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February 11, 2019

What to do When You Don’t Want to be Touched

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I’ve just returned from my Canadian speaking tour with We-Vibe and I had the chance to connect with thousands of happy couples and open-minded singles who realize that investing in your relationship is the key to making is last.

In Edmonton, I received this question from a 34-year-old:

IMG_0108“Sometimes I don’t want to be touched. My girlfriend gets mad and says something is wrong with me. It’s not that I never want to be touched (we kiss, hug, have sex), there are just times when I’m not in the mood to be snuggled – especially right when I walk in after work. I need a few minutes to decompress. Is something wrong with me?”

I share a few thoughts below:

Just as some people crave touch constantly, others abhor it. Wherever you fall along the spectrum of desire of physical touch, you’re normal and have a right to ask for as little or as much touch as you’d like.

Some parents  — especially mothers who tend to bear a disproportionate share of childcare responsibilities — for example. They complain about feeling “touched out” at the end of the day; their kids have been all over them from sunup to sundown and they just don’t want anyone else (including their partners) to hug, kiss or cuddle them.

It sounds as though you’d like some space and you’ll need to clearly communicate your boundaries to your partner. Let her know when and how you want to be touched and clarify that there are simply times when you want some physical space. You don’t need to feel guilty, but offering some context will help to assuage any concerns she might have in response to your boundaries.

Ask her to communicate her desires (how and when does she like to be touched?), so that you can find middle ground that is mutually satisfying. Perhaps you kiss when you walk in the door and then take some private time in separate rooms and/or spend more time snuggling in the morning if the timing suits you better.

Screen Shot 2018-11-23 at 12.13.06 PMCompatibility isn’t rooted in finding someone who wants the same things as you (e.g. you don’t have to share a love of cuddling); compatibility involves working together to meet one another’s needs without judgment and accepting that one person cannot fulfill all of your needs every day for the rest of your lives. Your girlfriend can seek affection from other sources — she might cuddle with the dog or cat, get more hugs from friends and family or spend some time touching herself.

Once you acknowledge that you’re not required to meet your partner’s every need (and they can’t possibly meet all of yours), you’ll likely cultivate happier, more satisfying relationships.

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Though this is likely not the case in the above scenario/question, sometimes our desire to be touched is related to our mood and/or past trauma. To learn more about sex for survivors of sexual assault, listen to Jess’ interview with Dr. Ruthie here.

If you have a question about sex or relationships, feel free to submit it to our podcast here. We don’t have all the answers, but we do have a roster of experts on-hand who provide guidance on everything from cuckolding to vaginal health on the Sex With Dr. Jess podcast.

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