It became clear very early in our long-distance relationship that my husband’s #1 love language is physical touch.
Love languages are a framework for understanding relationships pioneered in the book The Five Love Languages by Dr. Gary Chapman. The premise of the book is that each of us gives and receives love in different ways, but those ways can be grouped into five main categories: words of affirmation, acts of service, receiving gifts, quality time, and physical touch.
The book helped me realize the primary ways I receive love from others are words of affirmation and quality time. It also increased my awareness of others’ “love languages” — including my boyfriend, who ranked high for physical touch.
Since our relationship was long distance for the first 1.5 years, my ability to show him love through holding hands, giving hugs, and simply spending time with him was very limited.
We struggled with navigating the physical touch love language throughout our entire time apart. Somehow, the pain he felt when missing me seemed to be acutely awful in a way I couldn’t fully understand. As we neared our one-year dating anniversary, I searched for a meaningful gift that would help him feel loved.
I first heard about this idea for physical touch people from a blog for military spouses called Jo, My Gosh! A stuffed animal of significance is a wonderful gift for people with physical touch languages because it’s soft, cuddly, huggable and comforting — attributes that most physical touch people adore.
And while you could buy a new stuffed animal and it could still be meaningful, I think the “significance” of the stuffed animal is its most powerful trait. When you give someone something you love dearly, the gift becomes infinitely more precious.
I was nervous about giving a stuffed animal to my boyfriend because I thought he might find it a little girly — and I suppose some guys might. But I decided to take the risk and I am so thankful I did because it turned out to be one of the sweetest gifts we ever shared.
I remember the night that I gave him my Koala, who had been my favorite stuffed buddy since I was 2 years old. We were sitting in my car in a Wal-Mart parking lot and Koala was hidden in the back seat. I handed him a handwritten card as the rain poured outside our windows.
Here is an excerpt from the card I gave him:
“Don’t get jealous, but — there’s someone who’s received more of my kisses than you. Someone who has absorbed years of my tears, someone I’ve clung to during storms and scary movies. Someone who’s always been ready with a hug after a long day.
“His name is Koala, and I’m giving him to you. It may seem silly to give you a stuffed animal, but please don’t miss the significance of this. Other than my Bible, Koala is my most treasured possession. No object knows the shape and soul of me better than that bear.
I love him, but I love you way more, of course! I want you to think of me every time you see him, and hold him close when you miss me. He has thousands of hugs stored up from me to deliver back to you, as my cozy messenger.”
Those moments when he read my letter form one of my favorite memories of our dating years.
More cuddle-able options
I can’t guarantee this gift will work for everyone, but I would definitely recommend it. If a stuffed animal doesn’t mean much to you, Jo, My Gosh also suggests using a shirt or a pillowcase. I think a soft blanket would work just as great, too — especially if you make it yourself or find a way to personalize it.