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What’s the best way to hug in your marriage?

Staying for the end of a hug changed my marriage and it will change your relationship too. Do you stay for the whole hug your spouse wants to give? What happens when you leave a hug early? Read on to discover how onions taught me to stop hugging last.

My husband is that one in a million man who hugs and kisses hello and goodbye every time he leaves the house or returns.  Every time.  Even if it’s merely to go on a 35-minute run.

Years ago, I was a busy bee.  His hugs slowed me down.

Chopping onions for the marinara sauce he’d see my tears from the onions and feign a comforting hug. I’d offer my husband the obligatory hugging gesture in return and then be on my way. I had onions to chop after all. I had mail to sort.  I had a two-year-old clinging to my knee who wanted to be picked up.

Shorten one hug and it’s not a problem. But I made it a pattern, habitually leaving before the moment of intimacy was over.

Hugging is a habit.

When I left before the moment was over time and again, I demolished the bridge he was trying to build in our marriage.

He was never hurt in the moment.  He could see the onions, the mail, and the two-year-old.  He knew I was busy.  He knew it wasn’t his fault.

But deep inside something dies when the world, or your wife, doesn’t want what you have to offer, and, eventually those connection-building hugs stopped.

The gap between us became a chasm.

My husband’s hugs didn’t disappear suddenly. There was not a specific day I woke up to notice the terror and loneliness of the chasm all around me.

Your marriage might experience something similar. You might be wondering, why do we only have sex once a month? Or why do I feel so grumpy when my spouse neglects the full trash can again?

When you think these things, be aware of the gap between you: is it small and bridgeable? Or are you on your way to a marital-Grand Canyon?

The bridge in my marriage is a direct result of hugging my teenage daughter. When she emerged from her room in the morning she was still mostly sleeping. She’d rather be a lump under her covers. I’d wrap my arms around that sleepy lump and engulf her in a sea of love. She leaned in.

I was tempted, of course, to rush on to the day, to rub her real quick and then launch her forward with my, “What are you wearing today?”  But her vulnerability stopped me.  She was my kiddo. I didn’t feel like she was slowing me down. I felt like she needed me.

So I stayed. I stayed for the whole hug she wanted.

It takes so little time.  Thirty seconds; at the very outside two minutes.  She left the kitchen having gotten everything she came for.  She was linked by our bridge for the rest of the day.

Why staying for the whole hug makes such a big difference:

Intimacy in any one area of life opens us to intimacy in all of life.

Perhaps that’s why it finally dawned on me that I was no longer wriggling out of hugs in order to chop onions. One day I was all on my own with my tears and the knife.

I set the knife on the counter and searched the house for my husband. “What is it?” said this kind man who has shared his life with me and saw tears on my cheeks.

“Onions,” I said. But suddenly onions could make me cry from quite a distance and more tears fell.

He instantly embraced me, and when I didn’t let go, we remained that way for a long time. It seems the pattern of me leaving the hug first was so entrenched that my husband didn’t know how to let go until I did.  He took that cue from me.

The sadness of that realization was overwhelming.

It hurt to realize I wasn’t offering the entire hug he wanted.  Nor had I welcomed the abundant love he extended. Had I created my own loneliness?

If leaving a hug early demolished many a bridge with my husband, I hoped that staying for them would shrink the chasm.  I made a rule in my life: there is nothing that comes before the end of a hug.  No appointment is important enough, no telephone call urgent enough.  The onions could wait.

For a while, our affection was filled with laughter because hugs lingered and neither of us let go.

Now our hugs last a normal length.  We take turns letting go first but there is a trusty bridge that spans the chasm that might have kept us apart.

Try this:

Stay for the whole hug.

Stop hugging last.

Does your marriage or partnership need a boost? Check out my class: Habits for Your Happily Ever After.

Interested in the research about hugging? Click here.

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