My boyfriend makes women uncomfortable

By Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker


The man in my life is 58 and I am 57. We have lived together for three years. I need help on how to open a discussion with him regarding a behavior of his that is inappropriate. Occasionally he puts his hands on females in the family or close friends. Explanation: My sister was standing in the kitchen while I was cooking. She was in the pathway as “John” walked through the kitchen to the sun room. He touches her arm. Then he walks behind her to leave the kitchen and touches her arm again. Then he immediately comes back stands behind her and takes hold of each of her arms and just stands there. He just stood there. Said nothing. It was so odd, I just stood there thinking ‘he looked stupid. I didn’t say anything. I was a bit stunned and embarrassed. My sister just grinned and looked at me confused. Another time, while drinking, he put his arm around my niece with his hand up into her armpit. In the situation with my sister it appeared that he couldn’t stand – he just had to touch her! He has behaved like this on several other occasions.
How can I approach him and get the message across that “this is inappropriate and the recipient is uncomfortable with this type of attention ?

A: The simple answer to your question is this: When you are both in a good mood, raise the issue as calmly and kindly as you can. Tell him that you know he doesn’t mean anything by it but that it makes you and others uncomfortable. Not everyone likes to be touched in a familiar way. Ask him if he can please not touch people unless they ask for it or reciprocate.

However, what concerns me more than the incidents you describe is that you feel inhibited about talking with your boyfriend of three years about something that concerns you. You are both mature people in your 50s and you have been living together for some time. Why is it a problem to have a conversation with him about this? I may be reading more into this than is appropriate, I know. But if there are many issues that you can’t talk about, you and “John” have some work to do on your relationship. Giving and receiving feedback in a loving way is an important part of an intimate relationship. It’s what helps us grow as individuals and as partners. If that is lacking in your partnership, I hope you will consider some couples counseling to help you develop it.

I wish you well.
Dr. Marie

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 13 Oct 2013

APA Reference
Hartwell-Walker, D. (2013). My boyfriend makes women uncomfortable. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 31, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2013/10/13/my-boyfriend-makes-women-uncomfortable/