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Note: this has nothing to do with the current pandemic.


I don't like physical contact, especially kisses and especially when I don't fully trust the person touching me.

Also, my current relationship with my mother isn't really great so I really hate it when I am physically close to her (like during dinner) or when I have to kiss her (to say hello or goodbye).

The other day, my sister refused to kiss my mother and she didn't take it well.

Now, I am trying to stand up for myself and to not kiss anyone if I don't want to (or, of course, if the other person doesn't want me to).

However, I am afraid of my mother's reaction the next time I will refuse to kiss. I don't want to lie to her and I want a "soft" way to tell her that I won't kiss her because I don't want to.

Here are some of the things that my mother is likely to think/say:

  • That I don't like her (it's not true. However, it is true that I am always angry with her)

  • That I don't want to please her (but I don't think it's right that I have to hurt my own feelings in order to please her)

So, how can I refuse to kiss her while being tactful/minimizing her hurt feelings?

Some more details

  • I am talking here about a "lip to cheek" kiss. It's a more intimate version of "la bise" because we are close family.

  • I don't mind saying "hello" to my mother. I just don't want any physical contact or close proximity to be involved.

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This is a case where there is no way of entirely avoiding hurt feelings-- no matter how soft and tactful you are about it, the message your mother will receive is "I'm just not that close to you." It seems like that's accurate and true, but it will certainly make her feel bad. You can soften or delay the realization to some extent, but sooner or later she's going to see that you prefer not kissing her, even if it upsets her, and feel hurt and/or offended.

You can try to soften the blow by taking more of the blame on yourself, by stepping out of kissing-range and saying something like "I don't want to be kissed, sorry." or "You know I don't enjoy physical contact." You can add "But it is nice to see you." and a smile, if you feel that's appropriate for the situation. She may still be upset, but it is not rude or tactless to have a preference that is at odds with hers.

You can also try just avoiding the situation where kissing might occur, by holding something large that prevents her coming close, waving to her in passing as you go immediately to greet someone else, claiming that you can't embrace anyone because you feel a cold coming on, or otherwise preventing her from expecting the kiss. I have had good success with this when it comes to avoiding having to choose between embracing and offending a 'too huggy' distant friend in group settings. It's not a good long-term solution for someone you see often because it is eventually very obvious that you are avoiding them, and then you're back where you started.

There is an alternative, maybe more productive in the long term, but definitely more drama-generating in the short term option: Be totally honest with her. Tell her that you don't feel like your relationship is at a 'kissing level' right now and that you feel uncomfortable with the physical affection. This has the potential upside that it might open a door to talking out your problems with each other and some amount of relationship improvement. Plus you will have dealt honestly with her, which I think is an aspect of your goal. It has a potential downside that it might cause a scene or your mother might dismiss your feelings or otherwise erode the relationship farther with her response.

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It's just a little kiss.

Unfortunately for you, there's no way to say no to your mother without her having a meltdown. If your relationship has reached a point where kissing is off the table, then you know exactly how she will react.

"If someone can't accept your no, then you know the person is probably not a true friend or doesn't respect you. Stand firm, and don't feel compelled to give in just because that person is uncomfortable." 7 Tips for Saying No Effectively: Say goodbye to being a people pleaser and learn how to confidently say no to someone without feeling bad about it, >Inc.com

Prepare to be courageous. This has gone on long enough.

Respect yourself and take a stand.

It's time to "break up" with your mother.

Jiu Jitsu Analysis: Creative Problem Solving Technique

I created a problem-solving technique to help me unravel these emotional knots that turn up in close relationships. I practiced martial arts for 5 years. Emotional tie-ups remind me of jiu jitsu, the grappling art that takes place on the floor.

The objective is to trap, block and then, interrupt the breathing of my training partner (opponent). It's fun! Unless, you don't trust the other person, as is the case with your mother.

When Mum approaches to kiss you, do you feel trapped, unable to escape and have difficulty catching your breath? If so, read on.

Positional Control:

  • Mum takes on behavior similar to a porcupine, spiky conversations followed by showing her soft underbelly to demonstrate her vulnerability. At other times, she takes on Vulture position because she feels entitled to control your actions and thoughts. Finally, she ventures into Magpie, like a bird chasing shiny objects, giving her approval or showing her disapproval.
  • Your response is passive. Running away from saying no, like a scared rabbit (a gentle response to your mother, who is supposed to behave in gentle, loving ways with you). Then, you bury your head in the sand because it's too much to deal with, like an ostrich. Or you blend into the furniture, like a chameleon, pretending that everything is fine. If you follow in Mum's footsteps, by becoming as aggressive as she is, you could spray her, like a skunk sprays when he gets nervous. That would definitely back her up!

You've lost many fights with your mother. It's time to take a stand.

Shifting the context: if this were your boyfriend, and you refused to kiss him, then he would know that a break-up is coming. (Maybe you have a girlfriend. Hopefully, you understand the reference.)

Saying no to the kiss is just the tip of the ice berg. But, at least it's a start. Give yourself a breather from your mother's demands. Call a time-out. Whatever that looks like in your situation.

Be brave. Stay strong.

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First off all - there is no "soft" way. You cannot really make people feel how you think they would think if you said things in certain way (as you can see even the sentence is wibbly-woobly). In other words - there might be no way to hurt her feelings less.

What I tried is just "stop" hand gesture while saying: "what would be no from me". And I've made it all about ME. It's ME who don't like the touching, it's ME who is refusing, it's ME who is feeling great because I'm not comforting social norms I don't like.

Everything that my mother though is on her. It's her thoughts that are opposite to what i've said and done and I cannot control that. Not my circus, not my monkeys.

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  • Could you give this a quick proofread? There are a few typos that make it difficult to read. I'm guessing "comforting social norms" should be something like "conforming to". I'm not sure about "everything that my mother though is on her". Missing word or typo for "thought"? – Kat May 14 at 19:02
  • "That would be no from me" is not just not a soft answer, it's overtly insulting. You could say something as simple as "No thanks" to achieve the same thing without being intentionally rude. I don't think this attempts to meet the asker's goals. – Meg May 20 at 19:56

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