What To Do When You Don’t Want To Be Touched

What To Do When You Don’t Want To Be Touched

What To Do When You Don’t Want To Be Touched

Do You Avoid Being Touched by Your Partner?

Touch comes before sight, before speech. It is the first language, and the last, and it always tells the truth. – Margaret Atwood

Many of our marriage counseling, couples therapy, relationship coaching and sex therapy clients come in with one primary complaint: One partner simply does not want to be touched, and it’s creating stress and pain in the relationship. (Not to mention creating issues around sexual intimacy).

Touch is a highly important need of humanity. It is essential for our healthy emotional and physical development, and it is also the very first sense which we all develop.

Most of us are aware of this significance, however, along the way somewhere we forget about the importance of touch, especially in our romantic relationships.

What are some situations where people don’t want to be touched by their partner?

I frequently work with couples in couples counseling or marriage counseling where one partner (mostly but not always female) feels that they are not as open to their lover’s touch as they once were. Here, I am not referring to couples with history of sexual trauma: while these couples may also struggle with touch the path of their healing is different than the one I’m describing in this article.

Often when couples are in a place where that intimate and close connection they once had has diminished, physical affection can become problematic. One of the most common themes behind this issue is that the ‘initiation ritual’ transformed from an exciting and romantic experience into a pressured and negative one. This is most typical for couples who have been together for a number of years and even more common where children are present.

After a while, one partner (often the male) starts to express non-sexual physical affection a little less and starts expressing physical affection mostly when they have a desire to engage in a sexual encounter with their partner. Which leads to one of the most common phrases I hear from my female clients: “Every time he touches me I think he just wants sex.”

Women subconsciously make a connection that physical affection will most likely lead to sex, and if their mind or their body doesn’t feel up to it, it feels safer to avoid all physical connection all together. This can also feel like pressure. Pressure to be intimate, pressure to perform/act/look/sound/move a certain way, which is very difficult if we don’t feel up for it. Essentially, pressure (of any kind) is the biggest enemy of intimacy.

What causes someone to avoid being touched by their partner?

This ‘shut down’ phenomenon has quite a few possible causes, and the list below resembles the ones I most frequently encounter with my clients.  

  1. Feeling touched out – This can be primarily experienced by mothers of young children. Having a child in your arms for hours, or being covered in all kinds of bodily fluids can be a very rewarding experience, but unfortunately, for some, it can result in feeling ‘touched out’ by the end of the day. By the time the little ones are in bed, all mum wants to do is enjoy her personal space.
  2. Lack of connection between partners – When we feel disconnected from our partner on an emotional level, it is very difficult to connect on a physical level. If someone makes sexual advances during a disconnected period, it can seem like ‘sex is all they are interested in’ and result in feeling even more disconnected.
  3. Pain/discomfort during intercourse – If someone experiences pain or discomfort during sexual intercourse, they would (often subconsciously) try to avoid not only the intercourse but anything that can lead to that as well.
  4. Other reasons why one partner may begin to avoid being touched by the other – If they are not experiencing much pleasure from coupled sex, they worry that it will lead to a fight, or if they have body image or self-confidence issues.

How does not wanting to be touched impact a relationship?

This ‘shut down’ dynamic often leaves both partners confused about what is happening as this isn’t necessarily a conscious or straight forward process. One partner feels they have shut down and the other feels rejected and lost. After this cycle repeats a few times, both partners sexual safety is damaged. This leads to a place where neither of them wants to or are able to talk about it, which quite literally ends up in an emotional and physical stand still.

How can couples restore a desire to be touched?

The first and most important thing a couple can and needs to do is communicate. By this I mean honest, open, and judgment-free communication about what each of the partners are feeling, thinking and experiencing regarding their intimacy. The only way this concern will be resolved is if both partners truly understand each other. In order to achieve this, a couple will need to be able to reconnect on an emotional level.

The second change a couple can implement goes hand in hand with the first one, and it is only possible when communication feels comfortable. The partner who avoids physical affection needs to regain control in a positive way.

