Not everyone is comfortable with physical contact.
Whether it’s hugging, cuddling, or even just a handshake, sometimes the intimacy of the moment is just too much for people.
But at what point does the lack of physical contact start to negatively affect those around you?
One mom, Redditor Mediocre_Activity497, recently posted on the subReddit “Am I the A**hole” (AITA) to figure out if she’s in the wrong, asking:
“AITA for not cuddling my son?”
The original poster (OP) first laid out the history behind her aversion to physical contact.
“I know this sounds bad, but hear me out.”
“Ever since I (F37) was 5, I have generally hated physical contact with most other people. I refused to hug or kiss my parents, didn’t hold hands with family/friends etc, hate maintaining eye contact and the like.”
“I think my parents were bothered about it as I grew up but just accepted it and it really wasn’t an issue.”
“I have always hated the custom of hugging friends when we meet up and I detest cheek kissing. I know this is weird but it makes me physically uncomfortable, but I only have a small circle of close friends who have known me forever and its not been an issue.”
Things didn’t change much after she had her son.
“I had a son when I was 27 and obviously love him thoroughly and as a baby he had plenty of cuddles etc. But since he was a toddler I haven’t really had much physical contact with him.”
“I find it uncomfortable (don’t know how else to put it.. I have a revulsion?). For the most part I didn’t think he was bothered, he has plenty of attention, I’m just not cuddly with him. (we have private handshakes /fist bumps etc)”
After he spoke up, the OP was forced to confront the issue.
“But the other week, he told me it bothered him that all the rest of our family/his stepdad cuddles him but that I don’t. I tried to explain it, but I’m not sure as a 10 Yr old he could understand.”
“I feel rotten about it but it’s not just him, it’s evidently how I’m wired.”
“But here’s where I may be the a**hole (TA). With my partner I am always snuggled up.”
“We are very close physically (and I always have been with sexual partners). But to me physical contact is only for one person, the one I am with, anyone other than that and it feels wrong/awkward/horrible to me.”
“I’m wondering whether I shouldn’t show so much physical affection in front of my son.”
“My mum thinks I am TA for this. I should either hug my son as much as my partner or keep physical contact with my partner strictly private.”
“And that I should just ‘get over it’ and put up with feeling uncomfortable hugging my son because my feelings don’t count when it comes to that kind of situation.”
The OP clarified they do hug their son.
“I DO hug him. I just don’t snuggle up all cuddly on the sofa.”
The OP later added an edit to her post to explain exactly what kind of physical contact she’s ok with when it comes to her child.
“I do not starve my son of physical contact. He often lies with his legs over me, I tickle him, we have secret handshakes, I hug him.”
“I also explain my feelings to him and we discuss his feelings. I just don’t feel comfortable cuddled up face to face with him.”
Fellow Redditors were then asked to make a determination about the situation by declaring:
- NTA – Not The A**hole
- YTA – You’re The A**hole
- NAH – No A**holes Here
- ESH – Everyone Sucks Here
Most Redditors agreed that the OP was TA for potentially causing damage to her son by withholding affection.
“You need therapy not a reddit thread. Cuddles aren’t repulsive for someone you choose to be sexual with but are for the child that came out of you?”
“Like how am I not supposed to be heartbroken for that little boy?”
“YTA because as soon as you realized you wouldn’t be able to give your son love and warmth you should have spoke to a professional. F*ck, you should’ve addressed this before having a kid.”
“I grew up in a family that didn’t show affection and 39 years later the therapy never ends.”—StonerForgeMystic
“I grew up in a very affectionate-less home too with absentee parents who were cold to me and showed me very little warmth and I discovered through therapy as an adult that that’s the reason for a lot of my problems.”
“Like really toxic habits when it comes to seeking attention from men and my relationship with men in general, and somewhat self-destructive hypersexual habits 🙃”
“NOW as an adult I’ve got it under control, but it f*cked me up and made me do some impulsive and very stupid things throughout a specific chunk of my teenager and young adult life because I was so desperate to seek some sort of acceptance/love/physical comfort.”
“Reading this makes me sad for the kid.”
“I’ll never not attack my little 10 year old sister with hugs and kisses and love. Receiving love like that from someone, specifically a parent at a young age, DEFINITELY plays a role in how safe a kid feels in the world.”
“It’s a matter of giving that kid emotional stability, some sort of physical anchor. Children don’t process emotions the way adults do.”—duralex-sedlex
“You snuggle your partner in front of your child whom you refuse to cuddle. YTA. Your child, who cannot comprehend your revulsion to cuddles, just sees his mum cuddling her partner but not him.”—laurenellemartin
When one Redditor asked the OP what steps she’d taken in the past to try to fix the issue, she responded:
“Until recently, when he off handedly said something along the lines of ‘how come you cuddle with [step dad]?’ it hadn’t occurred to me.”
“He has never before brought it up as an issue, has never shown any upset, any sign that he is struggling, or that it bothers him in a meaningful way. I think if it did he would have shown signs before now.”
