A question about intimacy issues and touch sensitivity

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Orbyss
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25 Jan 2009, 2:59 pm

Right, so I thought for a while my boyfriend was probably neurotypical and simply had issues due to the way he'd grown up, but as I've spent time living with him for the past month or so, many quirks (odd subconscious routines, making strange connections others don't, difficulty knowing whether to be vocally quiet or not, etc.) are leaving me completely confused and scratching my head as to the true nature of his problems.

The biggest issue, and the possible deal-breaker for me, is that it has come to light he has pronounced issues with sensitivity to light touch. Considering how I find it instinctual to touch his hair and face lightly during intimate moments, this is a very big problem. It's a boundary I'm having a hard time with, because I often forget myself and go on what feels right deep down in my monkey instincts (or whatever it may be). Social grooming for me is a favourite pastime, and when it comes to getting close for the night and wanting to relax my mate, it's not just second nature to brush my fingers lightly over him, but hard to stop. I now have to remember I can't do it, and just where I shouldn't touch.

As he describes it, when I brush just about any part of his body lightly and unexpectedly, it's very intense and shocking, but not quite painful. He says it sort of itches, but not enough to scratch it. What really scares me is that he jumps, or even thrashes when it happens, which is hard on my nerves. It\s getting to be that I'm afraid to touch him at all, or be close to him, because of his reaction. It totally breaks trust and intimacy in the moment for both of us. An exception seems to be now and then, when he invites it, but it has never happened to my knowledge when I've lightly touched him in any way spontaneously.

What I'd love to know is if this sounds familiar to any of you. I know these things can be variable between people, but if I could just get more insight into it in general, maybe it would help both of us. I would also love to know if there's a way he could possibly enjoy this, through conditioning, if it's not something outside of a neurological mishap. And if there are any other women with boyfriends like this out there, have you learned how to cope? I'm one of those spazzy emotional types that greet things with passionate responses rather than direct reasoning.

Thanks in advance. :(



Hector
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25 Jan 2009, 3:11 pm

I tend to react like this. However, I found I could improve myself by actively recognising that it could be a problem and actively dealing with it. In particular I used to react violently, and even lose my temper, if people touched me suddenly on the back. What I used to do was tell people "I'm sorry, I have a problem with being touched in the back."

One day though I told myself that the next time someone touched me in the back, I would pretend that it didn't affect me. And the next time it happened I just about managed to stop myself from jumping, and found it to be a much preferable direction to take than just going through with the reaction and explaining it away. From then on being touched actually affected me significantly less, though of course I haven't had to live with someone who wanted to touch me all the time so there may still be issues...



Orbyss
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25 Jan 2009, 3:23 pm

Would you be able to explain what it feels like? Is it actually physical, or more of a mental reaction? The way he describes it, it's as if it's his skin, rather than just a reaction to someone touching him. He likes massages ok, from what I can tell, it's just that light brushing and caressing that's the problem, from what he says.



Hector
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25 Jan 2009, 3:25 pm

I wouldn't describe it as an itch, in my case. I just instinctively tense up, and it's uncomfortable because tensing up dramatically is in itself uncomfortable.



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25 Jan 2009, 3:28 pm

Well I enjoy such contact, so I can't help you much on that. However, one thing I do know and feel is the reaction to the unexpected. If someone were to touch me in the back lightly, without my knowing said person was there, I would probably flip out as well... If such things happen, the first thing that runs through my mind is that someone is trying to stab me in the back or something... The main thing to mitigate this situation is to let him know that it is coming...



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25 Jan 2009, 3:31 pm

Many of us are hypersensitive to touch, especially very light touch - worse if it is unexpected. It is part of autistic sensory processing, and is a fact of our lives.

Sadly, if your most natural intimate instincts are intolerable to him, you run a great risk of this "intimate incompatibility" becoming a major issue in your relationship as time goes on. Whilst it need not be automatically a "dealbreaker", it should be considered carefully as you move forward.



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25 Jan 2009, 4:21 pm

I don't think I have touch sensory issues as bad as other people here, I think I would absolutely love it if a girl was caressing my back or anywhere.

Although there was this one time that this really cute girl standing behind me in the lunch line ran her fingers down the back of my neck unexpectedly and my whole body stood straight up and my eyes widened, lmao. I actually would love for that to happen again. Girls never touch me



anna-banana
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25 Jan 2009, 4:56 pm

I heard that regular application of deep pressure (like a weighted blanket) can make you less tactile sensitive.


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25 Jan 2009, 8:19 pm

I have this same issue with light touch, expcially when unexpected or anywhere near my neck. For me it feels like pins being stuck into the area... without actual physical pain. Knowing its coming can reduce the sudden knee-jerk reaction to it and after awhile I can get used to it. Perhaps you can try doing a pressure touch before the soft touches just so that he can prepare himself.


