Cuddling or Sex: Which Matters More in Marriage?

cuddling versus sexFor all of us, a certain amount of touching is absolutely essential to a good marriage. It's just a fact. Touch is the very essence of marriage, that which separates you and your spouse from siblings, friends, or two roommates who happen to share children.

But "touch" encompasses a wide swath of intimate gestures that range all the way from a hug in the kitchen when one of you had a bad day to hot sex in your bedroom that lasts all night long. So which of these two is the proverbial "glue" in a marriage? In an epic smackdown between the cuddles and the wild sex, which would win the last round?

It should be simple enough to answer, right? People have preferences. And yet, like almost everything else in marriage, it's neither simple nor straightforward.


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"Cuddling comes from sex in my marriage," says Genevieve Stamper, a mom of one from Brooklyn, New York.

The fact is, touching of any kind matters. "All consensual touch has an erotic element, and it’s up to us to recognize it and enjoy the experience for its own sake, without pushing for more or worrying about whether a sexual encounter will ensue," says Patricia Johnson, co-author of Partners in Passion, Great Sex Made Simple, Tantra for Erotic Empowerment, and The Essence of Tantric Sexuality. "Denying the innate pleasure and eroticism of touch may result in a reflexive shutdown and limit your capacity for enjoyment."

In other words, cuddling and sex are BOTH part of a healthy relationship and the overabundance of one (or the exclusion of either) will lead to problems.

But the experts are one thing. What about those of us who are actually living it, dealing with work, children, cooking, cleaning, and all the pieces that make up our hectic, busy, over-scheduled lives? What kind of touch sustains us and keeps our unions strong?

"Sex is totally more important," says Bronwyn Olmos of San Francisco, who has been married to her husband for 12 years. "If you aren't having sex, the hugs and cuddling aren't as good or meaningful."

It's true.

We can hug our siblings, parents, friends, aunts, uncles, and just about anyone else. Hell, some people hug strangers on the street! But sex is something special. It's something two intimate partners share only with each other.

By and large all the women -- and the men -- agreed that both are important, but one is SO much more important. "I can go get hugs from anyone," says Julia Magnusson, a mom of two from Boston.

And while most of us can admit to having a preference, the fact is, both need to be present.

"Both [cuddling and sex] are sources of oxytocin, the bonding hormone, which helps couples feel connected," says marriage consultant and coach Lesli M. W. Doares, author of Blueprint for a Lasting Marriage: How to Create Your Happily Ever After With More Intention, Less Work. "Making sure that both are present in a way that works for both spouses is key for a happy, successful marriage."

To those hoping they could streamline and only be required to do one over the other, we've got unfortunate news: You gotta make time for both. Sorry, busy wives and moms. It's true. 

Emotionally, it may be a toss-up, but cuddling and sex need to happen in tandem to really make a strong relationship.

"I think I prefer cuddling, kissing, and holding hands while walking," says Stamper. "But all of that comes more organically, and in much greater quantity, when we're focused on making sex a priority."


Do you prefer sex or cuddling?

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