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Cuddling positions 101: 13 ways to get up close and personal

By Maya Khamala

“Nothing has shown us how much we need touch more than social distancing,” says Maisha Aza, a sex and intimacy expert at Black Girl Tantra. “Humans need touch and crave it when we haven’t had enough of it.”

Although cuddling with a pet, a friend, a pillow, or even yourself can be highly beneficial, in the context of a romantic relationship, cuddling is an incredible way of releasing stress and building intimacy.

But hey—did you know there are countless ways to cuddle? Cuddling is its own love language, after all. While some people live to cuddle, others can do without it, and still others treat it strictly as foreplay. As an aside—contrary to popular belief—men tend to crave cuddling more than women.

Why you should cuddle (more)

Regardless of the reasons some of us are more drawn to cuddling than others, facts be facts: touch is a primal need (we’re far from the only animals who do it) and a great way to get your oxytocin on. According to a 2014 study, couples who cuddle after sex report higher satisfaction, both sexually and in their relationships overall. There is also research which shows that touch is an effective way of communicating emotions like love, gratitude, empathy, joy, or sadness.

Still, your arms or legs might go numb, or you might overheat. People have a wide range of tolerances for closeness. If, for whatever reason, you count yourself among the significantly touch averse, you may try seeking common ground with your partner by heeding these pro tips.

The great news is that depending on your mood, preference, or vibe, there are many different cuddling positions to choose from (hint, they’re not all for sleeping). While there’s no right or wrong way to cuddle, these common positions can pave the way for an epic deepening of your partner bond:

Cuddles for lying down:

1. Spooning

For some, spooning is among the best positions for falling asleep. There’s a lot of full body contact, and once you figure out where to put your arms, it can be very comforting, allowing one partner to feel safe and supported and the other protective. The “big spoon” wraps their arms around the “little spoon” while both lying on their sides facing in the same direction so that one person’s stomach rests against the other's back. It can be sexual, too, of course: is that a hard dream you’re having, or are you just happy to be near me? While the “big spoon” is often the larger partner, spooning can really go either way.

2. Half-spooning

Half-spooning involves one partner lying on their back, and the other on their side. The person on their side nuzzles their head into the crook of their partner's arm and drapes their arm over their partner's chest. This allows you to be close and intimate with your partner without feeling trapped in a full spoon. It also allows for ample forehead kisses and allows one person to fall asleep to the other's heartbeat. Just sayin’.

3. Butt “cheek-to-cheek”

This position is not necessarily cold or detached, as some may think. After all, even though you and your partner may not feel like actively embracing, you’re still willfully making contact with another. In this position, you’re facing opposite directions with your butts and lower backs touching, and probably your knees are bent too, although you can also stretch one leg back and stroke your partner’s toes if you’re feeling playful.

4. Honeymoon hugging

In the famous “honeymoon phase” of a newish relationship, partners often can't get enough of each other. But in spite of what some may think, you don’t need to be new to feel that way about one another. In this position, you and your partner face each other, and entangle your limbs—all of ‘em. You’re so close, your senses are engaged: the perfect opportunity to inhale your lover’s scent and fall asleep feeling their skin on yours.

5. Sweetheart cradling

This position is ideal when you feel the need to be held and nurtured. One partner lies on their back while holding the other, who rests their head on the first partner’s chest as it rises and falls. This is a deeply comforting type of cuddling that cultivates warm and fuzzy feelings of trust and togetherness.

6. Leg hugging

My partner and I leg-hug when sleep is a massive priority but we still crave physical contact. Once you’re both comfy, simply drape one leg over top of your partner’s leg—keeping in mind, of course, that you may need to adjust or reposition if it makes them uncomfortable at some point.

7. Yin-yanging

Think of the yin-yang as the 69 of cuddling. Facing one another, use each other's legs as pillows. This can generate a mutual flow of giving and receiving energy for both partners. This position is great for couples who want deeper intimacy or to spark a reconnection, as well as for those who already have a deep connection and are very comfortable with each another. Yin-yang might also serve as form of foreplay if you're in the mood.

7. Lap pillowing

One partner sits while the other lays their head in their lap. The first partner might caress their face, or run their fingers through their hair. This position displays trust, and facilitates affectionate kissing and stroking. Plus, the feel of a loving and reassuring hand over the head and hair can feel deeply secure and comforting, and lead to a stronger connection. Not to mention, it’s a great position for watching a movie (though the lap layer may fall asleep).

Cuddles for sitting:

8. Hand-holding

It’s simple: sit side by side, lean against one other, and hold hands. Great for new relationships, engaging in some quality hand-holding can be deliciously innocent and yet intimate. Plus, if you need to slip away to grab a glass of water or scratch your nose, it’s as simple as taking your hand away momentarily.

9. Sitting closely, face-to-face

This position harbors a strong and stable connection between partners. It can be comforting, reassuring, and very intimate while still leaving space for a little autonomy. The basics: sit side by side and look at one other. Different versions of this position include one partner placing their hand on the other’s leg, draping their arm around the other’s shoulders, or leaning their head on the other’s shoulder.

10. Hugging, seated

What’s a seated hug, you ask? Well, you sit side by side, with your outer thighs and hips touching, and hug—usually this is most easily accomplished by one partner drawing the other close with their arm around their shoulders. Bonus: seated hugs help cancel out height differences. Perfect for both sofa-sitting or dock-sitting while overlooking a beautiful lake.

11. Chair lounging

One partner sits with their back to a wall (or a headboard) with their legs in a loose V-shape. The other sits in front of them and leans back. This position allows the one leaning back to feel deeply loved, cared for, and wanted while allowing the giving partner to feel supportive and protective. This is a position that can really help grow feelings of deep connection and vulnerability. Hot tip: if you have a big enough bath, this one is magic in the tub!

12. Companioning

Like any one of these positions, companioning can be organically adjusted to suit whatever works best for you and your partner. Basically, you sit next to each other while holding hands, resting your head on the other's shoulder, placing your leg on top of your partner’s and/or nuzzling foreheads.

13. Face-hugging

Also called the “Yab-yum” pose (a Tibetan phrase meaning “father mother”), face-hugging is downright tantric and basically involves an extended embrace between you and your partner. This one’s perfect if you want to get profoundly intimate while remaining more or less vertical. Up the ante by gazing into one another’s eyes or breathing in tandem. 

Bottom line: in today’s crazy busy world, it’s all-too-easy to give intimacy and relaxation the short end of the stick. Cuddling can help with all that. So find the cuddling position(s) that work best for you and your partner and move a little closer. <3

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