When Your Wife Hugs Everyone And It Drives You Crazy

Reader:  My wife is a “hugger”, sort of. She doesn’t hug everyone, but she does hug friends, including male friends.

*** edited out five paragraphs of ranting descriptions of hugging occurrences ***

Ok, so you can tell this is a REAL issue for me.

The hugs aren’t full body hugs, but they ARE two armed hugs. They only last for perhaps two seconds. I’m SURE her boobs touch the other person. Hell, I occasionally get a hug from a woman and generally her boobs touch ME, so I really shouldn’t be bitching. So rationally I know the hugs are no big deal, I don’t think there’s any impropriety occurring, but that doesn’t stop the caveman me from wanting to grab a club and cave in a skull. I’m talking about the “other guy” of course.

So I have two questions for you:

1. Do you let Jennifer hug other men?

2. Could my wife be putting me through a fitness test? If so, I’m not sure how to handle this because we’ve fought a few times in the last 20 years (Shit!) about this.

I’ve suggested my wife could give one armed hugs and hold her other arm in front of her, but she thought that was a ridiculous idea despite my assurances that I’ve had MANY women do that to me. (It sends a subtle, non-insulting message, while still allowing a hug to happen.)

So, am I being an idiotic prick? Should I just learn to deal with, perhaps by starting to hug other women more often? I’m not a real “huggy” person (except with wifey), but maybe I should learn how?

Help me Obiwan Athol, you are my only hope.

Obiwan:  The short answer is… two second hugs aren’t a big deal. Relax.

The longer answer is…

It’s not really a fitness test because I think she genuinely is a social hugger.

You have an impasse. Her threshold of what is appropriate touch is a lot higher than yours. But you complaining about it will cross her threshold of what is appropriate influence. Or put more plainly, she hugs people and it sets you off, but when you complain about it, it sets her off because you’re “controlling and paranoid”. So you get nowhere complaining about it.

So much of what is appropriate is determined by a host of social cues I’m not there to see or be a part of. Which is why I edited out the descriptions of the alleged inappropriate two second hugs, because I know someone in the comments is just going to skip ahead and tell you your wife is pregnant with another man’s child.

However, any place it is socially appropriate for your wife to hug another man, it’s also socially appropriate for him to shake your hand. So she hugs him, you stroll over and offer your hand / introduce yourself. He’s pretty much obligated to shake your hand, or otherwise he’s massively disrespecting you, whereupon, it’s all fair game to make a bit of a scene. If he doesn’t shake your hand and touches your wife, call him on it in public right there. “Is there a reason you feel you can put your hands on my wife and not shake my hand?”

Or… seeing your right hand is unshaken and free, playfully and just a little too hard sock him in the shoulder, or slap him on the back. Say “great to see ya” and smile. (Important tip: Only do this if you can whip his ass in a fight)

When he shakes your hand, if it’s the choir director he’s probably an okay guy, so set your handshake to medium and be friendly. If the other guy is a douchebag, basically crush his hand and stare at him unblinking while smiling. Hand strength being a pretty good indicator of your total physical ability. It’s kind of a variant on the iron hand in the velvet glove.

It’s overly Beta to get all twisted up about her two second hugging someone, it’s Alpha to confidently shake someone’s hand.


If Jennifer wants to hug someone she can. Doesn’t happen overly much though and her affection for people is quite genuine rather than sexually motivated. We actually had a long talk about this together tonight and debated the issue a little. I’m actually more of a hugger than she is I think, so the higher threshold one of the two of us is probably me. I think for the two of us, public hugs with the opposite sex are okay. Anything beyond a vanilla hug is crossing the line for both of us.

Jennifer:  It really does depend on so many things.  A two second “nice to see you, I really like you” hug is totally different than a 15 second, half-groping, rubbing your back and not letting go hug.  Also, if you are hugging every man you work with, that’s crossing a boundary.  If you are hugging a friend, or someone from church, that’s a more social situation and understandable.  It’s funny…hugging is apparently much less sexual to me than to other people…if I’m hugging a friend it’s not sexual to me since I’m not sexually interested in them…and hugging is different in intent and expression than groping.  If I’m hugging Athol, of course it’s different (nudge nudge wink wink). 


  1. Good advice, Athol, and I commend your reader – it’s a stand-up (OK, grown-up) guy who has the guts to consider that, A) his feelings might be a little over the top, and B) he has a lot to lose by letting his emotions get to him. (Not that he shouldn’t be aware of who she’s hugging – her intentions might be innocent, but others’ might not.)

    Also, since she knows it bothers him, it would be courteous of her to rein it in a bit, now and then.

  2. Obstinance Works says:

    No you don’t let your wife hug other men ever. You wuss. Step in and snuff that out right away. Get in fights with her and other men over it if need be but never again. And this passive agressive slapping a dude on the back and so on is dumb.

