Recently, a couple from Michigan showed us what love is all about. And they did it by holding hands.
Will and Judy Webb met when they were 14 years old and became fast friends. They dated other people and were even engaged to other people during the next few years.
Will was sent overseas to fight the Korean War and Judy, realizing she had no soldier to write to, decided to write to Will.
The rest, as they say, is history.
They married in 1963 and were rarely apart. If Will’s wife were not around for more than a few minutes, he would ask where Mama was. He always called her Mama. When together, they always seemed to have their arms around each other.
But after Judy suffered complications from a routine surgery several months ago, it became clear she wasn’t going to recover. This hit Will hard and caused Will’s health to deteriorate as well. They both ended up in hospice care. Same facility. Separate rooms.
Their children realized their parents needed to be together, as they always had been over the 56 years of their marriage. They wheeled Judy’s bed into Will’s room and pushed them together. He looked over, saw his wife, and said, “Mama.” That was the last thing he ever said.
The couple reached across the sides of their beds and held hands, and they continued until Will took his last breath. Even after he had passed, Judy held onto his hand, gently rubbing it.
A few hours later, she was gone too.
The connection of a couple that has spent a lifetime together. The power of touch. These are things you need to consider as we look at your marriage.
One simple touch can make a connection.
God did not design us to be alone. And whether scientists know it or not, they have been happily proving it over the past several decades with scientific research. I love it when science confirms the Bible.
Then the Lord God said, “It’s not good that the human is alone. I will make him a helper that is perfect for him.” Genesis 2:18.
Scientific research demonstrates just how much holding hands with another person can improve your physical health and make you more emotionally stable. They’ve also shown that it’s amplified when the people are in a close, monogamous relationship, and it can also improve your connection as a couple.
Love and bonding
When we hold hands, the body releases the hormone oxytocin into the bloodstream. Oxytocin is known as the “cuddle hormone” and has been shown to improve empathy, build trust, and strengthen relationships.
When given an extra dose of Oxytocin, married men kept themselves about six inches further away from an attractive woman they have met for the first time than single men did. The researchers suggested that this data could show that oxytocin promotes fidelity in monogamous relationships. So, keep holding hands and keep that oxytocin flowing, my friends!
When events in your life frighten or stress you, your body goes into fight-or-flight mode and releases a cocktail of Cortisol, the stress hormone, and adrenaline to prepare to fight. During periods of high stress or fear, our human instinct is to grab someone’s hand. It makes us feel calmer and more in control. The cortisol in your body makes your skin even more sensitive, and therefore it is easier for a simple touch to make you feel better. And since the hands have the most concentrated nerves in the body, holding hands is highly effective in calming you down.
Sense of security
As children, we often had the reassuring touch of a parent when we were trying to learn something new or were in an uncomfortable situation. Hand holding still works like that for adults, so don’t be afraid to grab your partner’s hand when you are feeling insecure or awkward.
I do this to my husband all the time whether he notices or not. Quite honestly, I didn’t think about it until I was writing this. He’s the extrovert, and I am the poster child for introversion around people I don’t know. Whenever he is talking to someone that I’m not comfortable around, I will quite often grab his hand. So, I can say from first-hand experience that this works!
Relieves stress and anxiety
When we think about stress and anxiety in our lives, wouldn’t you agree that these conditions are just long term fear? We’re afraid of something, and when it lasts longer than it should, we call it anxiety. If holding hands calms fear, we can assume that it also can relieve the stress and anxiety that is holding us back. If you are upset, the stress hormone, cortisol, is running the show. But since that hormone makes your skin more sensitive, holding your spouse’s hand can make you feel better by reducing the cortisol.
Science reminds us every day that stress is bad for us, and it can lead to problems with the heart. Holding hands stimulates pressure receptors on the skin. That stimulation is the catalyst to reducing heart rate, and therefore blood pressure, and puts less stress on the heart.
Studies demonstrate that high levels of cortisol from long-term stress can increase blood cholesterol, triglycerides, blood sugar, and blood pressure. These are common risk factors for heart disease. Holding hands can reduce that stress.
Twenty-five million people in the United States suffer from some form of chronic pain. Pavel Goldstein from the University of Colorado in Boulder created a study to test if touch really does reduce pain. And if it does, how does it happen?
His study showed evidence that it’s not only your heart and breathing rate synchronize to your spouse’s. Your brain waves also sync to theirs!
To test it, Goldstein hooked couples up to EEGs to measure brain activity while they gave the woman a mild heat pain. They tested the waves when the spouses were in separate rooms, in the same room and not touching, and in the same room holding hands.
Whenever the partners were in the same room, whether they were touching or not, the researchers noticed that there was a synchronicity in the alpha mu band waves. These waves are associated with focus and attention. The more empathetic the man was to the woman’s pain, the more the waves synced, and the more relief the woman experienced.
So maybe we all need to take time each day to sit and hold our spouse’s hand. It’s cheaper than medication and therapy!
Holding Hands While Arguing
Try this: Hold hands during an argument.
Sound silly? Maybe a little, but it may be what you need to improve your conflict resolution skills.
Most often we tend to pull away during a fight because we don’t feel safe. Not physically unsafe, but emotionally unsafe. However, our brains don’t know the difference. We go into fight or flight mode even though the event is not to the level of life and death.
We need to train ourselves to deal with the conflict by not pulling away from it and facing it head-on. We’ve seen all the reactions that go on when we hold hands. Touching your spouse creates a connection that helps to relieve the stress of the moment and help you focus your attention on them.
Why Touch is Important
What happens without touch?
Touch is one of the five senses, and along with sight, hearing, taste, and smell, it needs to be stimulated for us to be healthy.
Researchers studied children who grew up in Romanian orphanages who were fed and physically cared for, but rarely, if ever, held or touched. These kids had abnormally high cortisol levels and that caused them to become developmentally stunted.
Because when you aren’t touched, your heart rate and blood pressure stay high. The neurotransmitters such as oxytocin don’t release, your emotions stay out of whack, and the cortisol causes your immune system to weaken.
Not being touched can literally make you sick. Physically, emotionally, and socially sick.
Give it a try
So, why hold hands? It’s more than just a cute thing to do; it has benefits for both of you and makes you stronger and more connected as a couple.
All these benefits to holding hands prove that God did not create us to go it alone in life. It is the connection between two people that create the positive results we have reviewed in this post.
Try an experiment. Hold your partner’s hand more than you do now. If holding hands is something you haven’t done much of in the past, it may seem awkward at first but will feel more natural over time. Look for small improvements in your relationship that occur after you start holding hands. You may find that it becomes warmer and more secure.
Small habits such as holding hands can enhance any marriage. But we often get frustrated when, in the busyness of everyday life, we forget to do the things we know we should be doing to prioritize our marriages. Marriage Confetti’s mentoring programs will not only supply you with ideas to make your marriage more fulfilling, but it will also provide reminders to implement strategies, create new mindsets, and support you with accountability and prayer.
If you think your marriage could benefit from a program like that, check out the options we offer on our Services Page.