Wife Likes To Hug Everyone
Q: My wife is a real friendly person, and everybody loves hanging out with her at parties and stuff. My problem is that she likes to hug everyone. I know guys, and they take it as more than just a friendly hug sometimes. I can see how some of the guys in the neighborhood keep the hug going longer and even move their hands down her back. I don't like it and I walk up and tap them on the shoulder and put out my hand to shake. That gives them the message to back off. But my wife thinks I'm imagining things and just being jealous. I want her to be careful who she hugs and for how long, but she just walks away and laughs when I try to talk to her about it. What else should I do to make her see that she's opening a door that could lead to trouble? —Warren-54
Dr. Pamela: It really depends on the situation and your wife's relationship to the person she's hugging. There are different types of hugs. 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.
People have varying tolerance levels to physical contact and different cultures view certain acts differently. So, I understand why you feel uncomfortable by your wife's actions. You have a bit of a dilemma on your hands. It's clear that her threshold for what is appropriate touch is higher than yours. But, if you complain about it, you cross into boundary she set for "you're not the boss of me" territory. So, faultfinding will get you nowhere. That's not to say this isn't an important and potential harmful issue in your relationship. In fact her extreme hugging might or may be covering bigger problems between the two of you. Your statement " Men move their hands down her back "concerns me and should concern you and your wife. It sounds as if the exchanges going on between your wife and other men are more than casual. And I would want to know why your wife allows it and why she would question you wanting it to stop. It's totally within your "boundaries" to state what you expect from her in the relationship. And where you think the boundaries of the relationship should be. She then, would have to decide if her "freedom" to hug other people means more to her than your needs and expectations for relationship. If this is too delicate an issue to discuss calmly together, I'd suggest going to a Marriage and Family Therapist so he or she could mediate the discussion and help you come to peaceful and more loving decision.
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Susan K. Perry, Ph.D.
Susan K. Perry, Ph.D., is a social psychologist, relationship expert, and bestselling and award-winning author. Her books include Loving in Flow: How the Happiest Couples Get and Stay That Way, and Kylie's Heel, a novel for adults.
Pamela G. Chollet, Ph.D.
Dr. Pamela Chollet has a Ph.D. in clinical psychology and Master degrees in educational psychology and fine arts. Her passion has been helping people face and get through those times when they feel trapped and unable to move forward.
Anna Charbonneau, Ph.D.
Anna Charbonneau, Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist, stress management expert, and author. If you're feeling overwhelmed, stressed out, or struggling to make changes in your life, Anna can help.