Having an Emotionally Cold Partner Can Be Damaging

When there are no signs of affection from a partner, feelings of dissatisfaction and emptiness begin to appear.
Having an Emotionally Cold Partner Can Be Damaging
Sergio De Dios González

Reviewed and approved by the psychologist Sergio De Dios González.

Written by Edith Sánchez

Last update: 02 February, 2023

Having an emotionally cold partner detracts from a relationship. After all, demonstrations of affection aren’t only beautiful, but necessary to maintain a healthy relationship. When love is felt, but not demonstrated, it’s as if it doesn’t exist. Consequently, a lack of expressed affection often causes heartbreak.

As a rule, an emotionally cold partner will justify their attitude with statements like “It’s just the way I am” or “I’m not romantic”. They also frequently affirm that the most important thing is to feel love and not so much to find ways or channels of expressing it all the time. They use these and other similar statements in an attempt to normalize their emotional deficiency.

As human beings, we all need signs of affection, especially from our partners. In fact, the whole raison d’être of a relationship is affection. That’s why a lack of love in a relationship is a contradiction. Indeed, this kind of situation not only deteriorates a relationship but can also have really profound effects. We’re going to explain the negative consequences of having an emotionally cold partner.

“Whoever loves becomes humble. Those who love have, so to speak, pawned a part of their narcissism.”

-Sigmund Freud-

couple talking
When the protagonist in a relationship is emotionally cold, there’s less satisfaction and emotional intimacy.

The emotionally cold partner and emotional deprivation

In 2022, Professors Hesse and Mikkelson, from the Universities of Oregon and Whitworth (USA) respectively, conducted a study on the subject of emotionally cold partners. Their research concluded that receiving signs of affection from a partner is essential to maintaining a successful relationship and good mental health.

The study considered the romantic situation of 401 individuals. Their average age was 31 years. The researchers found that those with emotionally cold partners felt less satisfied and experienced less emotional closeness with them.

Likewise, the affected participants indicated that they frequently went through periods of uncertainty regarding the future of their relationships. They generally believed that the bonds wouldn’t last and they had pessimistic expectations about the future. This caused them to worry, which often led to stress. In other words, their partners weren’t sources of well-being for them but worry.

Other effects of an emotionally cold partner

The effects of having an emotionally cold partner aren’t only psychological. Dr. Kory Floyd and her colleagues conducted research on the link between displays of affection and physical well-being. Their results indicated that those who reported fewer displays of affection from their partner also suffered from more health problems.

In particular, Floyd et al suggested that these people were prone to experience all kinds of physical pain more intensely. Moreover, it wasn’t uncommon for them to report problems such as frequent migraines or significant muscle pain caused by routine actions.

As a rule, they also experienced more problems in getting adequate rest. In fact, several suffered from sleep disorders, especially insomnia. Many also felt that they didn’t achieve restful sleep. Consequently, they exhibited more signs of fatigue in their daily lives.

The researchers pointed out that: “the affection exchange theory suggests that depriving a person of love can cause a well-being deficit, and prevent optimal functioning. It is also plausible that experiences of physical pain or poor sleep quality may inhibit the exchange of affection with others”.

Sad woman
Cold partners often hurt their partners, sometimes without even realizing it.

Coldness and pain go hand in hand

It’s natural for a healthy individual to express affection to the people they love, without any qualms. It not only provides emotional nourishment for the recipient but is also really positive for the giver. It releases and grants a sense of satisfaction and utter bliss.

Emotional coldness isn’t a way of being. It’s often an expressive limitation. If you don’t love someone, you don’t have to pretend you do, but if you do, you absolutely have to show it. You don’t have to talk to them like they’re a baby or call them honey pie or darling, but you must explicitly tell them that you love them and praise their positive qualities.

Indeed, this is something you must do if you want your relationship to be strong and healthy. Also if you really love your partner. For, as you can see, if you’re emotionally cold, it not only causes a void but is also damaging to your partner. It’s not your partner who must adapt to your ways, it’s up to you to explore the causes of your inhibition and overcome them. You’ll be the first to benefit.

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  • Floyd, K., Boren, J. P., Hannawa, A. F., Hesse, C., McEwan, B., & Veksler, A. E. (2009). Kissing in marital and cohabiting relationships: Effects on blood lipids, stress, and relationship satisfaction. Western Journal of Communication, 73(2), 113-133.
  • Hesse, C., Floyd, K., & Mikkelson, A. C. (2022). Affection deprivation is more aversive than excessive affection: A test of affection exchange theory. Personal Relationships.
  • Otiz Barón, M. J., Gómez Zapiain, J., & Apodaka Urkijo, P. (2002). Apego y satisfacción afectivo-sexual en la pareja. Psicothema.

The contents of Exploring Your Mind are for informational and educational purposes only. They don't replace the diagnosis, advice, or treatment of a professional. In the case of any doubt, it's best to consult a trusted specialist.