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Need a BACK RUB? Keeping Connected in Your Relationship

The best way to ensure a healthy marriage — or relationship — is to make sure you regularly trade back rubs.

Not necessarily the physical kind — though those are great to give and receive too.

No, what I’m talking about creates the foundation for a healthy, growing relationship. Because if your relationship isn’t growing, it’s stagnating or worse — declining. Relationships — like anything you want to succeed in life — need constant attention and care. Fail to attend to them regularly, and they may whither and die.

Each letter in the acronym BACK RUB stands for something vital to a good relationship. Click through to see what they are.


To believe in your spouse means to show them that you see them as a competent and capable individual. This has a positive psychological impact on your spouse’s self-esteem. Daily responsibilities require planning, decision-making, and action. It is essential to understand that nobody is perfect. Performance-driven esteem comes and goes. Communicating belief in your spouse helps removes fear of disappointment.


Affection is demonstrated through both verbal and physical touch. Affectionate words express love, desire, thankfulness, and appreciation. In the book “5 Love Languages,” author Gary Chapman discusses the language of “words of affirmation.” He writes these words are to be encouraging, kind, and humble.

The other form of affection is physical intimacy and touch. This is one of the strongest bonds between a husband and wife. Physical intimacy is not just sexual touch. It is any touch that promotes closeness and acceptance of your spouse. Sexual touch is one of, if not the most important type of affection. Healthy physical affection has a lasting impact on the emotional and psychological well-being of a marriage.


This involves providing support, empathy, and sympathy when your spouse has struggles, hurts, and losses. Do this by giving your time, your presence, and your comfort. Caring and comforting promotes relational security that helps provide reassurance that your spouse is your priority.


Kindness is defined by Merriam-Webster dictionary as “the quality of being friendly, generous, and considerate.” Kindness requires being mindful of how you talk and help your spouse day to day. It is also the filter you use when you are in conflict. Remembering to be “kind” even in disagreements help preserve the relational integrity that can help your marriage thrive.


“Disrespected” is one of the complaints I hear most often from couples in my work as a therapist. They seem to find the word hard to define. Merriam-Webster defines disrespect as “to show or express disrespect or contempt for.” Does this clear up what “disrespect” means? Not really. I have found it helpful to define it this way: It is personalizing an attitude or behavior that one spouse shows toward another.

Sometimes disrespect is obvious and other times it is perceived. A person is likely to feel disrespected when either their personhood or values have been violated. There are many ways to challenge couples to improve their willingness and ability to improve on showing respect to one another. One of the things I would recommend is to put a “face” on the problem. Identify the attitude or behavior that is problematic. Share ways you feel and know you’re being respected and respectful to each other. Using the B.A.C.K. R.U.B. method also can have a positive impact on improving respect.


While you may not always agree, having the ability to demonstrate understanding with each other is one key to acceptance of each other. Having a willing spirit to demonstrate “understanding” helps couples share in the joys and sorrows of life. It can also challenge you to “surrender.” That does not mean to wave the white flag and give up. It means to be flexible and willing to comprehend your spouse, thereby helping create a harmonious relationship. It promotes interdependence.


I admit that sometimes I despise this word. What is balance? I like to think of it as having some ability to effectively manage your energy. Many of us experience the need to meet many obligations, some by choice and some by responsibility. Finding balance in your personal life is important to avoid burnout and dissatisfaction.

Balance in marriage is important. Placing a priority on relationship time, not just taking time, helps us stay connected. If you feel disconnected and out of balance, be willing to talk and listen to each other. Figure out what is interfering with your relationship and what it will take to re-establish balance and connection. It may require a couples-only vacation. It may require patience as things in your life are being worked out. It may require a significant and life-altering change (moving, change in friends, change in jobs).

Whatever catalyst you need to restore balance, honestly assess it and find a solution that places the integrity of the relationship first and foremost.

Need a BACK RUB? Keeping Connected in Your Relationship

Daniel Libstorff, PCC-S

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APA Reference
Libstorff, D. (2018). Need a BACK RUB? Keeping Connected in Your Relationship. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 26, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Jul 2018 (Originally: 3 Mar 2013)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Jul 2018
Published on Psych All rights reserved.