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?

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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!

    • 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!

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

      • 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!

  • Marshall

    Jesus told us to deny ourselves, take up our cross, and follow Him. I seek to do that with great joy, because He is better than everything we give up! Also I want to love others in an unselfish way as Jesus taught. I currently do my best to live out that kind of love with 15 other friends on a farm near the Maryland suburbs of Washington, D.C. I love talking about what really matters, and seeing a friend's heart turn from pain to joy, from fear to peace, and from despair to hope! My writing tends to focus on the topic of friendships with other guys. I have never married and am currently the oldest author on YOB.

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