Questions about hugs

Note: This is a follow-up to my previous post: Hugs: giving versus taking

Where can I find someone who will teach me how to hug in a giving way? Apparently my technique is all wrong.

Even though Nick Vujicic was born without limbs, people say he gives the best hugs.

UK0vo6O9

How is that possible? As one high schooler says, “Nick hugs with his heart.” Go and do likewise.

Then again, that might be your problem. (See the final question below.)

If I ask a friend for a hug, does that make me a hug-taker?

No. It probably just makes you a hug-receiver. With good friends, sometimes we may need a shoulder to cry on and other times we may be the one offering that shoulder. But if we are always, or even just usually, the needy one — without ever giving in turn — that’s not healthy.

There is another aspect to this as well. Even the neediest of hug-receivers may end up giving far more than they realize. I’m sure I’m not the only one who has found myself blessed and comforted by the very person I’m trying to comfort. If nothing else, you can receive the hug with gratitude, and your hug in return can express that.

Once again, it’s a heart issue and the difference between giving and taking can seem subtle. Consider asking the Holy Spirit to reveal to you the hidden places and motives of your heart — that’s usually far better than endless introspection. If you purpose to become the sort of person who gives graciously to others, you probably will. At least that’s my hope for myself!

Can’t I just hug without all this analysis and soul-searching? 

Of course. Hug away. Just make sure your hugs are welcome and not an intrusion or imposition. Try to think of the other person when you hug, and don’t be self-centered or use their body for personal gratification.

What if I’m the “high desire for non-sexual physical affection” spouse in a marriage with a husband who: a) only “hugs” me during sex; b) refuses to give or receive hugs except as foreplay; or c) is a hug-taker on the level of Creepy Hugger Guy?

First, a disclaimer lest the “Not All Guys!” police manage to catch wind of this post and denounce me as a female chauvinist pig: I know that there are probably husbands with a higher desire for hugs and non-sexual physical touch than their wives. However, what I’ve heard/read tends to confirm the stereotype. Before you say, “Well, that’s because you’re a woman and so guys don’t tell you these things”, let me offer this: back in my single days, I worked with a lot of married men. Some asked me for “the female perspective” on their marriage issues. Others trotted out the “my wife doesn’t understand me” line. So I heard plenty from husbands who thought their wives were unreasonable for wanting physical affection outside of sex, but not a word from any husband longing to give or receive more hugs. (By the way: I also learned the best way to shut down a guy claiming “my wife doesn’t understand me” is to say excitedly, “Your wife sounds just like me!” Only once did I have to ramp it up a notch and say I’d love to meet her.)

After that long disclaimer, back to the question. Maybe you’ve tried everything you can think of, even marriage counseling, and your husband, an otherwise fairly good guy, can’t or won’t change. Maybe physical touch isn’t his love language. Maybe, when he was growing up, his parents taught him that hugs were wrong and bad. Maybe he was abused. Maybe he’s simply not wired for intimacy. Maybe he has other reasons for not appreciating hugs. Maybe he thinks there is nothing wrong with being Creepy Hugger Husband and you can’t convince him that selfish or forced hugs and gropings aren’t working for you. Maybe he actually hates hugs unless sex is involved. Maybe he just doesn’t have very much to give. The bottom line is that some guys will never “get it”, and will never change, even if they wish they could.

You can’t change anyone but yourself. Sad and frustrating, but true. Once you face reality, you have two choices:

  1. Dump the dude and find a guy who gives good hugs from the heart.
  2. Learn how to live with the dude you’ve got.

There’s a theory about the disparity in male versus female desire/need for physical affection. Some say it is God’s design; after all, we are the ones who breastfeed and nurture babies and children. However, that feature seems more like a bug if you don’t have babies to cuddle, and it does nothing to protect you from the hug-taker.

What to do? I’m not a marriage counselor by any stretch of the imagination, and probably not the best source of marriage advice, but this is my 2 cents worth, which might not be worth even that:

If you are married to a hug-taker, recognize that you might become increasingly reluctant to give him hugs, since you feel depleted already. Unfortunately, this may turn things into a vicious cycle. It’s hard to give, give, give when there is no mutuality, and when your gift is turned into another opportunity for someone to take from you. Unless you have experienced this dynamic for any length of time, what I’ve written here may sound whiny and overly sensitive. What’s the big deal? It’s only a hug! But if you are a high-desire-for-real-hugs spouse married to a hug-taker, you know exactly how difficult the struggle can be. I have no idea what to tell you, other than perhaps you might consider doing some boundary work to protect your heart.

Recognize that your husband will never meet all your needs. No one can. Find people who will give and receive good hugs. Years ago, I met an older woman who was on a personal crusade to make sure the people in her life got three hugs a day. She even had cute little cards printed up. I loved it! I could count on at least two good hugs every time I saw her. Cultivate a hugging culture among your friends and in your social group. It can really fill that void, and meet your need for physical touch. 

Cuddle babies. Pet cute little puppies. But don’t stop there. Hand out hugs to teenagers. Hug lonely widows. In other words, give hugs to those who will appreciate them. You never know the difference you might make in the lives of people who sometimes go days, weeks, even months, without a single giving hug. Meet your need for hugs by meeting the same need in others. (For the sake of your marriage, it’s wisest to limit or avoid hugs with warm, attractive, emotionally available men.)

What if my wife claims I’m a hug-taker? Or what if I am the low-desire-for-hugs spouse? Or what if even the briefest hug fills me with an uncontrollable desire to have sex immediately, so I avoid any except as foreplay? Or what if I think hugs are wrong or stupid? Or what if I happen to like grabbing and groping my wife and think she needs to get over herself? Or what if I just don’t feel like hugging my wife unless there is something in it for me, like sex or at least getting to feel her up?

I don’t know. Maybe you should ask your wife and be willing to listen, really listen, without defensiveness. Then again, she may be way past the talking stage on this one, especially if lack of physical affection has been an ongoing issue in your marriage. You might try reading articles addressing low sexual desire in marriage and adapting the advice for hugs rather than sex (e.g., how to be an eager and willing hug partner even if you are never in the mood to hug). Personal therapy might help you figure yourself out. At the very least, try getting lots of prayer…for you and your wife.