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The ABC’s of hugging

by Dr. Dave Currie


Hugging is one of the core expressions of connection between human beings. We have come to know that affection, affirmation, attention and appreciation toward a developing child by their parent is critical to a little person’s development of a sense of worth and well-being in life. As the child grows up feeling this parental loving touch while witnessing healthy, caring relationships within the family, they acquire the appreciation and experience needed to bond well with others later in life. Hugs and connection matter to our well-being in life. All of us.

That’s right. Hugging isn’t just a kid’s thing. Adults equally thrive through ongoing human touch and meaningful warmth expressed in a caring embrace. Those who experience the highest levels of relational satisfaction of love and connection have made a lifestyle of hugging. This affection is essential to maintaining a vibrant, lasting marriage.
Hugs say a lot because the hugger is at risk of rejection. When you hug, you break inside the three to four-foot barrier of personal space. You are being allowed in. Shared personal space is at the heart of the marriage relationship. To hug is to initiate – regardless of the kind of hug. It is giving of yourself. It is seeking to make a loving difference.
When you receive a hug, you are equally saying something. You are welcoming the other into your personal space. You are letting them in. You accept their hug and hopefully, the clear and authentic meaning is confirmed. And in that moment and for that moment, and often for a while afterward, we feel the validation of our worth and become more fully human. Hugs are really good for all of us.

Dr. Virginia Satir, the famous sociologist commented on the importance of human touch in this quote on hugging. “Hugging can be vital for your emotional well-being. Everybody feels skin hunger throughout their lives, and unless that hunger is satisfied by touching, there’s a vital void in the emotional make-up that’s going to cause deep unhappiness. We all know that babies thrive on frequent caressing. Well, adults are no different. When they are not patted on the hand, embraced around the shoulder or hugged, they withdraw into themselves. I prescribe four hugs a day for survival, eight for maintenance and twelve for growth.” Read that last line again… “I prescribe four hugs a day for survival, eight for maintenance and twelve for growth.” Whoa.

Do you get four hugs per day? I doubt it. Do you ever remember getting eight hugs in one day let alone twelve? That feels like crazy talk! What would that even feel like in a marriage?

I also wonder if you ever give four hugs or more per day to the people in your world – especially your immediate family – specifically your spouse. Guilty. I know. Me too. Many days I fall short of extending this level of warmth and care. So let’s not miss the importance of understanding the significance and impact of a hug – both giving and receiving them within our families – especially our mates.

Don’t ever doubt whether or not more hugging will improve your marriage. Read my article Moments that Matter – Learning to Connect for Life. In it I prescribe four hugs per day. Check out DFR Podcast 26 on the same topic. Connecting through hugs and warm human touch is essential for all couples.

I don’t want to offend some of you but I hear people say, “I’m not a hugger.” Problem. In my four decades of people helping I have come to believe that if you say you don’t need or appreciate hugs – and rarely give them – you are the unhealthy one. Argue and lose. Please just keep on reading – especially if someone you love thought this article might be good for you to read. Grow with me. Learn the great value of hugging.

Most of us haven’t thought through the various types of hugs that can exist, let alone applied their diverse expression within our most important relationship. Types of hugs? That’s right. You’ll see. We have missed both the meaning of a hug and its power in the expression of warmth, positive regard and care. Learn the ABC’s of Hugging to help you appreciate and improve on this essential area of the human expression of connection. Hug your marriage to a better place.


Appreciation Hugs: These hugs show gratitude. They are the squeezes that say ‘thank you’ for what someone did for you or who they are to you. They often follow a gesture of thoughtfulness or a word of encouragement where you suddenly burst into a spontaneous clinch of thankfulness. It’s also the “I appreciate you” hug where the action declares the true value to the targeted recipient. Hugs aimed at our spouse say that. And when a hug comes from the heart of one and goes to the heart of the other, it even becomes a gift back to the initiator.

Belonging Hugs: These hugs reveal relationship. These are the welcome hugs, the ‘good to see you’ hugs, and the greet one another hugs. It includes the visible connection of walking hand in hand or arm in arm in public. You sit together like you belong together with your arm comfortably around them. That’s a look of love. These hugs say, “We’re an item”. After finding your mate in a crowd when you arrive late, you greet with a hug of connection. It’s because you belong with them. Those “I’ve missed you” hugs are some of the best with the partner often lifted right off the ground in delight. Yes…together again.

Comfort Hugs: These hugs convey support. This is where the spouse who is hurting freely, and safely, buries their head in the chest of the other. Equally, it’s when one set of arms strongly surrounds their nearly collapsing counterpart. It’s sharing pain. It’s bearing the other’s burden. You’re saying, “I’m with you. I hurt for you. I’m here for you.” As you truly understand the power of your presence and the comfort hug, you will even move toward tears not away from them – especially if it’s your mate. And when you have no words to say, you support your spouse with your reassuring embrace.

Desire Hugs: These hugs display love. They include our biggest, affectionate squeezes as well as our smallest, fondest snuggles. There’s always a sparkle in the eyes with the lips often following. These are the hugs of expressed, exclusive connection like when you’re strolling aimlessly arm in arm in lover’s bliss. Desire hugs are longer ones sometimes squishing them as if to never let go. Just for fun to even improve your love connection, give a 10-second hug – actually count it yourself if needed – and see how different you feel as for a moment, your bodies enmesh together. Yes, these “I Love You” hugs express great affection and attachment.

Erotic Hugs: These hugs express passion. They are hugs that are leading to the bedroom like the embrace with the hand sliding down for a cheek squeeze. They include the hugs and kisses that roam to the more erogenous zones of the body. These sensual embraces form a large part of the foreplay in our sexual intimacy. It’s the caressing and fondling of true passion.

Now many men are saying… “Now you are talking. This is the hug I like!” Stop it. Let me help you out. Your problem is you have only one box for hugs and they only lead to sex. Erotic hugs are great. But your entire love relationship with your spouse will change drastically for the better if you develop the full range of hugs listed here. Realize anew the deep value of non-sexual touch. Guaranteed these hugs will improve things inside the bedroom when you hug generously without sexual intention outside the bedroom.
So where to go from here? Don’t fight it. Try all of the ABC’s of Hugging for a while. Look for times when you can practice the different types of embraces. And if nothing else, start hugging the key people on your world because they need the hug even if you don’t think you do. Improve your acts of connection expression with the full message that each one can bring. Hug like crazy! Watch what happens.

I’d love to hear how much hugs mean to you and their impact on your most important relationships. Contact me through our website at