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She's too Affectionate for Me

Dear Philippa,

I very much in love with a girl I have been dating only a little while. She's an incredible person and very affectionate and loving. I don't want to lose her. But while I enjoyed all the touchy-feely stuff in the beginning, I'm now feeling like it's just too much. Maybe it's the demands of graduate school, but I'm feeling her affectionate attention is overwhelming. Are my feelings a normal part of a relationship or is something wrong with me?

�Ted, Anchorage, AK


Dear Ted,

There's an old saying: Men cuddle to get sex and women have sex to get cuddles.

No Ted, there's nothing wrong with you. Just before I read your letter my husband and I were eating at our favorite pizza place and chatting with our friend the waiter. He was complaining that the woman he was seeing wanted more affection than he felt comfortable giving. My husband then told me that he had felt the same way some times when we were dating. That spiced up the pizza discussion.

My husband attributes your differences to the realm of Mars and Venus relationships. I think this has more to do with the amount of physical affection we are raised with. I was the youngest child in an immensely affectionate family. My husband was the oldest of four boys.

Scientists say that there are chemical substances released in our bodies when we cuddle. Women typically have more of these substances because they must physically respond to the nursing and cuddling needs of children.

There are many reasons why some people need more affection. The question is how do you deal with it in your relationship.

You mention that you are under quite a bit of pressure from school right now so that may be contributing to your feeling of being overwhelmed by your girlfriend's attention. I wonder too if your girlfriend senses your discomfort and consequently is seeking ways to feel closer to you and overcome her insecurity. Can you see how your unspoken behavior could contribute to the situation?

It's normal during the early part of a relationship to be caught up in the excitement and physical stimulation. Then when things calm down to a more normal pace and the newness wanes, the quantity of affection you need may also diminish. But not so for everyone�your girlfriend's hasn't. She still needs lots of cuddling to feel close.

When we love someone we want that person to be happy. Love is a choice, not a magic spell or romantic fantasy. We can choose to provide those we love with what they need even if we don't need it ourselves. We can choose to stay up late listening to problems or we can choose to respond to the need for cuddling.

You can equate meeting your girlfriend's need for affection as responding to a demand or simply as an expression of your love. If you have had a really tough day and just need some peace then you can tell her that you need some quiet time. Then later when you're ready, give her lots of hugs and affection. Relationships require give and take. Both people can not always get what they need when they want it.

As you and your girlfriend get closer, talk about these things and let her know how wonderful you think she is and how you value the relationship. Explain that sometimes you just need less affection than she does. As she becomes more secure in the relationship she'll understand when you are not in the same mood she's in. And as you feel less pressure you will instinctively feel more like pleasing her. Your other alternative is to find someone else who shares your need for less affection.

It sounds to me that you are an exceptional guy and this is an opportunity to develop a great relationship with a special woman.




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