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Ask Lynn: He’s Not Affectionate—At All!


She’s crazy about her new guy, but he’s not touchy-feely. What to do?

By Lynn Harris

ear Lynn,
I recently met a wonderful guy through an Internet dating site. I am a very affectionate person; I am always touching his back or playing with his hair, that sort of thing. He seems to appreciate it… but he shows no affection back. We have become intimate
The eyes open or closed matter may be one of personal style.
recently, and he always has his eyes closed. Should I be worried about this lack of connection I feel? I would love to talk to him about this, but I feel that since we have only just started dating, it will be awkward. Please help. I absolutely adore this guy and do not want to goof this one up.
-Untouchable

Dear Untouchable,
Before I get to my real advice for you, let me say this: About the eyes-closed thing itself, I wouldn’t read too much into it. I have a friend who once opened her eyes, just to peek, while making out, and was so terrified to see her guy’s eyes open, staring at her, that she screamed. The eyes open or closed matter may be one of personal style.

That said, this shut-eye business sounds like it fits into a larger pattern. I’m inferring from your letter that he shows no physical affection, though maybe you mean affection in general. I would caution you not to keep dating, ever, someone who’s just plain not that nice to you, or who doesn’t — in some way — make you feel good about yourself and the relationship. Otherwise, I mean, what’s the point?

But there are very nice people out there who are just not so great at showing affection. They’re not bad people; they’re just tricky matches for the snuggle-prone. Another friend of mine had a long-distance boyfriend — smart, cute, funny, the whole nine yards — who, when she visited him, basically treated her like a roommate. Since she did not want a long-distance buddy, she broke up with him. Turned out (a) he’d been head over heels in love with her all along, just crappy at showing it, and (b) he is
But if you do need that, you’re entitled—at least to raise the concern.
now very happy, long-term, with someone else—someone who just doesn’t need someone to play with her hair that much.

But if you do need that, you’re entitled—at least to raise the concern. I understand that you’ve just started dating, so you don’t have to make it a giant “we have to talk” talk, but wouldn’t you say it’s worth getting some data on how long might you want to keep dating? So some relaxed moment when you’re mid-hair-play, just say, “Hey, you know what, there’s one difference I’ve noticed between us that I wanted to bring up. I love to be physically affectionate — and I hope you enjoy that — but I get the impression that it’s not something you’re comfortable with. That’s fine, but the problem for me is that, since it’s such a big thing for me, it’s hard for me to get a sense of how you feel and whether you’re having as good a time as I am, both in bed and out. Have you noticed that contrast? Can we talk about it a little?”

The key — and any relationship expert will say this — is to avoid saying “You never” (or “You always”). Make it about you. What you like, what you need. If he stonewalls or attacks, even after a gentle opening, you may have a bigger problem on your hands. But in a comfortable conversation, he might surprise you—and give you news you can use. As in, “Yeah, I’ve got to admit, cuddling doesn’t come naturally to me. But you know how I call you every night before I go to sleep when we’re not together? I’ve never done that with anyone else before.” I’m not saying you should settle for less than you need. But you should at least give him a chance to discuss the matter—and yourself a chance to recognize other gestures he may be making for what they are. Once you two are talking about the topic, you can decide whether this connection will indeed continue to grow and whether he can give you what you need in a relationship.


Lynn Harris (www.lynnharris.net) is co-creator, with Chris Kalb (www.chriskalb.com), of the award-winning website BreakupGirl.net — you can visit BG's blog to discuss this letter! A longtime journalist, Lynn has written about dating, gender, and culture high and low for Glamour, Marie Claire, The New York Times, Salon.com, Nerve.com, and many others. She is currently the communications strategist for Breakthrough, a transnational organization that creates pop culture to promote human rights. Submit your own dating questions for Ask Lynn via bg@breakupgirl.net. Your question may be answered in a future column.
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