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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.

Kindly, 
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…

How To Fall In Love Again

How To Fall In Love Again

Let’s Talk About Date Night

If you’re in a long-term relationship the time will come when that burning flame of romance and passion dims to a comfortable warmth, it’s inevitable. This doesn’t mean that the romance and passion are over, it’s a new era of your relationship. If you welcome this era with an open mind and a willingness to experience this stage with your partner – you will find that this warmth is not only sustaining to your relationship but welcoming.

I know it can feel discouraging to think back on how alive and in love you once were before the chaos of life, work, and family obligations became primary conversations at the dinner table. Maybe you’re even asking yourself “can it ever be like it once was?”

The truth is, if you’re both willing to put in the effort to keep your relationship “lit” then YES you can have those rekindling experiences in your relationship! In fact, research by love gurus Dr. John and Julie Gottman has even shown that couples on the road to separation were able to rekindle the flame in their relationship. So what’s the secret? You guessed it…date night.

How To Get The Most Out Of Date Night

It’s easy enough to go on a date if time and circumstance allow. However, it can feel like there’s just not enough time in the day for dating, and if you are like most of my couples clients you have a lot going on. It can feel like your only conversations together happen in passing after a long day at work or at the dinner table with the kids. This means that you have to be intentional about date night, and you need to get the most out of your time together (yes, I’m talking quality over quantity).

So, How Do You Do This?

First, it’s important to choose a time that works for both of you. It might feel silly scheduling each other in, but I promise if you schedule your date together you’re both more likely to make it work. So sit down, get those phones out (or paper agendas, whatever works for you!) and pick a time where you are either both free or available to move your schedule around. This might mean getting a babysitter, rearranging less important plans, or simply saying “no” to lesser obligations. But remember, you don’t have to force a date for the sake of dating. Sometimes an hour at the nearby coffee shop can be just as fun — do what works best for you!

Next, be deliberate about the activity you choose to do together. Since time is limited, what you do with that time is important. Try to orchestrate a date that is both fun and meaningful for both of you! The more thought you put into the date, the more you’ll get out of it. Before this starts sounding like a chore, I’m not talking about an itinerary that has every little moment planned out. Think about what you both like to do? Where do you like to go? What have you done in the past you’d like to do again? What are some new places, food, or experiences you would like to try?

Number one rule – make this time about the two of you. You don’t have to stick to any version of a date that isn’t appealing to you. However, the more time you spend together, the easier dating becomes. If this means staying home and watching a movie together, sitting on the balcony with a glass of wine, going out to an upscale restaurant, or checking out the “hottest” club – do what’s right for the both of you.

Looking for some great date night suggestions? Take a look at these simple to elaborate ideas you can implement into your new date night routine.

Fun Simple Suggestions:

  1. Pizza & A Movie Marathon— whether you like the DIY method of making your own homemade pizza or you like someone else to do the work for you (aka…ordering delivery), this is a staple date night. You can choose a movie that has a special meaning to the two of you, or maybe even take turns showing your current or childhood favorites.
  2. Build A Fort or “Camp” Indoors—sometimes laying down together in a new place can be exciting and spark some old feelings you thought were lost!
  3. Go On A Long Walk Together—use this time to hold hands, talk about life, or even get to know each other more. Did you know that exercise helps release brain chemicals that can make you feel happier? So by simply doing something active together can create positive feelings between you and your partner.
  4. Desserts and Discovery—make your favorite desserts together and ask one another questions to get to know each other again. There are various apps that supply questions to ask your partner (I recommend the “Gottman Card Decks” app). You could even get creative and use this desserts and discovery date to spark some sexual intimacy as well!

More Elaborate Suggestions:

  1. Surprise Date Night—if you and your partner have similar schedules, surprise your partner with a spontaneous date (to a restaurant, bowling alley, movies, etc). The excitement of the surprise may spark some long-awaited affection.
  2. A Mini-Vacay—find a babysitter and book a hotel room for the night! A night away from home can be especially rejuvenating for a relationship, especially if you have children.
  3. Take A Class Together—some communities offer classes to the public. Register for a local class together such as art, culinary, dancing, or exercise classes. Some classes may even be free!
  4. Recreate Your First Date—think about your very first date together and recreate it.  Reminiscing on the past may help reignite passion in the present. It can also be helpful to talk through all of the obstacles you have overcome as a couple over the years and take time to appreciate how your partner has contributed to the strengths in your relationship.

