Is It Right to Expect More Affection from My Boyfriend?

My boyfriend and I are on somewhat different pages when it comes to physical affection. He grew up in a home without much hugging or verbalized love, whereas I grew up in a home full of kissing, hugging, hand-holding, and where "I love you" was said often. Thus, I often seek a lot of physical affection from my partner, and he does a great job of fulfilling that need. Though he never pushes me away or shies away from my constant contact, or belittles my needs in any way, I still wish he would initiate this kind of affection more often, rather than always following my lead. I've noticed that the few times we get into arguments or if I am upset about something—since I tend to internalize things, withdraw, and become quiet—he will be much more proactive with compliments, hugs, and affection. I have verbalized to him that I feel like this almost reinforces my sour moods—like I need to be sad to get the affection I crave. I feel like such a terrible person for wanting more and more out of him, when I should be happy with the fact I have a loving partner, but I can't stop the nagging thought of needing to be miserable to get my (admittedly lofty) needs met. Am I wrong to ask for more when what I have is already great? —More for Me
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Dear More for Me,

First of all, I want to commend you on the great job you have done reflecting on and understanding your feelings around this issue, and on sharing them with your partner. It sounds like you two are able to communicate openly and honestly with one another even when it is not easy. I would encourage you to continue the conversation; keeping the lines of communication open will help each of you to get your needs met in the relationship.

Speaking of needs, I’m wondering if there is anything that your boyfriend feels is lacking in the relationship. It’s possible that he is perfectly satisfied by the relationship. However, there might be something he would like that he is not getting, or something he would like more of. If this is the case, it means there are things you can both be doing to nourish your relationship. If there is something he is seeking and you look for opportunities to provide that for him, he might not only feel even more loved, but also look for opportunities to make you feel loved by initiating that physical and verbal affection you are seeking. It could become a very positive cycle that allows you to deepen your connection to one another.

I’m also wondering about the other relationships in your life now—family, friends, colleagues, etc. What needs do these relationships fill? I raise the issue because our intimate relationships are so central in our lives that it can be easy to fall into the trap of expecting our partners to fill all of our needs. It is not possible for any one person to satisfy all of another person’s needs. So, if this is the expectation, even the best of relationships will surely miss the mark and leave us feeling disappointed.

Your level of self-awareness and your ability to speak candidly with your partner is so important. It was brave of you to acknowledge and discuss the connection you have made between your sour mood and your partner’s affection. This is definitely something you want to work through before it goes on too long. I doubt you want to have to be in a bad mood every time you want a little affection from your partner. Plus, while it is working now, your partner might grow to feel manipulated by it and ultimately become resentful. This is something you want to nip in the bud!

As I’ve said, the insight and communication here seems really strong, so keep talking to each other and working on this. If it seems like you are getting stuck, consider reaching out to a couples therapist to get some assistance with moving the conversation forward. Best wishes on your journey together.

Respectfully,
Sarah

Sarah Noel
Sarah Noel, MS, LMHC is a licensed psychotherapist living and working in Brooklyn, New York. She specializes in working with people who are struggling through depression, anxiety, trauma, and major life transitions. She approaches her work from a person-centered perspective, always acknowledging the people she works with as experts on themselves. She is honored and humbled on a daily basis to be able to partner with people at such critical points in their unique journeys.
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  • kendall k

    kendall k

    March 21st, 2014 at 11:36 AM

    you need what you need and want what you want out of a relationship… what’s wrong with knowing what those things are and wanting to have that? I am not saying that you will always get it but it doesn’t mean that you have to stop having those things just because your boyfriend doesn’t know how to express his feelings this way… you just have to show him that this is what you need and he will come around if he sees that this is something that is important to you

  • Jake

    Jake

    March 21st, 2014 at 1:27 PM

    My only concern here is that if you press for too much too fast, don’t you think that this could potentially push him away? You have to ask if this is what you want or if you are willing to accept this if it happens.

  • Tamara

    Tamara

    March 22nd, 2014 at 6:20 AM

    I don’t think that it is wrong to Want more affection, but maybe it is worng to Expect it.
    You get what I’m sayn?
    Those are two totally different things

  • Ray

    Ray

    March 22nd, 2014 at 1:51 PM

    Why don’t you want the affection when he actually gives it to you? I mean this is what you want, right?
    It kind of sounds like you want it on your own time and on your own schedule and seriously, love is not like that. You sometimes have to be willing to take what someone is willing to give when they do. Be happy with what he is giving you, this is what he is comfortable with and honestly it sounds kind of whiny that you are being so picky about all of this. I don’t think that he would even be doing this much if he didn’t care, so I don’t think that it’s that it’s just that you need to understand that we all show affection in different ways.

