How do I set appropriate boundaries?
It’s generally best to be clear and up-front about your boundaries. I would recommend stating them before you meet the person, or at least before the first time you cuddle them. This helps to prevent any awkwardness, and also helps to set up the right expectations. As a general rule, no kissing, no touching of genitals/breasts/bottom, and keeping clothes on is a good idea.
When you start, it’s often good to ask the person, “Are you comfortable if I do [insert action here]?” each time you try something new or different. If someone does something that is against your boundaries, it’s important to say no and be assertive enough to tell them that. Also, don’t be afraid to stop and end the platonic cuddling relationship altogether, if you want to.
You shouldn’t feel guilty or pressured into anything – if you feel coerced or pressured at all, that is a big red flag.
It seems like a lot of people join cuddling websites and groups because they want a date, or see it as a “soft way into dating”. How do you deal with that?
It does seem that a number of people join platonic cuddling websites or online groups to find a romantic and/or sexual relationship – whether consciously or unconsciously. I think the most important thing is to be honest and up-front about what you’re looking for.
You might join a platonic cuddling group only seeking friends, and unexpectedly find someone you’re really attracted to and want to date. If this happens, be honest and direct about your romantic intentions sooner rather than later. Pretending you just want something platonic could seem dishonest and deceptive in this context, as cuddling groups and websites are not designed for dating.
There may be some cases where you simply don’t know what you want, but you become platonic cuddle buddies with someone and your romantic feelings grow over time – and it wasn’t something you planned or intended. That’s okay, but as always you need to be honest and clear with the other person about what you want out of it. For many people, this may mean choosing to either date or part ways.
If you are not looking for a dating relationship and want something purely platonic, be direct about that too. If you’re not interested in it ever developing into a romantic/sexual relationship, tell them and make it clear that you keep your dating and platonic cuddle buddy relationships separate.
Also, take your time getting to know someone and screening them before meeting up and also before you cuddle them. If a person is making comments that sound more appropriate for a dating relationship (while pretending to want platonic cuddles only) or making sexually suggestive remarks, then that’s a red flag. I’ve noticed that men looking for a date or sex will often start out with a physical compliment in their messages.
However, you also need to be ruthlessly honest with yourself about what you want, too. Are you subconsciously looking for a dating relationship out of this? If so, why haven’t you considered other options like dating websites? If you approach platonic cuddling with the expectation of finding a romantic partner, it’s likely you will be disappointed.
It’s best to approach platonic cuddling with no expectations other than that the other person will treat you with kindness, respect and honesty.
How do you manage sexual attraction and/or arousal?
I think that mindful awareness is key. It’s important to acknowledge it to yourself, but recognise that you don’t have to act on it. Consider the analogy of your thoughts being cars driving past. You can observe the cars, but you don’t have to get in and get carried away. In the same way, you can observe your thoughts of arousal without being consumed and acting upon them.
It may be worth changing positions if the position itself is particularly arousing. It can be useful to discuss beforehand what to do if a person gets an erection, to avoid too much awkwardness.
There are many ways one can avoid too much sexual arousal. Firstly, consider cuddling someone you are not strongly attracted to – even someone of a gender you are not naturally attracted to (if you are exclusively attracted to one gender). Secondly, consider cuddling someone with a mismatching sexual orientation, e.g. a gay man with an asexual woman.
Thirdly, be aware of your sex drive. If your sex drive is particularly high at particular times or days, it may be wise just to avoid cuddling during those periods. If you can’t manage your sex drive and exercise self-control, then it’s probably best not to do platonic cuddling at all, and focus on finding a different kind of relationship that will meet your needs. There are plenty of dating websites and mobile apps for people seeking a sexual or romantic connection.
Fourth, it’s best to avoid watching sexual/erotic movies, using alcohol or drugs, or talking about sexual topics while cuddling. If it gets too much, perhaps take a “time out” and do something else for a few minutes.
Of course, some people may start out as platonic cuddle buddies and later decide to have sex. But please note that then it is no longer a platonic cuddling relationship – thus it is best to have an open discussion about what kind of relationship you want, and make your intentions clear. Do you want to date? Is it a friends with benefits dynamic? Communicate as openly and clearly as possible!
What if one or both of us experience romantic feelings?
My answer would be similar to how to deal with sexual arousal – it’s best to take a mindful approach. Having romantic feelings does not mean you have to act on them, or that you should have a dating relationship with the other person.
