This simple move can spell disaster for your relationship

The ‘bristle reaction’ is a common phenomenon, writes Franki Cookney. But it can be devastating

Monday 04 December 2023 13:52 GMT
<p>Touch is the primary way we communicate intimacy </p>

Touch is the primary way we communicate intimacy

When my youngest child was about seven months old, I was sitting on the sofa, half-watching whatever was on the telly, half-debating whether 8:30pm was too early to go to bed, when my husband, who was sitting next to me, went to stroke my hair.

Far from welcoming it as an expression of care, I did something I don’t think I’d ever done before. I flinched. To him, it was merely a gesture of affection, but to me at that moment, it felt like an unspoken request for sex. And in those overwhelming, sleep-deprived, milk-sodden days of early parenthood, sex just felt like yet another thing someone wanted from me.

That new parents get “touched out” after they have a baby is well known. You spend so much time holding the baby, carrying the baby, and in my case breast-feeding the baby, the last thing you want is more physical contact. But underneath what I think was the entirely understandable need to be left the hell alone, something more pernicious lurked. I knew that by avoiding physical affection, I was sending myself down a slippery slope.

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