Hugs & One-Sided Conversations


My best friend told me today that I’m terrible at hugs. I replied: “I receive it; what can I do better?”.

I’m bad at hugs because I’m not aware enough of the other person involved in the hug. I don’t pay attention to how my hug-partner reacts to my hug-style, from introduction to body to conclusion, and I don’t take the time to appreciate and enjoy their unique and highly-personal huggage either. Hugging was, to me, a simple transaction:

  1. Approach with arms slightly raised and ajar.
  2. Close distance.
  3. Embrace and squeeze/pat.
  4. Release embrace.
  5. As you were.

But now I see that there’s much more to a hug, not in terms of arbitrary detail, like the Book of the Covenant is to the Ten Commandments (Google it), but in actual form and function. There were deep principles to hugs that I just was not aware of, things to be aware of that I just didn’t understand until today:

  • Gauging the amount of intimacy your hug-partner expects to give and receive.
  • Add or subtract from that based on history and circumstance.
  • Enjoy the hug! Be aware of how your hug-partner’s hug makes you feel!

Before my friend and I went our separate ways for the night, we shared in a hug experience. And I passed! I am now a certified Adequate Hugger. Be proud.

Anyway, I think that for the same reasons I was a bad hugger, I’m also a bad texter at times. I’ve largely curbed the habit of it but not so long ago, I was liable to send 5-10 texts at a time to the girl I liked before she got around to responding to them.

Why was this and why do I compare it to giving bad hugs?

Beats me, I’m still figuring it out as well. But I have a feeling it has to do with being afraid to give affection and… being afraid to enjoy it when I receive it.

Patience, Sensitivity/The Fear of Giving

Before today’s lesson, when I gave hugs, I dove right in. No hesitation, no judgement of the level of intimacy was appropriate for the situation. Just in and out for a consistent amount of time and with a consistent amount of intimacy. Unless, of course, my hug-partner communicated their desire to keep me close for longer.

I think this conveys a fear of waiting, which is really a fear of losing control, which is really a fear of rejection. I’m afraid to pay attention to my prospective hug-partner’s desired level of intimacy, because it would then be awkward if I conveyed a desire for a higher level of intimacy than theirs.

BECAUSE THAT WOULD BE REJECTION, MAN. AND REJECTION HURTS. Or, at least, it’s scary. It’s a risk: unknown, out of control. It’s just like this anecdote I once read in a novel: If you’re not told about a thousand rats crawling on the floor of a pitch-black hallway, wouldn’t it be easy to walk from one end of that hallway to the other?

And that’s why I didn’t wait to see what sort of hug my prospective hug-partner wanted: fear that I wouldn’t like what I found out. So I gave up real connection and traded it for… Well, pretty much nothing but a paper-thin image of a hug; one copy for me and one for my unfortunate partner.

In a way, I see my ol’ one-sided conversations as motivated by the same fear: fear that if I waited for a response, I wouldn’t like what I found. On the flip-side, I sometimes felt as though even one-sided conversations were too risky, so I’d give up on trying to open up conversations completely!

Either way, my motivation was the same: Don’t wait for a response. Stay in control. Don’t pay attention to her and you won’t have any reason to be afraid of rejection. And the results were the same as my one-sided hugs: Without paying attention to the other person, nothing was really shared. More than me missing out on the shared experience, I ended up being a bad hugger too, unable to convey affection myself.

My affection is lifeless if I don’t pay attention to how the other person responds.

Trust, Confidence/The Fear of Receiving

Let’s say I completed Phase One, the observational stage of the hug perfectly. I had my eyes on my partner’s eyes, paid attention to their body language, considered my history with this person,  considered our circumstances, and perfectly executed the proper form of hug.

Apparently, this still wouldn’t be enough. There is yet another very important aspect to a genuine hug, an aspect that I am still very uncomfortable with: You… must…… allow yourself…….


To enjoy the hug.


I’m not the one making this up. Apparently, my friend could tell I wasn’t paying attention to the sensation of the hug itself. And apparently, this affected the sincerity of my hug.

Now, I know this to be true because I know that joy comes from sharing. Sharing does not just happen when a person gives. It doesn’t just happen when someone receives. Mm-mm.

For sharing to occur, both the giving and the receiving must be genuine, sincere.

Which means… For a hug to be genuine, I… I can’t be afraid to feel what I will about it. I can’t be afraid to enjoy it as I will. I can’t be afraid to receive affection.

This is scary because… Well, what if my partner doesn’t mean for me to feel this way? What if I enjoy it more than they meant me to? What if I’m more excited than they are?

For the second time in the hugging process, I find an opportunity to be afraid to be myself, to care more about how I’m seen rather than what I see. Only this time, it’s not in giving that I’m afraid, it’s in receiving. Again, I trade real connection for an image of it that I can control, that doesn’t scare me. One for me and one for my partner.

Of course, I do this in conversations as well. Heck, now that I’ve written all this out, I’ve noticed that each of these fears echoes through most of the ways I express myself in relationships.

And it sucks. Maybe I’m applying this lesson on hugs too widely. I share in many awesome relationships. But I see it in my younger relationships with people whose opinion I’m more concerned about.

I’mma be real, I see it in my relationship with the girl I like. I’m afraid, so I’m majorly tempted to be paper-thin in both my giving and receiving. The resulting relationship feels insubstantial to me. Sure, I’ve kept a clean image of a kind, compassionate dude. But the person who knows me best just told me that I’m holding back and, even if no one else can tell, I don’t want to be insubstantial. I want to be as much myself as possible. I want to be real, even if that means being afraid of things once in a while.

I want to have substance. I want to share something substantial with the person I desire.

Within reason, I now want to live substantially. Even if I’m rejected, that’s still substance. That’s still something solid to stand on, to live by, to act on, to share. Rejection, the thing I’m afraid of, is a thing of substance…. But I think I should be more afraid having nothing real to hold onto, to live by, to act on, and share.

A life of things passing me by…. The opposite of love is not hate, it’s fear. The opposite of joy isn’t sadness….. Hahahahahaha.

The opposite of joy is feeling nothing at all.



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