Pregnancy is filled with symptoms. Some are wonderful. Some are painful. Some are annoying. Some are confusing. Some are knock-you-off-your-feet-life-altering. But, assuming baby is healthy, none is more challenging to even the healthiest of relationships than when one-half of the partnership does not want to be touched.
After all, relationships are built on many things -- trust, mutual values, respect, like-mindedness, physical attraction, and a healthy dose of intimacy. That’s how that peanut got in there, after all! Particularly if this is a first pregnancy, few expect it or know how to deal with it. Some don’t even know how to label it.
For many pregnant women, aversion to touch is a reality. It can range from a slight aversion to touch, to avoidance of certain forms of intimacy, to feeling physically ill in the presence of your partner. This can last a few weeks, a few months, or for the entire duration of a pregnancy and can be very confusing to both mom and partner.
Naturally, the main focus during a pregnancy is the well-being of baby and mom, but certainly, when touch aversion is present, dad needs some extra consideration. No doubt, navigating pregnancy at the best of times can be tricky, so here are some things to think about to keep your relationship on track if aversion to touch is present.
7 Be Upfront and Honest
Don’t let your partner guess what’s going on. He is likely confused, hurt, resentful, and angry -- or some combination thereof. You may also be feeling confused, sad, and guilty. Talk about how you’re feeling and lay blame where blame is due by letting him know that this is one of the less pleasant side effects of pregnancy.
Pregnancy hormones wreak havoc on the mom-to-be, and you don’t like it any more than he does. Reassure him that you are still attracted to him and that this will be short-lived. Nine months at most, but, in fact, it may disappear as quickly as it came on.
Talk about it and keep talking about it. You may have good days and bad. Set expectations for him so there are no surprises. It’s important for you to determine what you can manage. For example, is it easy for you to touch him but not vice versa? Keep him informed.
He might not be the only one.
You may also need to guide your partner about putting his own feelings aside if you have other children who are craving contact. For some women, the aversion to touch is isolated to their partners, but for others, it is more general. A healthy distraction for your husband may be fulfilling your other children’s TLC and cuddle needs.
Ultimately, don’t forget he’s your partner and deserves to understand what you are going through. He’s your safe place, your confidante, your biggest supporter, and your sanity check, so keep the lines of communication open in order to leverage and build upon what you already have.
6 Isolate and Avoid Triggers
Think about whether or not there are triggers that set off your aversion to touch. For example, does your hubby’s cologne or aftershave make your stomach turn? Are you more averse to touch later in the day when you are worn out? Are there certain parts of your body that, when touched, you cringe? Does cuddling feel more like smothering?
If you are able to isolate triggers, you can lay some ground rules to help you both navigate this situation. If scents are a trigger, suggest your partner switch to gentler, more natural products or ease up on the amount he uses.
Give license for some parts and forbid whatever necessary.
If you can handle cuddling in the morning but not in the evening, then set aside some time before you get out of bed to snuggle. If having your belly, earlobes, or nipples touched makes you cringe, then tell hubby to avoid those areas. Oftentimes, breast tenderness is a serious issue that can exacerbate touch aversion.
For some, the aversion to touch is grounded in fear and anxiety. Some women are worried their babies will be harmed during intercourse. If this is true for you, it’s important to speak to your healthcare practitioner about your concerns so they can put your fears at bay and/or provide medical guidance.
This is also a good time to remind your husband of respect. There is a difference between ‘touching’ and ‘groping’, and many women, pregnant or not, have an aversion to the latter which can be exacerbated during pregnancy. Further, you are probably feeling quite protective of your body (and your belly in particular), so guide your partner with respect to what you want and need in this department.
5 Show You Appreciate Him in Other Ways
Marriage is about fulfilling one another’s needs – emotionally, socially, and physically. Although expressing love is most obvious when demonstrated by physical intimacy and touch, there are many other ways to show your partner you appreciate and value him. When touch aversion is present, think about other ways to validate your husband’s feelings at a time when he is feeling slighted.
For example, cook his favorite meal, give him a back rub, take him out for a romantic dinner, or send him off for a night out with his friends. Another great way to reassure him is to leave little notes for him to find during his workday.