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25 Jan 2009, 8:32 pm

I have never had touch issues, nor do i really like any particular sensations
that as just never there-and thusly I think I'd not be able to be with an aspie because of that (though I have never met one so that's not a huge problem lol)



t0
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25 Jan 2009, 10:43 pm

Sounds like me. I find that a warm shower (or hottub) reduces my tactile sensitivity. As does alcohol, but I wouldn't recommend that one as a long term cure. Some people seem to be less sensitive if you touch them in a particular direction - say moving down the arm rather than up it.

I would describe light touch as more of a tickle than an itch. The problem for me is that once it starts, it cascades. Basically I anticipate that any further touching will also tickle and I move away.



Hector
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25 Jan 2009, 10:45 pm

I think "tickle" is a good description of it, at least for me.



Orbyss
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25 Jan 2009, 11:49 pm

Thanks guys, that does help. We tried stuff earlier and he seemed to enjoy it. He says now that the problem is really when he's very tired. He believes a lot of normal people may have similar problems, and that maybe people with AS are just particularly more sensitive to it than those in the normal population. I think he's basically saying that his comes and goes with his state of mind, such as being tired.

I also tried to lotion today to see if that may work. Does anyone else find that works at all?



JennaJ
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26 Jan 2009, 12:32 am

Orbyss wrote:
Right, so I thought for a while my boyfriend was probably neurotypical and simply had issues due to the way he'd grown up, but as I've spent time living with him for the past month or so, many quirks (odd subconscious routines, making strange connections others don't, difficulty knowing whether to be vocally quiet or not, etc.) are leaving me completely confused and scratching my head as to the true nature of his problems.

The biggest issue, and the possible deal-breaker for me, is that it has come to light he has pronounced issues with sensitivity to light touch. Considering how I find it instinctual to touch his hair and face lightly during intimate moments, this is a very big problem. It's a boundary I'm having a hard time with, because I often forget myself and go on what feels right deep down in my monkey instincts (or whatever it may be). Social grooming for me is a favourite pastime, and when it comes to getting close for the night and wanting to relax my mate, it's not just second nature to brush my fingers lightly over him, but hard to stop. I now have to remember I can't do it, and just where I shouldn't touch.

As he describes it, when I brush just about any part of his body lightly and unexpectedly, it's very intense and shocking, but not quite painful. He says it sort of itches, but not enough to scratch it. What really scares me is that he jumps, or even thrashes when it happens, which is hard on my nerves. It\s getting to be that I'm afraid to touch him at all, or be close to him, because of his reaction. It totally breaks trust and intimacy in the moment for both of us. An exception seems to be now and then, when he invites it, but it has never happened to my knowledge when I've lightly touched him in any way spontaneously.

What I'd love to know is if this sounds familiar to any of you. I know these things can be variable between people, but if I could just get more insight into it in general, maybe it would help both of us. I would also love to know if there's a way he could possibly enjoy this, through conditioning, if it's not something outside of a neurological mishap. And if there are any other women with boyfriends like this out there, have you learned how to cope? I'm one of those spazzy emotional types that greet things with passionate responses rather than direct reasoning.

Thanks in advance. :(


Sounds a bit like my ex husband. He was not AS, he had a mild form of Borderline personality disorder - i say mild in that his counselor said he exhibited many symptoms but i don't think it was as pronounced as most with it. When he settled in and was relaxing if i would lightly touch him he would do what you describe out of your b/f. The jumping up and thrashing and OH GOD because it startled him so much just had me to the point i was afraid to touch him. And i can't tell you how hard this was for me because like you, touching lightly and being loving is just a part of who i am. We were married four years - there were many things that made this marriage unbearable and led to its demise, not just this one, so don't think tihs was the ONLY thing that made it unworkable and that your own relationship would end the same.

I love to touch, lovingly, the person i am with, so this set us at a disadvantage from the start.

I am now dating a man with AS who not only LOVES my touch, but craves it. He says it sends him to another world and when i lightly touch him and massage him he is so appreciative of it and he says it seems to relax every muscle in his body. It is SO different being with someone who not only likes but craves my touch. Big difference. My ex just didn't like it at all, he didn't like hugging either.

I have read that some aspies can't tolerate too much touch, my b/f is the opposite. He responds to it very positively and seems to crave it.



jawbrodt
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26 Jan 2009, 12:36 am

I can't really help with any suggestions, but I do have this "touch" problem. I think it's due to "lack of" while growing up. I don't think it has to be a permanent problem though, I'm pretty sure I could get used to it with a little time. Maybe start out with smaller doses, increasing gradually? Just a thought, as I've overcame some other things in my life that were just as significant, probably even more. In my case, I'm kind of bullheaded(or competetive) in that I figure that if someone else can do something, then I can. :)


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