  • Georgia

    Georgia

    March 24th, 2014 at 10:31 AM

    It could be possible that you both have some issues that you each have to work through here. He may have problems expressing himself and you have those you have already identified. I think a good couples counselor could definitely be in order!

  • tyndal

    tyndal

    March 24th, 2014 at 4:31 PM

    Do you have any other friends who could help fill some of this void that you have in your life? It is hard for one person to make up for all of this emptiness, it is a lot of stress on you and it places a lot of stress on that one person too! I would hate for the relationship which might have a great deal of potential to crumble because you were expecting too much out of him. Sometimes you have to give some =one just a little space to see what they are all about. That might be all he needs, just a little breathing room every now and then, and it might actually be something that you come to like having too.

  • Toni

    Toni

    March 26th, 2014 at 4:03 AM

    I don’t think that you would be writing in here if you honestly thought that what you have is already great.

  • debra Smith

    debra Smith

    March 27th, 2014 at 5:35 PM

    PLEASE don’t take this the wrong way but do you think that it is at all possible that there is some small part of you that is doing this to manipulate him into doing what you wnat him to do? Just a thought.

  • Vick

    Vick

    March 29th, 2014 at 5:15 AM

    Piece of advice? He’s gonna get tired of the drama and move on

  • judy P

    judy P

    April 7th, 2014 at 4:45 PM

    I think that if I were you I would wnat to go to counseling and find out why it is so important that he initiate if he does reciprocate when you need him to. It’s not like he is withholding affection from you, right? He is giving you what you need. Be happy with that, there are women out there who would kill for that from their partner and you are looking at it like it still isn’t good enough. Seriously, take a good hard look at what you really need from this.

  • Feeling the same

    Feeling the same

    December 19th, 2014 at 2:31 PM

    I also come from a very close family where we hug very often and spend every moment in the house together, so i can very easily put myself in your situation. I could not be happier with my boyfriend we have an amazing connection and share the same love for snow, we have so much fun most of the time, he is very caring and open. I charish these moments best as I can.
    In the beginning he was the same and it was love from the start of the day til the end, his hand basically never left me except when skiing. Sadly over times this sort of fades, but apparently not for me, and it’s been over a year.
    I have a hard time with this I could be on him like a coala bear all day and all I want is to tell him in everyway how much I love him. We’ve spoken about this but lately, he always gets annoyed. Same way as you I take a step aside and he comes back to me. But that’s not how I want my relationship to be. All I wish is for it to still be mutual, maybe that I would feel comfortable with taking a step back. But he’s said it himself you are a very passionate person and that’s why I love you. But giving and giving without any spontaneous giving back drains yourself. How long is it worth hanging in there waiting for these moments? I wish I could help you but at the same time I’m trying to figure this out myself.

  • stacey s.

    stacey s.

    November 1st, 2015 at 6:17 PM

    My boyfriend thinks we hug on schedule, why does he think this ??

  • Angel

    Angel

    March 22nd, 2016 at 4:30 PM

    Neither one of us felt loved so when we found each other and discovered we were huggers and cutters and lovers we cling to each other for dear life. I think you need to find a special personality that likes to hug and love in touch I’m not sure you can put that in to another person.

  • Tlynn

    Tlynn

    March 5th, 2017 at 5:11 AM

    I don’t know if we will ever understand why men act like they do or if men will ever understand why women act like we do. Honestly, I don’t think we should even try to put that much thought or focus on why we don’t get the emotional support we need from guys. I don’t think my man is wired to be hugging all over me every time I want it. It seems though that the guy I am with is a very kind man. Like the other day, he fixed my washing machine….The week before that he built me a chicken own because I wanted laying hens. He helps with groceries…etc.. What I’m trying to say is try to look at what he does do for you. Stop worrying about petty things. Talk to your mom or your friend when you’re feeling down. If he’s a good man dint push him into being someone he’s not. Do you think that you really meet all of his needs and wants? I highly doubt it. If he spends time with you he cares for you. Just because you have the label of boyfriend doesnt mean you can change who he is. If he can’t be who he is and be comfortable he will eventually get tired of it and seek someone who is happy with what he has to offer…

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