There are lots of ways to avoid revealing that you don’t like being touched. You can always be rushing around like you’re really busy, or make sure you’re holding a sleeping baby. You can cover yourself in bees. But these are quite time-consuming, and they use up a lot of the earth’s precious bees. The bees are dying, Janine. Learn a newspaper.
Nah, eventually you just have to be upfront, you have to say: “Hey guess what this is kind of a big thing for me, I don’t find physical contact as easy as other people, I need you to be patient with me and understand where I’m coming from. Also, I killed a man in 1997, and I don’t regret it.” Just be really honest. Because why not?
You deserve to be with someone who rolls with that, who says okay that’s fine, we’ll make it work, I’ll be patient with you, you’re not broken, I’m an undercover police officer, you’re in prison now. It’s called having a functional adult relationship, baby. Here’re some tips for doing the dating thing if you — like me — hate being touched.
Patience is key.
Normally when I’m dating someone, my rules about touching and physical proximity eventually stop applying to them, at least in certain situations. But it doesn’t mean I’m suddenly everyone’s weird Uncle Genneth who makes every hug last for 46 seconds and insists on kissing both cheeks twice. I’m still just me — the me who values personal space and sometimes would rather drink vinegar than touch another living human. And I know that can sometimes be frustrating for the person I’m seeing. They can feel neglected and unloved, and whether that’s true or not, I have to let them feel that. If you can’t both see things from the other’s perspective and keep an open dialogue about it, then it gets really sour really fast. Like the vinegar I was talking about before. The perfect metaphor. My god. I’m so talented.
It doesn’t make you weird and even if it does who cares everybody’s weird.
Nobody’s normal. It’s just called being a human person on the planet of earth. Hello. Welcome. It’s bad here; the economy is always broken, and we can’t stop doing global warming. But love is also very real and very wonderful. And it’s out there even for those of us who’ve never felt totally deserving of it. It’s not a flaw to hate being touched sometimes. We’ve all got trauma, we’ve all been told to hide, to be ashamed, to behave as though we’re gliding through life even when we’re not. I call bullshit.
There are plenty of people out there who will treat your unease with touch like it’s an embarrassing weakness. These people weren’t your people to begin with. You’re not broken. You’re not unlovable. You’re not an alien from hell. You’re fine. You do have some ketchup on your jorts, but honestly, I think it looks nice.
Public displays of affection can be exhausting.
Holding hands is all well and good, but what if I see a dog off in the distance and I try to run to it but oh great, I can’t. My stupid boyfriend has me in a vice-like grip, and now the dog is gone. THE DOG IS GONE. That’s the kind of shit that ruins relationships. I think we can be just as in love as we walk around swinging our arms by our sides, our hands free to wave, pick flowers, point out a cloud that looks like a penis. We could even each hold two ice creams at once. Two. At once. What could be more romantic? Nothing, you fucking idiots.
Being mindful of what pushes you to the limit can save you a lot of hurt.
When you have a daily limit for how much you can stand being touched, going into a crowd at a gig or a festival or even a particularly busy cheese aisle in a supermarket can drain your energy: It’s like having tokens at an arcade and then flushing them all down the toilet at one time. It’s crazy to keep doing it. So don’t push yourself into things that you know will make you feel anxious and overwhelmed just because you think that’s what you’re meant to do when you’re dating someone. No, what you’re meant to do is have a great time with your person, doing something you both want to do.
There are lots of ways to be affectionate.
Buy your boo a fish. Build them a cake. Care for them emotionally. Be with someone who gives as much value to all of the other parts of a relationship as they do to physical compatibility. I’m not saying that physical compatibility isn’t important. It is. It’s wonderful, actually, but if it’s all you have then you don’t have much. You need all of the ingredients together if you want to make a delicious relationship trifle. Accepting less is like substituting pickled onions for strawberries and trying to smile when you eat it: So dumb.
It’s not playing hot and cold to want physical contact sometimes but not others.
Sometimes you crave physical intimacy, and sometimes you need space. Sometimes you want a Pepsi, and sometimes you want a drink that isn’t terrible. It’s called being complex and nuanced and — you guessed it — just a regular human being. As long as you’re not using it as a tactic to wield power, to punish or to hurt your partner, you’re entitled to those changes.
Don’t give up on yourself. Keep working at it.
Don’t ever let your difficulty with physical intimacy become something that you feel ashamed of. But don’t consider it totally out of your control if you feel like you’re ready to change it. But do this for you first, not just the person you’re seeing. Try holding hands more, try laying together in a non-sexual way. Whether you’re like this because of trauma or just because, if it holds you back it’s something that you need to address. But nothing grows from shame. Shame just makes more shame. Did you ever see that film The Blob? It’s about a blob. The blob keeps eating people and getting bigger. It’s an incredibly disrespectful blob. I wouldn’t recommend it. Watch Flubber instead if you really want to watch a movie about goo. My point is: Shame in a relationship is like the blob in the hit 1988 film The Blob starring a blob as the blob. It consumes all the good and ruins everything.
So go. Eat trifle, shrug off your shame, date just as you are.
You’re good enough. You’re ready.