Date night can be a helpful tool for relationship health. Whether you’re wanting to stick to something simple or splurge on an elaborate night out, there are many exciting ways to get to know your partner and rediscover the excitement in your relationship. Try some of these suggestions and share your experience with me below in the comments section!

Wishing you the best on your date,
Georgi Chizk, M.S., LAMFT

Georgi Chizk, M.S., LAMFT is a warm, compassionate marriage counselor, individual therapist and family therapist who creates a safe and supportive space for you to find meaning in your struggles, realize your self-worth, and cultivate healthy connections with the most important people in your life.

Let’s  Talk

How to Empower Your Relationship

How to Empower Your Relationship

Teresa Thomas, M.A., AP is a marriage counselor, couples therapist, and life coach. Her approach is warm, positive, solution-focused, and all about helping you get to the core issues so that you can grow and move forward confidently. Teresa works with her marriage and couples clients to help them build a positive foundation and experience empowered relationships.

Cultivating positive growth

There comes a time in many relationships when the experiences you are having together make you feel less hopeful about the future of your partnership. Maybe you have been arguing more than you want, or you have been feeling disconnected for some time. When the relationship is no longer something you feel positive about, I suggest taking these steps to empower your relationship and revive the hope you once had. I encourage my clients in marriage and couples counseling to use these skills when beginning the journey of reconnecting and building a better relationship with their partner. 

Set Intentions of Change

The first essential step to empower your relationship is setting your intentions of change. When you feel like things have gotten to a point that you no longer feel satisfied it can be easy to begin the process of acceptance. I encourage my clients to resist accepting any part of life and relationships that they want to be different. Setting your intentions begins with refocusing your mind toward creating change. Start thinking about the things you want to be different. Sit down and start having loving conversations about each of your perspectives so that you are clear and on the same page about what changes you would like to make together.

Keep Communication Positive

I understand that when your relationship is needing some care it can be difficult to communicate with your partner. Many of us lose our cool and engage in negative communication when we feel stuck in the dynamic of the relationship. It is discouraging and sometimes painful to not be fulfilled in your relationship. So, when you are feeling stuck and it is hard to be hopeful, it is important to keep communication positive. Even when you are discussing the changes you want to make, try balancing out the conversation with the things you enjoy and want to stay the same. I encourage you to begin acknowledging your partner’s effort to change, as well as the small successes you have along the way. Consistently tell your partner what you love about them. Positive communication helps you stay motivated and willing to work through setbacks.

Establish & Evaluate Your Relationship Values & Principles

Empowerment will help you find motivation and purpose in your relationship. When you have set your intentions of change and made positive communication a priority, evaluating the values and principles of your relationship is a great next step. We all have personal values and principles that we live by. Relationships should also be based on a foundation of shared values between partners. Some examples are honesty, loyalty, open communication, and spontaneity. Begin thinking and talking about the values that you share with your partner. I suggest writing them down and putting them somewhere visible and accessible for you both to reference and add to the list.

Create Action-Oriented Plans

The last essential step to empowering your relationship is to focus on action-oriented plans. In order to move forward and create lasting change in your relationship, it is important to identify the behaviors and actions that go along with the values you set in place. For example, if one of your values is trust, actions like telling the truth even when it is hard and allowing your partner to have healthy friendships outside of your relationship, communicate and support the value of trust. So for each of your values talk about the ways you put them into action. This way you are both aware of the expectations and how you can communicate your intention of love and support for each other and the relationship.

These first steps to empowerment will allow your hope to return and jump-start the positive changes. 

 

Warmly,

Teresa

 

How to Heal a Relationship After a Fight

How to Heal a Relationship After a Fight

Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby is the founder and clinical director of Growing Self Counseling and Coaching. She’s the author of “Exaholics: Breaking Your Addiction to Your Ex Love,” and the host of The Love, Happiness & Success Podcast.

