Do you hate being touched but still wish for a meaningful relationship with a lifelong partner?
Have you ever had a relationship break down because of your aversion to physical contact?
Have you struggled when dating because of many people’s expectations to engage in some sort of physical affection almost straightaway?
It’s heartbreaking to imagine that you might end up alone forever because your preferences are not considered mainstream.
After all, the entertainment industry spreads the idea that a successful relationship involves a lot of physical intimacy. The “happy” couples depicted in movies and TV tend to hold hands, cuddle, and kiss a lot. And they either imply or go into great detail about their active sex lives.
This doesn’t just appear in fiction, either. You’ll find all manner of articles online and in magazines about how a lack of physical affection implies serious relationship issues, and how only couples who have sex a couple of times a week are going to last.
All of these expectations can be quite devastating to navigate for people who don’t like to be touched. After all, those who shy away from physical touch may still want to have loving, emotional connections.
Sadly, they’ll often feel obligated to be more physically intimate than they want to be. This can cause or fuel conflict, disappointment, and resentment.
The good news is, there are ways to navigate these expectations while still keeping your own personal boundaries, and staying true to your own needs and wants. Here are some tips.
Speak to a certified relationship counselor about this issue. Why? Because they have the training and experience to help you find the best approach to intimacy if you don’t like being touched. You may want to try speaking to someone via RelationshipHero.com for practical advice that is tailored to your exact circumstances.
1. Seek to understand the reason(s) for your aversion.
People can shy away from touch for a number of different reasons.
Some people dislike touch because of traumas they experienced in their past. That can relate to various kinds of trauma from physical and sexual abuse to medical interventions that have gone wrong. In fact, 70% of adults in the U.S. have experienced at least one traumatic event in their lives.
Others are hypersensitive and find physical contact to be uncomfortable or even distressing. For example, many people on the autism spectrum find physical touch overwhelming, so much so that it can cloud their other senses. They might feel like their skin is on fire, and that sensation can crawl over their entire bodies.
Take some time to figure out why it is that you don’t like being touched. If you did experience trauma, and you believe it is this which is now affecting your comfort with physical contact, consider speaking with a therapist. They’ll be able to help you address your past in a safe, controlled environment where you can lean on them for support if you get overwhelmed (you can connect with one of the certified and experienced therapists on BetterHelp.com).
Gently explore why you have this aversion. Is your dislike of touch a constant thing? Or does it only happen in certain circumstances? Which scenarios bring this aversion to the forefront? Is it touch in general? Or sensual/sexual touch?
Also, be honest about whether this same aversion has happened with others, or if it’s just with your current partner. Many people who are struggling with their relationships may care about their partners deeply, but aren’t sexually attracted to them. As a result, they might pull away from intimate contact, but still appreciate the friendship and companionship.
By successfully and objectively identifying when you don’t want to be touched, you’ll be able to decide which steps to take next.
You might not think your problems are big enough to warrant professional therapy but please don’t do yourself that disservice. Nothing is insignificant if it is affecting your mental well-being.
Too many people try to muddle through and do their best to overcome issues that they never really get to grips with. If it’s at all possible in your circumstances, therapy is 100% the best way forward.
Here’s that link again if you’d like to learn more about the service BetterHelp.com provide and the process of getting started.
2. Ask whether you are getting “touched out.”
Another big reason why people dislike being touched is that they’re over-stimulated. This is quite common in mothers of small children. When someone is basically attached to another human who’s constantly touching them, grabbing at them, and feeding from them, they might feel like their bodies aren’t their own.
This can make them feel trapped in their own skins, and they’ll shy away from hugs, hand-holding, and all other kinds of physical touch from their partner. Recoiling like this isn’t because they don’t love their partner anymore, they’re in self-defense mode.
When one feels like they have no autonomy, and that other living beings’ demands are more important than their own needs and wants, they’ll protect their precious time and sovereignty as fiercely as possible.
That’s often a completely subconscious action. They might not even realize that they’re doing it until their partner finally blurts out that they haven’t hugged or had sex in months.
