Chapter 12. Showing Affection


Chapter 12 - Showing Affection

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[thrive_text_block color=”light” headline=”Chapter Summary”]Showing affection is arguably the easiest, most rewarding part of maintaining a happy long-term marriage. As the husband, it’s your job to lead in affection, and this chapter will show you what that looks like.[/thrive_text_block]

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Part 2:

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Did you know that couples who regularly show affection are statistically more likely to stay married?

This study by the Journal of Social Psychology found that the single most important factor when predicting marital success rate was the frequency of physically affectionate behaviors like hugging and kissing.

Most of the time when a guy says that he doesn’t “understand her needs”, affection is what he’s talking about. We’ll talk a little bit more about why lack of affection is such a common problem below, but for now let’s just say that it’s something a LOT of husbands struggle with today.

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  • Why affection is important and what kind of impact it can make on your wife and your marriage.
  • What obstacles have kept you from being affectionate in the past and specific ways for you to start showing affection to your wife.
  • We’ll finish by learning how to be affectionate when your wife is cold and distant, since I know this is the case for some of you reading this.


The Science Behind Affection

Researchers are always looking for new ways to analyze human relationships and identify what makes them work. There have been several recent studies that have shown just how important affection is, particularly in marriage.

Therapists and psychologists classify affection as non-verbal communication. It’s a way of saying “I love you” without opening your mouth. Affection is how you communicate stability, protection, comfort and approval, all without ever saying a single word.

But, acts of affection have other benefits too… For example, did you know that hugging someone you love is proven to…

  • Decrease stress and anxiety
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Improve long-term memory function

That’s right, regular hugging can actually help prevent diseases like Alzheimer’s!

How Affection Makes Marriage Addictive (yes, literally)

Did you know that when you hug your wife, scientists have found that your brain releases a hormone called oxytocin? This is the exact same chemical that is released when a mother hugs her newborn baby. Oxytocin is what causes decreased stress and increased bonding.

Or, how about this…

Did you know that when you kiss your wife, it releases the neurochemical called dopamine? Scientists have a nickname for dopamine – the “desire drug”. It’s the chemical that makes you want something. It’s what motivates you to take action towards getting that thing you want.

Both oxytocin and dopamine are part of the neurological framework that make up the brain’s reward system… This is pretty much exactly what it sounds like. It’s the part of the brain that makes you want to do things because they feel good. The reward system is the part of the brain that creates an appetite or craving for a certain stimulus.

For example, the reward system is what keeps alcoholics and junkies addicted to their substance of choice. It’s what creates cravings. It’s also the reason that affectionate couples stay together longer – husband and wife literally become addicted to each other.

How Affection Makes You a Better Parent

Great Crested grebesThat’s right – affectionate couples make better parents.

A biologist by the name of Julian Huxley did a study in the early 1900s on the mating rituals of Great Crested grebes – a bird similar to a goose or a swan. Huxley found that grebes that repeated their mating ritual even after the mating process was complete took better care of their hatchlings. In other words, when two of these birds continued their courtship even after having chicks, they took better care of their offspring.

Turns out, the same thing happens in people too… Research has shown that affectionate parents are more committed to their children.

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  • The act of both giving and receiving affection is proven to decrease stress, anxiety and discontent.
  • Physical affection is proven to keep couples more committed to each other, even when other areas of the relationship suffer.
  • Affectionate acts like hugs, kisses and cuddling activate the brain’s reward system, which is the part of the brain responsible for feelings of wanting and desire.
  • Affectionate partners make better, more committed parents than unaffectionate ones.


Why Do So Many Men Struggle with Affection?

As you can see from the date of some of these studies, the benefits of affection aren’t anything new. That Great Crested grebes study took place over 100 years ago!

So, if being affectionate has so many well-known benefits, why are so many of today’s husbands so bad at it?

I’ll be honest with you…

I was bad at affection too, until I made a conscious effort to change.

There are three big reasons I was bad at affection, but most of them boil down to the simple fact that I didn’t know just how important affection is inside a marriage.

