Your partner walks in at the end of the day and puts their arm around you, looking for a little physical affection after a day of running around. You instinctively recoil and move away from their touch as quickly as possible. If this sounds familiar, there’s a good chance you’re feeling “touched out.” And although this is a totally normal feeling, there are some things to know about feeling “touched out” that will help you and your partner deal with it.
For starters, what does being “touched out” mean? It means that you’ve spent so much time in physical contact with another human, providing affection and care, that the thought of any more touching makes you retch. It’s something that new parents are especially prone to, as small children are all-consuming and need both your mental and physical attention.
My child , for example, prefers to sit directly on my chest while we’re on the couch watching TV, and she must be in my arms while I cook our entire dinner.Plus, we’re still nursing, so she’s constantly putting her hands in my shirt. By the time my husband gets home and leans in for a kiss and a playful grope, it’s the last thing in the world I want. It’s nothing personal, though it may feel that way to him, but the truth is that I just can’t handle any more touching.
Having an understanding of what being touched out is and why it happens can help you cope with it, and can help you avoid having it turn into a fight between you and your partner. Here are just a few things to know about this all-too-common emotion.
1. It’s Totally Normal
The feeling of wanting to not be touched when you have a child hanging from you 24 hours per day is super common. This can be exacerbated for parents who are nursing, co-sleeping, and staying home with their kids during the day. I think all parents have experienced this at some point.
2. It Doesn’t Make You A Bad Mom
As parents — and particularly moms — it’s easy to feel guilty about almost everything. Feeling like you just want your kid to get the hell off of you does not mean you are a cold, uncaring parent. It means you’re a human being who needs and deserves personal space. Everyone needs to breathe sometimes, and it doesn’t mean you don’t love or cherish your kid.
3. It Doesn’t Make You A Bad Partner
You cannot be everything for everyone, and often, when you’re giving a lot in one area, it takes away from what you can give in another. So when your young child is requiring a lot of your time and affection, your partner may receive less of that affection. That’s OK. Relationships ebb and flow, and you are not a bad partner because you can’t drop everything to meet their physical needs at that moment.
4. It’s OK To Seek Out Some Alone Time (If You Can)
You’re allowed to take care of yourself. In fact, you should take care of yourself. If there isn’t someone you can hand the kids off to, you don’t have to be above locking yourself in the bathroom for five minutes. Giving yourself the space to breathe and recovery will make you a better, more patient parent when you walk back out the door and into the arms of your waiting child.
5. It Doesn’t Mean You’ve Lost Interest In Your Partner
Although it is common for libido to drop in the year following childbirth, a low libido or lack of interest in sex may not be the only reason you’re avoiding getting it on with your partner. The feeling of being touched out can make sex seem like the most unpleasant thought in the world, and it can be easy for your partner to take it personally or think you’ve lost interest in them. But being touched out has nothing to do with how into your partner you are. It’s about the need that all humans have for bodily autonomy. Since you can’t control how and when your child needs or touches you, it’s common to exert control over being touched where you can — and often that’s in the ability to tell your partner not to touch you.
6. It’s Important To Seek Out Ways To Create Emotional Space — Not Just Physical Space
Although being physically needed all the time can be exhausting and can make you feel claustrophobic, it can take a toll emotionally, too. If you were someone who experienced repeated physical boundary violations as a child, the experience of being touched out can be extremely triggering or can bring back familiar and unpleasant feelings. Finding the space to not just physically separate, but emotionally decompress and regroup as well, is crucial.
7. It’s Won’t Last Forever
On the one hand, the feeling of being touched out can feel like it will never, ever go away while you’re in it. On the other hand, those perpetually optimistic parents on the message boards have a point when they say that one day you’ll miss having a kid who actually wants and needs to touch you. The reality is somewhere in between those two places. It’s OK to feel overwhelmed and exhausted while you’re raising very small people who need you all the time. But it’s true that it is temporary, and eventually, it will be a phase that you look back on with nostalgia — and maybe a little gratitude for the fact that it’s over.