When Should I Hug Another Guy?

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Like many other guys who deal with same-sex attraction, I really appreciate affection expressed by physical touch. Especially hugs.

For me, hugs are never sexual — just a way to show Christian love. But not all guys feel comfortable hugging another guy.

So, when should I hug another guy or a male friend? The answer is different for each friend!

My friend, Jake, constantly questioned his sexuality. He wasn’t sure if his feelings for men would go away, and he absolutely did not want anyone to think he was gay.

Jake never let me hug him in public — or even tap him on the shoulder or arm. If I tried to do either in private, he always asked me if I’d meant anything sexual. I definitely did NOT! Because of his insecurity and out of respect for his own boundaries, I stopped expressing affection to him by touch.

My long-time straight friend, Brandon, on the other hand, has always hugged me with heartfelt affection, sometimes for several minutes and multiple times a day! I see him less often now that he is a husband and father, but I would not hesitate to express my love for him with a hug.

I struggled with emotional dependence in my friendship with Justin. We worked through it, and now he really understands my SSA and my desire for appropriate, non-sexual affection. He will gladly initiate a hug with me in private, though hesitates in front of his wife.

I think he believes she’d misunderstand it. I have never talked to him about her feelings on the subject, but out of consideration I will wait until Justin and I are alone before initiating a hug with him.

If I have to ask for a hug, is it a “real” hug? In short, yes!

Although my straight friend, James, had hugged me before, we started seeing each other every day after moving into the same house. He never seemed to initiate a hug, even though he clearly used other “love languages” to express affection, especially words of encouragement.

I knew we considered one another close friends, and I wanted to hug him more often, so I asked if we could do that. James really cares about me, so he gladly adjusted his behavior for me. He now hugs me several times a week! He usually just gives other guys typical “bro-hugs,” so I definitely feel his love through his special treatment of me.

What should you do if you want more hugging with a male friend? Talk to him honestly about it! Of course if he is uncomfortable with it, don’t force it. In his podcast on physical touch, Richard agrees that we SSA guys should let our male friends know our desire for hugs.

A most healthy desire.

Do you have male friends who hug you often, or do you wish they’d hug you more? Have you ever talked with your male friends about hugging? What holds you back from hugging other males or asking for their hugs?

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  • Eddie

    Hugging seems to be a hit or miss activity for me and like Battleship there are more misses than hits these days. In college during my sophmore year I had a Christian community of brothers and sisters that gave me physical affection I sought. This was further continued when I found a similar community at a new university I attended especially amongst the guys. I felt so loved by this brotherhood of young men. However, college doesn’t last forever. Nowadays, it seems I get bro-hugs from really just one guy in my social circle and it happens rarely. None of my other guy friends hug each other. They don’t suffer from the same void I suffer with wanting male affection and affirmation. I don’t blame them for having reservations. We don’t talk about hugging because it would just come across as awkward and possibly “gay.” It just seems there is an unspoken threshold men reach that basically says: “Hey hugging, I’ve had my fill. We had a good run, now we’re done.” The given male has fulfilled all his emotional security for physical affection upon reaching a certain level of adulthood. I can understand this. When it comes to my own emotional wellbeing with my mom, I’m solid when it comes to her love, affection and affirmation. She doesn’t need to hug or tell me she loves me. I KNOW SHE DOES, no question! My dad’s a different story. No hugs or words of affirmation. I feel hollow. In recent weeks, I acted a bit forward with a couple guys giving them bro-hugs that were initiated by me not them. I apologized to the last guy as he (also SSA) was someone whom I read his SSA story, but never formally introduced myself. Can you spell awkward? In either case, it was all taken in good stride.

    • Eddie, I agree with you that for many casual friendships it is ok not to hug if it makes the other guy feel awkward. If I am close friends with a guy and we do not hug, that is when I will talk to him about it.

