Being affectionate with your partner is typically considered a good thing, but this is a case where there definitely can be too much of a good thing. Sometimes, affection can feel over-the-top and the recipient can start to feel suffocated by loving gestures. It can happen if someone is just not that affectionate themselves or because they're not feeling as affectionate at a particular time, whether they're stressed about work or maybe because they're questioning the relationship.
If you're an affectionate person, don't worry — being affectionate is a natural, lovely thing. Physical touch is one of Dr. Gary Chapman's five love languages that describes one of the five most common ways people express love. But sometimes — especially if your partner has a different love language and isn't naturally affectionate — affection can feel overwhelming. And that's when things get complicated.
Unfortunately, rather than just asking for space, a lot of people will just try to hide the fact that they're getting annoyed or frustrated. And if you're being overly touchy-feely, your partner may start craving some distance or some alone time but not know how to ask for it. "Many people feel hurt when their partner asks for alone time because they see it as a personal insult or a sign of disrespect for the relationship," certified counselor Jonathan Bennett tells Bustle. But if your partner is feeling overwhelmed, it might be exactly what they need. Of course, the best thing you can do in this case is communicate with them and get on the same page, but sometimes it's not always clear why they're acting standoffish.
If you get the feeling that something is off with your partner, but you can't figure out what it is, here's how you can tell if they're feeling a little smothered, according to experts.
1They're Being Less Affectionate Themselves
If they're feeling like you're being too affectionate, then they're probably going to be less affectionate themselves — maybe hoping you'll follow their example and give them some space. As bestselling author and relationship expert, Susan Winter, tells Bustle, your partner might be finding your physical touch invasive, so backing away from it when it's not being reciprocated makes sense.
2They're Being Vague About Plans
If they're too scared to ask you to back off a little, they might just make more excuses to be alone. "If you try to make plans with them and they say, 'You'll have more fun without me' or 'That's not really my thing,' it could be because they need a little breathing room," says licensed marriage and family therapist Dr. Racine Henry. They may be looking for space to recharge.
3They're Locked Into Their Phones
Being on your phone is a great way to zone people out, so if your partner is all about screen time when you're trying to be affectionate, that might be a sign. "While this varies widely depending on the individual, some signs your partner may need to take some space for themselves might include ... turning towards their screens more or spending more time in the den or garage — any place where they can naturally get a little more space from you without asking for it directly," family therapist Annie Wright, MFT tells Bustle.
4They're Easily Annoyed
If they're getting frustrated and turned off and don't know how to say it, there's a chance those emotions will bubble up in other places. Your partner being irritated with you or seeming short for no reason is a classic sign that they need space, relationship expert Dr. Ryan Hooper tells Bustle. If they're picking fights or being more adversarial than usual, pay attention.
5They Come Up With Excuses To Be Alone
Offering to run errands that don't need running, spending more time in the other room, or anything that's creating their own space may be a sign that they're finding your affection suffocating. "A partner is apt to mask their need for space as something else, especially if they fear losing you," author and life coach Jaya Jaya Myra tells Bustle. So there may be a lot of excuses for why they do it, but it's essential that they need space.
6There's A Change In Your Sex Life
If your partner is feeling uncomfortable, that's going to show somewhere. "Sexual spark is one of the most important aspects of any romance and while it doesn't necessarily maintain itself over the course of a lifetime, any big drop-off in the amount of sex you're having is a red flag," Caleb Backe, a health and wellness coach at Maple Holistics, tells Bustle. Sure, everyone's sex life is different — and that's OK — but if there's a big change in yours, you may want to look at why.
7They're Getting Critical Of You Over Other Things
It's difficult to criticize someone for being affectionate, so they might even take a shot at other things about you. "More negative than positive interactions imply a lot," therapist April Neff, LMSW tells Bustle. "What we say is just a reflection of the thoughts we let out." So they may start critiquing your work ethic, your friends, your hobbies, etc. because they're feeling frustrated with you and they can't say the real reason why.
If you feel like maybe you've been showering your partner with too much affection, don't feel too down about. Sometimes, people just need a break — especially those that express themselves differently. So, even if they're not asking for space, it's important to know the signs that affection might be turning them away. If you're noticing these sign, try talking to your partner so you can figure out a solution. After all, you both deserve to feel comfortable in your relationship.