9 Cuddling Positions For Any Relationship & What They Mean
Cuddling is one of the simple joys of being in a relationship, and there are different cuddling positions depending on what you're going for.
As couples' therapist, Lexx Brown-James, Ph.D., LMFT, explains, cuddling can be a way to initiate sex or practice aftercare after sex, or it can simply be a way for couples to bond with each other—thanks in part to the fact that the physical act of cuddling triggers the release of hormones like oxytocin and dopamine, which create feelings of closeness.
So here are the best cuddling positions for couples, depending on your relationship stage, goals, and surroundings.
RELATED: The Physical Touch Love Language: What It Really Means
Cuddling positions to try in a new relationship
How to: Just sit or stand side by side, lean against each other, and hold hands.
Benefit: Holding hands can be both innocent and intimate. It's easy to naturally slip out of, too, by just letting go to reach for a glass of water or something in your pocket. "The option of closeness with the option to create more space without making a big deal out of it is the key thing to look for in new relationship cuddling positions," professional cuddlist Kassandra Brown tells mbg.
Sitting closely and facing each other
How to: Sit side by side and look at each other. Variations include putting your hand on their leg, putting your arm around their shoulders, or leaning your head on their shoulder.
Benefit: This position creates a sense of steadiness and connection between partners, says sexuality and emotional empowerment coach Shayla Tumbling, M.S., NCC. "It can be both comforting, reassuring, and intimate yet still allow space for some independence."
Lying with their head on your lap
How to: Sit crisscross on the couch or the floor. Have your partner lie down and rest their head in your lap, and then pet their hair.
Benefit: The reassuring caress of the hand over the hair may offer a feeling of deep comfort, which can lead to an increased feeling of connection, Tumbling explains. Overall, "this position can create a sense of comfort, relaxation, and security," she says.
Best cuddling positions for sitting:
How to: Sit side by side, face each other with your outer thighs and hips touching, then hug.
Benefit: Seated hugs can be more comfortable and sustainable than standing hugs, Brown says. Plus, they help cancel out height differences.
Lounge chair position
How to: Sit with your back to the wall (or headboard of a bed) with your legs in a slight V-shape. Have the other person sit in front of you and lean back.
Benefit: This position can allow the receiving partner (the one leaning back) to feel supported, cared for, and desired, Tumbling says. Simultaneously, it may allow the giving partner to feel confident in being able to provide support. "This is another position that may increase feelings of connection and vulnerability—and on multiple levels," she says.
Most romantic cuddling positions:
How to: Both partners should lie on their sides facing in the same direction. Little spoon: Rest your back against their stomach. Big spoon: Rest your stomach against your partner's back and wrap your arms around them.
Benefit: Similar to the lounge chair position, spooning can allow one partner to feel safe and the other partner to feel protective. "With your partner lying behind you, holding you, you get the feeling of being supported and cradled," says Gigi Engle, certified sexologist and author of All The F*cking Mistakes: A Guide to Sex, Love, and Life. "It's romantic because it gives you a feeling of unity and comfort."
Crook of the arm (aka "half-spooning")
How to: One partner lies on their back, and the other partner lies on their side. The partner on their side nestles their head into the crook of their partner's arm and rests their arm over the partner's chest.
Benefit: "Lying in the crook of your partner's arm with your arm over their chest is very intimate," Engle says. "You're cradled and being held by someone, which can help foster feelings of love and closeness."
Resting your head on their chest
How to: Lie down next to each other with one partner resting their head on the other's chest.
Benefit: This position can increase softness and connection with a partner, Tumbling says. "As we are resting on our partner's chest, listening to their breathing, and feeling their heartbeats, we may be reminded of the sacredness of our humanity," she says.
How to: Pillow your heads on each other's legs and face one another.
Benefit: This creates a simultaneous flow of giving and receiving for each partner, Tumbling explains. "This may be beneficial for couples to engage in as they desire to increase intimacy or reconnection," she says.
Cuddling positions for sleeping
Many of the cuddling positions listed above are good for sleeping. Spooning and resting your head on your partner's chest are two of Brown's favorites.
"There is something very comforting about having my back completely held by someone I love and relaxing on the pillows," she says. "As the small spoon, I usually have another pillow in front of me to make it more comfortable for my top shoulder and hip."
The most important thing when cuddling while sleeping is to make sure your arm doesn't fall asleep, New York City sex therapist Stephen Snyder, M.D., tells mbg.
"So in general, you'll want to make contact with your partner below the waist but leave your upper body free so your arms won't get pinned down." This could look like intertwined legs or touching back-to-back.
Benefits of cuddling
There's a neurochemical reason cuddling can help couples bond, Brown-James explains.
In response to the physical act of cuddling, the body releases hormones like oxytocin and dopamine that create feelings of closeness.
"Oxytocin, often nicknamed the 'cuddle hormone' or 'love hormone,' promotes feelings of wellness, pleasure, and overall happiness," says Engle. "It is the main neurochemical that allows us to bond with other people, especially a new romantic partner."
Here are some of the many other benefits of cuddling:
- Supports intimacy and bonding
- Improved sleep
- Reduced stress and anxiety
- Eases chronic pain
- Immunity support
- Improved cardiovascular health
You'll get a lot of these benefits from hugging, too. And these physically intimate gestures might be especially meaningful or people with the physical touch love language.
RELATED: 10 Benefits Of Spooning, Variations & The Sex Position
There are many benefits to cuddling and ways to do it. "Cuddling is a form of touch that can be both sexual and nonsexual," Brown-James says. "The wonderful thing about cuddling is that it can also be something that is just comforting and relaxing, as your brain still releases feel-good hormones in the body from closeness."
Whether you're at the start of a new relationship or have been with your partner for years, the physical act of cuddling can bring two people closer.
Always be sure to check in with your partner's wants and needs when it comes to physical intimacy and experiment to find out what works best for both of you.
Abby Moore is an editorial operations manager at mindbodygreen. She earned a B.A. in Journalism from The University of Texas at Austin and has previously written for Tribeza magazine. She has covered topics ranging from regenerative agriculture to celebrity entrepreneurship. Moore worked on the copywriting and marketing team at Siete Family Foods before moving to New York.