Boyfriend doesn’t like to be affectionate

By Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker

I’ve been with my man on and off for about two years we were friends for a few years before we started dating, he has a huge issue with telling me how he feels. When i try to talk to him when something happens it turns into a huge fight (a lot of that is my fault). if I let him have some space he drops the issue or brings up some other subject. He tries to break up with me after some of our huge fights and wants me to hang out with him again a few days later. I really want to make it work and Ive told him Im dying for attention but he feels I’m smothering him.

Ive tried to let him have as much time as he wants with his friends and let him decide when to hang out, which is great for the fighting and how he treats me but I am still not getting much attention. he says we aren’t together all the time yet we spend all this time together and he gets upset if Im even talking to another guy. He hardly ever kisses me or cuddles with me or even hold my hand. I know he has had some problems opening up with anyone we’ve discussed it before but there is there no way to stop it?

A: I only have your side. It’s possible that things are exactly as you say they are and that your boyfriend has some issues with showing affection. It’s equally possible that you are far too needy. Probably it’s somewhere in between. You’ve already found that giving him some space prevents a lot of the fighting and results in him treating you better but you still don’t get the attention you crave. I worry that your solution is to get into intense fights. At least then he isn’t ignoring you! If that’s the case, you aren’t going to stop provoking him unless you get some of your needs for attention met. He’s not going to stop withdrawing if he feels overwhelmed by your needs. Maybe he doesn’t cuddle with you because he’s worried that once he starts, it’s never enough for you.

The best way to resolve this kind of issue is to talk about it but you say he also doesn’t like to open up. Perhaps he doesn’t really know how. Watch how his family operates. If they generally don’t talk through conflicts, he probably didn’t learn how to work issues through to a new place. This is where a couples counselor can be helpful. A few sessions of coaching might expand his ability to talk and your ability to listen. I hope you two will consider it. If you could do it on your own, you would have figured it out during your many years together.

I wish you well.
Dr. Marie

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 11 Aug 2010

APA Reference
Hartwell-Walker, D. (2010). Boyfriend doesn’t like to be affectionate. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 28, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2010/08/11/boyfriend-doesnt-like-to-be-affectionate/