The first time I publicly shared about being involved with cuddling was on Facebook.
I was 3 months into this life-changing practice, and a video featuring Cuddle Sanctuary had just been released. I couldn’t wait to share!
In my post, I wrote about how cuddling had changed my life: I had more peacefulness, closer friendships, and much better boundaries. When sharing this, I imagined my friends sharing in my excitement, and that this would change their lives too.
What happened instead, was the social media equivalent of an awkward silence. It was one of the least popular posts I had ever shared.
It’s Not For Everyone
In my excitement and naivete, I hadn’t realized how uncomfortable the topic of cuddling outside of a romantic relationship was for many people.
I learned very quickly that just because something is natural and wonderful to me, it doesn’t mean this would be the case for others. Since then, I’ve learned to have a healthy respect for how delicate of a topic this can be. Nowadays, I’ve had a bit of practice presenting this work in a digestible and less threatening way.
While I continue to encounter awkward shuffling around the topic here and there, for the most part, being completely “out” about this part of my life has been incredibly rewarding. Talking about cuddling openly has brought more like-minded people into my life. It has opened conversations around the importance of touch, vulnerability, and platonic intimacy all around me. I’ve also noticed that touch has worked its way into many of my existing friendships because my friends now feel more permission to be physically close to me. I love this!
Choosing to Talk About It (or Not)
With the holidays upon us, you may be spending more time with friends or family, and considering ways to share what is important to you with them.
If you’re currently “closeted” about cuddling, you’re not alone. Many of us can’t risk the potential fallout of being othered by those who misunderstand this practice. It can sever precious relationships, or affect livelihoods. If this is you, you don’t have to change a thing! Keep on rocking your life in the way that works best for you!
However, if you’re feeling ready to share, here are a few helpful tips:
1) Discharge Your Own Shame
If you’re feeling embarrassed to talk about attending cuddle events or hiring a professional cuddler, it’s a good sign that you haven’t quite come to terms with it for yourself yet.
A good way to get more comfortable with it is to practice looking at your needs with compassion and without judgement. Make friends with what you need and how you need it. Then, find ways to give yourself permission to enjoy. It’s also always helpful to surround yourself with others who are fully accepting of this in their lives.
Once this feels normalized for you, you’ll notice that this practice bolsters your sense of worth instead of detracts from it. You’ll then be able to talk about it with much more confidence and clarity. The permission you give yourself may even inspire someone else to practice much-needed self-care in the same way.
2) Talk About the Health Benefits
There’s nothing like having science to back up something you already love!
Did you know that loneliness increases the risk of early death by 50%? That makes social isolation far deadlier than smoking or obesity.
Conversely, simply hugging for 20-seconds is enough to release the wonderful hormone oxytocin. It can do amazing things like:
- Lower risk the of heart disease
- Reduces cortisol levels (decreased stress)
- Eases depression and fatigue
- Boosts your immune system
- Improves sleep
You’ll probably win some knowledgeable points as you share these facts with your friends or family. 😉 But more importantly, this can help those around you pay more attention to their well being when it comes to touch.
3) Use Relatable Experiences
Professional Cuddling comes attached with many of the same stigmas that we find around sex work. This makes talking about it extra challenging. However, there are many other parallel frameworks that feel much more comfortable to a larger audience, and can bridge the gap of understanding.
I find it helpful to talk about my work by comparing it to a combination massage therapy or talk therapy – but with hugs and caresses. Many folks are familiar with how helpful it is to get a massage or work with a counselor or therapist. This makes the work feel much more tangible and accessible to the listener.
4) Be Ready to Address Concerns
Your friends and family care about your safety and well-being, and this can cause them to channel their own discomfort into worry for you. You can help allay this by preemptively naming and addressing some common concerns. Some of these talking points may help:
- Sessions are completely platonic (explain how that has worked for you)
- Arousal is addressed and talked about in a non-shaming way
- Saying “No” is welcomed – even celebrated
- This is a therapeutic modality
- Practitioners and event leaders are trained and certified
5) Tell Your Story Vulnerably
Setting aside all of these tactics, perhaps the most potent thing you can do is to simply talk openly about what led you to seek out cuddling in the first place.
Most everyone has experienced pain, grief, loneliness, or simply noticed that they needed more connection in their lives. Sharing your journey can build a sense of commonality, and draw them closer to you. And chances are that even if they don’t fully understand, they will be happy that you’re finding fulfillment in your life.
6) Expect and Respect the Discomfort
Platonic cuddling is simply not for everyone, so someone is bound to have a negative reaction to your share. Do your best not to take it personally. Their reaction says much more about them than it says about you.
Something I’m learning, is to really be really mindful when it comes to bringing it up in conversation. If they’re not wanting to hear about it, then – just like at a cuddle – I choose to respect their boundaries. We find a myriad of many other wonderful things to connect on.
Conversely, you may find that you’re in need of friends who are accepting of this part of your life. This can be complicated and painful, but letting go of relationships that no longer serve you can make room for something deeper and more wonderful.
7) Start with One
Beginning to talk about your experiences doesn’t have to look like a huge public coming out. You can start very small, by sharing it with just one person that you really trust.
Do you have someone in your life who is completely accepting and supportive of you? This might even be a professional you work with – like your therapist or life coach. Allowing yourself a place to feel validated and celebrated in your full self can really set a great foundation for being more authentic in the world.
8) Be Patient
Take your time with building courage around sharing. And when you do, never underestimate the power of time and exposure.
I’ve had many experiences where dear friends have exposed me to uncomfortable ideas that really challenged my beliefs. While I initially would struggle with judgement and fear, being able to hear about it from someone I loved and respected planted seeds that lead to me changing my own framework.
You never know how your example can impact others over time.
9) Embrace the Weirdness
Finally, it’s ok to accept that you are into something that is very outside-the-box. It may make you different from your friends and family, but I think it makes you wonderful!
Yes, for now, all of us that are into this are a little weird. We’re different from the mainstream – but it’s only because the culture at large hasn’t yet caught on to how essential this is.
Touch modalities are where psychotherapy, massage, yoga and meditation used to be. New and strange. But there is a cultural shift happening, and you’re one of the pioneers in this movement.
As you boldly continue to follow what works for you, and to be in full acceptance and celebration about what it does for your life, you won’t be able to help but impact the lives of those around you.
Just keep on being you to the fullest!
Want to hear from someone else who has taken the topic of cuddling into the everyday world? Our Cuddle Ambassador Mark Donham shares his story here