  • mike

    Hugs are better than drugs right? Except, for me not!
    Recent drug addiction research points to a brain disease that precedes drugging. Drug addicts have deficient or abnormal dopamine receptors such that taking drugs makes them feel normal. So, should they just use drugs then? Not. Abstinence only. But also, getting high on Jesus. That alone only works for drug addiction in the long run.
    So too with me with SSA. Hugs from an attractive guy makes me feel good — too good. Hugs from a non-attractive guy does the opposite… For me, abstinence regarding hugs like for drugs works. Getting high on Jesus works in mitigating my SSAs and making me feel good and strong in my identity. Years of reparative therapy that advocated hug therapy didn’t work. If SSA is a brain disease alike drug addiction that makes sense to me that abstinence is the only answer.
    That’s where I’m at brothers!

    • Mike,

      If I saw you face to face I would definitely repect your boundaries! I never want to force a hug on anyone!

      I understand that everyone is different. I gladly appreciate a hug whether or not it is from an attractive guy. Hugs are about expressing love, and real love is giving to the other guy in a way that helps, NOT demanding affection from him to meet my needs!

      If the best way to bless you was a different “love language ” I would do it that way instead of a hug.

      • mike

        Marshall, I think you are so right. We are all different since it’s true not all SSA’d folk have an addiction issue. Or do they? Is SSA like a craving for a drug to feel good?
        For me, a glance at a guy so quickly turns into a stare. There’s an addiction element in that like for me a bit of drug turns into wanting more. So too a hug from an attractive guy. I so would prefer it to be wholesome. But it’s not. Buttons get pushed automatically, feel good hormones erupt spontaneously, and emotions emerge that I never wanted. Abstinence for me works better. I’ve learned that over the years. I’ve been in reparative therapy. Like Eddie I’ve had numerous communities where wholesome physical affection flowed. But what was the result for me? My appetite for more only got larger.
        I conclude that we (many of us) are not like our OGA’d brothers for whom hugs ARE better than drugs and like Eddie says most of them outgrow the need for male affection. Some of us with SSA never do like drug addicts likely never lose their affinity for drugs.
        I’ve said this before. There likely are homosexualities. And so, no recipe works exactly for all. Glad you are like my OGA’d friends who enjoy wholesome hugs. You are blessed. Thanks for this article to make me think about this.

        • SSA is very much like drug addiction, and it took many years to break that cycle of dependency. I find if I can hug a straight person I feel the temptation a lot less. I can not hug another SSA person without it devolving into sexual craving and lust, so I generally stay away from other gay people.

          • george

            If SSA is like a drug addiction, then OSA is also like a drug addiction. Every unmarried male who have tasted sex wants more of it. I live in this world and I know. We all know. Osa people do things nobodynspeaks about. But when SSA people (gays, lesbians ) do the same, whole world judges them including Christians and non Christians.

          • It is an unfair double stanard in man’s eye, but God sees EVERYTHING, and He will judge accordingly.

          • george

            But we are here, we are human beings, and not having sex cause carouse mental disorders…it was in my life. So letbGod judge whatbisnorxer and disorder.

          • I can cause mental disorders if you let it. I have been celibate nearly 13 years (September is when it happens), and I am still sane. In fact being apart from that life restored my sanity, because I was too full of bitterness and anger at the world. It also let me see through the lying propaganda of the LGBT community which espouses that one is born this way. “There is no fate, but what we make.” (Terminator 2) and we can be whatever we want to be.

          • george

            You are not 19 years old. Plus you have wife.

          • I may have a wife, but we rarely have sex. We have only been together twelve times in nineteen years of marriage. I don’t even know how to initiate any contact with her. You are lucky to be so young and can talk about this now. When I was young like you, this had to be kept a secret and there were no internet support groups. Most of the time you were eschewed by the religious establishment if you dared to even talk about this dark secret. Many of the mistakes I made were due to a lack of knowledge and instance by the churches that all gays go to hell.

          • george

            I understand it Bradley, there is a huge difference to have sex with men, and to have sex with your wife and have no sex.
            Sin or not, same sex sex is sex. And this means that you had sex.
            And again, I am speaking from my own experience. I had now sex until I was about 30. Sexless/celibate life destroyed my emotional ife,caused serious mental disorders.

          • george

            And yes there are things you just can’t change. You can call them fate, fortune or whatever… It is what it is.

  • Dean Samuels

    I’m not at all a physical touch fanatic. But I do love a good hug. Because I do keep pretty firm physical boundaries, I don’t see hugs as inherently sexual in any way. But I do know people who do, so I remain respectful of that like you, Marshall. Thank you for sharing your experiences and perspectives through this post!

