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Hug Me Close

(This blog post was written by Elisabeth Mandel, LMFT. Elisabeth is an Associate Therapist at our practice and specializes in working with couples.)

In one of the most influential books on intimacy in committed relationships, Passionate Marriage, David Schnarch (1997) proposes a technique called, “Hugging till Relaxed” to help partners reconnect and appreciate their love for one another.

We’ve all heard couples say that relationships take work to be successful. When partners get comfortable with each other, over time they create their own relationship routine. The structure and predictability of this routine lay the foundation for interdependence by allowing for both autonomy as well as security. Partners develop their compatibility in such a way where they can co-exist while functioning on their own and yet still enjoy companionship.

The irony of intimacy is based on the reality that the more partners fit into each other’s lives, the easier it is for their emotional closeness to fade and their physical closeness to carry the relationship forward. In other words, less physical (and/or logistical) space between partners leaves more room open for emotional distance. Your relationship routine falls into a relationship rut.

What do you do when your relationship is functionally stable yet less emotionally satisfying? Partners can become increasingly comfortable in their roles and the power of their attachment blends in with their surroundings. Convenience becomes the new foreplay.

Hugging till Relaxed is an exercise that may be self-explanatory from the name, but it is symbolic as a game. You can recharge your relationship if you and your partner are willing to play with each other. Making a game out of hugging is a surefire way to reignite the flame that brought you together by virtue of the potential significance that can be extracted from a neglected act of desire and reassurance.

When was the last time you hugged your partner or your partner hugged you? When was the last time you and your partner hugged each other?

Neuropsychologist Allan Schore (1994) noted that “proximity to an attachment figure tranquilizes the nervous system.” Hugging till Relaxed is a simple and effective way of recharging your relationship by increasing the physical and emotional proximity of your attachment.

Reconnect with your partner by engaging in a game of simultaneous and reciprocal hugging until both of you relax. If you integrate this technique into your routine, you can successfully break out of your relationship rut and even make foreplay the new convenience!


Schnarch, David (1997). Passionate Marriage. New York: W. W. Norton & Company.

Schore, Allan (1994). Affect Regulation and the Origin of the Self: The Neurobiology of Emotional Development. New York: Taylor & Francis Group, LLC.

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