Affection is something that many people seek from a relationship, but it can also be very difficult for some.
Whether it’s too much or not enough, displaying and wanting affection can cause friction in even the most stable of relationships.
In this article, we’ll explore some of the ways you can both show affection to your partner as well as receive it from them.
What is affection?
For the most part, affection is showing someone that you care through physical interactions, such as hugging, holding hands, and kissing.
It can range from small gestures to big displays. Affection is different in every relationship, and we all have varying expectations of what we want and what we’re happy to offer.
Even if you’re a confident person in general, showing affection can feel like a big leap! This is totally normal, as every relationship is different.
What you may be comfortable doing with close friends (hugging, for example) might feel really intimidating with your new partner.
6 Tips For Showing Affection In A Relationship
Your partner may want you to show them more affection and you might not be totally comfortable with it.
Tell yourself that this is okay and normal!
Not everyone feels the same way about showing affection, so you shouldn’t feel guilty if it’s not something you particularly need or enjoy.
Communicate with your partner about why you’re holding back or why you don’t want to get as intimate with them in this way.
We’ll go through some tips that will help you both find a level of affection you’re comfortable with.
Remind yourself that affection is about expressing love and care – it’s something to be enjoyed and cherished, not something that should cause a lot of distress.
You will both find a place you are comfortable with in terms of giving and receiving affection, it will just take some time.
1. Respect boundaries – both yours and theirs.
When you’re testing out new levels of affection with a partner, whether it’s a new relationship or you’ve been together for a while, it’s important to be mindful of boundaries.
Anything that makes you or them feel uncomfortable needs to be treated with respect, which means not pushing each other or making things feel like a threat.
However much you may want your partner to show you more affection, you can’t make them feel like they have to do it “or else…”
Affection isn’t a bargaining chip or a demand you make from someone, it’s an intimate expression of love and care.
The deepest levels of affection come from really knowing someone. This means understanding their past and being aware of any trauma or pain they’ve been through with past partners or individuals.
Try to remember that these things take time for some people, and that you can’t rush someone else’s healing.
If your partner is holding back for these reasons, remind yourself that it’s not personal and that your behavior is unlikely to change theirs without them also making adjustments.
In the same way, you shouldn’t feel as though you need to force yourself into a more affectionate relationship.
If you’ve been through something traumatic, you need to give yourself some time before you rush into showing more affection.
2. Make time for couple-time.
Plan days where you’re more ‘coupley’ – getting into this kind of mood helps you develop a more focused and intimate mindset.
Plan nice things to do together that help you feel comfortable with each other as well as excited to be around each other.
Organizing date nights is something that often fades away once we’re in a relationship, as is showing affection. If you and your partner make a conscious decision to be more involved with each other, the affection will follow.
Make a commitment to one date night every week or two, dependent on your schedules.
Make sure you both understand that this is something to be taken seriously – if one of you has to cancel, it should be for a very good reason.
A huge part of opening up to someone is trust, and this type of commitment will help you both work on trusting each other more, regardless of how long you’ve already been together.
Couple-time can be whatever you fancy, as long as it’s something you both enjoy.
Some dates are about doing something your partner loves even if you don’t enjoy it, because you want to show you care….
BUT… these dates need to be something you both enjoy doing – it’s really important that you both feel comfortable with each other, as you’re more likely to open up and your partner will be more willing to accept more affection.
Take the time to plan these types of dates. Don’t just go straight for an easy option like dinner and a movie (unless that’s what you both really enjoy doing).
By making a ritual of the dates, you’ll both have time to get excited and look forward to them.
This means that you’ll have a proper ‘event’ of sorts to move towards, and you’ll both start anticipating it and sharing more affection with each other. We’ll go into rituals and routines in more detail later on…
3. Joke around.
Being more playful with each other will help you get more comfortable with touching and being close.
This links in to trust, too – if you can be open and silly with someone, you trust in them and in the strength of your relationship. This means that you and your partner will feel more relaxed around each other, which will naturally encourage more affection from both of you.
While we talked about taking things seriously and making a commitment, there’s also a time to let go and have fun.
