The ‘Bristle Reaction’ Is a Common Intimacy Killer in Relationships

The ‘Bristle Reaction’ Is a Common Intimacy Killer in Relationships

When one person is bristling, both people need to examine their roles in the scenario, Howard said.

If you repeatedly encounter bristles when you make a move, it might be time to change up your tactics and “read the room,” she said. Approaching while your loved one is cooking or cleaning “can make them feel unseen and emotionally disconnected,” Howard said.

If you’re the bristler, acknowledge how vulnerable your partner feels when he or she initiates sex, and honor your partner’s attempts to connect with you, Dr. Garcia said. “You can say something like ‘Oh, sorry, honey, you startled me, let’s circle back to this tonight,’” he said.

All three experts advise having a conversation about your preferred initiation style. Talking about sex, said Howard, increases not only sexual fulfillment but overall relationship satisfaction. She suggested asking your partner: When do you feel most sexual? How can I initiate sex better? When do you prefer having sex?

That last question, she said, can be a game changer: “I call it the erotic time zone, or E.T.Z.”

You can also share your three favorite places to be touched on your body, being as specific as possible about how and where, Marin added. “I told my husband I love gentle, almost tickling fingernail scratches on the back of my neck,” she said.

The more you talk about your preferences, the better, Marin said. “I tell couples, you’re not opponents. You both want to experience intimacy and closeness,” she said. “You just want to do it in a way that feels good to the two of you.”