You’re pretty,” “I see you,” or “Thank you” with physical contact?

Below is an exercise to help you find out. One reason I like this tool so much is that it helps you make the crucial shift from what you think about your physical connection to what you feel with your senses.

It goes like this: Pick a space and time that is comfortable and neutral (as much as you can). Taking turns, each partner thinks of a type of touch—sensual, platonic, teasing, comforting, playful, or tender—then delivers that touch to the other without telling them the type of touch that they are using. The partner who receives the touch verbalizes how they received and interpreted it.

Sometimes a touch that was meant to be sensual will be received that way, but other times it won’t. Gauging these exchanges will help you begin to explore what you and your partner prefer and, ultimately, create a more informed physical connection with each other—sexual and beyond.

You can reflect on these questions to help you through the process:

  • How did this touch make you feel?
  • What sensations did you notice?
  • When was the last time you exchanged such a touch?
  • What were your reactions?
  • What do you think your partner wants to convey through their touch?
  • Was there a memory associated with the touch?
  • Which one of your roles in life or your relationship do you associate with this touch?

Adapted from Love by Design: 6 Ingredients to Build a Lifetime of Love by Sara Nasserzadeh, PhD, and reprinted with permission from Balance. Copyright 2024.