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Do you remember your dad ever showing affection to your mom? Did your parents regularly kiss or hold hands or hug in front of you?

If your parents were anything like mine, the answer is a resounding “No”.

My parents were not affectionate. I can think of only a handful of times throughout my entire childhood that I ever saw them kiss. I don’t think I ever once saw them hold hands or hug.

My parents weren’t affectionate towards each other and they weren’t really affectionate towards us kids. Sure, I knew in my head that they loved each other and that they loved me, but I never saw proof and I certainly never felt it. They never went out of their way to show physical affection to me or each other.

Have you ever heard of the intergenerational cycle of violence? It’s when two parents have an abusive relationship, and then the child grows up to be abusive to their spouse. And then they have kids (whom they abuse) and their kids grow up to be abusive, and the cycle continues.

Well, this intergenerational style of influence doesn’t just apply to abuse. Everybody’s default behavior in a relationship is hugely influenced by their parents… This means that because my parents weren’t affectionate, I’m naturally not affectionate either. I didn’t grow up with it, so I don‘t do it.

Let me be clear: I’m not here to make excuses, and I’m not blaming my parents in any way for my bad habits. Neither should you. I love both my parents and they gave me a great childhood. But, that doesn’t change the simple truth that most men don’t have any real-life example of what affection looks like in a marriage.


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Because affection wasn’t normal behavior for me, displays of affection have always made me uncomfortable. I never wanted to hug my friends at school, I felt awkward hugging my girlfriends, and even today I’m not naturally prone to public displays of affection.

If I really dive into it though, the real reason that I don’t like being affectionate has nothing to do with the actual act of affection… It goes back to an underlying fear of rejection. When I’m out in public and want to kiss my wife, I hesitate…

  • “What if I look weak, or stupid or weird?”
  • “What if my wife doesn’t return my affection?”
  • “What if I get embarrassed?”

These are all excuses that run through my mind at the mere thought of giving my wife a hug or kiss in public.

You have to overcome the fear of rejection to be affectionate. You have to tell yourself, (A) that nothing bad is going to happen as a result of your affection, and (B) that it doesn’t matter anyways because as the husband it’s your duty to be affectionate whether you like it or not.


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Finally, perhaps the biggest reason that most men fail to show affection is that we simply don’t know how. Or we don’t know that it’s important.

Again, going back to Reason 1, guys today simply have no example of what affection looks like in a marriage. We don’t know what being affectionate looks like, and so we don’t do it. Heck, we probably don’t even think about being affectionate; it’s simply not on our radar. We don’t think it’s a priority.

Fortunately, this is the easiest problem of the three to fix.


As you continue reading, you’re going to learn the proper mindset for showing affection and specific ways to be affectionate.

The Right Mindset for Affection:
Her Pleasure is Your Pleasure

Before we talk about the specific acts of affection to integrate into your marriage, we first need to address the root of the problem… We need to put you in the right mindset to display genuine affection to your wife.

From now on, you need to look at your wife like this:

Her pleasure is your pleasure.

What Does It Mean?

“Her pleasure is your pleasure” means that the things that make her happy should also make you happy, for the simple reason that her being happy makes you happy.

Things that make her feel good should make you feel good, because her feeling good makes you feel good.

For any Christians reading this, there’s a clear scriptural call for husbands to treat their wives in this way:

Ephesians 5:28 – In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.

You don’t have to be a Christian to see what this means… As long as you and your wife remain united in marriage, her happiness and welfare are directly connected to your own.

When she’s happy, you’re happy. When she’s not, you’re not.

Again, this doesn’t just apply to marriage… This is what makes leaders worth following. Leaders in any form should always make their happiness and satisfaction dependent on the happiness and satisfaction of the people they lead.

Unfortunately, this mindset – her pleasure is your pleasure – is one of those things that’s easy to explain but difficult to put into practice. But, when you do it right, you’ll make your love for your wife and your ability to care for her undoubtable. She will have supreme confidence that you are the man she wants to spend her life with.

