I actually said, "honey, will you just hug me for 5 seconds?"
November 7, 2006 9:29 PM   Subscribe

sameoldrelationshipstuff filter: Like many of us, I have fears about my relationship. Does she really love me? etc. One thing that's starting to drive me crazy is that I want more affection than she wants to give. I know everyone is different, blah blah blah, but just so I can have some perspective, can you guys tell me: how often do you smooch your sweety? Do you tell him you love him every day? Do you expect a hug when he gets home from work? If he asks you for some attention - do you give it to him, or run the other way? Help me understand what is normal - or at least average!
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (17 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
How long have you been dating? How old are you two? What's her previous relationship status? Has she suffered physical abuse? Is this an all-the-time thing? All of these affect what is "normal".

I only see my "sweety" on the weekends, so I tell him I love him all I can, I kiss him all the time, I hug him whenever possible. When we were living close to each other, this was more of a sporadic thing, depending on mood and inclination.

But none of that really matters. If she's not meeting your physical/emotional needs, then that's not a YOU problem or a HER problem, that's a COUPLE problem, that the two of you should talk about. If she doesn't want to talk about it, well...
posted by muddgirl at 9:36 PM on November 7, 2006

muddgirl is right, especially about the last part. There is no "normal", there's only what's good for you as a couple. If it's not working, talk to her about it.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 9:42 PM on November 7, 2006 [1 favorite]

I don't like touching too much - it's over stimulating - like too much noise, but my husband and I have the deepest affection and respect for each other. You can't base emotional depth on frequency of touch.

I would suggest you talk to your partner using the model of "I feel a bit lonely/sad/blue/whatever. I could really use a hug/cuddle/whatever." You might even say "When you don't hug me daily, I feel insecure/a little worried" but please don't say "you should hug me more. you don't hug me enough. this is why we fight." (Not that you were going to).

Sometimes either one of us might increase the touch factor. We try to accommodate each other.

Sometimes (like in summer, when it's so hot and sweaty) either one of us feels free to reject physical contact - we know we love each other, it's just icky to touch.
posted by b33j at 10:31 PM on November 7, 2006

I vote 'normal'.

Look at it from her perspective. If the tables were turned, you would act similar to her, I bet. "Why is she needy? Why the constant expectation?" I think she is turned off by the pressure you're putting on her. My advice - play it cool, watch her moods, let her come to you.

I feel like affection between people is never something to expect, only to give. If you're not 'feeling the love', so to speak - try a different tactic. You'll figure her out, trial and error.

I doubt very seriously she'll respond well to a "look, honey, we need to step it up with the hugs" talk.

I've been through the same stuff, and have felt all the same things you're talking about, and this is my $.02 on the matter.
posted by milinar at 10:50 PM on November 7, 2006

Every couple is different, and every individual within a relationship is different. For instance, I'll frequently forget the "honey I'm home" kiss, but I'll never forget to ask my honey how her day was. My honey, conversely, rarely asks me how my day was but will rarely forget the "welcome home" kiss. I think it depends on where your priorities lay. There are many, many ways of showing your partner affection. You may feel that your partner isn't giving you your due, but take a step back and see if your partner isn't giving you rapt attention in a form that you're not used to seeing or accepting.
posted by lekvar at 10:58 PM on November 7, 2006

Some people just don't express or show affection outwardly. My wife of 30 years and her family are all very reserved when it comes to intimacy. They can all be strongly emotional about other stuff, but very rarely touch or even seem to notice physical presence, where my upbringing and inclination is awareness of and response to the other person. In the past I've felt deprived of love, unappreciated, and missed hugs and contact, but finally realized that it's just a deep difference in our psyches. So I'm the one who hugs.
posted by anadem at 2:28 AM on November 8, 2006

Just to add another voice to the consensus: it's different for everyone.

One of my exes was quite reserved when it came to physical displays of affection. Kissing in public was a mortifying idea to her. We related in other ways and though we did have a physical relationship, it was not very touchy-feely.

On the other hand, my current girlfriend and I relate to each other quite heavily through touch/physical affection.

For me, I much prefer the latter and can see, with hind-sight, that the lack of a (to my subjective mind) normal, day-to-day physical connection was a large part of why my ex and I broke up. The lack of affection made me feel quite unloved, even though this was really not the case. Anadem was able to get over this with his wife, but we couldn't.
posted by slimepuppy at 3:19 AM on November 8, 2006

I've just finished 'Mating in Captivity', by Esther Perel... a pop psychology book exploring among other things, asymmetry in such areas. It's a short read, but has some useful conceptual content.

Long story short... you and the mate are not one person. Why should you have the same needs / schedules / goals? Long term, the problem is to continuously reconcile the divergence between the two of you to at least a minimally acceptable level for both of you.

It's always worth asking, IMO, why you chose this person? How is it that she is failing to provide what you sense is a major need of yours? Is she similar to other mates/parents/siblings that acted likewise? How are your needs contributing to the situation? Maybe she feels smothered in exactly the same way you feel neglected. Worth considering, and pretty much the scope of the book I referenced. (Remember, it's not a text book... it's aimed at a lay audience.)
posted by FauxScot at 5:36 AM on November 8, 2006

I have a very touchy-feely husband. Altho i am fairly touchy-feely myself, I do feel pressured and want to draw back when he is too affectionate-or when I feel he's too "needy." The neediness is actually repellent. The more he forces the issue the more I want to back off.

