BACP member Natasha Page was on BBC Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour to talk about how people display affection.

Natasha joined blogger Njilan Morris-Jarra and presenter Jane Garvey for a discussion on how it can impact on well-being and relationships.

“Physical affection is a concrete way of showing someone that you care,” Natasha said. “It helps our emotional health and well-being.

“We know from research that there are detrimental effects on people from lack of interaction and physical affection.”

The feature followed an article by Njilan in which she wrote about her experiences about physical contact.

Physical affection

Njilan told Woman’s Hour: “I think generally in romantic relationships I behave quite differently to how I might in platonic or family relationships. I am much more open to physical affection in those.

“It’s a burden to put on a romantic partner, that they are the only source of physical affection. It’s something that I have recently, maybe in the last year or so, noticed.

“I was in quite a long-term relationship and after the break-up I just didn’t date at all. Venturing back onto the dating scene and receiving physical affection had an effect on me because I didn’t realise what I had been missing.

“I got home from a date and I thought ‘wow, when was the last time you had a hug?’

“It was kind of disturbing to me at that point and that is when I started to think about it more and look into the benefits of physical contact on a science and well-being basis.”

Small steps

Natasha, of This Is Me Counselling in Nottinghamshire, said there are small steps that people can take if they normally shy away from physical affection.

“I have worked with parents who have struggled with that for various reasons,” she said. “It could be past trauma, family upbringing, fear of rejection.

“I have tried to encourage them to find ways of showing affection that are comfortable to them and building on that.

“For example, it could be you sit closely together and watch a film together. It may be that you play a game that involves some kind of physical touch. It may be brushing hair, painting nails or a head massage.

“There can be ways that feel less scary for the individuals.”

Natasha suggested relationship counselling for couples where one of the partners was not at ease with shows of affection while the other was.

“They can have an arena to talk safely about how they are both feeling and try to overcome those differences,” she said.

To find a counsellor, coach or therapist to help with any of the issues mentioned in this article, visit our Find a Therapist directory.