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(aka. Avoiding Nice Guy Syndrome)

Remember the Nice Guy Syndrome we talked about all the way back in Chapter 4?

Nice Guy Syndrome means that you do nice things because you secretly expect something in return. “Her pleasure is my pleasure” mindset is the polar opposite. Genuine affection comes from the heart; as the husband, you show affection for the pure pleasure of making your wife’s life better.

If you’re facing separation, divorce, or simply a cold wife, then there are going to be times where you want to be affectionate, but you’re not sure if it’s a good idea. Avoiding ‘Nice Guy Syndrome’ is how you remain affectionate during these times of distance in your marriage.

In general, when you run into questions like this where you want to do something kind or affectionate for your wife, but you aren’t sure if it’s a good idea, just ask yourself…

“Am I doing this out of genuine love for my wife? Am I doing this because I genuinely want her life to be better? Or, am I doing this out of a desire to control her?”

In other words, motivation is everything. I believe that if there’s something affectionate that you want to do truly because you love your wife and you want her life to be better, then you should do it, even if there’s a slight chance it could come off as desperate. Trust your gut, and recognize that even if she isn’t overly receptive to your affections, you’re still doing them with a good heart because you are a good husband, and that’s all you need to be worried about.


If you look into your motivations and deep down recognize that the only reason you’re trying to be affectionate is because you’re actually just trying to manipulate your wife’s feelings about you, then that’s a good sign you shouldn’t do it. Anything done with ulterior motives is almost always a bad idea.

So, if you look in the mirror and realize, “Hey, I’m only being affectionate because I want her to see what a good husband I am,” then that’s an ulterior motive and you probably shouldn’t do it (or adjust your motives). But, if you can honestly say, “It’s not about whether or not she recognizes that I’m a good husband; I’m affectionate because I honestly just want her life to be better.”

It’s a very slight shift in mindset, but it’s an important one that applies to a lot of different situations. The reason this distinction is important is because having ulterior motives is actually what makes you desperate. Desperation is what happens when you want control but don’t have it… Desperation is what causes a man to beg. The reason that begging is such a no-no is because what drives most men to beg is NOT a desire to save their marriage, but a desire to save themselves and make themselves feel good.


Does that make sense?

As we’re getting ready to discuss specific ways to show affection, keep this “her pleasure is your pleasure” mindset at the front of your thoughts. In every act of affection you do for your wife, do it because her pleasure is your pleasure. It’s worth doing these things because they make her life better, which in turn makes your life better.

Got it?

Ready to think positively and be affectionate?

Here’s how:

Make a Conscious Effort to Show Affection 2x Day

Hollywood and pop culture tells us that affection is invalid if it’s not spontaneous. We’ve been trained to believe that cuddling, kissing and canoodling should all be impulsive acts of passion; we think that they lose their value if they’re planned.

This couldn’t be further from the truth – the first and most important part of showing affection is to make a conscious effort to do it. You will never show affection if you don’t make it a priority.

Starting today, commit yourself to affection. A good way to start building this habit is to force yourself to do something affectionate for your wife at least twice a day… Once in the morning and once in the evening.

Scientists have shown that a simple act of positive affection in the morning can have a lasting impact throughout even the most stressful days. So, that’s why we make sure to have at least one affectionate interaction in the morning.

Then, we have an affectionate interaction at nighttime because we want to end the day on a positive note. Plus, the affectionate action in the evening reinforces the affection that you showed in the morning. It reinforces that the fact that your affection doesn’t come by chance… From now on, you’re a genuinely affectionate husband. That’s what you want to show your wife.

Specifics Ways to Show Affection

The Usual Suspects – Hugs, Kisses, Holding Hands

These are the staples of physical affection. Hugs, kisses, handholding, caresses, back rubs, cuddles… These are all things that you should incorporate into your new affection action plan.

