The psychology of relationships: strokes
Applying the concept of strokes
By now you may have seen our page on the concept of strokes and the stroke economy, and done the stroke profile exercise.
Let's think a bit more about the concept of
stroking in your relationship.
I mentioned at the end of the stroke profile
section that people have different needs for
strokes and relatedness. It's probably quite
rare that two people in a relationship will
want exactly the same amount of strokes and
contact with each other.
Indeed, this seems pretty impossible to me!
However, a relationship will not work very
well if there is one partner who always
feels neglected or under-stroked in some
way. You will have to find a compromise
which feels comfortable for both of you.
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Remember too, that you are not the only two
people on the planet.
If one of you wants a lot of contact with
people and the other one doesn't, the more
sociable partner could spend time with other
people to satisfy his or her needs for
However, for a respectful relationship it is
important that you negotiate each other's
boundaries in an open and honest manner.
Within our culture it's generally not ok
to go and fulfill your sexual needs with
someone else without agreement from your
partner. However, having a good chat or a
game of tennis with your best friend is a
The more positive strokes there are in your
life, the better. Keep in mind that positive
strokes don't cost you anything and they
might make your partner very happy.
However, be aware also what you want to
give, and only give what feels right for
you. Honesty is still the best strategy.
you discover you and your partner differ in
how you give and receive strokes, talk about
it. Find a good middle way.
Also, your new stroking rules may need to be
practiced. What may feel like an awkward
thing for you today, might be easy and
pleasant to do next week.
Another huge area of interest is our need
for physical stroking, for physical touch
and skin-to-skin contact. We engage in so
little non-sexual touch with each other it's
no wonder that western societies are so
Physical touch - especially skin-to-skin
contact - is a primary way of feeling
comfort and closeness with another human
It is essential for our well-being to touch
and be touched in a respectful way. We may
engage in different forms of touch, from
gentle to passionate to playful.
all need non-sexual touch, and it's sad to
think that a lot of adults in our society
have absolutely no non-sexual physical
contact with anybody else. With a set-up
like this it becomes easy to assume all
touch has an agenda about sex.
Think about the importance of non-sexual
physical touch in your life and your
relationship. If there isn't enough of it,
make some space for it.
You could go on a massage or reflexology
course to get more comfortable with touching
your partner (or someone else), and being
touched in return.
with your partner about your need for touch
and make sure it is ok for both of you to
touch each other without it leading to sex.
An expectation to be sexual can be
experienced as very pressurizing by both men
and women. It's great to be able to just
cuddle up with one another without an extra
If you have problems keeping the two apart,
work out a code word or sentence to make
sure the other one knows what you are after,
such as "I just want to cuddle" to state
your non-sexual intentions.
I believe that non-sexual touch is also very important for the sexual touch in your life. It means you do not have to engage in sex to meet your basic needs for contact.
And you will also be able to feel safe and relaxed with your partner sharing a physical sense of closeness, which will be a great place to start from when you do feel
like exploring your sexuality.
It is very important for both men and women to have non-sexual, relaxing and safe touch with a partner, so that they can also feel really passionate and sexy with their partner.
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