Dear Prudence: I have been mostly happily married for 13 years. My husband and I get along really well, and I love him very much. That being said, he is not the most affectionate person anymore. We used to cuddle a lot when we were first married and I have told him how much I miss it. He says he doesn’t enjoy it because it’s too hot. He’ll make an effort to snuggle while watching TV sometimes if I ask, but I can tell while we’re doing it that he is counting the minutes until he can stop.
About a month ago, I was having a very bad day at work and a male co-worker/friend told me I looked like I could use a hug. Prudie, I did need a hug and he gave me one and I started crying because I couldn’t remember the last time I had received nonsexual affection from someone without begging. My co-worker asked why I was crying and when I told him he said he loved his wife very much, but she wasn’t affectionate either and he knew exactly how I was feeling.
Since that day we’ve been meeting in his or my office after work a couple of times a week to hug each other. And that’s all we do — there is no groping or kissing or even talking going on, we just hold each other for five to 10 minutes and then we go home.
I like having a hug buddy and I’ve found my relationship with my husband is actually getting stronger because I am not so needy for affection from him. Of course, I have not told him about hugging my co-worker and I’m sure if I did he’d be upset, but I don’t feel like what I’m doing is cheating. Is it?
Prudence says: Ah, Hug Buddies! Forget whether this is cheating, I see the possibility for a fantastic franchise opportunity ahead. Unless you are married to someone who is insanely jealous over totally normal interactions with members of the opposite sex, a good rule of thumb about cheating is that if you wonder about the propriety of what you’re doing, and if you know your spouse would object, then you’ve entered dangerous territory. Additionally, your after-hours body contact at the office may be therapeutic for the two of you, but you have the makings of a Feydeau-esque farce when someone walks in to discuss the quarterly sales figures.
Of course, if you decide to take the hugs off-premises, you know it won’t be long before you realize neither of you is kissed very often by your spouse, and you’ll add that to the repertoire. Then it will be short trip to horizontal affection and you two can be buddies of a more vernacular sort. The fact that you have found such release and comfort from your colleague’s hug tells you what a trough your marriage has fallen into. Your husband’s excuse for not touching you is that it’s too hot. Unless you live in a tropical climate and the air-conditioner is broken, this explanation is absurd.
You don’t need to tell your husband about your hug buddy, although I think you need to let go of said buddy. You need to address something that’s become a crisis in your marriage. Tell your husband you are withering from a lack of affection. It would be one thing if you married someone who couldn’t stand touching you, but when you got together there was plenty of nonsexual touching. Say that if he won’t go to a counselor with you, you’ll go alone, because while you love him very much, you feel he’s set you adrift.