One exercise that can work well is by learning how to have control during hugs. First, they should try to learn what kind of hugs they enjoy. For instance, do they like long or short hugs, gentle or firm hugs, chest to chest or shoulder to shoulder hugs, etc.

Secondly, they should try to communicate this to their partner by describing it in as much detail as possible and also demonstrating it.

Third, they practice hugging the way they enjoy hugging and get comfortable with this form of physical affection on their terms, no matter how long it takes.

Fourth, if at any point the hug becomes overwhelming, or too much (or not enough) they should be able to verbalize that to their partner.

Lastly, after the hugging is concluded, reflect on how it felt, and what thoughts and feelings came up during the encounter. The hug ends on their term. It is important to know that this and any other physical encounter does not have to go any further unless both partners REALLY want them to.

What this quite simple, light, and controlled exercise will achieve helps a couple establish trust around physical affection, which is crucial. Trust is an essential part of regaining physical intimacy as the person who avoids physical touch should be able to completely trust that their partner will respect their process, their wishes, and their boundaries. They also need to learn, discuss, and explore boundaries; What is ok, what is not, what they can put up with, and what they can’t when it comes to affection. This controlled setting also helps with the elimination of pressure to go any further, which is often the root of avoidance.

Ideally, with open and honest communication, trust building and the elimination of pressure, the person who ‘shut down’ before would learn that non-sexual physical affection does not need to lead to anywhere, therefore they will be able to not only participate but also initiate these encounters. This re-established comfort, communication, and trust quite often ultimately translates into the realm of sexual intimacy as well.

Dori Bagi, M.S., SAS, ASORC

Dori Bagi, M.S., SAS, ASORC is a kind, empathetic couples counselor, individual therapist, and life coach who specializes in sex therapy. Her friendly style makes it safe to talk about anything, and her solution-focused approach helps you move past the past, and into a bright new future of intimacy and connection.

Let’s  Talk

More Relationship Advice From Dori…

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How to Restore Sexual Intimacy in Your Relationship

How to Restore Sexual Intimacy in Your Relationship

How to Restore Sexual Intimacy in Your Relationship

Dori Bagi, M.S, is a kind, empathetic couples counselor, individual therapist, and life coach with Growing Self Counseling and Coaching who specializes in sex therapy. Her friendly style makes it safe to talk about anything, and her solution-focused approach helps you move past the past, and into a bright new future of intimacy and connection.

Have You Drifted Apart?

Any good marriage counselor or couples therapist will tell you that sex isn’t the ONLY thing in a great relationship. Friendship, teamwork, communication, emotional safety, respect, and appreciation are all fundamentally important too. And yet, even when all those strengths are present, if you’re not connecting sexually over a long period of time… eventually lack of physical intimacy can erode even the best relationship.

It’s easy to fall into the “friend zone” in a long-term relationship. Certain phases of life that couples naturally encounter can throw cold water on your sexual connection: Having a new child, going through an intense phase of your career, or simply feeling overwhelmed by the busy-ness of modern life can make it hard to find the time and energy to put into the sexual relationship with your partner.

Furthermore, sexuality is kind of like the “canary in the coal mine” of a relationship: When things are feeling off emotionally, or when communication is breaking down and resentments are building… increased distance in the bedroom can be one of the earliest signs that you need to work on your relationship.

Sometimes, working on the other issues in a relationship like emotional safety, communication, teamwork, and appreciation can restore the goodwill between a couple and their sex life naturally improves. But sometimes, sexual problems ARE the problem and need to be addressed directly.

However, talking about sexual issues is not as easy as it sounds. Many couples struggle to communicate about their sexual relationship, often feeling embarrassed or vulnerable, or afraid of hurting their partner’s feelings. That’s one of the reasons why couples often enlist the support of a good marriage counselor, couples therapist, or sex therapist to help them restore the intimacy in their relationship.

And that’s where we’re going today: To help us understand the most common sexual problems that couples encounter, and how to resolve them, I’ve invited expert sex therapist Dori Bagi to speak with us on this episode of the Love, Happiness and Success Podcast.

