How to Show Affection Without Smothering

A balance between your needs and your partner's needs is a must.
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There's a fine line between showing affection to your significant other and smothering her. When you are in a smothering relationship, there's not enough room for you or your partner to grow as individuals, which can lead to a sense of feeling suffocated, says Tamara Wilhelm, a counselor with the Imagine Hope Counseling Group. Learning to show affection without smothering your partner is an important key to having a happy, healthy relationship.

1 Give Him Space

When you're in a relationship, it's normal and healthy to want to spend a lot of time with your significant other. However, affection can quickly turn to smothering when you expect him to spend every free minute he has with you. Remember that he still has a life outside of his relationship with you. Don't get angry when he wants to spend time with his friends or pursue an interest, or when he wants some down time alone. Respect and encourage his independence and his individuality and take time for your own interests, too.

2 Public Displays of Affection

Showing affection without smothering can be a tricky road to navigate when it comes to public displays of affection. What one person finds comfortable may be out of another person's comfort zone. For instance, you may find showering your girlfriend with kisses in public to be perfectly acceptable, while she finds that behavior to be appropriate only behind closed doors. In this case, it's important to respect your partner's personal boundaries. Boundaries in a relationship are about maintaining one's own identity, without shutting out one's partner, according to the article "Personal Boundaries in a Relationship" from Therefore, a compromise that respects your girlfriend's boundaries could be giving her a quick kiss on the cheek when you are out and about to show your affection.

3 Don't Bombard Him

Sending an affectionate text to say, "I'm thinking about you," is one thing. Sending text after text about your affection is another. Rather than constantly texting or calling him, send one text letting him know he's on your mind and leave it at that. If you text him and don't hear back right away, don't send another text asking where he is or why he hasn't replied. Don't text him every time he goes out with friends telling him that you miss him, either. It's important that he doesn't feel like he has to be attached to you all of the time. If he feels this way, it may cause him to pull away from you.

4 Consider Your Intentions

Emotional hunger is a condition of discomfort and desire that a person often acts out in an attempt to fill the emptiness that he feels, says psychologist Robert Firestone, author of "Emotional Hunger Vs. Love" on the Psychology Today website. Feeling emotionally "hungry" is often mistaken for the feeling of "love" and genuine affection, says Firestone. For instance, if you're emotionally hungry, you might say, "I love you," to fulfill a need to hear it back rather than just to share affection with your partner. This desire to feel loved can create an environment that is smothering to your partner because you end up needing constant validation rather than expressing genuine excitement and affection for your partner. Telling your partner you love her once or twice a day is a way to be verbally affectionate. Telling her constantly throughout the day can be smothering. Differentiating between affection and emotional hunger can help you to ease up on your partner if you start to become too obsessive.

Stacey Elkins is a writer based in Chicago. She earned a Bachelor of Arts in psychology from Southern Illinois University in Carbondale and a Masters in social work from the University of Illinois in Chicago, where she specialized in mental health.