Dr. Wall discusses the importance of marital cuddling. Marriages without cuddling struggle with coldness and anger; those with regular, dependable cuddling are marked by closeness, connection and warmth.

I don’t think we need to come back to therapy. We’re cuddling now and getting along great. I just needed to know that he cared. We’re good to go.

A Common Quote From Clients Finishing Marital Therapy

Not that you need to know about my personal life, but I just got diagnosed with Sleep Apnea and was issued a CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure) machine to help with my breathing when I’m sleeping. In laymen’s terms, Sleep Apnea means my sleeping sucked in spades. The machine improves airflow and oxygen. It’s a bit awkward at first, but I’m feeling much better and have more energy. I’ve struggled with sleep disruption for years. Hard to believe a machine could make this much difference. I’ll probably have a blog just on the effect of Sleep Apnea on marriage in the future, but right now I’m using it as a segue to our topic of the day. Hang in there.

I emailed the family of my Sleep Apnea diagnosis and the new CPAP machine and Marty, our oldest son, called me and we chatted about it. Marty’s the cartoonist who draws Rackafracka, the cartoons we feature on our website (click here) . He posts 5 cartoons a week on his own website (fritzcartoons.com) as well as selling them to businesses for various applications. He is also a great person, a close friend and an encourager. He expressed his concern about my sleeping problem. We had a few laughs. He always makes us laugh.

After he hung up, he immediately thought of the cartoon below and started drawing. Later we get an email. We laughed out loud. Check it out:


His cartoon is so funny. Thanks, Marty. It also got me thinking about cuddling and that I needed to have information about it on my blog. A quick word search for “cuddling” on my web site revealed to me that I hadn’t discussed the topic yet. That’s unreal. It comes up regularly in therapy, mostly because way too many of the couples I see in marital therapy don’t cuddle. That’s a shame. It’s an easy way to kick up your marriage. If you are NOT doing it, you’ll be amazed how quickly you will drift away and grow indifferent to each other.

I’m sorry for my neglect in writing about it. I probably shouldn’t tell you this really great news about cuddling, because if you do what I am about to suggest there is a really good chance you won’t need my services. It’s like a secret recipe that a chef would fear to let others know about. Hey, folks! You don’t have to go see Dr. Wall. Just read his blog! I may be writing my own epitaph:

Here lies Dr. Wall. He was a successful marital therapist until he revealed the secret to a happy marriage and then he died a pauper, because nobody needed him anymore.

Here, then, is a brief primer on cuddling:

For most couples one wants sex more than the other. Let’s call the one who wants it more “A” and the one that wants it less “B.” Sorry folks: It’s not strictly that he wants it more and she wants it less. That’s a cultural myth. I’ve observed from my practice in working with hundreds of couples, that if the couple is under 35, 70% of the time the husband wants sex more. But this means that in 30% of the couples the wife wants it more! Who knew? If they are between 35 and 50 years old, it’s more even. Older than 55, the pattern is reversed from when they were in their 20’s and early 30’s: The wife wants it more around 70% of the time and 30%, the husband does. I have a theory that sexual desires and needs changes over time and over a lifetime of 50-60 years together, the desire for sexuality will be in flux. So, hey, if your spouse seems a bit uninterested in sex now, keep in mind that you are not married as you are now for your whole life! Things change over time. SEX IS NOT STATIC!! Neither is your marriage! It’s a shame that people divorce over this issue. A little patience and five years later (or even next week!) sexual roles can totally reverse. Love is patient, right? But it’s easy to forget the long view when you are hurting now.

This disparity in frequency of sex can create some hurt on both partners’ parts: If they are not sexual enough, A may feel neglected, rejected and hurt. If A isn’t careful and is too demanding about wanting sex more, B often feels put upon and used and is tempted to believe that A only loves B for sex. Lovemaking can take on the aura of manipulation and lust, not exactly the way to warm one’s heart.