We’ll be discussing:

  • Why couples often have differences in sexual desire (meaning one person wants to have sex more than the other) and what you can do about it.
  • The role that pornography can play in a relationship —  both positive, and negative.
  • Why body image and self-esteem issues are so often at the root of sexual problems, and how you can work together as a couple to resolve them.
  • Differences in the sexual response cycle between men and women, and how understanding arousal can help you both develop a stronger sexual connection.
  • How to talk about your sexual relationship in a healthy and constructive way.

Hope this conversation helps you find your way back together again…

Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby & Dori Bagi, M.S.


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Restore Sexual Intimacy In Your Relationship

by Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby | Love, Happiness & Success

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What to Do When They’re Hot, and You’re Not: Differences in Sexual Desire

What to Do When They’re Hot, and You’re Not: Differences in Sexual Desire

Is Being Out-of-Synch Sexually Creating Problems in Your Relationship?

“My wife hates sex.”

“My husband is always bugging me for sex.”

Sound familiar? 

As a professional couples counselor and sex therapist, I know that desire discrepancy or mismatched libidos can affect any couple, both heterosexual and same-sex attracted. Even though it is an extremely common issue, and every couple experiences this at one time or another during their long-term relationship, if unaddressed differences in sexual desire can cause significant and problems.

Most intimate relationships start off exciting, passionate and with balanced levels of desire between partners. Your partner is sexy, new and desirable, and while you might not meet each other’s exact needs, you are generally satisfied with your sex life. However, in almost all long-term relationships, life happens… and you start noticing the differences between how often you and your partner desires/initiates intimacy. This period comes at different times for each couple and can be caused by a variety of things. Differences in sexual desire are also associated with reduced overall relationship satisfaction.

Fortunately, help is available and sex therapy or intimacy coaching can help you and your partner get back in sync with each other.

Common Causes of Differences in Sexual Desire.

  • In today’s society, it is more and more common that each partner comes home stressed and tired from their job. This is not exactly the sexiest frame of mind, and it is very understandable how this feeling does not give space to desire.
  • Substance use and certain medications have been known to reduce desire. Some medications addressing depression and anxiety can have a side effect which reduces libido.
  • The responsibilities of having children and raising a family and the everyday tasks related to that may also cause low levels of energy and prevent participation in sexual activities.
  • Self-esteem and body image issues can make a person feel undesirable which therefore reduces the likelihood of initiating an intimate connection with the partner.
  • Acute or chronic illness, hormone imbalances and pain during intercourse can also be detrimental for a person’s libido.
  • Relationship difficulties could definitely cause desire discrepancies, however in some instances it is difficult to tell which came first, the chicken or the egg.


Tips If You Want Sex More Often Than Your Partner Does:

If you have higher levels of desire in your relationship, it can be difficult to deal with your partner’s lack of interest and engagement. It is easy to take it personally and interpret their reduced interest as rejection. Regularly rejected advances may create feelings of doubt, anger, disappointment and even sadness. You may also feel like any advances including hugs and kisses maybe misinterpreted therefore you eventually avoid physical intimacy altogether.

There are a few thoughts to consider if you feel like you are not sure what to do anymore to reconnect with your partner.

  • Are you being affectionate with your partner in a non-sexual way? This includes hugs, kisses, holding hands and cuddling, without wanting it to lead to sexual intercourse.
  • Are you being attentive and compliment them in other times other than when you want sex?
  • Do you help them out around the house and help them relax so they can take time to let the day go and have some time for themselves?
  • Do you share your feelings and thoughts with your partner? Do you ask them about theirs? Do you know what is going on in their lives outside of you?
  • Do you try to help them relax and ‘get in the mood’ before sex?
  • Do you give them time to ‘get in the mood’? For some people, especially for women, arousal takes a while and it is associated with emotional arousal not just physical. Interestingly, under ‘everyday circumstances’ it takes about 20 minutes for women to be physically ready for intercourse.

