February 20, 2019
Why You Might Want to Cuddle More & How to Talk to Your Partner About Physical Affection
Cuddling and other forms of physical touch are important in most relationships, as physical affection is one of the ways we express love, desire and commitment.
In North America, we tend to reserve most forms physical touch for those we love and many of us are touch-deprived. A study of 509 adults found that those who lack affection (and crave more physical affection) experience lower levels of happiness and higher levels of loneliness, depression, relationship satisfaction and stress.
Obviously cuddling is more important to some people — especially those who perceive physical affection as the ultimate form of loving expression. It is therefore essential to communicate your needs to your partner and be open to listening to theirs. Some of us express our love primarily with our words and others do so through physical touch.
To improve understanding of one another’s desires with regard to physical affection, you might want to consider asking and answering a few questions:
- On a scale of one to ten how important is physical touch to you?
- How do you like to be touched?
- Do you want to cuddle naked or simply hold hands while we watch TV?
- Do you want me to touch you more often? Show me how.
These questions aren’t rooted in science. They’re practical. Just like you ask a dinner guest about their dietary restrictions and preferences, so too should you ask a life partner about their personal preferences when it comes to affection, cuddling and other expressions of love. Unfortunately, most of us are so deeply entrenched in the notion of romantic love and the associated belief that true love will make a relationship work that we discount the value of treating our relationships more practically.
When is comes to physical affection, this lack of practicality can result in missing out on some of the associated benefits of cuddling which include:
The release of feel-good hormones: (e.g. oxytocin) to boost your mood and a decrease in cortisol, which is associated with stress. One study found that the benefits of cuddling are not fleeting and mirror those of sex; women who engage in sex or physical affection experience less stress and a happier mood the following day.
Positive heart health: women who receive more hugs from a partner have lower blood pressure.
Love and happiness! Research suggests that couples who are more physically affectionate report higher levels of love, fondness and relationship satisfaction.
Attraction: when you express physical affection, your partner is more likely to see you as likeable, trustworthy and composed.
Relationship harmony: Cuddling can help you to reduce conflict. One study of college students found that those who spend more time cuddling are better equipped to resolve conflicts.
The relationship between cuddling and relationship satisfaction applies regardless of gender and cuddling doesn’t always lead to sex. Research suggests that most snuggles (83%) don’t result in sexual activity and for most couples, it’s important to engage in both sexual and non-sexual affection; at some point, you may stop having sex temporarily (e.g. after childbirth, during stressful times or when grieving) and if the only time you’re affectionate is during (or prior to) sex, you may stop being affectionate altogether. This is a common experience for couples who have trained themselves to reserve affection and cuddling exclusively for sex play.
If you want to cuddle and your partner isn’t as snuggly, talk to them about how you feel. Tell them how much you love it and tell them why.
Rather than making a complaint, make a request. This is the mistake most of us make: we wait until we’re really frustrated to express (or identify) our own needs and then we complain as opposed to making constructive requests. When our partner identifies a complaint, they’re more likely to ignore, withdraw or become defensive instead of listening and responding with support. Try language that sounds like this:
I love when you hold me from behind. It reminds me just how strong/sweet you are.
When you hold me, I feel closer to you. I really helps me to de-stress.
I’m so nervous. But when you touch me or kiss me, it helps me to relax.
Can you please hold my hand? It makes me feel loved.
Let’s cuddle. It’s my escape from the pressure of the real world.
We used to lie in bed all day. And we ended up having more sex. I want more of that. Can you block off Sunday for lazing around?
Your partner is not a mind-reader and there is no universal ideal with regard to how much physical affection is required to maintain a loving, fulfilling relationship; it follows that you’ll be more likely to have your needs met if you clarify your desires and consider their perspective — even if it’s different than yours. You can be compatible even if you want different things as long as you’re both open to putting in a similar amount of effort to find middle ground.
If you have trouble staying in the moment or find that you’re distracted during physical touch and affection, check out our online course, Mindful Sex. This 12-module program guides you through a range of breathing, visualization and non-sexual touch and sexual skill activities to help you be more present — in and out of the bedroom.