It is quite possible to have romantic feelings and choose to remain friends, and keep the relationship platonic. Just because someone (or both people) has sexual or romantic feelings, does not make it a sexual or romantic relationship. Talking about it can diffuse the tension, so it doesn’t feel like the elephant in the room.
However, if this becomes too difficult or emotionally painful, it may be best to end the platonic cuddling relationship and move on. Alternatively, if you are both interested and compatible for dating, it could be worth asking the person if they would like to enter a romantic relationship.
Having said that – entering a platonic cuddling relationship with the hope or intention of dating someone is not recommended. If you meet someone on a dating app this would probably be more acceptable, but if you meet someone through a platonic cuddling website or group, this could seem deceptive and off-putting.
The only exception would be if you made your intentions clear from the start, and said something to the effect of, “I am attracted to you but just want to get to know you as friends and platonic cuddle buddies for a while first. I don’t like to rush things and want to build up trust before actually dating. Is that okay with you?”
Is it really possible to separate cuddling from romance?
Yes, definitely. Many people have non-romantic cuddling relationships with friends, family members, relatives, etc. However, this is not possible for everyone. There are some people who can’t cuddle someone of the gender they are attracted to without developing romantic feelings. It helps to have some self-awareness to figure out if this is the case for you.
If you can’t cuddle without developing romantic feelings, then platonic cuddling is probably not a good fit for you. Alternatively, you could try organised group cuddle events to meet your needs for touch without getting attached to any particular individual. Another option is cuddling someone who is not a gender you’re romantically oriented towards (this may be difficult if you are attracted to all genders, though!).
Don’t be too hard on yourself if you can’t quite get your head around purely platonic cuddling. At this point in Western society, most people reserve cuddling for romantic partners, which can make things confusing. This will probably get easier as more people in society become comfortable cuddling and showing affection to platonic friends.
Are platonic cuddle buddies an exclusive relationship?
No, generally platonic cuddle buddies are no more exclusive than any other friendship. Sure, some people might prefer to just have one “best friend”, but many people like having a few close friends. If you start to feel overly jealous or possessive, it may be worth reconsidering if platonic cuddling is a good fit for you. It’s common for people to date and search for a partner in addition to participating in platonic cuddling connections. Cuddling is not inherently romantic or sexual, so if you start to feel overly possessive or upset about your cuddle buddy dating others, it may be worth trying to find someone to date instead.
What should I consider when organising a group cuddle event or “cuddle party”?
Group cuddle events, like “cuddle parties”, are a wonderful idea. However, if you are organising one yourself, there are a number of questions to ask yourself beforehand:
- Do you know the people who are coming? Have you met them in person? If not, then how do you know if they are safe?
- Are you going to have any talks or discussions about consent beforehand?
- What will you do if someone behaves inappropriately, or something goes wrong?
- What if there is one or two people you don’t want to cuddle?
- What if one person gets excluded, and no one feels comfortable cuddling them?
I would generally recommend that people only organise group cuddle events with people they already know and trust, and just invite a few people privately – rather than advertising publically. Alternatively, getting an organised group like Cuddle Party Australia to run an event would be a good idea, as they have in-depth talks about consent and boundaries beforehand.
Does it have to involve spooning or cuddling in bed?
No, platonic cuddling relationships do not have to involve spooning or cuddling in bed, though this is quite a popular activity. If you prefer, you could just cuddle side by side on the couch, or something less intimate. Some people may just feel comfortable with hugs, back rubs and/or head massages. It is your choice and you should decide what you feel comfortable doing. Make sure you have open communication with your cuddle buddy about what you do and don’t want.
Should I cuddle with someone who is married or partnered?
It depends. It’s only ethical when the spouse/partner is completely on board with it and happy with their spouse cuddling someone else. There are a number of factors to consider, for instance – are they in an open or polyamorous relationship? If so, then cuddling is very unlikely to be seen as a problem. If not, then it’s best to proceed with caution, especially if they are someone of the opposite sex or someone who is attracted to people of your gender.
It also depends on the kind of cuddling and the extent of the intimacy. Most monogamous couples wouldn’t feel comfortable with their partner cuddling in bed with someone of the gender they are attracted to, but they might be okay with cuddling on the couch and/or cuddling with someone if they are not of the gender they are attracted to.
If you are unsure in these situations, I would recommend asking to meet the spouse and get to know them before entering into a platonic cuddle buddy relationship. Otherwise there is a high risk of getting into a situation that is ethically compromising. It is also more likely that it will end as a messy relationship triangle, and you are less likely to get a long-term cuddle buddy relationship.
