Perhaps your boyfriend has always had difficulty with expressing physical affection, or perhaps you have noticed that he has shown less and less physical affection over the past few weeks or months. A lack of affectionate touch in a relationship can stem from a wide variety of causes, including unresolved conflict in the relationship and stressful life circumstances. Whatever the situation, you can take steps toward encouraging your boyfriend to be more affectionate in his relationship with you.
Ask him about his thoughts and feelings in a respectful manner. Any number of issues can contribute to his reluctance to show physical affection, including negative, past experiences or anxiety. The more you can learn about where he is coming from and what he is comfortable with in the area of physical affection, the better you will be able to work together toward a solution that meets both of your needs.
Share your feelings with him. Be honest, and try not to criticize who he is or what he does -- instead express to him what you need with genuineness and vulnerability. Gary Smalley, in “Keys to Loving Relationships,” recommends using “word pictures” to communicate your emotions, such as “when you don’t hug me, it makes me feel like I’m facing an opposing team on the field all by myself.” Allow time to discover the word pictures that will be most meaningful to your boyfriend.
Show him affection. Demonstrate for him the type of affection you need and desire by expressing it to him in gentle, steady ways. For example, if you want him to hold your hand when you go on a date, model this affection for him by asking him if you can hold his hand and then telling him why doing is meaningful to you. If he has not had much experience with physically affectionate relationships in the past, he may need some time to adjust to a more affectionate one.
Discover one another’s primary love language. Gary Chapman, in “The Five Love Languages for Singles,” identifies five ways that people express and receive love, including quality time, affirming words, meaningful gifts, physical touch and acts of service. If your boyfriend’s primary love language is acts of service, he will often instinctively express his feelings for you through what he does for you, rather than through affectionate touch.
Seek counsel from another person or couple whom you both trust. Sometimes an outside perspective can help you to better navigate the challenge that you are facing in a relationship. The reasons that your boyfriend expresses less physical affection than what you would desire may be larger ones than you can deal with on your own, such as issues that stem from his childhood or from abusive situations. Seeking outside help will take the pressure off and give you both the support you need in deepening your relationship.
Remain patient with your boyfriend as you seek to encourage him to become more physically affectionate in your relationship, but remain committed as well to receiving the affection that you need in healthy ways.
Avoid criticizing or attacking him for his lack of physical affection, even if sometimes you feel angry or frustrated enough to do so. Negative ways of relating to one another will only serve to further complicate the problem rather than resolve it.
- “Keys to Loving Relationships”; Gary Smalley; 2003
- “The Five Love Languages for Singles”; Gary Chapman; 2004
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