By letting yourself really relax into each other, the atmosphere will lighten. The more comfortable and light-hearted things are, the more likely you both are to want to reach out and hold hands or playfully punch them on the arm (lightly!).
Gentle elbowing and teasing can really lift the mood as well, making things feel flirty even if you’ve been together for years.
Engaging your partner in this way is a huge ego boost for them as well – the more confident they feel through the ‘rewards’ of your attention, the more likely they are to naturally offer some affection.
This will also make you feel great – you’re not actually asking for their affection, so it feels like a compliment rather than an answer to your demands.
Remind yourself of this! It will help you feel more confident next time you want to show your partner some more love and attention, and when you want it in return.
Stay playful and it’ll start to become more of a habit. Being physically close with someone can help you tune in to their emotions and thoughts.
Simple things like playing footsie under the dinner table can make a huge difference. This kind of thing is nicely subtle, so is perfect if your partner doesn’t like public displays of affection or gets shy or embarrassed.
As well as being subtle to everyone else, it sends a clear message to your partner that you’re present, with them, and you want to be close to them.
Again, doing this in a slightly jokey way helps take the pressure off and they’re more likely to relax, enjoy it and want to show you some affection in return.
4. Put it into words.
Affection doesn’t always need to be physical – talking works really nicely alongside gentle teasing touches and holding hands.
Speaking about how you’re feeling and why you love your partner so much is a really great way to reinforce everything you’re doing through the physical engagement.
By doing this, you’ll be giving your partner a confidence boost. If you’ve been together for a long time, you both (hopefully) know that you love and appreciate each other, but you both need reminding every so often.
Make sure your partner knows that you’re with them as part of an active choice – you actively like spending time with them and enjoy being around them.
Telling them this and reminding them that you’re still attracted to them will make a huge difference in affection levels in your relationship.
The more confident you both feel, in yourselves as well as in the relationship, the more likely you both are to show more affection and offer up attention.
5. Keep them comfy by being consistent.
We touched on this earlier, but it’s a really important point that is worth bearing in mind…
The more you keep going with these actions, the more things will become comfortable and feel normal.
Develop words or phrases that are linked to certain actions, e.g. saying “I love you” will always lead to a hug if you cement that practice. Your partner will soon begin to expect, anticipate, and want a hug when they hear you tell them you love them.
They’ll start to associate all of this with warm, happy feelings and it’ll feel like more of a safe routine.
The more you do this, the more comfortable they’ll become with you touching them and hugging them. It will get to the stage where this behavior is expected, and then to the stage where it is desired.
Once they get used to being shown affection by you, they’ll want more of it! You can say “I love you” and wait – they’ll be ready for a hug, so, when you don’t immediately offer one, they’ll make a move to embrace you.
They’ll feel as though they’re just going along with the routine you’ve both created, but they’ll also be taking an active role in showing you some more affection.
The more you let them come to you, the more comfortable they’ll be doing it and the more likely they are to do it of their own accord.
Make it clear that you like it when they approach you first, especially if they never normally do that now.
They’ll enjoy knowing that they make you feel good and they’ll feel happy doing it as it’s already part of a safe, established routine.
6. Communicate and be honest.
Don’t shame your partner or make them feel guilty, but feel free to let them know how you’re feeling.
It may be that you want more affection because you’re feeling insecure, or you’re having a tough time in other areas of your life.
It may just be because you want to show your love for someone and want to make sure they’re responding and reciprocating.
Be open to feedback!
It’s not just about you telling your partner what you want, but making sure they’re feeling comfortable too.
Partners often misread signs, so make sure you’re on the same page by talking about things. This talking stage needn’t last forever, so any initial awkwardness you might experience is just a temporary thing.
By combining all of the steps above, you can really start to make progress in terms of giving and receiving more affection in your relationship.
Relationships are all about trust, honesty, and compassion, and everything we’ve offered up here links back to those key themes.
Help each other feel more comfortable and confident in yourselves as well as your partnership.
Remember to be self-aware and check in with what you need and why you need it, as well as making sure your partner understands what is going on.
Make time for each other in new ways and engage fully, with no distractions or pressure – just two people, totally in love.
The more you can practice this type of behavior, the more open you’ll become around one another, the more gestures of love, care, and compassion you’ll experience.
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