    • Thanks Dean! Most of the time there is no issue with hugs being sexual for me, especially if there is an established friendship with the guy I am hugging. If the other guy did have any reason that a hug would be unhealthy, I would gladly find another more helpful way to express affection.

  • Brad

    I love this post! I’ve just been thinking about initiating more hugs with my guy friends. I’d be curious to know how others usually initiate hugs. When saying hello/goodbye? or when sharing deep/intimate conversation?

    Also, being a married man (with most of my friends being married) it seems awkward to ask for / initiate cuddling. I mean, we all cuddle with our wives. And I do love cuddling with my wife! But I want some man-cuddles too. Know of any married men that cuddle their buddies?

    • Yes, I initiate a hug both as a greeting and to express love during a meaningful conversation.

      Cuddling is a different story! If a guy is a close friend and is in full agreement I will sometimes sit right beside him with my arm around him during an emotional conversation. Some people might call that cuddling but that is about as far as I will go. I suspect there are married men who will do this, but I don’t know of any myself.

  • I am lonely for hugs from guys. I deliberately avoid the gay community as they are side A, and I don’t want to be tempted. My straight friends I fear will find something sexual in a hug (I am past all that). I do have one good friend though who is straight and a Christian, who sees me for what I am. I recently rescued him from an abusive situation with his biological father and gave him a place to stay (I was his baby sitter twenty-five years ago). He said I was the only real father he ever had and hugged me. It made me feel special, him doing this despite knowing of my past. He even says ‘I love you’, but not in a sexual way (we established clear boundaries when he moved in, which was easy since he is straight). While it didn’t end my loneliness, it did ease it enough so I don’t crave affection from other guys. GOD IS GOOD!!!

    • Bradley, I am so happy for you! It sounds like God blessed you with a genuine friend. Continue to express affection to other male friends in whatever ways they allow and don’t demand too much out of this one guy.

  • Jeff Brady

    While I find myself in agreement with Eddie and Mike, I think I understand Marshall’s point of view.

    Getting a good hug from a straight or SSA man, makes me want to take them home. Still, there are people that have come to mean much to me in my walk and I cannot turn them down when they want to hug me. I love them. If it means some emotional dependence, so be it. I will work through it. If I sin in that process, I will approach the Throne of Grace. I cannot say no to them. They care about me and do not understand that it may be a problem.

    I do not seek out hugs, but apparently I am huggable. It is what it is. I will take it even with the possibility that it will make me long for that which I cannot have.

    I seem to enjoy all those hugs, even when they come from women, short, fat hairy guys or tall, skinny hairless guys. I love men and many times it has nothing to do with sex or attactions. It’s just the fact they they are men. At the risk of sounding like a slut, you can hug me anytime you want to. Just know that what’s going through my mind and what’s going through yours may be two different things. Love You Guys. Here’s a hug for you!

    • mike

      Jeff, I think what Marshall is saying is hugely biblical and right and Marshall has always majored there — it is the giving which is important. Receiving is too. Yet, I think NEITHER to the detriment of EITHER brother. That is the caveat! Forcing oneself to do either I think is wrong and detrimental to one’s mental health.
      So, if I can’t give a hug I won’t nor will I fake receiving a hug if it is damaging to me. I’ll just inform my friend, politely, sorry I’m not into hugs and leave it at that. If he is a close friend he will respect my boundaries as Marshall so well describes. So, sorry no hug from me bros.!

      • Jeff Brady

        It’s unforunate. My hug is for you too. Loosen up man. Accept a hug. I am Jesus’ surrogate. I have no alterior motive. I want to love you OK? There is no force intended except the force of love. It does not have to be erotic and it can be spiritual. Let it go and see where it goes from here. It may seem like the flesh at first, but it does not have to be that way.
        Why does it have to be fake? You can do it. Love like Jesus loves.

        Too much? OK. I respect your boundries. Maybe your boundries are killing you? Ever thought about that? Let it go and love. Show it physically. (he kissies Mike on the forehead ;^))))

        I am just now figuring that out! Rejoice with me! So what if it feels a bit erotic? I will get over it. We will get over it. Let’s do this.