When they first got together A and B couldn’t keep their hands off each other. In fact, A thought that B was an A! After the first six months to a year, this constant touching waned, not because their love got cold, but because they knew each other by now, the newness wore off and schedules and bills and grad school and (soon) kids and climbing the ladder at work impinge on their time. Having less time together means less cuddling time and less time for sexuality. This NORMAL cooling of passions often causes A to panic. We’re not as close as we were!! So A tries keep the embers burning and to get close physically with B by pursuing affection and sexuality.

Okay. Pay attention. It gets a little confusing: At first B responds and shows affection back. But, over time, B notices that A won’t just simply cuddle. Cuddling gets A’s motor running and before B realizes it, A is all over B, trying to jumpstart B. But B isn’t always in the mood for driving down the highway at just that particular moment. B just wanted to sit on the porch. Sometimes B relents and later, the sex is fine. Sometimes B says he or she is busy, tired, preoccupied, etc., and begs off. A, if A isn’t careful, pouts or storms off or worse. This type of behavior does not warm B’s heart toward A and makes sexuality seem like a way that A uses B to get what A wants. B doesn’t like feeling used. B is fine being sexual with A, just not “all the time.”

This pattern repeats until B finally starts equating cuddling with sex. B is fine cuddling, but if every time B cuddles with A, there is pressure to be sexual, after awhile B won’t want to cuddle with A at all. Along with cuddling, a lot of other affection can go out the window, also. Without cuddling and other types of affection, sexuality seems less meaningful to both. Without regular cuddling and meaningful sexual encounters, A feels neglected. The pressure from A to B makes B feel used. Both feel hurt and start withdrawing from each other. Anger can enter the mix. Sexuality occurs less and less often and pretty soon it is so rare that they feel more like roommates than they do husband and wife.

Enter Dr. Wall’s Cure.

Drum roll, please.

Married couples need 10 minutes of cuddling per day…minimum. Better yet is two times a day: In the morning just before they get up and at night just before they go to sleep.

My definition of marital cuddling is:

Intimate, non-demand snuggling between a husband and a wife.

By intimate, I mean it is private and close…close enough, that if you did this with anyone else you’d be arrested. This is done behind closed doors. It could be done in your bedclothes or naked or semi-naked, or basically whatever you wear or don’t wear to bed. You can cuddle different ways. For example, you spoon your spouse and then he or she spoons you. Or one of you is on his or her back and the other drapes over. He has his hand on her breast or she has her hand on his thigh. BUT it is non-demand in the sense that no one is trying to get anyone’s motor running. You are LYING there. You are not rubbing anything. You rest close together. Relaxing. Tenderness. No agenda.

What happens here?

Think of cuddling as turning on the oven and sexuality as baking the bread. Cuddling keeps the oven on warm, so whenever we go to bake the bread we only have to turn up the oven a little bit. It helps A feel close because B is accepting of the physical closeness. It helps A control his or her sexual urges. Tame that lion! Just relax. It helps B feel that A loves him or her apart from sexuality, which makes sexuality mean so much more. It creates an atmosphere so that when sexuality does occur there is a meaningful context. It is a win-win for both A and B. Married couples do NOT need sex every day, but they need cuddling every day, so that when they are sexual, the MUTUAL sexual experience will mean something!

Without cuddling, when we are sexual, we have to start with a cold oven (for some couples they have to take their oven out of the freezer!). Dang, it’s just so much work and our timing is terrible and it just feels forced and ….

Cuddling helps sexuality by increasing dramatically connection and warmth. Cuddling keeps anger and resentment at bay. It’s hard to be mean to your spouse when you just had this close, cuddling time! It costs nothing. Certainly the two of you can find ten minutes a day TO SHOW EACH OTHER THAT YOU CARE!!!!

I will not accept any excuses.

Go, ye, therefore, and cuddle.

Bummer. I’m probably going to have to start looking for another job.


Dr. Bing Wall is a marriage therapist with a practice in Ames and Urbandale, Iowa.  To set up a time to see Dr. Wall click here or call 888-233-8473.  For more information about Dr. Wall click here.

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