  3. Joe Commenter says:

    The hugging bit would bother me too. Where it crosses over to unacceptable is where the wife is only hugging 1, 2 or 3 select men and seemingly heaping on the attention to them, while ignoring most of the other men. So She hugs them all, I would be bothered but would accept it.

    I’m not gonna nag her about it. I’m gonna play that game too. If wifey can be groped by some men, I will in turn start groping the women. I will begin escalating physical moves in public on them that my wife can see. Fair is Fair.

  4. Athol had good advice, but seriously you’re overreacting. You and your wife are very far apart (like chasms, like oceans) on personal boundaries and space. Normal people hug in social situations with friends or sometimes just friends of friends or acquaintances. She’s not giving you a shit-test, she’s just being friendly. And I don’t think I’ve ever thought of hugs as a way to get some breasts to rub against me. And I’m not a real huggy person either, but am comfortable hugging my family, close guy and girl friends and don’t think anything when my wife does the same. Get over it.

  5. I would only be concerned if she’s touchy-feely with other men and *not* with you.

  6. Changed Man says:

    In this case, I will yield to Athol’s understanding of the OP’s situation, but I feel that, depending on the circumstances (social vs professional, for example) and where you are in the MAP, touching men that are not ‘friends of the the marriage’ can be problematical. Thoughts?

  7. I think this is a cultural thing. Quick hello hugs (not extended) are typical in many cultures. Hispanics for example hug to say hello across genders. And a quick peck on the cheek too! I have French friends, and I know they do it too. I have midwestern American friends who I know are not very fond of hugging to say hello.

    So taking cultural considerations into account, I would say there’s room for flexibility as long as the physical contact is quick and as long as like some people said above, the husband is not jealous because HE doesnt get enough physical attention, and as long as the wife is not singling out specific men for this type of hugging.

  8. Charles, RN says:

    It so happens that I am a tango dancer (single, but working on that) and the observation I want to offer is that dancing tango is essentially something like a prolonged hug. Really. Outsiders to the dance think that this is inherently sexual; but insiders know that it is not; but that it can be with certain combinations of people. There are couples for whom dancing with a variety of people solidifies their bond together, and couples for whom this becomes an issue. Some resolve, and some don’t. Some resolve by leaving social tango, or by only dancing together, or by other means such as being picky about social partners. The relevance to this discussion, and my two cents worth: It’s all context. And context is user-defined rather than socially defined. An additional two cents worth: If it’s a problem for one, IMHO, by definition it’s a problem for both; and both need to partake and be satisfied with the resolution.

  9. The hugging thing is weird to me, too. I don’t remember it being a common practice growing up, and I would have really LOVED getting that close to girls. Then around 1980-82 or so, everyone seemed to be doing it. I think it started (in America, at least) in California.

    I didn’t grow up with it, but I learned to like it, and, situation permitting, often go in for the cheek kissing whenever I can. It helps put women at ease, and breaks the physical ice. I’m not the cheating type, but you have to keep your wife attuned to the fact that other women are attracted to you, and the only time my wife ever sees me with other women is when we’re with other couples. If it were all handshakes and nods with these other women all the time, there’d be no spark there, no chance for her to see me even interacting with other women, and that much less potential for sexual competition.

    Competition is good! Use it! After all, look what even the mere prospect of excessive man-touching has done to this reader! It drives him crazy with desire for his wife. Do the same to her. You don’t ever have to make overt threats of infidelity or cross a moral line. Just a little hugginess on greetings and friendly touches.

  10. Ordinarily, I would not think twice about a hug, the way it was described by the husband. The thing I don’t get is why she keeps doing it. They’ve been fighting about it for twenty years? If it bugged my husband that much, I would stop. Or just hug my girlfriends, or switch to the ever-mocked side hug. Why drive the man insane for twenty years?

  11. A lot of this depends on how she was raised. Have you noticed whether her parents / siblings have the same attitude toward hugging? That might help give you a clue whether this is something she was raised with or something she’s (possibly unconsciously) using to needle you.

    That said, I’m inclined to agree with Athol that this is not that big a deal and the best way to handle it is to be present as a reminder to any guys who might get the wrong idea that they get their two seconds, but they push for more at their own peril. (-:

  12. FlyingDutchman says:

    When you have outranked her and she is jumping your hoops for sex, then she will do whatever you ask her to do. If her behavior is crossing a line or making you feel uneasy then its not good for your relationship. You’re the captain and you can correct her behavior if its needed.

    But I agree with the previous comments too. If she is just naturally this way with everybody then I would probably pick your battles and leave this one alone. But if she is only showing extra attention to the good looking guys or to the guys who are showing extra attention to her, then you need to correct this behavior. Yes you should do the handshake stuff and make sure the other guys know that you are the alpha with her. But you can also correct her behavior when its needed. Otherwise, you are not really the captain.

  13. Hugs are no problem, unless she won’t touch you. Then the hugs are still not the problem; the lack of contact with you is. Being paranoid about little stuff like this just shows insecurity—which is probably a large source of your problem.

