skin hunger – our need for physical intimacy


I love massages!! Any kind. Feet. Head. Crazy Thai ones where they stretch and contort your body like a pretzel. Soothing oil ones with dolphin music playing. I like getting my nails done. I love getting my hair washed or done. 

I love physical touch. It’s a weird statement to make but an acknowledgement of truth that is perhaps more pertinent in context to my status as a living-alone Single. Ultimately, all of those things above are more than just self-pampering, they’re a means to have my skin hunger somehow satiated. 

Skin hunger is a need for physical touch – not necessarily sexual in nature. It is a studied phenomena in psychology. Unmet skin hunger has been associated with failure to thrive in babies and infants, and increased anxiety, depression, stress and sleep dysfunction in children and adults. Each individual will have a different level of skin hunger and consequently, the absence of physical touch will be felt more acutely by those whose need is greater. 

Some stages and styles of life are innately more rich in physical contact. Living arrangements that involve others will almost always include physical touch – perhaps of an intimate or sexual nature, maybe because of the presence of small children being nursed, held and wrestled with, or even in the more incidental contact that happens as people work together in the kitchen or move around each other in the bathroom. Certain work environments are more physical – various fields of medicine and therapy, working with children, or coaching certain sports.

Physical touch affirms my presence. It is one thing to grasp my own hand or rub my own neck – but it is different to experience those things externally. It’s a tangible recognition that I hold a place in the physical realm; that I relate kinaesthetically to other people and things around me. 

Physical touch releases hormones that increase wellbeing and decrease stress. 

Physical touch communicates non-verbally a sense of belonging and connection. 

What does physical touch look like for a Single person? 

How is skin hunger appropriately satisfied in non-sexual or romantic contexts?

As I mentioned, I am a physical touch kind of person. I’m likely to grab your arm while I’m talking to you. I will normally go in for a hug and a cheek kiss when greeting someone I know. I love love love (love love) holding babies – especially soothing them to sleep. I love little person hugs and high fives. I even like the absent minded touches kids do when they’re talking to you – playing with your hair or leaning against your leg. I love big hugs from big people – I make sure my Dad gives me a couple every time I see him. For some, pets are a large part of their skin-hunger-meeting regimen. 

Skin hunger is connected with our need for intimacy and equally needs to be met in healthy and helpful ways or we will find ourselves seeking to satisfy it inappropriately. Identifying the degree of skin hunger we feel is important to being able to manage it intentionally. 

What does that look like for you? Or for those in your world? 

“Maybe there’s something wrong with me?”

This was the conclusion of a 25 year old (yes, 25 years old!) single contestant/participant on the first episode of the new series of Married at First Sight when reflecting on her life status. 

She is 25. She’s single and doesn’t want to be. There must be something wrong with her. 

Imagine me sitting opposite her in a coffee shop (because that’s what I’ve been doing) and this is what you’d hear me say. 

There are two options here. Either there IS something wrong with you – in which case, you should fix that – you shouldn’t marry someone you haven’t met before on a reality TV show meets psychological experiment. OR there ISN’T something wrong with you – in which case you shouldn’t marry someone you haven’t met before on a reality TV show meets psychological experiment. 

Then I would let her pay for the coffee. 

The more I think about the “maybe there’s something wrong with me” question that has the potential to plague single people of all ages and stages (more so for some than others) – the more I think it’s a question we need to face and not avoid or dismiss. Because the haunting nature of that question has the capacity to powerfully derail an individual in their living of a fruitful and fulfilling life. 

So single dude, single lady, IS there something wrong with you? No really, is there? Don’t answer “well there must be because I’m single” – think beyond that. Is there anything wrong with you? While that possibility lies unchallenged in your psyche it will have an unhealthy control over your sense of self and could lead you to finding yourself sitting in a limousine questioning whether or not the decision to marry someone you’ve never met is a good idea. Or making other very bad decisions in life and love. Find out if there’s anything wrong with you and work to fix it. Get that question off the table. 

It might not change your relationship status but it will change your perspective on it.

You’re probably not single because there’s something wrong with you. Firstly, some of you haven’t even had the chance for a prospective partner to find out what’s wrong with you. And secondly, look around – have you seen some of the people who ARE married? There are some twisted, broken, weird and altogether unpleasant people who are married! There’s stuff wrong with them and they’re married!

Here’s a word of advice for you without the price of the coffee. Take the question off the table. Move on to more productive spends of your emotional energy. 

single not waiting

Who doesn’t love a well phrased, inspirational quote? Sometimes you come across them on social media or in print and it just hits the right spot for the right time. I am also partial to a humorous quip. Because I love to laugh and they can provide a good chuckle. 

But then there are those quotes that just get under my grill and make me mutter to myself like a crazy lady. And mostly they’d be the ones that are to do with Singleness and include the word “waiting”. 

Waiting. 

“Single doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with you it means you’re waiting for something better.” 

“Being Single means you’re strong enough to wait for what you deserve.”

Hear me on this, I do get what these quotes are trying to say. I understand they’re intended as an encouragement and certainly not pieces put forward for literary review. But when I read “waiting” in these quotes it makes me think of the waiting room at a doctors surgery. Just sitting there surrounded by pale grey walls, watching Nutri-bullet advertisements on the TV, flicking through New Idea mags from 1999 and wondering how many illnesses I can contract from the other patients around me while I wait 45mins for my 7min consultation. 

Waiting in that instance suggests stagnancy. Waiting implies that “now” is insufficient or inadequate. Waiting infers inaction until the desired outcome is achieved.  The idea of waiting potentially speaks into our spirits a “when” or “if” attitude – when I am married I will “x”; if I get married then I can “y”. And ultimately that kind of waiting robs us of satisfaction in the now. It detracts from our ability to embrace what is instead of  pining for what might one day be. 

To break it down further …

Here’s the list of things I CAN do while I’m not married. 

  • Have a career
  • Own a house
  • Earn a qualification 
  • Learn a skill
  • Travel
  • Go out
  • Participate in God’s mission 
  • Be active
  • Be a good friend, sibling, co-worker etc
  • Pay taxes & contribute to society
  • Have a pet

And here’s the list of things I CAN’T do until I’m married. 

  • Be married

Ok ok. That’s a tad over-simplified. And trust me, I get it, there’s no one who wants the married stuff any more than I want the married stuff. But my point is this – when we start talking about waiting we can unconsciously add things to the second list that don’t belong there. 

If waiting (in the sense I described) is a term that describes your Single life – you’re doing it wrong! If you’re holding off on anything on that first list because you’re Single, can I suggest a re-think? 

Here are my creative re-writes of the above quotes. Feel free to turn them into inspirational posters (referencing me, of course)!