With most relationships, physical chemistry usually starts out hot and heavy. The relationship is new and exciting, so it seems like you're constantly getting intimate. But as time passes and you start to feel comfortable with your boo, it's normal to feel that constant craving for intimacy simmer. You and your partner could be totally in love without constantly having to touch and be touched every night. But there's a difference between feeling comfortable and feeling physically rejected. And when you find yourself thinking, “My boyfriend isn’t affectionate anymore,” or, “My girlfriend feels so distant,” it’s tempting to feel like you’re the reason to blame.
However, according to experts, there could be a lot more going on with your partner than what meets the eye, so don't freak out just yet. "Sometimes a partner withdraws affection because he or she is struggling with stress, mental health issues, illness, or trauma, and they are inwardly focused and stop paying attention to you," Brian Jory, relationship expert and author of Cupid on Trial: What We Learn About Love When Loving Gets Tough, tells Elite Daily. Basically, a decline in affection from your partner doesn't have to mean they don't desire you.
Of course, those are just some explanations for why your partner is withdrawn and not being as affectionate as they usually are. Jory adds that they might also be upset with you, not in the mood for what usually follows affection or intimacy, or — in the worst-case scenario — not in love with you. So what does it mean when a man doesn’t show affection anymore? Here’s what experts have to say.
What Does It Mean When A Partner Isn’t Affectionate Anymore?
While there are several explanations for a partner suddenly withdrawing, it usually comes down to a lack of communication. As Tom Jones, APC, MAMFT, and therapist at Berman Psychotherapy, tell Elite Daily, “An interruption in affection can often mean an interruption in connection or communication. Oftentimes our response when we see this behavior will be to fear the worst. In these moments one can find themselves asking scary questions like, 'Have we lost our chemistry? Is he/she not attracted to me anymore? What did I do wrong?' These can be overwhelming and catastrophic questions that can make us feel panicked and hopeless.”
And unfortunately, it sometime is the case that your partner is no longer affectionate because they’ve fallen out of love. "If the reasons have to do with loss of love, often there is not a lot that can be done," Jory says. "It’s difficult to get love back once it goes. Love is what fuels trust, affection, [and] intimacy, and once it goes you can be in an empty shell, residing together but living alone."
But it’s important to then recognize these bad thoughts and try to ground yourself before jumping to conclusions. Not all is lost just because your partner is pulling away, and you can work on getting that affection back, as long as you’re open and honest with your partner. “Remind yourself that disconnections are very common in relationships and can be managed if you and your partner are willing to work together,” Jones adds.
What Should You Say To A Partner Who Isn’t Affectionate Anymore?
Bringing up a partner’s lack of affection can feel awkward, but it’s important to bring the issue to light, especially if it’s causing you distress. "The first thing is to talk about how their lack of affection feels to you," Jory says. "Do you feel empty in their coldness? Do you miss their touch or kind words? Express your own feelings rather than blame your partner. This shows that you respect their reason for pulling away from you and are willing to consider their feelings. Blaming them for pulling away only drives them farther away."
If you’re not sure how to start the conversation, Jones recommends that you “reflect to them that you are sensing distance and that you are open to hearing about why your partner is withholding.” As he points out, “Communication is always the key to working through difficult moments, so try to remember that your partner's experiences and feelings are important. The reason this is the first step is that, if you try and force connection and your partner isn't ready, then you will be met with resistance, and the whole system will feel frustrating and tense.”
In addition, Jory says to try and remember that you and your partner once had a connection, even if it feels like it's gone now. "One way to regain affection is to focus on the positive," he explains. "Being happy, positive, giving compliments, and building up your partner is more likely to draw them back to you. Negativity only drives them further away."
Can A Relationship Survive With A Partner Who Isn’t Affectionate Anymore?
While it isn't ideal, loss of affection in a relationship also isn't the end of the world. As Jess O’Reilly, Ph.D., host of the @SexWithDrJess podcast, previously told Elite Daily, “Levels of sexual desire fluctuate over the course of a lifetime and ebbs and flows are perfectly normal. A decline in desire is not necessarily an indication of a problem and there is no ideal baseline for levels of desire.” But if you’re constantly wondering, “What does it mean when your wife doesn't show affection anymore?,” then chances are your SO’s withdrawal is causing your relationship damage.
If your partner isn’t into sex right now, try to ask for affection in other ways. “Even if you’re not having sex, schedule time for other types of affection and connection,” Dr. O’Reilly added. “Sexless need not mean loveless, so look for other ways to connect physically, intimately, and emotionally so that you have a foundation for sexual connection.”
Focus on the good, but also remember that you deserve a loving and supportive partner, and if your SO is simply unwilling to show you love anymore, then it may be time for you both to move on.
Brian Jory, relationship expert and author of Cupid on Trial: What We Learn About Love When Loving Gets Tough
Tom Jones, APC, MAMFT, and therapist at Berman Psychotherapy
Jess O’Reilly, Ph.D., host of the @SexWithDrJess podcast
Editor's Note: This story has been updated by Elite Daily Staff.
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