Little or No Affection in a Relationship? Maybe Not Your Fault

Not every individual is comfortable giving and receiving high levels of affection. Sometimes your partner may be giving you less affection than you’d like. In these cases, your partner may just require and prefer to give different levels of affection than you. In some cases, your partner could be trying to deal with effects that come with anxiety to obsessive compulsive disorder. In another case, your partner could be trying to understand why s/he should put more focus on affection when s/he is being neglected or other areas in the marriage are being ignored like the needs of the children, burdening financial issues, unhealthy work environment or abuse.

It can be difficult when the levels of affection you receive from your partner change and although you might wonder if there is a deeper issue in your relationship, sometimes a dip in levels of affection could be caused by something unrelated to you and your relationship.

In some cases, the issues that you are facing in your relationship could simply be caused because of something that your partner is dealing with and you are not aware of it. Or you could well be aware of the issue, but not aware of the impact it is causing.

Here are some reasons your partner could be showing less affection than usual or expected.

1) Your partner could be dealing with anxiety
Anxiety can cause many social issues for those dealing with it, but one thing that is not talked about as much is the impact that it could cause on personal relationships. Clinical Psychologist, speaker and author of “Social Courage: Coping and thriving with the reality of social anxiety” Dr Eric Goodman said “anxiety absolutely has the ability to decrease the level of affection your partner shows you and it has nothing to do with anything you are doing”.

“The very nature of anxiety is to make people hyper-focus on either internal or external threat. When anxiety is acting up, it becomes a challenge to focus on anything other than the perceived threat even when the situation you are in is something you’d normally enjoy. Affection may just not be on their radar and nothing is wrong with that. It is hard to desire affection when danger feels like it is closing in on you.

He added that if you’re in a relationship with someone with anxiety disorder, there could be added phobic component that can interfere with affection. For example he said, someone with social anxiety disorder might feel highly self-conscious about showing affection, especially in public. They might worry about being judged for not “performing” affection right. Some may even think that for the public to see us kissing or holding hands give the impression that “all is well” when all may be lost.

2) They could also be dealing with obsessive-compulsive disorder/OCD
Much like the above, Dr Goodman revealed that if your partner is suffering from OCD, it could cause the way they express affection to shift or change. “Someone with OCD might feel held back from expressing affection because of concern they will either obtain or transmit some type of containment – either becoming seriously ill or making their partner seriously ill. Others with OCD might have obsessive thoughts that they might harm their partner and therefore they behave in a standoffish way in order to protect them”. Dr Goodman further added that some might be suffering from relationship OCD in which an individual is overwhelmed with intrusive thoughts about whether their partner is right for them, which could trigger substantial worry and thus less affection. In other words, OCD can have their partners consumed with doubts about their relationship. They question their love for their partner, their attraction to their partner and their partner’s love for them. They may even jump out of their sleep wondering if their partner is with another individual only to turn around seeing their partner comfortably sleeping.

3) You and your partner might have different need levels when it comes to affection
Regardless of how much you and your partner have in common, there are still a few things that can set the two of you apart. Clinical psychologist Dr Carla Manly mentioned how much you need or desire affection could be one of those things. “In general, every person has a certain ‘need level’ with displays of affection. When both partners have the same level of need (low, medium or high), there is often little issue on this point. However, when the needs are not well-matched, discord will result. One partner might feel very slighted by the other partner’s attitude and level of need, yet it may have very little (if anything) to do with the partner”.

Dr Manly noted that sometimes it could have something to do with how the individual grew up. For example one partner may have grown up in a family that is unaffectionate, this person may have learned to eschew affection.

4) They take issue with displaying affection in certain settings
If you are a person who doesn’t mind a little tender loving care, being with someone who isn’t that into it, can make you feel as if they don’t want to show you affection at all, but that isn’t always the case. “Some individuals are very comfortable with public and private displays of affection, whereas individuals on the other end of the spectrum may not be at all comfortable with public or private displays of affection” said Dr Manly. She further informed that some may be okay with private displays of affection yet feel very uncomfortable with public displays. Again when the partners are not well-matched in this arena, one partner may feel ignored or cast aside, whereas the other partner may simply be restrained as a result of personal discomfort”.

5) They could be handling a difficult life change or transition
There could be many reasons why your partner is not showing you the affection you desire, and according to therapist, dating and relationship coach and former matchmaker Lauren Korshak, one major reason could be that they are suffering from a crises. “Your partner may have had some life changes or difficult transitions in their life, or may simply be facing the challenges of ageing. In times of transition, especially those 30-40 and 45-55 years, it is natural for people, especially females, to become more inwardly focused as they take inventory of their life choices and their values. This often also may look like distancing or withdrawing some affection.

6) They may not feel well physically, psychologically or emotionally
Whether it is a life threatening illness or a serious case of the sniffles, being sick can take a lot of you and cause you to not want to interact with anyone – even if that’s your partner. You may even be diagnosed with cancer and not share with your partner for days. “Similarly to the stress trigger, when people don’t feel well physically, psychologically or emotionally, they may not feel they have much to give affection-wise, said Dr Korshak. “The word disease alludes to the feeling one has when one is unwell – not being at ease, and feeling tense. When someone is tense and unwell, they may feel the need to conserve their energy and strength and may withdraw some of their affection.

7) Your partner could be struggling with depression
According to Dr Korshak, if your partner is suffering from depression, it could cause them to withdraw and abstain from being affectionate as usual. “As with other forms of mental, emotional and physical illness, depression can cause people to isolate and withdraw from social interactions. This is not to be taken personally if your partner is struggling with depression. Look for other signs and symptoms of this in your partner such as lethargy, loss of interest in passions, changes in eating and sleeping patterns and see if they are willing to receive help from a therapist”.

Symptoms of depression, which are not uncommon in OCD can also make it difficult to establish and maintain intimate relationships. Of course, for many individuals, sexual intimacy is a crucial aspect of any romantic relationship. However OCD symptoms can interfere with sexual relations.

In my view, physical affection releases feel-good hormones. One of the reasons why hugging, holding hands and touching feel so good to us is that these behaviors elevate our level of oxytocin, a hormone that reduces pain and causes a calming sensation. No wonder my late parents found such comfort in hugging, kissing, holding hands among others…they did it ever so often. My siblings and I learnt this from our parents. I am all for holding hands, touching which calm and relax my sensation.

Here are two thoughts for you as I allow you to continue the discussion – “Relationship does not need cute voices and lovely faces, it just needs a beautiful responsible heart of affection” and “To make a woman happy, give her these three things: Attention, Affection and Appreciation”.

Walk good my friend!!

 

Contributed by HE Prof Colin O Jarrett
Senior News Editor

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