My boyfriend of a year is not at all affectionate. We moved in together about two months ago and everything is worse. He never wants to cuddle, kiss or hold hands. He barely talks to me anymore and says that we are together too much. I admit that I am very affectionate and like to be close to him as often as possible. But he knew I was like that before he invited me to move in with him. We argue constantly, and most of the time, it is me starting the fight because I want to know why he won’t get close to me. He never wants to go out anymore either. Do you think he is seeing someone else?
No, but I think he should start. Seeing a therapist, that is. Your man may not be open to counseling (and if he’s not, don’t bug him about it), but it could help him learn how to do something other than shut down when things don’t go his way. Everyone has defense mechanisms, but when they get in the way of intimacy, defenses need to be admitted, investigated and reformed by the person hiding behind those defenses. Otherwise, his or her relationships will always stall at the same emotional intersection.
It’s important for you to acknowledge that your boyfriend does care for you; if he didn’t, he would never have suggested that you move in, right? But now he feels trapped, and your relentless requests for affection are pushing him away. So stop. It is important to be assertive and ask for what you want in a relationship. But when your man is not capable of fulfilling your request, you need to be honest about why you remain with him. Both of you seem to be trying to work out insecurities that are variations of the same belief: I can’t have what I want. And you probably can’t with each other. But you can want what you have by accepting each other as you are. Or you can opt to end this relationship and find a partner whose love style matches your own.
The first step, though, is for you to assess why you are needy, clingy and insistent on your own way when you are with your boyfriend. Your behavior isn’t just about seeking closeness. You use physical affection to measure how much you are loved. Not feeling loved may be familiar to you and, of course, painful. To stave off suffering, you are willing to do anything, even bait your boyfriend, to avoid confronting the enormous neediness inside yourself. But you must, eventually. No amount of loving touch can fill that emptiness—only gratitude for who you are and the life you have been given will.
What is it with women? A lot of the women I have met on the Internet spill their life story in the first hour of the date. I know everything that their therapist knows and it sucks. Don’t women get that this is a turnoff? Whatever happened to getting to know someone slowly over time?
Another perspective: Women are comfortable enough around you to unburden their hearts. That means you are a good listener, easy to talk to and that you have a knack for helping people feel understood. If you prefer to keep those gifts under wraps, begin your date with superficial questions and then mention that you like getting to know others gradually. You might even explain, briefly, that you have had a few Internet dates that felt more like therapy sessions. If your date still TMIs you, consider it an invitation from the universe to go back to school for a psychology degree!