Expert advice

Dr Gabrielle Morrissey: Sexologist

Dr Gabrielle Morrissey has been a sexologist — sexuality educator, sex therapist and sex researcher — since 1990. She is also the author a number of successful books.

My boyfriend won't stop touching me

Tuesday, September 25, 2007
That he's always touching you could indicate a few things: a) he's so intensely attracted to you he can't keep his hands off you; b) touching you has become a habit and much like mindless 'doodling'...

I live with my boyfriend of five years who is constantly touching my private areas — not to get me aroused but just because he wants to. I've explained to him that I don't get a thrill anymore when he touches me or even when we have sex. Most times I don't want to have sex because when he starts touching me I get this annoyed feeling — like he has to be touching me all the time, even when I don't want him to. I've tried telling him how I feel and explained that I think this issue is causing my lack of sex drive and I've told him not to touch me whenever he likes, but it's still happening. We can't even sit on the lounge and watch TV without him touching my breasts all the time! I've lost interest in having sex with the person I love and it shouldn't feel annoying and unexciting, should it?

Five years into a relationship it's not uncommon for sex to sometimes feel unexciting, but no, it should certainly not be annoying. The way you've described the situation, it's a little hard to exactly ascertain what's motivating his behaviour, particularly after you've talked to him and explained the repercussions of his constant touching.

That he's always touching you could indicate a few things: a) he's so intensely attracted to you he can't keep his hands off you; b) touching you has become a habit and much like mindless 'doodling' with a pen, he's not even aware of how easily and often he touches and plays with your body; c) he's obsessed with you and/or sex and feels a compulsion to always be touching you in a sexual way; d) he feels insecure and feels touching you to be a comfort and reassurance; e) none or some/all of the above!

In order to get him to stop, you both need to understand what exactly is motivating him. He also needs to develop some empathy for you, and your experience of receiving his touch when it isn't always wanted. You can help him to develop this by sharing your point of view in a calm and consistent way, so that other defensive emotions don't get in his way to really hearing you.

You have to be very strict with your boundaries. Your body is yours, and just because you're in a relationship with your boyfriend doesn't mean he gets to touch you whenever he wants — you have to want him to touch you too! Telling him this clearly obviously hasn't been enough, so a consistent message over time needs to also happen. Telling him just once is not enough, so each time he touches you, you need to reiterate that you don't want to be touched right then, and then explain why — this is the important part so he really hears you. Don't rebuff him in a mean way, as this will create a negative pattern in your relationship that will do more damage in the long run. This approach may seem to him as constant rejection, so it's important that it must be balanced with positive touch that is initiated by you sometimes, this way he learns that when you do like to be touched it's a positive experience for both of you.

It's no surprise that you feel the same annoyance to touch during sex, even though you care for and are attracted to your boyfriend because the constant touching has reframed your perception of him to the extent that any touching, in any context, flips your brain circuitry straight to annoyed rather than aroused. He might be looking for you to be aroused, as he is, however once your template gets short circuited to annoyance, nine out of 10 times it will flick to that, rather than aroused. This is a common conditioned response, so to reprogram this response, you need a variety of positive touch stimuli, initiated by you, when you're in the mood, to create some sexy arousal that feels good (rather than annoying) to you. When this has a positive effect on your sex drive, and on your perception of your boyfriend as a kind and sexy guy who listens to you, rather than a completely self focused, disrespectful and annoying guy, he'll see the benefits and help make the behaviour changes too.

Once you're both on board with new boundaries around your bodies and believe you're both listened to and respected, your relationship will improve and your love life will spark again. Getting the thrill back will then be your next step!

Answer published 25/9/07.

For more information please see Dr Gabrielle's website or visit her consultancy website Bananas and Melons.

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