“Problems can arise if one partner feels ‘skin-starved’ and the other feels that they offer enough affection or doesn’t prioritize affection and physical touch as integral to the success of the relationship,” said La’Tesha Sampson, a clinical social worker and the founder of Great Joy Counseling and Consulting Services in Clark, N.J.
Reneze Lopez, 25, a travel and style blogger in Henderson, Nev., and Gary Goodman, 52, a licensed pharmacist turned stock trader in Las Vegas, have been dating for four years. Ms. Lopez said that their conflicting intimacy styles have put a strain on their relationship.
“I have definitely realized that affection plays a huge role in a relationship and it takes a lot of work,” said Ms. Lopez, who seeks more affection than Mr. Goodman. Communicating with one another, particularly when emotions are running at a low heat rather than a boil, has helped them see and hear one another.
Regardless of quantity, physical affection plays a biological role in one’s happiness. Oxytocin — sometimes called the “cuddle hormone” — releases at higher levels in moments of physical affection, and research has pointed to its health benefits, according to Paula S. Barry, a physician at Penn Family and Internal Medicine Longwood.
Mike Lee, 43, a life coach and certified matchmaker, and Amber Lee, 41, also a matchmaker, of Richmond, Va., have been together for 11 years and are engaged to be married. The couple has navigated divergent levels of affection for the duration of their relationship, with Mr. Lee needing more affection and Ms. Lee wanting less. They have managed to steer through it by communicating and injecting a little humor into the situation.
“We have learned to be playful and tease each other about our preferences for affection,” Ms. Lee said. “Mike will literally lick my face if I am not giving him affection when he desires it. This playfulness helps me to loosen up and helps him to get the attention he desires from me as we laugh and enjoy each other.”