For a Healthy Relationship, Never Say No to Cuddling
When couples come to see me with their first complaint being that they haven’t had sex in several months, there is palpable tension. They panic, and search for reasons why. When sex is going well, it is 5% of the relationship. However, when sex isn’t going well, it may become 95% of the relationship. A recent study reported in the Daily Mail suggested that more important than sex for a couple’s happiness and health is cuddling. Cuddling provides many benefits besides a sense of security and closeness. It also provides stimulus to our olfactory centers (the smell of our partner makes us feel loved) and our touch centers, and it helps to release oxytocin (the feel good hormone that helps us feel love toward our partner). Cuddling also provides another form of communication that sexual intercourse doesn’t. It allows us to feel closer without draining our energy. Sometimes the best communication happens when couples are holding one another.
Many times, couples’ first homework assignment from me is to begin touching each other more and talking less. When sex isn’t going well, not only do you lose that physical connection but you lose the emotional connection too. Often you become more critical of your partner as well as irritable and annoyed. The emotional connection is much more important than the sexual one, because the emotional connection determines if the sexual one will happen, and how frequently. Touching and cuddling is the best way to restore and build the emotional connection. When couples touch, they let down their guard, and begin feeling love and acceptance toward their partner. If cuddling is continued, the feeling of love and connection leads to better communication and sex.
Women may fault men saying they don’t like to cuddle and jump too quickly to sexual intercourse. My practice as well as the Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender and Reproduction suggests this is not true. According to Kinsey’s research, among couples in committed relationships, tenderness may be more important to the man than the woman; regular kisses and cuddling lead to greater relationship satisfaction in men than in their partners, especially as they grow older. When I talk to couples and ask them to list the number one problem in their relationships, it is men, not women saying the lack of intimacy. When I question further, they talk about missing the touching, caressing, and soft talking they once shared with their partner.
The time to begin cuddling is early in the relationship. If you have let that go with raising kids, or demanding careers, you can still get it back. Adding a little bit of time into your day to hug or touch your spouse will add a closeness you may have felt was gone forever. You may not need to mention it to your partner. Sometimes their noticing changes in you without you talking about makes it more special. However, if you have a partner who feels like you only touch them when you want sex, then communicating with them about the benefits of cuddling may be a better option. Reassuring them that it is the intimacy and closeness that you want may be enough to convince them to cuddle. Here are a few tips to help you get started with your “cuddle plan.”
1. You can cuddle anywhere, which makes it convenient, but being captive together makes it more special. Places like airplanes or movie theatres are a great place to begin cuddling.
2. No one likes to cuddle on a hard surface, so make sure you have a “cuddle sofa,” or overstuffed chair where you both fit comfortably.
3. No one likes to cuddle with a computer on their partner’s lap, so get rid of laptops, cell phones, iPhones, and iPads.
4. Smoking while cuddling is not wise. Getting burned or the smell of smoke in your face causes coughing and disgust.
5. Talking softly while cuddling is desired.
6. Kissing is not necessary, but is nice while cuddling.
7. Being a good listener while cuddling is also important, remember your partner will feel more secure and may want to tell you things they have not said before.
8. Being gentle is part of cuddling.
9. Cuddling has no objective other than to feel close to your partner…so don’t rush to finish.
10. Cuddling is helping your partner and you to be healthier with lower blood pressure and respirations. Imagine your ability to heal.
Whenever I talk to a person who lost their spouse and I ask them what they miss most, they tell me many things. At the top of their list is the sense of being held by that person. The hugs, the way their skin smelled, and how that person made their body feel when they were near. Stress, illness, and depression can affect sexual performance, but anyone can cuddle. A couple’s ability to cuddle, not to perform sex, is one of the best predictors of an emotionally/physically close, happy, and healthy relationship. –Mary Jo Rapini
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Tags: Relationships, Marriage, Intimacy, Compatibility, Communication, Bonding