Try backing off yourself for a week or so and see how it goes.
posted by konolia at 5:41 AM on November 8, 2006

There is no "normal." Different people have different needs; you have to find out if you and your sweety can come to a mutually satisfactory compromise. My first serious girlfriend was quite reserved about physical affection; that's not why we broke up, but it was one reason I was relieved about the breakup.
posted by languagehat at 6:41 AM on November 8, 2006

I second languagehat. Imagine a number line from 0 to 10, with those number representing levels of affection. Each person wants a particular level/number on that spectrum. Several years ago, I was in a relationship with a guy who was more of a 3 while I am closer to an 8 (ok, 9) on the affection scale. He tried to give more, and I tried to expect less, but we both ended up frustrated. After a few years, I found myself wondering whether it was too much to expect a kiss every day. The answer is: it was with this guy.

After we broke up, I started dating a man who was more of a 9 on the affection scale, and it's worked out fantastically.

The bottom line is this: everyone is wired differently, and you can't change your wiring or hers. The question you have to answer for yourself is whether you want to live with the disappointment. I think lots of people do.

Oh, and to answer your actual question: We kiss every day, we hug every day, we greet each other with hugs at the end of the workday, and we tell each other we love each other every day. If one of us needs attention/affection, we seek it from the other, who gives it as promptly as his/her current task allows.
Of course, we've only been together 3 years and married 13 months, so this might abate over time. (ok, probably not.)
posted by Sprout the Vulgarian at 7:26 AM on November 8, 2006

Help me understand what is normal - or at least average!

I don't think that the ideals of normal or average would be very helpful to you here. Try framing this in terms of your needs, her needs and the best way to reconcile the two, without imposing judgments on whose needs are legitimate or not legitmate.
posted by jason's_planet at 7:46 AM on November 8, 2006

Not a diagnosis, just food for thought: I ended up really gunshy about affection for a while after dating a string of men who did not understand (or were not interested in) non-sexual affection. When you can't ever hug someone without getting a little boob stroke to go with, it just becomes too oppressive. And it was scary, because it would escalate to the point that I wasn't the one who got to decide when I ended a hug or kiss or hand-holding or anything, and that's a little more rapey than I'm comfortable with, and when my explanations were met with confused faces, I'd have to move on.

I told my husband all this up front when we met because I was sick of it, and he was horrified and not only assured me that he wasn't gross, but that he liked the hugging and kissing and foot rubbing simply for what it was. And then he proved it. I had come to believe that all men were groping 15-year-olds at that point, so it was quite a revelation.

All you can do, no matter the cause, is talk about it. Just make sure that you guys define your terms so that you both know you're talking about the same things. When you said "I want more affection than she wants to give," I read "I want more sex than she wants to have with me," and that's my filter because of past experience, but if she's sharing my filter and she thinks you think what she's thinking, the conversations don't do anyone any good.
posted by Lyn Never at 7:48 AM on November 8, 2006

Talk about it in terms of banking.

My husband's emotional bank is fed with touch and words of affirmation. He needs a hug when he gets home, a pat on the bum when he gets out of the shower, kisses for no reason in the middle of Lowe's, compliments and affirmation 10 times a day. I love yous when we leave in the morning, when we get home, when we go to bed. If he doesn't get that, he feels a bit neglected, *because that's what is bank account is made of*. I tried to fill his bank account with good food and he just felt bloated, and a bit neglected. I tried to fill his bank account with acts of service-- doing his laundry when he's busy, cleaning out his car when he's not looking-- but all he had was clean laundry and a clean car, and he felt a bit neglected. !!!!! So we talked, and I learned that he really needs touch and words. The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman helped us a LOT.

My sister once asked me, "Does it bother you to praise him all the time, like you're married to a 5 year old?"

I said, "It used to in the beginning, but once I accepted it as *part* of him, I've come to enjoy it. Think about it-- my to-do-list for being a good wife is to notice good things he does and tell him. I look for good things all day long! It has changed my perspective on everything-- instead of noticing bad things, I notice good things, everywhere! So does it bother me? Not at all. I'd much rather have a husband who needs affirming than a husband who needs correction."

Gosh, that got long winded. Hope it helps a bit. Summary: talk about your individual bank accounts-- what fills yours, what fills hers- how you feel loved. Good luck!
posted by orangemiles at 8:56 AM on November 8, 2006 [3 favorites]

Anecdotal evidence...

I expect & receive a lot of physical affection* and it makes us both happy. I think it's one of our great strengths. Our physical affection isn't necessarily routine, though - we don't always kiss/hug hello and goodbye during the day, for example. But we do a lot of hugging during discussions, and fun activities together (like cooking) and we cuddle a lot while watching tv.

My last relationship wasn't like that at all, and it was partly why I was unhappy. When I started this relationship, though, I wasn't quite ready for so much physical affection. When he told me he was feeling insecure about my feelings, though, I realized I needed to do more so that he didn't worry. I made an effort to be more physically affectionate, which came naturally it turned out, and we were happier for it.

*By "physical affection," I mainly mean hugging.
posted by Amizu at 9:08 AM on November 8, 2006

You both have different love languages?
posted by goshling at 1:04 PM on November 8, 2006

as others have said, i would recommend that you give her some space.

to put it simply: ignore her*. girls eat that shit up.

* [ok, ignore is a little extreme. but it's true--pull back a bit and do your own thing for a while and you may find her reaching out for you. people tend to take that stuff for granted after a while.]
posted by GS1977 at 5:03 PM on November 8, 2006

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