Recently, I have been redirecting a relationship with someone who had been very touchy-feely for the last ten years. I have finally been successful at establishing a boundary. This person was overstepping my boundaries, without taking the hints. I would take a few steps back from them to create a distance, but they would move in and grab my waist anyway — lunge at me to grab my arm — they were rather sneaky about it too. Years ago I thought I would have a talk with them, but decided against it. The situation was delicate. Maybe it was my own “boundary problem.” There is another woman who has an issue with this person doing the same to her, and she only brought it up after I mentioned it to her, so I don’t think she was planning to approach him about it — not to say that this makes it okay that I haven’t said anything.
We were friends and I liked this person a lot, and it didn’t happen often enough to be urgent, but whenever I saw them – maybe a couple of times a week, it would be an issue. They would rub my arms or shoulders, squeeze me, touch my waist, and generally stand too close. It was all under the guise of friendly touching – which makes it kind of sticky. I don’t shrink from confrontation and usually have no problem telling people what I think. But as an older adult, I’m attempting to be graceful, and I guess I chose this situation to exercise that trait.
Part of the problem is language. The person’s first language is Spanish, and they have a strong accent. They might have a problem understanding what I was saying, especially if I tried being tactful, using delicate language that isn’t literal, with subtleties that they might not understand. If I went the other way with a direct approach, saying, “You’re touching me too much and I don’t like it. It’s not necessary for you to touch me every time you see me,” there might be confusion since there were times when I expressed affection with a hug, after not seeing them for a while. I have also touched this person during conversation, but not often – so this might cause additional confusion. This person might see my touching them as an invitation to touch me whenever they want to – every fucking time I see them — five or six times, anywhere on my body. No.
The subject of how to approach the situation has plagued me for years. Finally I had just had it, and decided that I would simply recoil dramatically with my body whenever this person stepped too closely into my circle. I literally sway my body away from theirs, or take three of four steps backward. In addition, I keep conversation short, yet cordial. That was another boundary issue, excessive talking without respect for my time. I think they’re finally getting it.
I don’t care if they think I’m moody, or that I don’t like them anymore. I waited too long as it is. If they don’t see what I’m “saying” this time with body language, the next step is to tell them directly. At the end of this, I’m thinking maybe I will just tell them directly, if it happens again. This person is an adult who should know better, really.
I think this guy keeps pawing the dames because he gets away with it. I’m sure he’s not touchy-feely with guys. But I’m not playing blame the victim here. Just tell him you like him but this is something he does way too much and you’re so tired of it. “I like you, but I’d appreciate it so much if you’d please cool it with touching me.” Yes, speak up and good luck.
Thanks for the feedback! I do appreciate in this case other’s points-of-view. I did think about saying something similar to what you suggested — “I like you but you touch me way too much and you don’t have to.” But every time I ran it through my head, I just imagined the confusion, etc. This has taught me that you can’t joke too much with some folks — I think with this person, they might have felt this was an invitation for a certain kind of playfulness — my friend who it happened to also says he’s just horny and trying to get over — yes. So from now on my manner is reserved around them.
I give the stiff arm and a huge step back all at once. Works pretty good. Good luck Sandee
That’s a good solution. I’ll have to remember that. Thanks, Audra! xoM
I know right?! Margarita — I just finished typing that I would try that in addition to actually saying something this time if what I’ve done hasn’t worked.
Yes! I love it — the stiff arm! We’ll see how effective I’ve been so far. If it hasn’t worked, I will try that — then — as I mentioned — I will definitely say something — oh geez why the heck has it taken seven years for me to act?! Maybe since it’s sort of a ‘work’ situation, and I did like them, I felt I would have to pull them into a room to discuss it — since I didn’t want to blurt out in such an environment — “Stop touching me!” Well, this has been educational. Thanks for the feedback Audra!
I’m not that vocal myself, Sandee. It’s a fine line and often at times hard to figure it all out. I know I don’t like to be touched so I feel like it’s me and not them being weird with boundaries. But sometimes enough is enough!!
How about just saying: I’ve been meaning to tell you for years, I’m just not comfortable with so much touching. Please stop.
Like you, I’ve always gone with the subtle hints. As an older person, I’ve realized that some people just need to be told directly, and move along. Dispassionately, just sharing information.
Good luck, Sandee! xoxoM
That’s a good one Margarita — I’m filing that one away too! Writing about this is a good way for me to look back on the whole thing.
Definitely a post that resonates with many women, Sandee. Glad you wrote it! xoxoM
Thanks Margarita! Writing it was an opportunity to revisit the way I have handled it. I try not making a big deal out of my not saying anything, but for future occurrences, I know now how I might approach it by saying something. So it really helped me to write it all out.
I think your approach is a good one. Some people really just don’t get it and need to be told directly. Maybe it could be a cultural thing? I hope this person gets the message this time, Sandee.
Thanks Amy — sheesh! — I hope they get it this time too! I might have to try some of the suggestions in the comments — I’m glad I put it out there for the feedback.
Howdy Sandee. Nope, you didn’t invite it, encourage it, or create the confusion. You’ve expressed a respect for language differences and learned about your boundaries over time with this person. Now that you recognize your needs, you just seem to be observing that this person triggers a vulnerability in you that feels uncomfortable (if not painful) and you are not obligated to explain that to him. Your original openness to him as a person may have had to do with the fact that as humans we all long for emotional bonds and there’s nothing wrong with wanting that and finding out that this is not someone you can do that with. Your language now only need consider the action you need to take. You might say “this is what you did” fill in the blank like:You touched my waist. “This is how it made me feel” fill in the blank like: it made me feel you did not respect my personal space. And “this is what I am going to do about it” fill in the blank like, I need to just shake hands when we meet. Thank him for respecting your wishes and don’t apologize for anything or feel guilty. If he’s got it in him, he’ll learn and thank you for the sensitivity training. If he acts confused or hurt, it’s his own issue and he’ll have to search within himself. His needs do not trump yours. Peace to you always, Sandee. You’re doing fine. 🙂
Oh and if the thing you need to “do” is to tell him you want him to stay away from you, that’s perfectly acceptable. I don’t mean to imply you need to stay in contact at all with the whole hand shake idea… it’s just an example.
I believe women are conditioned to not speak up in these instances and so you wondering why it took so long, is just you being hard on yourself. It only matters you’re doing it now. Ok I’m done preaching. Follow your heart.
Thanks Katherine, I certainly will take what you have said to heart as well.
Speak your mind!
Definitely, if this person starts with the touchy-feely stuff again, if they haven’t gotten the hint — it’s exhausting to have to anticipate how to act around him. As I mentioned, it’s in a place where he works, so it’s sticky — I might just have to plan taking him “out back” to have that little talk…
Best of luckc but don’t put up with it
It’s unbelievable how some people can never take a hint and has to be told stiffly in their face and you know what, even after that the blame comes on the person expressing himself/herself that they were not being polite!
You go girl and do what you have to Sandee 🙂
I suspect there might have been a sense of entitlement with this person. They regarded my open behavior as some kind of an invitation. So far it’s all good though — But I’m always on guard with this one — hahaha! Thanks Naima!
Yeah, being cautious is all we can do at the end of the day. Thank you for sharing your experience, Sandee!
Nobody is entitled to touch anybody. Tell him to keep his hands off you. Period. 🙂 Tact is hardly required. He does what he can get away with. And he’s trespassing! Chuckle…