How often should I meet up with them?
This is completely personal, and up to the people involved. Once a month seems to be a good frequency for many people, though it varies greatly and many prefer to meet more or less often than that. One caution is that the more frequently you meet a cuddle buddy, the more likely you are to build a stronger emotional attachment. If you want to avoid getting too emotionally attached, it may be best to see the person less frequently or rotate between a few different cuddle buddies. Attending group events like cuddle parties can also reduce the intensity a bit.
How do I find a platonic cuddle buddy?
There are a number of ways to find a platonic cuddle buddy. One is by asking people in your existing friendship networks and acquaintances. Another is by creating a profile on a platonic cuddling website like Cuddle Comfort, and messaging people on there.
You could also try posting an ad on Reddit, or responding to other people’s ads. Another option is attending an organised cuddle party, and meeting people through it. Finally, there are also Facebook groups for platonic cuddling, so you could post on those groups or send people private messages to find people who are interested.
Some people also find cuddle buddies through dating apps and websites, but this may create more ambiguity – people may be more likely to expect it to develop into a dating relationship if you meet that way.
Why is it so hard to find a platonic cuddle buddy?
Well, there are a few factors to consider. Firstly, the whole concept of platonic cuddling is new and foreign for many people in our culture. It might take a while to gain greater acceptance and for more people to embrace it. It will probably never be mainstream, but at this point the movement is very much in its infancy.
Secondly, it depends how strict your parameters are. Are you only willing to cuddle with a particular gender or age range? Restricting your options based on gender can make it much more difficult. This is particularly a problem for men, as there tend to be more men than women in platonic cuddling groups – and typically they are reluctant or unwilling to cuddle other men. However, women are often more open to cuddling other women.
Thirdly, many people are nervous, anxious or uncertain about meeting someone from the internet for platonic cuddling. It can feel vulnerable and confronting. Also, many women may feel unsafe meeting men online. Some people might join these websites and groups out of curiosity and to learn more, but may not actually want to meet people or try it.
Fourth, some people join platonic cuddling websites or groups for the wrong reasons. This can put a lot of people off, so they may assume you just want a date or sex. It helps to make it clear what your intentions are, so that people don’t get the wrong idea or feel confused about your motivations. Some people just have trouble separating romance from cuddling, and may not really understand the concept.
Fifth, the people you contact may already have a platonic cuddle buddy, and may not be looking actively for someone. So try not to take it personally if they decline or ignore you!
Don’t be surprised if you have to ask a lot of people and get a low response rate. You have to persevere and be willing to deal with being rejected and ignored quite a bit, if you are serious about finding a good platonic cuddle buddy. It could even take several months to find someone who is a good fit for you.
How can I stay safe when looking for a cuddle buddy?
There are a number of articles about how to stay safe when meeting people from the internet, so I would recommend reading a few of them first.
A few things to consider: If you are using Facebook, is it a real profile? Do they use their real name? It might be worth checking their identity, and if they really are who they say they are. If they are using a fake profile, ask why? Also, check whether you have any mutual Facebook friends, and consider asking those mutual friends about the individual to gauge whether they are safe and sane.
One big red flag is that someone seems in a hurry or desperate, seems to be moving too fast for your comfort level and/or asks intrusive or inappropriate questions. Anyone who respects you will be willing to take things slowly enough for your comfort level, and will adjust to your pace.
It’s often a good idea to try a Skype chat or phone call first, to get a better idea of what they are like. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, and trust your gut instinct. I would also highly recommend meeting the person one to three times in a public place like a café or restaurant, before going to their house or doing any cuddling. Tell a friend where you are going, and what time.
If something seems a bit “off” or their behaviour seems strange, don’t ignore it. Pay attention to any red flags or anything that doesn’t seem quite right. Unfortunately, platonic cuddling groups and websites can attract people with major issues in their lives, and they may not always be safe or mentally stable.
What traits should I look for in a good cuddle buddy?
Someone who is:
- Respectful of boundaries, and not pushy or forceful
- Self-aware and mature
- Honest and has moral integrity
- Mentally/emotionally stable
- Thoughtful and sensitive to other people’s needs
- Flexible and adaptable
- A good communicator, willing to discuss problems openly
- Responsible and takes ownership for their choices
Obviously no one will be one hundred percent perfect and tick off all these boxes completely, but these are important traits to consider. It also helps to find someone you have a natural connection with, as having a few things in common can help you get to know them and feel more comfortable.