Hugging for Connection

Photo by Janelle Siegrist

Photo by Janelle Siegrist

How important is a hug? How often do you hug? How long does your hug last? Are you comfortable while hugging?

So, what’s all the fuss over a hug? We give hugs all the time, right? When family comes over for Thanksgiving or Christmas, we automatically give them each a hug and a warm greeting. When we meet a friend for coffee we exchange a quick hug. When the grandkids come over, everyone gets a hug. Even when the guys get together for a football game they often exchange a high five and a quick hug. Guys are careful though with their hugs. Just a one arm hug. Don’t want to get too close or too long. No lingering hug here.

Then there are the hugs that are full of emotion. The hug of sympathy at a funeral that lingers for several long moments, a hug that says “I am so sorry for your loss”.

Have you experienced the “stiff as a board” hug? You know the one. You reach out to hug a relative who is mad at you for something and you get the cold, stiff, lifeless embrace that says “I’m still mad at you, but I have to give some kind of hug, so this is all you get”.

Isn’t it amazing that this one customary act of giving a hug can say so much?

So how often do you and your spouse hug? Think about this for a few minutes. How do you hug? Is it quick and generally lifeless, or is it lingering and warm and comfortable?

In the book, Passionate Marriage by David Schnarch, we are enlightened to the many nuances of hugging. He even goes into detail about “Hugging till Relaxed” in chapter six of his book. He speaks at great length about hugging as a form of connection and he asks his patients to practice hugging for extended periods of time. The object is to hug until you can relax in a close embrace with your spouse for an extended period. Let your energy and your body tension relax as you hold one another. Close your eyes and truly try to “feel” your spouse while hugging each other.

Some will find this exercise extremely difficult. They cannot be that close to their spouse without feeling tension and dissonance, so they break off hugging or stiffen up and refuse to relax. Dr. Schnarch sees that as an expression of the underlying emotional distance in their relationship. The tension is revealed in the inability to stay close in a simple extended hug.

So, go ahead and give this a try. Hug each other. Hold on and relax together. If it is difficult and you find yourself backing away, ask yourself why. Try to uncover what may be hidden and try to open up with your spouse and share what you’re feeling. Work at getting close and reconnecting.

A great lingering and relaxed hug can convey love, warmth, and acceptance. It can say that I am comfortable with you. I enjoy being close to you. I feel secure in your arms.

Hugging – what a great idea.