According to the article "Love and Romance" on TeensHealth -- a website sponsored by the nonprofit and pediatrician-led Nemours Center for Children's Health Media -- a romantic relationship consists of three elements: attraction, closeness and commitment. Showing affection is a key part of building closeness. Yet many people, particularly those who are new to dating, are not naturally talented at demonstrating their affection. In addition, different people show affection in different ways. To help your guy become more comfortable, learn his style and natural way of showing people he cares. Working with what he already does is much easier and more satisfying than trying to get him to make major changes.
On his 5 Love Languages website, Gary Chapman, Ph.D., author and host of the "A Love Language Minute" radio program, explains that those in a relationship often speak very different romantic languages. Some people show love through their words, others through their physical actions. Some perform acts of service for their loved ones, while others give material gifts. Still others focus primarily on spending quality time together. If you and your boyfriend speak different love languages, you might not understand each other’s demonstrations of affection. Learn your boyfriend’s love language and encourage him to learn yours.
Leslie Becker-Phelps, Ph.D., who is on the medical staff at Somerset Medical Center, notes in her "Psychology Today" article "Learning Your Attachment Style Can Light Up Your Life" that there are four basic styles of attachment to other people. These attachment styles are generally set during early childhood, although it is possible, with a great deal of effort, to change your style later. People with avoidant styles tend to steer clear of demonstrating affection, while those with secure or preoccupied styles crave that connection. If your attachment styles are very different, an imbalance in perceived affection is likely to occur. Suss out your boyfriend's style by considering how he relates to other people. If he is afraid to get close with anyone, he might be fearful-avoidant. If he tends to brag about his independence, he might be dismissive-avoidant. Nurture a fearful boyfriend through gentle words and loving touches. Tell a dismissive boyfriend directly what you need and why.
Respect your boyfriend’s feelings and never try to force him to do things that make him feel uncomfortable. People generally want to please those they love, but it would be unfair to expect him to radically change his beliefs and behaviors. Show him the type of affection you enjoy, such as cuddling or compliments, but avoid demanding that he reciprocate. Gently guide him to make small changes as he feels comfortable, and trust in your relationship.
Relationships flourish when they are given space and air. If your boyfriend is not showing affection, he might feel overwhelmed. Although it seems counterintuitive, try backing off a bit. Go out with your friends, pursue your individual hobbies and interests, or do something nice for yourself. Give your guy time to work through his feelings, as well as the space to miss you. Avoid the urge to make him jealous or to play games with his psyche. Instead, simply turn your attention to other parts of your life for a while.
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