Holding HandsHopefully you don’t need me to explain the mechanics behind these simple physical acts… I’m sure you can do a search on Google to learn how to give your wife a hug, if that’s information you really need to know 😉

The reason I’m listing these here is because they’re important… You MUST incorporate physical acts of affection into your marriage if at all possible, even if you and your wife aren’t on good terms. I’ll have a quick section at the end of this chapter for those of you dealing with an extremely distant wife, but the rest of you should have no problems incorporating physical acts of affection into your routine.

Appreciate the Little Things

Affection doesn’t have to be physical… Verbal acts of affection are shown to have many of the same benefits as physical ones.

For example, one study showed that writing a short love letter – merely thinking affectionate thoughts and putting them on paper – dramatically reduced cholesterol levels.

Make a point of appreciating the little things. When your wife does something that makes your life or your marriage better, let her know!

I actually developed a little technique that has really helped me be more appreciative. I like to call it ‘compliment planning’.

Compliment Planning

Because I want to make a conscious effort to show my wife affection, sometimes it helps me to plan my compliments ahead of time.

Here’s how it works:

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At the beginning of this week, I decided that I wanted to tell my wife how much I love being married to her. So, I tucked that compliment into the back of my mind and kept it there until a good opportunity arose to use it.

Sure enough, a couple days later my wife decided to make us breakfast, and I already had that compliment ready and waiting for her. All I had to do was apply it to the situation at hand. Here’s exactly what I said:

“Wow, Michele, thank you so much for making us breakfast. I don’t tell you enough how much I love being married to you; you make my life so much better!”

Of course, she was thrilled to hear it and I could tell it made her really happy. She was glowing and affectionate for the rest of the day!


See? Compliment planning is really simple, but extremely powerful. You can do it for yourself by following these three simple steps:

  1. Come up with a genuine compliment… It could be about one of your wife’s attributes, or something that she does that you appreciate, or about the positive effect she’s had on your life.
  2. With that compliment in the back of your mind, start looking for an opportunity to say it to her.
  3. When the opportunity comes, adapt the compliment to the situation at hand and say it.

Then, all you have to do is enjoy seeing your wife happy! You don’t have to be a poet to give meaningful, well-thought-out compliments to your wife… You just have to set aside a little time to plan out your affection.


Surprise Your WifeEverybody loves surprises, and they’re one of the best ways to show affection to your wife. Surprises are also one of those things that you probably used to do a lot when you were courting your wife, but rarely do anymore now that you’re married.

Surprises don’t have to be big and flashy… You don’t have to show up to her work with a giant teddy bear and a bouquet of flowers. It can be something simple, like doing the dishes when it’s her turn, or making a dinner reservation for a surprise date night.

Surprises are a particularly powerful form of affection because they keep the marriage interesting. When you surprise your wife, it shows her that you’re not taking her for granted.

Coming up with a good surprise is pretty easy – it just has to be something unexpected that also makes her life better. As long as it fits those two requirements, just about anything you come up with should be good.

If you need a specific number to shoot for, I would try to surprise your wife in some way at least a couple times a month. Once a week is even better. Again, it doesn’t have to be fancy; it just has to be unexpected and enjoyable for her! Sometimes simpler is better.

Need some help coming up with ideas for your next surprise? It may help you to learn her love language…

What Is Her Love Language?

5 Love Languages

I don’t recommend very many relationship or marriage books. Most of the time, popular marriage advice is either unhelpful or just plain wrong. However, there’s a great book my wife and I have both benefited from called The 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman.

Basically, the theme of the book is that people tend to show and receive love in one or two of five different ways, otherwise known as love languages. The 5 love languages are:

  1. Words of affirmation and encouragement
  2. Acts of service
  3. Giving & receiving gifts
  4. Quality time together
  5. Physical touch

Here’s a PDF version of the Love Language quiz for couples. It’s only 30 questions long and it’s 100% free… You don’t even need to give them an email address. Print it out and take it for yourself.

After taking the quiz, you may be surprised at the results… Turns out, my love languages are physical touch and words of encouragement. My wife’s are quality time and acts of service.

