318 Physical Affection & Relationship Satisfaction

Based on research by Gulledge, Andrew. K., Gulledge, Michelle. H., & Stahmann, Robert. F. (2003). written by Bethany Wellman, M.S.

In romantic relationships, how important is physical affection to happiness, satisfaction and conflict resolution?

Brigham Young researchers had 300 college students complete a survey on relationship satisfaction, interests and attitudes about physical affection outside of sexual intimacy. Seven categories of physical touching affection were: massages, caressing, cuddling, holding hands, hugging, and kissing on the face and lips. Participants indicated their favorite and expressive types of physical affection, their attitudes towards and frequency of use of each type.

Results? Couples using more frequent nonsexual physical affection were happier and more satisfied with their relationship. Both genders thought lip kissing was most intimate and expressed love. Men said they cuddled most frequently; women said they held hands. Males most favored lip kissing; woman favored cuddling. The more physical affection, the more relationship satisfaction for all types except for holding hands (least favored by men) and caressing behaviors (least favored by women). Amount of conflict is not related to the type or amount of physical affection used. Yet, people reported conflict was more resolvable with higher amounts of physical affection.

What is your partner’s favorite affectionate touching? Be generous. Express your love. Boost your mutual satisfaction. It’ll help during tough times.


Gulledge, A. K., Gulledge, M. H., & Stahmann, R. F. (2003). Romantic Physical Affection Types and Relationship Satisfaction. The American Journal of Family Therapy31, 233-242.

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