Home  >  Love Couch  >  Broken Hearts

A Lack of Affection And Intimacy in a Relationship: Is It Time to Walk Away?

A lack of affection and intimacy in a relationship can point to serious problems. It can also make one or both partners feel unloved. Take action now! 

lack of affection and intimacy in a relationship

A lack of affection and intimacy in a relationship is a big issue. It’s a chronic problem that can, eventually, if left unchecked, be the root cause of a breakup.

There are many potential reasons why this situation has happened. It could be that one partner has simply become a little busy at work and been distracted. Or, it could be that one partner has checked out of the relationship and simply doesn’t know how to explain it.

Short-term affection problems can be solved, provided communication lines are open. However, when one person isn’t particularly affectionate and the other is, how can that relationship survive?

[Read: The 7 non-negotiables in a relationship you shouldn’t compromise on]

Why are affection and intimacy needed in a relationship?

Without affection and intimacy, you’re not really lovers. Instead, you’re just very good friends. Housemates even.

The affection and intimacy in a relationship are what make you a romantic couple. Without them, you’ll feel disconnected, probably a little cold in the relationship, and you’ll slowly drift apart. 

Affection can be anything from holding hands to cuddling. Intimacy can be sex but it can also be opening up to one another and sharing your secrets. All of these things are needed for a strong relationship.

Some people need more affection and intimacy than others. But, if there is a total lack of affection and intimacy in a relationship, then that’s a serious red flag that something isn’t quite right. For sure, you can work it out and look to bring your relationship back to the glory days. But, in some cases, it’s simply time to call it quits. [Read: Is it normal to be feeling doubts in your relationship?]

What do you need in a relationship?

Be honest, this is a safe space, after all. Do you need a lot of hugs and kisses? Are you a touchy-feely, cuddly kind of person? Or, do you prefer space and feel a little uncomfortable with PDAs?

A relationship is made up of two people, and there are no two people on this planet who are the same. This is a good thing. Can you imagine how boring it would be if we found clones of ourselves wandering around?

Of course, this also presents challenges, because that means every person has their own likes, dislikes, and their own set of personal boundaries. This can be even more of a problem when two people with very different boundaries meet and join forces.

That’s why compromise is so important in a relationship but that should never mean a total lack of affection and intimacy. If you’re simply not getting any of what you need, it’s time to address the situation seriously. [Read: How to be more affectionate in a relationship and show them you care]

What can contribute to a lack of affection and intimacy?

There are several main reasons why a couple might find themselves seriously lacking in the affection and intimacy departments. Let’s explore the main ones and what you can do about them.

1. Different personalities

Simply two differing personality types, who need different things from their partner. You can’t change someone and make them more touchy-feely if that’s simply not something they feel comfortable with. But you shouldn’t pull yourself back and force yourself to be less so as a result.

It’s about being honest about what you want and your boundaries. Then making a choice based on how you feel about it.

For sure, compromise, but don’t compromise to the point where your partner is getting everything they want and you’re left feeling out in the cold. [Read: Dating expectations – Type A versus type B personalities]

2. Different love languages

Have you heard about love languages? There are five different love languages and it’s thought that we all have one primary language and perhaps verge on the cusp of one or two others. These are:

a. Words of affirmation

b. Acts of service

c. Receiving gifts

d. Quality time

e. Physical touch

Your primary love language dictates how you show love. So, if you’re someone who is primarily a physical touch person and your partner is more about receiving gifts, you may find that you don’t show affection in the same way.

This could lead you to misunderstand one another and feel unloved when in fact, it’s simply that your love languages are out of whack.

Spending time exploring your love languages may help you to give and receive more of what you need. [Read: Words of affirmation – How to use them & 20 examples to say it right]

3. One partner feels taken for granted

When one partner feels like they’re being taken for granted, it could be enough to cause them to pull back on the relationship. Rather than talking about things openly and trying to fix it, they decide to wait for their partner to figure it out.

Now, nobody should take their partner for granted, but it does happen. Also, nobody is a mind reader. Making sure that you devote enough time and attention to your partner is key, but communication is vital too. [Read: 16 reasons why you’re always being taken for granted]

4. Previous bad relationship experiences

Maybe one of you has a history of a bad relationship and it’s causing you to hold back on giving affection because you’re worried about coming over too needy. Maybe you’re scared that your partner will leave and you’re putting up your walls to protect yourself.

We all have baggage to some degree, but there are cases when someone’s baggage can be enough to cause them to withdraw and cause a lack of affection and intimacy in a relationship.

They might not realize they’re actually causing a self-fulfilling prophecy by how they’re acting. The answer? Communication!

Be understanding about your partner’s concerns and reassure them of your relationship status. [Read: Emotional baggage – How to help someone put it down and find freedom]

5. Stress, work problems, health issues, family and money problems

Other reasons can be temporary. For instance, one partner going through a period of stress at work and they’re distracted. They might not realize that they’re not being as affectionate with their partner as they normally would be. In this case, a gentle conversation might be all it takes to right the issue.

