Dear Carolyn: My boyfriend is responsible, thoughtful and very very affectionate — which is great for the first four hours of hand-holding, but which makes me want to shove him away and shout, "Just leave me alone!" by hour six. Before this, I thought I was a super affectionate person, but his level of hand-holding, shoulder rubs, "I love you" and constant kisses is leading me to feel smothered and irritable.

We have talked about it some, with me saying I can't handle being touched any more that day, and he's always understanding, and holds back temporarily, but the next day it's back to normal. And I'm getting more and more annoyed by it.

We've been dating for only about two months but knew each other vaguely before we started dating; both are mid-30s with major losses behind us, and generally considered to have our acts together with solid careers and good relationships with family and long-term friends.

I know he's super super super excited about having met me, and when I'm not about to jump into the ocean to avoid being touched, I feel the same way about him. Any advice?

— Smothered

Smothered: The reason doesn’t matter; what matters is that you have stated your needs and limits, and he has not responded with a sustained adjustment to his behavior. He’s not the guy. I’m sorry.

And you’re not the person for him, either. I have opinions about so much affection in this new a relationship, as I imagine many others do right now after reading this, but it’s actually irrelevant. The mismatch is the thing.

I’m sorry.

Re: Smothered: You've talked about it "some," but how clear were you? Maybe he's taking you literally when you say you don't want to be touched any more THAT DAY, but the next day is a whole new day, so he's free to touch until you call a halt again. Have you told him that IN GENERAL you need considerably less touching, rather than gritting your teeth and enduring it until you have to tell him to stop "for the day"?

— Anonymous

Anonymous: There is a little gap in Smothered’s statement, yes, and that could arguably explain why they’re living a handsy “Groundhog Day.”

But it seems reasonable to expect someone to take away the larger message of “For the love of deities, please, give me air.”

He apparently hasn’t done so — yet more proof that the reasonable must always defer to the real. That allows Smothered to see him as attentive and respectful by the numbers, and that in turn supports an argument for giving the guy a chance.

But if anything, his failure to grasp the larger message intensifies the whiff of doom here. They not only have way different needs and thresholds for affection, but this gap also exposes (at least the possibility of) way different communication styles: Smothered speaks in hints and the boyfriend is literal, possibly to an extreme. Yikes.

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