  14. What Wendy said. Could be cultural. I come from a Hispanic family and EVERYONE hugs AND kisses. This really threw my wife off the first time she met my family but she’s comfortable with it now and probably doesn’t get too nervous when she sees me hugging non-relatives ladies.

    However this weekend we were at a outdoor festival and I ran into a girl I worked with about 15 years ago (pretty good looking girl BTW) and when we saw each other, she walked over and hugged me right in front of my wife. I made sure I savored the damn hug and was friendly, cocky and playful while we all chatted. Noticed my wife was a little more clingy the rest of the day.

  15. Agreed with Mark… Who cares, it’s a hug. Getting that upset about it reeks of major insecurity.

  16. Christy says:

    I don’t like this business of using the hug to make the wife jealous.

    Either put your foot down on the hugging or leave it alone. Everything else is unhealthy passive-aggressive maneuvers.

  17. Over It says:

    Do the “Christian side hug” everybody!

    I agree with the above commenters that the husband needs to get over his insecurities. Until then, of course the hugs will bother him.

  18. FeralFelis says:

    I am a hugger and it never occurred to me until this post that my breasts actually touch someone during a hug!
    Also, this isn’t something anyone looking at me might be able to tell, but there are times (I am single) when I hug a man and I have definite thoughts of “Oh baby!” during the hug, and he nearly always picks up on it. Most of the time, there is only the thought of “It’s so good to see you again!” and I have never had that kind of hug misinterpreted for the other kind.
    I think it’s an intent thing. Clearly, the weekend hug MCM describes had a little more intent behind it than a simple “Good to see you after all these years.”
    All of that said, I agree with Jessie. Even being a hugger, if I had a Captain who was uncomfortable with seeing me hugging another man, I would certainly find another way to express affection to my male friends.

  19. Ok, i just have to comment that I find this entire thred very weird. I’m not a hugger, but my husband and his family are. It’s just part of the social norm for that person. If I went to one of his family events and refused to hug anyone (ESPECIALLY if we’d previously hugged), it would come across as standoffish and rude. To your wife who hugs, you are asking her to be outright rude to her friends and aquantenaces. Women don’t really enjoy being forced into rudeness. If you said “I don’t want you to offer any of our guests something to drink when they come over, cause that’s like buying a drink for a guy at a bar!” do you know how crazy that would come off?! or even worse – you can offer our female guests a drink but not the male ones…WHAT?! This whole telling your wife not to hug people seems completely nuts to me.

    I don’t feel this is an area that your wife should submit to your desires because they seem awefully unreasonable. If there was some specific “I don’t want you hugging your ex boyfriend” or something, maybe it would come off less crazy, but not hugging people is unreasonable to ask of a hugger. Touching creates bonds and that’s part of her normal social activity. You’r ebeing completely unreasonable.

  20. Some people need to realise that being in control and being controlling are at opposite ends of the spectrum.

  21. The OP did not ask his wife to stop hugging people. He asked her to hug the men differently, preventing her boobs from touching them. This is not unreasonable. In fact, it’s something she should automatically try to avoid.
    The fitness-test aspect comes in because he’s made this request numerous times and she’s ignoring him.
    Why drive the man insane for twenty years? Because there are no repercussions. What penalty awaits her for ignoring him? None. (A bad mood he gets over is no threat)
    I agree with FlyingDutchman, I don’t think the OP is really the Captain. His wife should be striving to please him, but she feels no risk in not doing so. He has asked for a slight change in her behaviour toward other men. It’s not unreasonable. But I think she has no motivation to please him in this because she feels no threat to her position by ignoring him.
    This is coming from a woman, so I could be wrong, but I think hovering over her and dominating the ‘other guy’ with the handshake etc just gives her more power. It’s saying – you can displease me, and I will take it out on the other guy, not you. You are safe from feeling any of my displeasure, even though you are the one causing it.
    It’s fine to say this is no big deal, but it’s also no big deal for her to slightly change how she hugs men.

  22. Joe Commenter says:

    @FeralFelis: Trust me. All of the men you hug are conscious of your breasts and where they are during a hug.

  23. I do wonder if the OP knew this before they got married, if she was a hugger during dating I could see why she feels she doesn’t need to relent, it would weird if he demanded to change something he knew was part of the package. Now if this started happening later on there might be a reason why he gets set off. I think this question need exploring.

  24. Forthesakeofreason says:

    OK Athol, love the advice section where you talk about how to handle the situation with options. How about more of that? Some people, myself included, totally suck at handling situations unless prepared in advance. Its like martial arts… you suck at fighting but after a while, its just instinct, and you kick ass. Anyway, it would be cool to see some douche bag scenarios and how to handle them.


  25. well. he is concerned about his wifes boobs being hugged but doesn’t seem to mind when a women presses her boobs on him. get over yourself

  26. @obstinance worker-you seem to be a very controlling jealous person. poor advice on your part.

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