Recover from a Fight

As a relationship therapist, I have had the opportunity to work with many couples who come looking for answers for their communication woes. How many of us have experienced that gut-wrenching feeling after a fight with our partner? Maybe you don’t feel heard, perhaps you feel like what you have to say about the topic is being misconstrued, or maybe you don’t know how to get your feelings across properly. Many couples who decide to engage in couples counseling are often doing so because they are experiencing unproductive communication, or they are at a loss as to how to resolve the conflict.

What you should know is that there is a better way to communicate, and out of better communication will come resolution to the conflict. Using positive communication skills can also help you find a path forward, and make-up after a fight.

How to Heal a Relationship After a Fight

Turning conflict into connection can seem like a merely unattainable relationship goal. You might be thinking that it’s not worth the effort to try and even communicate about the conflict because it will just encourage another argument – but it doesn’t have to be that way. You can choose to consciously practice (and I say practice because it can take time) a form of better communication. Not only will it help you recover after a fight, but also strengthen your relationship.

This week on The Love, Happiness and Success blog I am sharing what positive communication steps you can take to heal your relationship after a fight and turn your conflict into connection.

 

 

How to Get Your Needs Met in a Relationship

How to Get Your Needs Met in a Relationship

Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby is the founder and clinical director of Growing Self Counseling and Coaching. She’s the author of “Exaholics: Breaking Your Addiction to Your Ex Love,” and the host of The Love, Happiness & Success Podcast.

Love is Not Enough, Actually

 

How do you get your needs met in a relationship? You can have an over-all great relationship with someone you love very much, and still feel like you’re not really getting what you need in order to feel truly connected and cared for. This can lead to frustrations, especially if your efforts to ask (or hint, or nag, or beg, or control, or get angry repeatedly — no judgment) never lead to real and lasting change in your relationship.

Help is here. On this episode of the Love, Happiness and Success Podcast I’m speaking to a true expert on this subject: Dr. Robert Navarra. Dr. Navarra has decades of experience as a marriage counselor, couples therapist, and addictions counselor and trains other therapists on The Gottman Method of couples therapy— the gold standard in evidence-based couples counseling. He has also pioneered a new, research based method for helping couples reconnect in the aftermath of addiction.

He’s here to share his insight and relationship advice with you, so that you can finally get your needs met in your relationship. Here’s a peek into our conversation:

Advice For How to Get Your Needs Met in a Relationship

1) Build on Your Relationship’s Strengths: Did you know that it’s easier to get your partner to honor your wishes when they feel close and connected to you? That sounds true and simple, but sometimes couples let the sticking points eclipse the positive parts of their relationship. Learn how to start being friends again first, in order to increase the likelihood of getting your needs met

2) Improve Your Communication: The way you say things really matters. Dr. Navarra explains the specific ways of communicating that are likely to get you shut down, ignored, blown up at, or invalidated — and what do to instead. He’s sharing his tips for how to get your message across in a way your partner will be able to hear.

3) Avoid The Three Behaviors That Will Sabotage Your Relationship: In addition for providing you with great skills and strategies to help you communicate, Dr. Navarra explains the behaviors to avoid at all costs. We all know how easy it is to react without thinking when we’re upset. However, by avoiding the pitfalls and mindfully cultivating the pro-marriage, pro-relationship behaviors that Dr Navarra advises, you can greatly increase the odds that your partner will respond to you positively.

4) What to Do When Your Partner Has a Serious Problem: Dr Navarra is a Master Addictions Counselor among other things, so I sprung a listener question on him — What to do if your partner has a problem with alcohol, marijuana or other destructive behaviors? He explains strategies to help your partner, and yourself, stop the madness and grow back together again.

We hope these tips and strategies help you have productive conversations with your partner, so that you can both get on the same page and so YOU can get your needs met in your relationship!