“Yes, of course I am an awful mother for not even realising that I didn’t cuddle him like my partner. Now that the issue has come to light I am looking into it.”
“I don’t understand how I can fix a situation I am not aware of, but obviously by the virtue of this I’m a bad mother /a**hole for not realising there is a problem.”
“And although I didn’t come here for advice, people dispense it anyway.”
“Some comments are really helpful, and I have tried to thank people for them. Others are just spiteful and mean, but as I have said I have come here for judgement and take it all.”
It didn’t sit well with everyone.
“I’m reluctant to give a judgement, but as the daughter of a mother who, like you, hates to be touched: We notice, and it hurts. I spent most of my childhood touch starved.”
“Please seek help before you damage your son further.”
“Edited to add as top comment: At this point, I have to go with YTA. It could have been N/A/H, but your comments have tipped it over.”—eve_forbes
“Another daughter of a mother who hated to touch and only ever did it in public where socially expected. I grew up extremely touch starved as well. It does real damage.”
“Yes, OP needs to seek professional help.”—sunnykl
Some Redditors addressed specific comments the OP made.
“YTA. This is absolutely a problem you need to actively solve, because it’s going to hurt your son, not just now but in the long-run.”
“‘my feelings do count'”
“They do, but as a parent you have to make some sacrifices for the wellbeing of your child. You brought this kid into the world, and your job is not just to keep him alive, but to love him, and make sure he knows he’s loved.”
“To see you happily snuggling up with your partner when you won’t touch him is going to make him feel like he’s the problem.”
“‘I’m wondering whether I shouldn’t show so much physical affection in front of my son.'”
“That’s not the issue! It’s normal for children to see their parents showing affection to their partners. What’s not normal is for them to be excluded from physical affection.”
“Please, please address this.”—WebbieVanderquack
“YTA. Sorry, I was going to go with not the a**hole, but then you got to the exception for partner. If you can let your partner in, you should let your son in.”
“Go to therapy. Learn to hug and snuggle your son… he deserves your best.”—ProudBoomer
But not everyone was willing to vilify the OP.
“I’m gonna say NAH and a lot of people are filling in a false narrative and sticking to it hard.”
“The issue at hand is strictly cuddling, ie, prolonged close contact.”
“Hugs are fine, the child is being hugged, being interacted with on a regular basis, being taken care of and talked to. The ONLY issue is with cuddling by OP’s own words and people are going on a witch hunt saying she’s not giving him any attention at all.”
“While I’m not going to say one way or another what specifically needs to be done, something obviously does, but she can’t just flip a switch and change a fundamental feeling that she’s lived with her whole life.”
“Maybe she needs to talk with her son because 10 is old enough to start understanding some fundamental differences and can understand that mom and dad love is different from mom and son love.”
“I dont know about you guys but at 10 cuddling was NOT part of my agenda or plans, least of all with my mom. It could very easily be a case of the son noticing different forms of affection.”
“But I’m not going to commit to that because I don’t know.”
“Point being something needs to be addressed either in conversation or therapy.”—Crash4654
“I am going to go a bit of a different route and say NAH.
“Based on your comments, it appears you hug, and otherwise touch and show affection, however, you do not appear to actively cuddle for extended periods (I read this as sit holding each other in your arms for several minutes or hours at a time).”
“There’s nothing wrong with not loving cuddling as long as you find other appropriate ways to show affection.”
“I don’t cuddle either, it makes me feel claustrophobic and agitated, but I hug my kids and wrestle and hold hands and tickle all of which are healthy and appropriate.”
“That being said, I would suggest talking to someone about your level of touch aversion because it does seem extreme.”—IceSeraphim
“Dude! I literally hate being touched by anyone, my family jokes about how uncomfortable I am when someone asks me for a hug.”
“The only person I am comfortable with touching me is my boyfriend, I can hug and cuddle him just fine, but it’s freaks me out when anyone else, even my family try’s to hug me.”—sillygoose-s
“Sorry for being forward but I think you should get screened for autism. Obviously I am not a psychologist and can’t [diagnose] (dX) you but the things you mentioned in the first paragraph sound exactly like what clued me into researching whether or not I had it and eventually got professionally diagnosed.”
“I also only allow my wife to touch me and she is the only person I can make eye contact with. If you are, the dX could help you manage how to explain your boundaries to your child and why it’s uncomfortable to be touched and make eye contact.”
“I hate doing so but when I see my family, especially the younger members, I give them quick hugs and suck it up. You might do well to try this once a day with your son. Before bed maybe, or when he leaves the house?”
“I think NAH. You are not an a**hole for feeling this way, but your son isn’t either because he’s a child who isn’t getting the affection he feels is normal and this could cause issues later on.”—hibroka
Others with autism spectrum disorders stated they also could comfortably cuddle with their romantic partners, but still had a severe aversion to close physical contact with anyone else.
The general consensus seems to be the OP needs some help dealing with her physical contact issues with her son.
Hopefully she’ll take the judgment to heart and find a solution that works for her and her son.