The above problems are all very common in life and they can be enough to cause major stress. When we become stressed, we tend to focus upon that one thing only and we don’t realize that we’re not giving everything else, or everyone else, the attention they need.

Having open lines of communication helps to avoid the issue turning into a chronic, long-term deal. You can support one another through difficult times without it affecting your relationship detrimentally. [Read: How to show affection when it doesn’t come naturally]

6. Previous cheating

If you cheated on your partner in the past and you’ve both decided to give it another go, it’s possible that they will withdraw a little while they deal with the trauma.

This is normal, and for a while, it may mean that there is a slight lack of affection and intimacy in your relationship. But, this shouldn’t go on forever.

If your partner has chosen to forgive and move on, then that’s what should happen. For sure, support them and show your affection, build their trust and help them to get over the situation, but also know that you cannot be constantly reminded of the issue if you’ve both chosen to put it behind you.

If you’re someone who has been cheated on and you know that you’re withdrawing from your partner, do your best to move on. It’s hard, we know.

But, if you chose to give your relationship another go and you’re still bringing it up and dwelling on it, it’s simply not going to work. [Read: How to forgive a cheater – 8 questions to face the betrayal]

7. Deliberate lack of affection and intimacy in a relationship because it’s effectively over

We don’t want to mention this particular possibility, but if we’re being honest then it’s something we have to face. Another reason for a possible lack of affection in a relationship is deliberate. This could be that one partner has simply checked out mentally and doesn’t want to be in the relationship anymore.

Don’t panic if you’re noticing a slight dip in affection, it doesn’t necessarily mean this is the reason, but it’s the worst-case scenario that we have to mention for completeness’ sake.

It could also mean that you’ve drifted apart and you’re simply not in love with each other anymore. [Read: How to say goodbye to someone you love without fear]

Again, communication is key. Telling your partner what you want is also about telling them what you don’t want, and that means if you’re no longer invested in the relationship.

If your partner is being cold simply because they don’t want to be in the relationship anymore then they’re acting cowardly and expecting you to cause a problem, so the relationship can end via those means. [Read: Lack of communication in a relationship and why it signals the end]

Dealing with a lack of affection and intimacy in a relationship

By reading this far, we’re assuming that you are in this very situation. You’ve noticed your partner is being a little less affectionate than they normally would be. Before you jump in and consider the worst-case scenario, ask yourself these questions:

a. How long has this been going on?

b. Is it out of character?

c. Are there any situations or problems in their life at the moment which could be the reason?

d. Am I showing affection? [Read: Love and affection – The magic spark in long-term relationships]

The number one thing to not do is mirror. The last question on that list might seem odd, but if someone is showing less affection, we mirror their behavior and pull back on the amount of affection we show them.

As a result, they mirror us. The whole thing turns into one big vicious circle which could have been solved by simply having an open and honest conversation!

When to speak up

Saying to your partner “you’re being less affectionate” isn’t easy. You need to address if it is bothering you. If it’s only been going on for a few days or a week, wait it out a little.

Perhaps there is a reason and everything will return to normal, but if you’ve noticed it’s been going on for a while and making you feel down, time to talk about it. [Read: 16 non-sexual touches to feel really connected and loved]

Avoid blaming or accusing your partner of being cold. Don’t do the “we have to talk” scenario. Keep it light and playful if you need to, but simply ask if anything is bothering them because you’ve noticed they’ve been a little less affectionate of late.

By asking if anything is wrong, you’re turning the attention to a helpful and positive stance, rather than a “why aren’t you cuddling me” accusation.

Hopefully, the answer will come your way and things will right themselves simply by highlighting the issue. If not, then that is something you need to consider for yourself. [Read: A guide for effective communication in your relationship]

In the end, it may be time to walk away

A relationship devoid of affection isn’t fun or loving. If you’re someone who needs affection then you’re only punishing yourself by staying in a relationship that doesn’t give you what you need. In this case, we believe it’s time to call it quits.

It might not be what you want to hear, but do you really want to beg someone for affection? Of course not, you want it to be given freely. That’s what you deserve.

[Read: How to keep a relationship going when you feel it slipping away]

A lack of affection and intimacy in a relationship can be a temporary blip or the beginning of the end. Approach the situation with caution and care to find out the reason and make a decision for yourself.

Liked what you just read? Follow us on Instagram Facebook Twitter Pinterest and we promise, we’ll be your lucky charm to a beautiful love life. And while you’re at it, check out MIRL, a cool new social networking app that connects experts and seekers!

Nicky Curtis
Nicky Curtis
Having stumbled from one relationship drama to another throughout her 20s, Nicky is now somewhat of a guru in the crazy world of life and love. Telling it how i...
Follow Nicky on