Unless youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re a contestant on The Bachelor, you probably donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t feel the need to tell your partner that youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re so, so into them every chance you get. After all, this can come off as a little over-the-top on the first few datesÃ¢â‚¬”and itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s pretty much a given after youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve been together for a while. But when it comes to showing affection, new research suggests that couples are holding back surprisingly often. People report withholding affection from their romantic partners an average of five times a week, according to a recent study published in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships.
Why We Do It The researchers had 36 people keep a weeklong diary, recording every time that they withheld affection from their romantic partners (which included everything from friends with benefits to fiancÃƒÂ©s). Their reasons for playing it cool ranged from understandable (they didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t want to smother their guy in front of his friends) to slightly malicious (they did it to punish or test their partners). But the most common reason was to control their partnerÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s perception of themÃ¢â‚¬”for instance, not wanting to appear too clingy or needy.
Is it Bad For Your Bond? In most cases, people withheld affection for harmless reasonsÃ¢â‚¬”like if the time and place wasnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t right or if they werenÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t feeling very lovey-dovey at that moment (even though they normally would be at that time). And this isnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t necessarily going to hurt the relationship, says Sean Horan, PhD, assistant professor in the College of Communication at DePaul University, who co-authored the study with Shannon Carton, PhD candidate at West Virginia University. Essentially, it all depends on the context and the intent. Ã¢â‚¬Å“Sometimes youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re just reining it in,Ã¢â‚¬Â says Horan. Ã¢â‚¬Å“Other times people use it as a punishment in a relationship or when theyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re mad.Ã¢â‚¬Â
That said, holding back too much means you could be missing out on some major benefits. Ã¢â‚¬Å“What IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve found in long-term studies of marriage is that affirmation and affection is essential and vital to happiness in a relationship,Ã¢â‚¬Â says relationship expert Terri Orbuch, PhD, author of Finding Love Again: 6 Simple Steps to a New and Happy Relationship.
Watch Out for These Signs So how do you know if holding back is hurting your relationship?Ã‚Â If youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re doing it for a negative reasonÃ¢â‚¬”like to get back at your partner or test them to see how theyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ll respondÃ¢â‚¬”thatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s a bad sign, says Orbuch. Whether youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re jealous, frustrated, or suspicious of your partner, holding back your affection out of spite probably wonÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t get you what you want. Ã¢â‚¬Å“If youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re punishing them, that doesnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t send the right signal because they still donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t understand why youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re upset,Ã¢â‚¬Â says Orbuch. Ã¢â‚¬Å“And if youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re testing them, it can easily backfire.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Another red flag is if you make a habit of playing it cool in your relationship. Not only will you send the message that youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re not that into your partner, but youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ll both be missing out on all the feel-good benefits of being in a couple. Ã¢â‚¬Å“ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s been shown that our bodies respond really well when weÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re affectionate,Ã¢â‚¬Â says Horan. Ã¢â‚¬Å“In general your cortisol, blood pressure, and heart rate are lower. So if youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re in a regularly affectionate relationship, youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re generally less stressed and functioning better.Ã¢â‚¬Â
How to Fix It First, try to catch yourself when youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re holding backÃ¢â‚¬”whether youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re just not being as touchy-feely as usual or youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve made a conscious decision not to say the L-word at a time when you normally would. Then, ask yourself why. If thereÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s a negative intent behind it (like that youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re feeling jealous or you want to get even at them for ignoring you earlier), recognize that this isnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t the most constructive way of dealing with it, says Orbuch. Ã¢â‚¬Å“ItÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s not about replacing this with affectionÃ¢â‚¬”itÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s about communicating what youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re actually feeling,Ã¢â‚¬Â says Orbuch. The bottom line: DonÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t fake TLC if youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re not feeling it, but let your partner know it if youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re upset/angry/uncomfortable. ThatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ll ultimately be a lot more productive than refusing to kiss your partner and hoping theyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ll take the hint.
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