Sincerely,

Dr. Lisa Marie Bobby and Dr. Robert Navarra

PS: Dr Navarra and I discuss a number of resources and websites. Here are the links in case you want to follow up on anything you heard:

 

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How to Get Your Needs Met in a Relationship

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

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Practical Tips for New Parents

Practical Tips for New Parents

Jessica Small, M.A., LMFT is passionate about helping individuals, families & couples create more fulfilling lives and relationships, and to function at an optimum level of health and happiness. Jessica is the facilitator of our Online Postpartum Support Group: New Baby, Happy Life where she shares more practical tips for new parents.

 

Sleep Makes Everything Better

 

By day, I am a marriage and family therapist. I love helping new moms and dads make the beautiful and often challenging transition into parenthood. However, my after-work hours consist of practicing what I preach in my parenting coaching and family therapy sessions as a mom of two littles myself. One of the most valuable lessons I can share with new parents is to prioritize sleep for both you and your children!

Sleep Training Can Be a Lifesaver

When my daughter was 4 months old she went from waking a manageable one time per night to waking up every 2 hours. I thought I was going to lose my mind! I was exhausted, sleep deprived, and overwhelmed by this new pattern. I decided it was time to sleep train.

I packed her up, went to the library, and checked out several books on sleep training. It was a Wednesday when I decided to make this life change and my plan was to start sleep training by that Friday. On Friday evening I skimmed through the rented books and decided sleep training was imminent.

Within a week my little one was sleeping through the night and I was reclaiming my sanity.

When You Educate Yourself You Can Teach Your Kids

During pregnancy, I went to many classes but not one of them talked about sleep, even more importantly, infant sleep. It had never occurred to me that good sleep habits are TAUGHT, and parents are the teachers.

Teaching your baby the habits of good sleep is a lifelong gift. Think about how often people talk about sleep, how great they feel when they get it, and how destroyed they feel when they don’t. Sleep matters.

Research shows that sleep is a critical component of good health, both physically and mentally. We need sleep to function at our optimal level.

Here are three reasons to prioritize your baby’s sleeping skills

When baby is sleeping, everyone is sleeping!

  • Teaching your baby to sleep through the night means that you, the parents, also get the sleep you need. People who are severely sleep deprived often experience increased symptoms of anxiety and depression.
  • Parents who are in a serious need of sleep may find that they are lacking in other ways as well including distress tolerance, emotional regulation, and general self-care.
  • Parenting is a hard job (not to mention any other employment/roles you may hold) and it is critical that you, as a parent, are getting enough sleep to manage it all.

 Teaching good sleep habits also teaches babies how to self soothe.

  • Self-soothing is a fundamental developmental skill. At some point, babies must learn how to calm themselves down from a state of stress or irritation independently of their primary attachment figure.
  • This is a skill they will utilize throughout life. A study published in the Journal of Behavioral Sleep Medicine found that one of the factors that determine an infant’s ability to sleep through the night is based on their ability to self soothe during the first five months of life.
  • Self-soothing may come in the form of sucking on their thumb, pacifier, stroking a security blanket, rubbing their eyes, playing with their hair etc. When a baby is able to self soothe, they are able to fall asleep without being held or rocked AND are able to put themselves back to sleep during the middle of the night without needing mom or dad!

 Knowledge is power.

  • Understanding baby sleep cycles, sleep cues, and positive sleep associations give you, the parent, back a sense of control.
  • When I talk to parents who have little ones that are not sleeping they share a sense of powerlessness, defeat, and frustration. They want their baby to sleep, they want to sleep, but they are unsure of how to make it happen.
  • Understanding the basics of sleep and the sleep teaching strategies provide a framework to operate from. It will help you dispel the myths that might be negating your progress (e.g. babies that sleep during the day, don’t sleep at night- THIS IS NOT TRUE!!!) and it will give you a roadmap for how to manage the sleep regressions that will undoubtedly come even after your baby is trained.
  • Once you have a handle on your baby sleep needs, sleep will come.

Remember, you are the parent, you can do this! May the sleep gods be with you.

Warmly,

Jessica Small, M.A., LMFT

 

P.S. If you need more support please join our Postpartum Support Group! It is a fantastic way to connect with others, learn new skills and strategies for managing this new job you are learning, and getting some extra support.

 

Growing Self Counseling & Coaching
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