Giving and receiving affection in personal relationships can be a struggle for many people. Negative experiences in familial and intimate relationships often cause people to build emotional walls to prevent future hurt. Learning to be comfortable with affection is important because it demonstrates your care and concern for others, says Susan Leigh, a counselor and hypnotherapist, on her website Live Life Well. Instead of forcing yourself to be affectionate, take the time to resolve the issues that have made it difficult.
Address Your Past
Some people are naturally less affectionate than others, but those who are uncomfortable with affection often have unresolved issues that create boundaries. Experiencing an emotional wound in a relationship may have caused you to consciously and unconsciously create self-protection strategies, making you feel as though you are in control of the situation, according to the article, "Barriers to Intimacy," on the Turning Point Therapy website. Acknowledge what happened in your past and how it impacts your current feelings about affection. Recognize that others are not perfect, embrace both positive and negative emotional outcomes and learn to grow from the experience.
The more comfortable you are with yourself, the easier it will be to give and receive affection. Understanding the way you think, feel and behave can reduce negative consequences, such as trouble with intimacy or sharing emotions with others, according to research conducted by Erika Carlson of Washington University in St. Louis. Employing the strategy of mindfulness, which is viewing your current experience in a non-judgmental way, may improve your ability to see yourself truthfully. Knowing your verbal and non-verbal behaviors can help you learn more about how you deal with affection and where there is room for improvement.
Communicate Your Feelings
Honest communication may relieve tensions and uncertainty surrounding affection in your relationships. Admit your feelings to your partner, friend or family member instead of holding them back. Unexpressed experiences and feelings can build walls between people and interfere with the ability to show affection, according to Turning Point Therapy. When you share your pent up emotions and work to resolve past issues, it can open a pathway to deeper connections, allowing for affection to come more naturally.
Spend More Time With Others
If you are uncomfortable with affection, you may have a tendency to withdraw from others and spend more time alone. Turning Point Therapy warns not to make excuses that you don't have time; instead, intentionally set aside time to spend with those closest to you. Plan ways to be with others, and consider how you can show more affection and express appropriate responses, such as, remembering to say "I love you," writing notes, giving hugs and holding hands, suggests the National Fatherhood Initiative website.
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Sharon Bolling holds a master's in counseling and human development with a concentration in school counseling from Radford University. She is an experienced instructor of both high school and college students. She has been writing for Demand Media online since April 2013.