Before there was even a term for it, every mother in the history of time has understood what it means to feel "touched out." It means your arms hurt from holding your sick 2-year-old for the last 12 hours. It means your boobs are sore from nonstop nursing. It means you would like, just once, to sit alone on your side of the restaurant booth while the kids pile up on Daddy's side not giving him an ounce of elbow room. Because spouses don't always have the same experiences, it's important to learn how to talk about being touched out with your partner.
Primary caregivers spend countess hours in bodily contact with another human being. You are constantly feeding, wiping, burping, cuddling, comforting, bathing, dressing, rocking, carrying, placing the baby in the car seat, and taking the baby out of the car seat. By the end of the day, you fall into bed, glance over at your spouse and think to yourself, "Please, don't look at me that way. I just can't. Not tonight." Your skin begins to crawl at the mere thought of being intimate. Of course, your partner just wants to love on you, but you need some personal space.
Here are some ways to talk to your partner about being touched out, and what you can do together in order to work through it.
Just because it should be obvious that after an long day of nursing, snuggling, and carrying little ones, you might need a little no-touch time, it doesn't mean that your partner gets it. Peaceful Parenting Coach Sarah Rosensweet wrote that your partner is not a mind-reader, and it's important to explain your feelings and help your partner understand that your body is responding negatively to touch at the moment, and that you need a little personal space to feel better.
Roya L. Rezaee MD, Co-Director of the Program for Sexual Health and Vulvovaginal Disorders at MacDonald Women's Hospital told The Stir that the phrase, "touched out is a catch-all term for feeling like 'I have nothing for me.'" Discuss your need for a little daily alone time. It can be a walk, a long shower, a drive, or an hour to sit quietly and read or watch TV. Figure out a schedule that works for you both, and use that time to focus on being you. Not "Mommy," not "spouse," not "employee," not "milk factory." Just you.
Having kids takes a lot of the spontaneity out of your love life. If you've been feeling touched out and your partner is feeling neglected or rejected, it may be a time to schedule a regular date night. This can mean going out, or even staying in to snuggle together and catch up on all of your favorite TV shows. Schedule it so that it becomes a priority and you don't go even longer without being intimate. Rezaee warned, "the longer you go without intimacy with your partner, the harder it becomes for you to find each other again."
You have the right to body autonomy. Breastfed infants and very small children can't truly understand that concept of not wanting to be touched, but older children and spouses can, and they must be respectful of your body. Don't feel guilty about saying "no, not right now."
There will come a day when your kids grow up and don't want to be held anymore. You will crave their touch, and occasionally they will give in for a quick hug or a snuggle on the couch. But, the days of being touched out will pass, and you will be ready to receive all of your spouse's hugs and kisses again.