Someone asked: “How do I teach my spouse to show me affection?”
There are many strategies I could list, but first I suggest considering three questions:
1. Why do you want more affection? I know, it’s obvious, right? Doesn’t everyone want affection? Yes, for the most part (except, of course, for those people who live in the woods and never talk to or touch other beings with beating hearts and who are perfectly content.)
Consider the question. Really get down to the specifics of why. Do you feel unloved? Are you having issues getting in the mood for sex? Do you miss the affection your partner once showed you, back when your partner was trying to woo you? Are you walking around with a strange, uncomfortable “things aren’t right” feeling that you don’t understand – but, somehow, you believe affection might erase? Some other reason? Once you know your reason, it’s easier to communicate the importance of affection to your spouse.
2. Are you showing yourself affection? This is an important question to consider, especially if you feel unloved. Do you feel unloved because of what your spouse does or doesn’t do? Or do you feel unloved because, deep down, you believe you are unlovable? Only you know whether you feel unlovable, but a possible sign: you crave affection like a drug. You just can’t get enough of it because getting affection is the only thing that allows you to feel good about who you are. If this is the case, your partner trying to fill your heart with affection is like trying to fill a bucket with a hole in the bottom.
If you feel unlovable, consider why. If you can point to legitimate reasons – you are a serial killer, you defrauded thousands of people out of their life savings, you torture puppies, you recently jacked up the price of a life-saving medicine by more than five thousand percent – then stop doing what is making you feel so bad about yourself, apologize for your actions, and put things right. Time will not make you feel lovable again. Nor will affection that comes from someone else. But becoming a person you can admire? That generally works.
If you can’t point to legitimate reasons, then learn how to fill the deep, gaping hole in your heart. Maybe you’ve heard of self-compassion. Perhaps self-affection should be a thing, too. What self-affection actually looks like will vary from person to person. For me, it’s giving myself permission to rest. Rather than feeling guilty for taking a nap or sleeping in, I tuck my inner child into bed. The child is me. I’m tucking myself in. Yes, it’s a little odd to think of yourself in two parts like this, but it works. Try it. Mother yourself. Maybe you mother yourself by taking a moment to jump up and down, clap and carry on when you do something right. Or maybe you serve yourself your favorite dessert and you eat it without guilt. Perhaps you wrap yourself in a cozy full-body sweater as you take five minutes to listen to the rain and tell yourself that things will get better. Or maybe you excitedly set your alarm early so you can get up to watch a sunrise.
Or maybe you remind yourself of all the reasons you are lovable. And you are lovable.
3. What is affection? This might seem like common sense, but trust me, it’s not. Everyone has their own definition of affection. What is yours? What does affection mean to you?
Once you know the answers to those questions, then you can figure out what to do about it all. That’s when you ask for the affection you want, explaining why affection is so important to you and what affection looks like to you. Make sure to point out the upside for your spouse. You’ll be happier, less stressed, more in the mood for mattress time, more energized – whatever is true. That’s also when you create a cheatsheet of affectionate acts (pat my bottom when you walk by, call in the middle of the day to hear my voice, spoon with me on the couch…) for your spouse to consult when they’re stumped. Remember: Your spouse cannot read your mind. If you don’t give your spouse an affection map, your spouse will get lost in the forest of apathy.
Nudge you partner from time to time with comments like, “You know what would make me feel loved right now? A hug” or “If you gave me a massage, I think it would help me get in the mood.”
I know, I know – it doesn’t feel like affection if it’s not spontaneous. Get over it. Change your definition of what qualifies as true affection. If you ask your spouse for help and your spouse responds by helping you, your spouse is showing you the highest form of affection of all. You ask and your spouse responds? You are loved, baby. Soak. It. Up.
Compliment your spouse whenever your spouse shows you the affection your desire. And give back. Find out what kind of affection your spouse desires. You might want cuddles, but your spouse might define affection as being left alone in the garage or having the permission to sleep in. Give your spouse the affection your spouse desires – not the affection that you wish your spouse desired and not the affection that you desire for yourself.
And have fun.
Some Random Things
A reader got in touch because she’d noticed a nasty comment on an old post. It was directed at me, telling me that I was a bad person and that I should take a permanent vacation from this blog. Considering I wrote my last post more than six months ago, the reader justifiably worried that I’d taken the comment to heart. She wanted to know what she could do, and she offered to police the comments area. It seemed like a very kind gesture, and I want to put it out there for all of you. This isn’t about my personal feelings. I’m pretty tough these days. But it’s my hope that the comments area on this site remains a positive place where people can truly help one another. When trolls invade the comments, the site stops being positive and people don’t feel free to share. So do point such comments out to me. I will delete them. There’s no room on this site for hate.
Second, the nasty comment wasn’t why I hadn’t updated the blog in so long. The true reason: my paying work got super busy + I was exhausted due to a drug interaction + I was out of inspiration + I had some seriously time-consuming life issues that left me with no free time to do things like write new posts. You all can’t give me time or energy or stop my brain from developing migraine headaches, but you can offer inspiration.
Finally, I co-authored a new book. If you struggle with eating, this is the book for you. This is an affiliate link. If you click on it, I make a nickel or a dime or some small amount of change, and I appreciate every penny.