Romantic partners should find time for feel-good touching and skin-to-skin contact. Cozying up builds connection with your partner and releases the love hormone oxytocin. “Just” hugging, “just” kissing, and “just” cuddling are important in a relationship even when they don’t lead to sexual intimacy. But should you always expect sex to follow cuddling? Some experts say no.
What if you and your partner have established a routine of cuddling that winds up in bed most of the time? When one of you doesn’t feel like having sex, they might avoid those cozy activities because they don’t want to send the wrong signal. Couples who feel sexually disconnected tell therapists they don’t even hug anymore because they fear it will give their partner the wrong impression.
That’s why experts say it’s important to balance your sexual touch with nonsexual touch.
Avoiding touching hurts both of you. The person who doesn’t want sex loses out on the chance to be held, and their partner gets turned away. The rejection sends a confusing message, and the partner is left wondering why. “I was just trying to hold your hand!” This avoidance is likely to set up a troublesome cycle. Steering clear of nonsexual touching is likely to diminish sexual desire because you lose the feeling of physical closeness with your partner.
Women and men view cuddling in slightly different ways. Women often say cuddling helps to promote higher sexual desire. Cuddling doesn’t necessarily get men in the mood for sex, but many men say they notice sexual urges frequently show up when they cuddle.
One leader in sex research, John Gottman, made a list of 13 things that couples with great sex lives do. Number 7 on the list: cuddling! Cuddling is not only good for your relationship; cuddling fuels a closeness that leads to better and more satisfying sex, he says.
Another expert on relationships, Esther Perel, takes a different view. The author of the groundbreaking book Mating in Captivity tells couples who want to heat things up to hold off on cuddling. The emotional closeness that comes from cuddling makes us feel too familiar with our partner. The connection is likely to dampen lustful feelings.
Whose side are you on?