Harness your words and this digital age!
Sweet text messages can also have an impact. These are fun ways to inject some romance into your relationship, whether you are pregnant or not. Think about what you did when you were first dating, and do those things again.
You can also make promises for the future (post-birth) around things he can look forward to in the bedroom, but this can be a slippery slope. If they are meaningful to him, he’ll hold you to it, and the unfortunate reality for your partner is that it will probably be hands-off for a while post-partum.
4 Help Him ‘Appreciate’ Himself
For some women, the aversion to touch is all encompassing and lasts through the whole pregnancy. We all know that men know how to work their equipment very well, but as a result of your aversion, your hubby may have to take matters into his own hands (pun intended) more often than not.
Encourage this! You can be his biggest supporter if he’s up for it. You will very likely learn things about your husband through this, as well as about yourself.
You may have made it abundantly clear that you have no desire to be an active participant in the bedroom, but you can certainly be a passive one. Undoubtedly, your hubby finds your new curves sexy - your breasts are engorged, your belly is swelling, your derrière has a little extra padding.
Don some sexy lingerie and be eye candy for him. Help him choose some movies. Talk dirty. Role-play. I guarantee your man will be up for it. If this is something new for you as a couple, you may find it has staying power and becomes standard in your bag of tricks.
3 Remind Him He Is not Alone
There is strength in numbers. He’s certainly not the first man to experience this and he won’t be the last. Let him know it’s normal. Encourage him to commiserate with his friends who’ve been through it before. I assure you, at least one of them has! They may not come up with solutions, but the venting alone will be therapeutic.
In addition, there are a lot of online accounts of people going through the same thing. Many husbands and fathers have shared their stories and lessons already. Encourage him to read some of the accounts to help validate his own feelings. He may even find some comic relief through the process.
Other men have survived, and he will too. Other marriages have survived, and yours will too. This is a perfect opportunity to remind him of the strong foundation you have built that has weathered other storms. This too shall pass. And by the way, let us not forget there is a massive silver lining at the end of all of this! (More on this in point #7 below.)
2 Talk to Someone
Every couple will deal with this issue a little differently. Some men may shrug it off and understand it will pass, while others may feel deeply troubled by the lack of touch and intimacy. Others will deal with it with humor. That said, it can be particularly traumatic if your partner views this as a window into the future.
If things are bad now, how is it going to be when the little peanut arrives? You certainly don’t want your husband to resent your bundle of joy before he/she has even arrived. For some couples, talking to a professional may be the best course of action. Furthermore, it may help mom deal with any feelings of guilt or anxiety that the situation brings out.
An objective view is always helpful.
If you feel overwhelmed and unable to deal with this issue on your own, or if you simply need a third party to weigh in, reach out to a professional. This may mean a therapist you are already connected with, but if you don’t have a therapist, your family doctor or ob/gyn can also help.
Sometimes all it takes is the wisdom of a professional to assure you that this is normal and to provide some methods for coping. Some couples may find it comforting to discuss this and other issues on a more regular basis as they prepare to adjust their lives pre- and post-baby.
1 Remind Him It Will all Be Worth It
Last, but certainly not least, remind him that this entire crazy process of pregnancy will all be worth it in the end because your prize will be a new, little, wondrous, bouncing, bundle of joy. Life forever after will be altered in the most miraculous and positive way. Nine months in the grand scheme of things is a tiny fraction of time. This is a journey you agreed to embark on together, and you both knew it wouldn’t be pretty at all times.
This is also a great opportunity to remind him of all that you are going through… exhaustion, sore back, swollen ankles, heartburn, extreme hunger, weight gain, varicose veins, tender breasts, pigment changes, rashes, mood swings, gas, nausea, dizziness, joint pain, constipation, hemorrhoids, baby brain, itchiness, peeing every 5 minutes, weird food cravings, your body changing in seemingly impossible angles…The list goes on and on. Heck, you might even poop on the delivery table.
You are, after all, the vessel for growing an entire human being. Perhaps if this is all he has to deal with, he might consider himself lucky. Suck it up, buttercup. (Ok – maybe you shouldn’t say that, but if you do, just blame it on a mood swing.)