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Reasons Behind Lack of Affection in a Relationship

Have you gone through periods in your relationship where you felt your partner wasn’t as affectionate or addressing your needs for intimacy and comfort in the relationship? It can be quite normal in relationships for the level of physical affection and intimacy to vary. Relationships tend to ebb and flow when it comes to the intimacy level and closeness. People often worry that when their partner is not showing them physical intimacy, it means something bad about them or the relationship itself. While there are situations where that might be the case, there are also times that your partner may not be demonstrating affection and they have nothing to do with you or the health of your relationship. 

Here are some reasons behind your partner not showing affection:

1. Different boundaries & personality-

People have some basic differences with the amount of affection that they are comfortable expressing. For example, when someone grows up in a family who did not show affection often, then they may feel more uncomfortable demonstrating physical affection in their relationship. This has nothing to do with their partner, but it’s simply a different boundary and comfort zone for the person. Personality also plays a role in people’s level of comfort with showing affection. Introverts may feel less comfortable with expressing affection, while extroverts show affection often and with ease. 

2. Feeling comfy-

It is common in relationships, that when a couple has been together for quite a while, they can feel very comfortable and forget the key aspects of courtship and affection. When we are first dating, there is often more attention placed to demonstrating affection. Once there is a comfort level established, it is common to not place as much effort to showing your partner affection. This is not necessarily due to not desiring your partner, but simply due to feeling very comfortable and not putting forth the same amount of effort and attention. 

3. Closed off to intimacy-

For many people, showing affection is a very intimate act and when someone is feeling fearful or closed off to intimacy, then they will avoid initiating any affection all together. This could be due to something that has happened to them previously, in other relationships or even in childhood. The person may be more closed off and resistant to physical affection or even emotional vulnerability. This is an issue that is about them, their comfort level with intimacy and not their partner. It can be difficult for many people to show affection and not because they don’t want to, but because it is very uncomfortable and difficult for them to do so.


4. Off balance-

Often, when we get caught up in focusing on other areas of our life, such as work, school or social aspects, then we can unintentionally neglect other aspects of our life. This may not be due to not desiring our partner or the relationship, but simply because our attention is focused elsewhere. It is common that if one partner has something major happening in their life that is taking their full focus or creating high levels of stress, such as a major work project, then they can get off balance and “forget” to demonstrate affection with their partner. It really takes having a healthy balance and putting your partner and relationship as a priority to maintain physical affection, intimacy and connection in the partnership. 

5. Insecurities & difficulty with vulnerability-

There can be times when someone may not be feeling as secure or confident within themselves. This could be due to body image issues or just overall self-esteem. Many times when someone is not feeling confident, they will not want to initiate affection. Demonstrating affection does take courage and being vulnerable; therefore, if someone is not feeling brave or wanting to put themselves out there in a vulnerable way, then they will not be as willing to demonstrating affection. This again, has to do with their own issues related to self-esteem and confidence and nothing to do with their partner.

6. Mental health-

It is common that when someone is experiencing a disturbance in their emotional and mental health, they may not demonstrate as much affection as they would in other times. Some mental health examples include: depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder or even obsessive compulsive disorder. When someone is under distress due to an imbalance of emotions, then they are less like to show their partner affection. If you notice your partner is experiencing mental health symptoms, then it is important to talk with them about how they are feeling and ask if you can be of support or help them to seek professional help.

After reviewing some of these issues that may cause people to not show affection to their partners, it’s important to note that if you see some of these changes in your relationship, talk to your partner! Communication is one of the best and most direct ways to address issues in a relationship. Sit down and have a conversation with your partner about how you are feeling and what you are noticing. It’s important to not finger point and place blame, but to approach the situation with care and concern. This way you can discuss any feelings and develop a strategy for best addressing the situation. 

Also, check out some of our other Relationship Blogs that cover tips on building intimacy, communication as well as decreasing arguments.

Next, check out our blog on Ways to Boost Intimacy in Your Relationship.

This blog gives 5 quick tips on building and maintaining intimacy with ideas such as date nights, hugging longer, sweet gestures and increasing physical affection.

Online Couples Sessions

If you are interested in learning more about online couple’s sessions, please see our services page or you can contact Dr. Shelley to ask any questions. You can also book a couple’s session online through our scheduling page. These virtual sessions are available online for couples or individuals who are looking to address relationship-related issues.

Free Facebook Group About Relationships

If you’d like to hear more on relationship topics and hear tips for couples, be sure to JOIN our free and closed Facebook group called The Couples Collaborative. This is an online support group that is closed and private. It provides tips and inspirational material for couples as well as supportive discussions on challenging relationship-related issues.

Blog written by: Dr. Shelley Sommerfeldt, Clinical Psychologist, Relationship Coach & Founder of the Loving Roots Project, an online wellness practice specializing in personal growth, mental wellness, & relationship betterment.

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