Consider what it is you’re dealing with physically on a daily basis, and see if that has any influence on why you prefer not to be touched.
3. Learn how to communicate your touch preferences effectively.
In healthy relationships, we feel free and safe to discuss our limits and boundaries with our partners. They’re our loving, supportive counterparts, and are (hopefully) open to working with us to find mutual comfort levels.
That said, talking about intimate issues like an aversion to touch can be uncomfortable. This is especially true for those who may feel shy talking about these topics, or fear confrontation and/or rejection.
Some people might avoid having these discussions because they’re afraid of alienating or losing their partners. As a result, the negative associations with touch may spiral. They’ll feel uncomfortable with certain types of touch, so they’ll withdraw physically and verbally. This confuses their partner, which might either upset them, or make them try harder to initiate physical contact. If they do try harder, the one who doesn’t like to be touch withdraws further.
This type of scenario can be avoided through clear communication.
If you have difficulty speaking your truths aloud to your partner, then write them. Put your thoughts and feelings down on paper, or send an email. Let them know where you’re coming from and what your triggers are. Try to explain as much as possible; as much as you’re comfortable sharing. The more they understand why you feel the way you do, the better they’ll be able to work with you to find mutual comfort levels.
In fact, they are likely to open up to you in turn. They might have limits and boundaries that they haven’t been honoring, because they assumed you had specific needs and wants of them. This is just one of the many reasons why it’s so important to talk to one another.
4. Take small steps to determine your comfort zones.
If you’re comfortable with your partner and you’ve both communicated openly about all of this, consider practicing different types of physical touch in a safe environment.
For example, if you two get together on a Friday night, determine ahead of time that you’ll try cuddling on the couch.
Do you like to have your hair or back stroked? Communicate that to your partner, and also let them know the parts of your body that are off limits. Choose a “safe word” that both of you can remember and identify if the other person is feeling uncomfortable. As soon as that word is spoken, you two can retreat back to personal spaces for as long as you need to.
When and if this happens, make sure to communicate with the other person when you’re able to. Let them know if you need some uninterrupted alone time, or alternatively, if you want to try again.
Check in with them too to see how this is making them feel. Ask them to be honest, even if it’ll make both of you uncomfortable to do so. Explain what it is you’re experiencing, and ask them their side of things. They might be eager and supportive to help you through all of this, or they might feel uncomfortable and hurt.
The latter is especially possible for people who have physical touch as their primary love language. If they thrive on cuddling, stroking, and sexual intimacy, and you pull away from all of those things, they might feel hurt and rejected. This can be difficult to negotiate.
It might also make them overstep boundaries in an attempt to “push you” out of your comfort zone. It’s a big breach of trust if they do that, and they’ll need to be firmly reminded of that if they try to go that route. They might be doing it unintentionally because they’re trying to get their own needs met, but that needs to be nipped in the bud. There are few more effective ways to break trust in any kind of relationship than to overstep a very clearly stated limit for the sake of one’s own wants.
5. Determine what your respective love languages are.
To expand upon the previous section, it’s time you and your partner explored what your preferred love languages are. You can read our guides on the five love languages and do the quiz together to find out what you each score.
By doing so, you’ll have a better sense of how the two of you express love and care toward one another. For example, let’s say that your top two are acts of service and gift giving, and your partner’s are physical touch and gift giving. Sure, your first choice might be different, but you share the runner up!
This is a great way of making sure that both of you feel loved and appreciated in ways other than physical intimacy.
While you’re at it, ask them to rank the five most important types of physical touch that they enjoy – even need – in order to feel loved and wanted. That gives you an idea of what you may be capable of offering them so they can feel secure and adored in this relationship.
If you feel that you’re somehow letting other people down because you don’t like to be touched, keep in mind that there are many other ways to express your love and affection.
Building upon the other love languages mentioned above, you can determine how you enjoy expressing your feelings, as well as how your partner receives love.
If the two of you really like to spend time together, make sure you set aside game nights for one-on-one quality time. Cook meals together, go on picnics, read to one another, play sports together. There are countless ways to bond that don’t require physical contact.
