Ever feel like your partner continually shows you affection in a way you really don’t want? If your inner monologue is telling your partner to *read the room* on a daily basis, you’re not alone.
Especially when you’re in a loving long term relationship, it can feel like no matter how many times you nudge your loved one to respect your boundaries, lines can be blurred and misinterpretation can set in. The result can make you feel continually disrespected, even offended by your partner and their constant lack of regard for your personal space.
So what do you do? How do you definitively draw that line without discouraging your partner from affection at all? How can you get through to your loved one in a way that allows respect, consent and trust? We’ve pulled together a few ways to help you and your SO get back to a place of mutual understanding.
1. Discuss the ground rules.
Sit down with your partner and establish ground rules that, if broken, clearly cross boundaries in your relationship and become blatant acts of disrespect. Let your partner know very clearly when is and when is not a good time to show affection. If your partner crosses a boundary after this conversation, clearly communicate that this is not the terms discussed and you feel unheard. Remind them of the agreed upon boundaries and reset.
2. Tell them how you feel, in detail.
Sometimes we have been with one another for so long we assume we’re able to read one another’s minds and draw the same conclusions based on a look (glare) or action. The reality is, we simply never know what another person is thinking and the best way to build intimacy and mutual respect is through clear communication. It might not be a comfortable conversation, but it’s an important one.
Try to phrase examples of situations and how they make you feel. Ask your partner to help the two of you come up with ways you can work together to avoid these feelings as you know they are not what your partner intends.
- When you touch me while I’m cooking, it makes me feel groped, not loved. Can we have a conversation or tag-team in the kitchen? I’d love to connect a different way during that time.
- When you touch me before you and I have a debrief on our day, it makes me feel taken advantage of. Can we find time after the kids go to sleep to reconnect about our lives while we snuggle up on the couch (and before we binge watch a TV show that night)?
3. Rework your schedules.
It’s very rare that both partners have the same sex drive at the same time. If you know you’re going to be tired late at night when your partner is normally ready, plan a time during the day where you’re both able to dedicate some free time. If that’s not an option for you, discuss committing to a babysitter or a stay at Grandma’s once every X weeks to help reserve time just for the two of you.
4. Don’t keep secrets.
The less you share with one another, the less you know! It might sound obvious, but sharing your secrets is a way of maintaining vulnerability and intimacy in your relationship. Are you feeling different than you usually do? Are you questioning aspects of your life? Did something funny happen to you today that your partner will have a good chuckle about?
Remind yourself that you’ve chosen your partner as your partner for a reason. Let them know you want to get vulnerable and talk to them about what’s happening with your inner monologue. Ask them to share their thoughts in a non-judgemental way and try to put themselves in your shoes for a helpful conversation.
5. Learn from each other.
Make note of any patterns you’re both seeing so you can take the time to make this a learning opportunity. Share outwardly with one another when you see that an effort is being made— make it known you see that work-in-motion and appreciate it. Everyone is different, and respect goes both ways. We’re all trying our best and when we recognize that effort, it can go a long way.
Finding yourself in a situation where despite all these efforts, your partner continues to disrespect your personal space? It’s time to call in the big guns—professional and family support. Talk to any professional you trust—your doctor, a therapist or a hotline where resources can be found. Or simply call your confidant (a friend or loved one) and ask them to help you establish resources and professional support. These helpers are here for a reason and can support you in coming up with a plan to ensure your safety and protection.