        • mike

          For me Jeff, there is nothing to figure out. For me I have tasted that the Lord God is good and so I’m hooked there. Having Him I have no need of hugs (except from my wife) because His hugs are so quenching. It’s like the answer Jesus gives to the woman at the well: He gives living water which quenches life’s thirst. For years I sought from others what only Yahweh could give me. But this is human to desire from another human something only Yahweh can give. To figure that out has led me to a freedom I never had before.
          So I’m cool Jeff and it’s ok for me not to need hugs. I’m ok. I rejoice with you in your journey too bro. 🙂

    • Jeff, thanks for your comments. None of us are perfect and sometimes when I am in the middle of a hug I realize I am thinking something like, “wow he has some good pecs.” I silently turn away from lustful thoughts and ask God to forgive me and change me.

      These lapses don’t stop me from hugging, they stop me from allowing lustful thought to remain!

  • Fred

    As with most of these things, I don’t give hugging much thought. You see, it’s this overthinking of ways of expressing love that lead us to idolatry anyway. Expressing friendship to others should just be a natural thing, and not something I think that should consume our thoughts, though we love to let it. In my experience, the only time that I think hard about it is when (a) I know the person doesn’t like to express through touch / I don’t know them that well or (b) I find the guy sexually attractive. Either case is the same solution: don’t do it. Otherwise do it when the expression is needed (greeting, consoling, etc.). I think the best way to avoid idolatry with any of these things, whether touch or friendship or anything, is to not let it take up so much of our mind-space and to focus more on God.

    • Fred, absolutely the solution to lust issues in hugging is to put God in the center of the friendship!

  • Alan Gingery

    Fortunately for me, I belong to a church where most of the brothers freely hug one another, both at church and when we meet outside of church. I also have brothers in my various support groups and we freely hug one another. I know that this affection is not possible for every guy because of social familial and cultural expectations, but it certainly is a blessing to me that I can express my affection to other men and receive their affection. My own dad was not demonstrative physically when I was growing up. I really have no memories of him hugging me or holding me as a child or teen. When I started to grow in my Christian faith (as an adult), I began to hug my father–and he liked it and began to hug me back. Occasionally I come to a new situation and ask permission: “Can I hug you?” but I am rarely turned down. My friends are gay, straight and SSA. They all need male affection, so I don’t worry a thing about their attractions–I am only offering them platonic affection.

    • Alan, It makes a huge difference to me even if there are only a few who will regularly hug me. I hope to promote more of a culture of hugging with more people in my own church, even though there already is one among my closer friends.

  • Joseph Tanel

    If I recall my life (16 Years) I’ve never been hugged by my guy friends and if I have then it was probably for a split second. I guess that explains my craving for having emotional intimacy with a guy. I’ve always wanted to hug my best friend but he knows I have SSA and I think he’d probably be weirded out by me…

    • If your best friend is still your best friend after you told him about your SSA, then you can definitely talk to him on a deep level because he cares about you. Explain to him how you have a healthy and non-sexual desire to express your care and respect for him by hugging him. Ask him what he thinks.

      Ask him about hugging where no one else can see and let him know you won’t let his friends know. If he can’t give a full hug, take whatever he feels comfortable with, a bro-hug, pat on the back, dap, or traditional handshake, whatever. When you express affection in whatever way he lets you, make sure you put as much of your heart into it as you can. He will definitely feel your love.

      As I often say, give love without demanding anything in return. He will probably respond in love but you can’t demand it.

      • Joseph Tanel

        Your right I should talk to him about it. Im just worried because I hardly see him due to classes (I’m in highschool) and I think we’ve grown apart but I still try to be in his life. I won’t expect anything but I’ll still love him no matter what. I would not want to force myself on him because I’d hate to damage our friendship but I will ask him about this. Thanks for the advice brother!

        • I wish I had had your bravery when I was young. I loved my best friend (nothing sexual) but would never admit it (at that time it was so uncool to be gay). When he died, I never even grieved for him, because only gays cried. It messed me up for better than three decades.

          • Joseph Tanel

            I’m so sorry for your loss brother, no one should have to go through that. Thanks but I’m not that brave to be honest, I came out over text, he thought I was pranking him at first, but believed me in the end. I pray you find peace brother!