It’s also important to understand where your partner is coming from if they’re being needy for physical affection. If they have abandonment issues, for example, they might feel a need to be “in your pocket” 24/7. They’ll derive a lot of security and comfort from physical touch, and may get anxious and insecure without it. That can be difficult for someone who sees hugs and petting as needy or invasive.
Is this something you can compromise on?
Are they okay with giving you space and asking if you’re okay with a hug, instead of just throwing themselves around you?
In turn, are you okay with touching them the way they like now and then in order to make them feel more secure?
6. Recognize when compromise just isn’t possible.
Of course, issues may arise if your respective needs completely oppose one another’s. For instance, if you’re with someone who needs a lot of cuddling and sex in order to feel happy and satisfied in a relationship, and you’re averse to both, that’s a major incompatibility.
The two of you might get along really well as close friends, and love each other dearly, but you’ll need to be very honest with yourselves (and one another) about whether this type of connection is relationship material. Would you be happy trying to force yourself to be physical with a person? In turn, how happy would they be without much physical love for the rest of their lives?
Although many issues can be worked through to find mutual compromise, there are some situations in which there’s just too much incompatibility. And that’s absolutely okay. We can love people in different ways, and play roles in each other’s lives other than committed romantic partnerships.
The key is to be honest with everyone involved. Nobody wants to have to deal with the anxiety and depression of having to “endure” a relationship. In cases like that, it’s better to seek out a more compatible partnership with someone else, rather than put one another through years of torture and dissatisfaction.
7. Seek out relationships with others who aren’t touch-focused.
If you’re seriously balking at the idea of having to force yourself to be overly physically affectionate with a partner, then it’s also absolutely okay to go a different route.
You can aim for a relationship with a person who is also averse to being touched. You’re not the only one like this! Many people out there refer to themselves as “sapiosexual.” These folks consider an intellectual connection to be the most important part of a relationship, rather than basing it on sex or long cuddle sessions.
In fact, many sapiosexuals are also asexual. They love to have close emotional relationships with others, but they don’t want physical intimacy. Others are aromantic, in that they’re okay with sexual intimacy, but don’t have any interest in emotional connections. These leanings are often referred to as ACE/ARO (asexual/aromantic), and there’s a wide spectrum there.
If these types of connections feel of interest to you, then consider dating people whose leanings mirror your own. On dating sites, you can choose different labels like “sapiosexual” or “asexual” where available. Alternatively, you can make it clear in your bio that you like to spend time with people, but have an aversion to touch and intimacy.
You may be surprised to discover just how many other people are wired similarly to you. They might feel exactly the same way you do about physical touch, or are absolutely okay working with your personal preferences and boundaries to find mutual understanding.
And please, be kind and compassionate toward yourself in all of this. There is nothing “wrong” with you for disliking physical touch. Furthermore, there’s no single, correct way to have a relationship. And there definitely isn’t just “one special someone” out there for everyone; there are thousands. Rest assured that if you don’t like being touched, but still want to have a fulfilling relationship, there are many people out there for you.
Be honest with yourself – and others – about your relationship needs, whether you’re renegotiating the terms of your current relationship or cultivating a new one. That way, everyone involved will have the opportunity to live their truth and have their needs met, without feeling that they’re living to other people’s expectations and demands.
Still not sure what to do if you are uncomfortable with physical touch but want your relationship to be happy and healthy?
Speak to an experienced relationship expert about it. Why? Because they are trained to help people in situations like yours.
Relationship Hero is a website where you can connect with a certified relationship counselor via phone, video, or instant message.
While you can try to work through this situation yourself or as a couple, it may be a bigger issue than self-help can fix. And if it is affecting your relationship and mental well-being, it is a significant thing that needs to be resolved.
Too many people try to muddle through in their relationships without ever being able to resolve the issues that affect them. If it’s at all possible in your circumstances, speaking to a relationship expert is 100% the best way forward.
Here’s that link again if you’d like to learn more about the service Relationship Hero provide and the process of getting started.
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