This means that if I really want to make Michele feel valued and loved, the best way to do that is to spend quality time with her or do something nice for her. She LOVES it when I tidy our bedroom, go grocery shopping or cook her breakfast without being asked, or when we sit at the table together and chat after a long day.

Hopefully you get the idea here. If you don’t know your wife’s love languages, you can try asking her. Or, better yet, do the quiz together and figure it out. You could even get the book on Amazon for about $10. You’ll both be better for it.

There’s no affiliate link here or anything like that… I don’t get anything out of recommending this book to you. It’s a great resource I’ve used in my own marriage, and that’s why I’m sharing it with you here.

5 Rules for Showing Affection When She’s Distant

Is your wife extremely distant? Or maybe you’re already separated and on your way to divorce?

If this is you, showing affection will be much more challenging because you’ll have fewer opportunities to do so. And, even when you do show affection, your wife probably won’t respond to it in the way you’d hope.

But, just because she won’t respond to it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try. Again, being affectionate – seeking your wife’s pleasure as your own – is part of being a good husband. Until the divorce papers are signed and you are no longer in that role, it’s your job to be affectionate. However, special rules may apply:

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We talked about this earlier… Avoiding Nice Guy Syndrome is most important when your wife is distant. You truly can’t have any ulterior motives… Don’t be affectionate because you’re trying to change her mind; just be affectionate because that’s the kind of husband you want to be.  If you’re affectionate, make sure you’re being genuine.

The moment you bring ulterior motives to your affections is the moment that they become meaningless and desperate.


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If your relationship with your wife is hostile or distant, physical affection may not be an option, but you can still look for opportunities to be affectionate in other ways. For example, you can still surprise your wife or give her a heartfelt compliment.

Again, use your own judgment here, but even the coldest wife enjoys genuine appreciation. However, remember that if you’re overly affectionate, she may perceive it as begging or desperation.


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Affection takes time to have an effect, especially if your wife is used to an emotionless, apathetic husband. Don’t expect your invigorating displays of affection to instantly transform your marriage.

Remember what we learned in the last chapter? We learned that consistency is how you build trust in a marriage. You have to be consistently affectionate for your wife to believe it’s real.


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The one thing that you absolutely cannot do in this situation is try to buy your wife’s affections. If your marriage is on the rocks, do NOT try to woo her with a fancy dinner and an expensive bouquet of flowers. These things will feel hollow to your wife; they will just push her further away.

When your wife is cold and distant, your affection must be more sincere than ever. Affection can only be shown; not bought.


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In the end, you’ll have to use your own judgment if your wife is distant.

Everyone’s circumstances are different, so I can’t give you a hard and fast action plan for what to do in this situation. Just do your best and make a conscious effort to be affectionate… As long as you try, your wife will notice.


Finally, if your wife is distant, I have one last encouraging fact about affection that you’ll want to hear:

Researchers found that couples who are affectionate are more likely to rate their relationship with their spouse as “intensely in love”, even if there are other problems in the marriage.

Affection has real power in a marriage; the worst thing you can do is not even try to be affectionate.

Who knows? You may be surprised at your wife’s reaction!

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  • Affection has been scientifically proven to make marriages last longer, to make relationships stronger and to increase happiness while decreasing stress. Affection has a positive physiological effect on the brain.
  • Men struggle with showing affection for a variety of reasons, but in the end it doesn’t matter – you still need to find a way to lead in affection.
  • There are lots of different ways to show affection to your wife; it’s up to you to evaluate your options and then incorporate the most meaningful methods of affection into your routine.
  • Doing the 5 Love Languages quiz with your wife can be a great way to see what type of affection your wife responds to, and what type of affection you’re naturally gifted at showing.

It’s perfectly possible to be affectionate even when your wife is distant from the marriage, but you need to be very careful and follow the 5 rules outlined at the end of this chapter.

[thrive_link color=’blue’ link=’’ target=’_self’ size=’big’ align=’aligncenter’]Go to Chapter 13. The Cold, Distant Wife[/thrive_link]


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