Share on Facebook

Why Does My Partner Only Touch Me When They Want Sex?

Experts share three ways to change that.

affectionate,relationship,Couple,hugging,on,a,pierImage: Shutterstock

If it’s been a while since your partner held your hand, gave you a big squeeze or tapped your butt like they used to without trying to initiate sex, congratulations! You’re in a completely normal relationship, according to Carlyle Jansen, a Toronto-based sex therapist. It’s a problem she hears most from women in heterosexual relationships, in which they feel their male partners only approach them when they want to get it on. Although this is very normal, there’s no reason anyone should settle for less touch if you’re craving more frequent, playful displays of affection.

Being touched in non-sexual ways is important—studies show it leads to greater satisfaction, greater emotional intensity and stronger communication in a relationship. According to a 2016 survey by the Kinsey Institute, 87 percent of people in committed relationships rated touch as “very” or “extremely important” to building intimacy, but 34 percent said their partner doesn’t touch them enough. 

Jansen says when a person only touches their partner when they want sex, the partner can develop negative feelings towards them and their libido can take a dip. “Then, the initiating partner can feel hurt…and any efforts to have sex begin to carry negative energy,” says Jansen.

There’s no single reason this happens to couples, but common causes include simple logistics (busy schedules making it difficult to find the time) or feeling “touched out” (having children attached to your hip all day).

More often than not, it comes down to communication problems. Here’s what to do.

Get Touchy-Feely

You know the old adage, “treat others how you want to be treated?” Apply that here. Touch your partner throughout the day to show them how much and how often you’d like to be touched. It might not be easy—Jansen says that the partner who wants more touching may not want to put in more effort—but it could be what’s needed to build the non-sexual habits you desire.

Spell It Out

If your partner just isn’t getting the message, Williams suggests saying something direct like: “I love when you kiss my neck when we make dinner because it feels sensual and loving.” Tell them what you like, and why you like it, she says. “If a couple knows what messages they’re sending to one another through touch, they’ll be more interested in intimating touch in the first place.”

While this tactic could make someone feel like they’re being forced to show affection, this straightforwardness is actually healthy for the relationship. Providing a suggestion, solution, and positive reinforcement leads to a stronger bond, says Williams. 

Find the Issue

Lack of touch could be a sign of a deeper issue. “I may be less physical with my partner when I am tired, whereas you may be less physical with your partner when there’s something bigger going on,” says Williams. “The same behaviour can have an entirely different meaning.” If communication doesn’t work, it could be a good idea to book time with a therapist or counsellor. There could be any number of reasons why you’ve been feeling touch-starved, but you won’t know until you do the work to find out.

Next: ‘It Is Reassuring to Be Loved Again:’ The Joy of Finding Love After 70

Originally Published in Best Health Canada