When you stop focusing on sex or the absence of sex, and start paying attention to other aspects of your relationship and your partner, the pressure to satisfy each other’s sexual needs can reduce. I suggest you start putting energy into finding new ways to connect to each other that is not sexual. Find out what is causing the lack of interest in sexuality for your partner and try to reconnect on an emotional level. I highlighted a number of things above, and if you feel like you are lacking in certain aspects, try to invest some energy there, as it has been shown that emotional intimacy and non-sexual physical affection can increase desire and interest in sexual activity in the partner who has low desire levels.

Tips If You’re Not Feeing Interested in Sex:

Often when sex becomes an issue in a relationship, the person with the lower desire level can find themselves avoiding general intimacy as well, as they may fear that participating or initiating cuddling or kissing will indicate “let’s have sex!” to their partner. This may create a vicious circle in that you avoid non-sexual affection to avoid sex, but by avoiding affection you also create more distance between you and your partner, causing even less desire to be intimate.

Society tells us that good sex should be spontaneous, you should want sex with your partner on a regular basis, you should be turned on by your partner easily and if you don’t, there is something wrong with you. Wrong!!! While spontaneous sex is great, it is not easily achieved and not realistic on a regular basis. For some reason, more often than not it is the person with the lower sexual desire that goes to therapy as it is suggested that they are the ones who have the problem. It takes two to tango! It is a team effort and you got in this situation together so you need to work together get out of it.

In the meantime, there are a few things I would like you to consider.

  • Have you been experiencing a lot of stress lately?
  • Have your life circumstances changed recently?
  • Are there aspects of your life that you worry about excessively?
  • Do you have any symptoms of depression, or are you taking any medication for depression?
  • When you do engage in sexual activity, do you find it pleasurable and wonder why you do not pursue it more often?
  • Do you find yourself hesitant to initiate or accept your partner’s advances?
  • Do you make time for yourself and look after your own needs and pleasures?

It is important to take stock of where you are in your life at this moment, and what you think might have caused your low desire levels. Reflecting on your needs and what you want out of your relationship, not only regarding intimacy but in general, can help you find some answers.

It may also be useful to think back on times when you did have sexual desire and reflect on what was happening in your life at that time. How was it different? Did you have more emotional intimacy? Did you experience less stress? Did you do more things together? Assessing the differences can provide extremely valuable insights about how do reduce the desire discrepancy currently present in your relationship.

It’s also helpful to pay attention to small hints of desire, stay with it and follow it. While this may not be an overwhelming urge to be sexual with your partner, acting on these small impulses can not only lead to a quite rewarding sexual experience but it can increase your overall libido. Sometimes the most difficult thing is to get going, however making a commitment to initiate intimacy, even if you are not really in the mood, can very often result in a fulfilling sexual experience for both of you.

You may also consider how and why you refuse the advances of your partner. If the refusal is due to the way the advances were made, you need to let your partner know. They won’t be able to change if they don’t know what is going on. Furthermore, if your rejection is purely for the sexual intercourse, you also have to let your partner know, so they know you are not rejecting them, it is just how you are feeling at that moment. If this is the case, you should try and arrange another time when you know you won’t be this tired. As I have mentioned before, striving for spontaneity is not always helpful. Making a conscious effort to plan out times when you can be intimate can have great results, as you will have time to prepare, relax and get in the right frame of mind.

Lastly, ask for what you want! Communicate to your partner how you like to be touched, and what sort of stimulation you enjoy. Telling them what you enjoy may not only be pleasurable for you, but could also be a huge turn on for them as well.

Tips To Help Both of You Get Back in Synch Sexually: 

Have a discussion about your sexual relationship. What are each partner’s preferred environment, preferred frequency, what does sex mean to each partner, likes, dislikes, desire enhancers or inhibitors and so on… Having this discussion could be immensely helpful in rediscovering your own and each other’s sexuality.  

While I hope this article gave you some insight into the potential causes and resolutions for managing desire discrepancy in your romantic relationship, please don’t hesitate to seek help if you need further guidance or assistance from a professional sex therapist.

Dori Bagi, M.S., SAS, ASORC

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