How to Tell if a Hug is Romantic (And What to do Next)

Published 03.04.2023
9 min read

Have you ever walked away from a hug with a sneaking suspicion there was more to that interaction than you realized? The truth is that a romantic hug may be the first sign of physical attraction you receive from someone.

Why? Because a hug is a safe way to test out romantic feelings a bit to see if someone else might feel the same way.

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If it doesn't work out, it's still just a hug. If it turns into a romantic embrace, that's even better. The downside is that it can be hard to interpret a hug. Fortunately, there are some "tells" that you can use to figure out which are friendly hugs and which are romantic hugs.

These tips may even help you give a slightly romantic spin on your hugs to communicate how you really feel to somebody special.

All Hugs Should be Good Hugs

Before we go any further, let's make it clear that a hug is a physical contact. They shouldn't happen without consent. Also, when someone consents to a friendly hug, they aren't consenting to something creepy or sexual.

It's one thing to do something subtle to send an affectionate signal. It's quite another to be creepy and gropey about it.

Make sure you know how to read the room. If you are fully aware that somebody only sees you as a friend or "like a brother or sister", just don't do the romantic hug thing.

The last thing you want to do is create a moment that belongs on Awkward Family Photos. Bottom line, you gotta respect personal space.

Is it a Romantic Hug? Here's How You Can Tell

There are some things that people do that can indicate whether it is a friendly or romantic hug. Some of these are quite intentional. Others are done a bit subconsciously.

The Bear Hug!

Let's start with something challenging. A bear hug can leave you wondering what just happened. Although, that may be the lack of oxygen to your brain.

Seriously though, this really depends. Dads and big brothers love to give bear hugs. Also, bigger guys tend to give bear hugs naturally. They're just built that way.

But, sometimes a guy will hug another guy to quite literally show strength and share a bit of bear energy.

Unless you have some other reason to believe they have romantic feelings for you, this is probably a friendly hug.

However, there is the hair-smelling exception, and also the back rub exception. If either of these happens, it is for sure a romantic hug.

Interpreting The Frontal Hug

A lot of romantic hugs are frontal hugs. Not every frontal hug is a romantic hug. It really all depends on the positioning. Basically, where is the body contact happening?

A loose hug around the shoulders without any upper or lower body contact is definitely a friendly hug. We'll call that a buddy hug.

On the other hand, if your upper body is pressed against theirs, that's a damned romantic hug. If there is contact below the waist, you are definitely in the middle of a romantic hug.

Gimme That Definitely Not a Romantic Side Hug!

Does anybody else remember when talk about side hugs was a big thing online? Anyway, if they give you a side hug, that's about as clear as things can get. This is a 100% friendly hug with a side of absolutely no sex in your future.

This person doesn't just see you as a friend. They see you as completely off-limits for sex and dating. You aren't just in the friend zone. You are in your best friend's little sister zone.

The One Arm Hug

This one can be a bit deceptive. At first, this one seems nothing like a romantic hug. Yet, with just a few subtle moves, the one-arm hug can be romantic, even sexual.

Imagine a one-arm hug, but add a quick kiss on the cheek or neck nuzzle. You can see how that turns into a romantic hug pretty quickly.

The Double Hug

This is also the "let me go back in for one more" hug. You can definitely take this as a romantic hug in many cases. However, this may also be a hug that just says I miss you and haven't seen you in a while.

The Hug From Behind

Nobody who doesn't have romantic feelings for you is going to hug you from behind. This one is decidedly romantic and more than a little bit erotic. You can absolutely take this one in a romantic way.

The Whole Body Hug

Have you ever had someone hug you and basically melt into you like ice cream? That is definitely an intimate hug. This passionate hug should definitely send shivers down your spine and let you know this hug means business.

All About How Long The Hug Lasts

A friendly hug doesn't linger. If they keep you wrapped in an embrace for more than a few seconds, they may be interested in more than a platonic friendship.

So, if that hug lasted a good ten seconds or so, you could be dealing with someone who is really into you.

Common Romantic Hug Additives

A hug is worth a thousand words, and those small little actions that people take when giving you a quick squeeze can really show how they feel about you. For example:

  • The guy who normally gives you a quick hug suddenly opts for a long hug

  • They move their arm placement to your lower back

  • They put their left arm around your lower back and grip your waist

  • They follow the hug with a few moments of eye contact

  • Their body language is intense and activated when the hug is over

  • They rub your back or shoulders (not a pat)

Sometimes, it's difficult to pinpoint. You just know that the embrace you just received was much more than a friendly hug.

How to Use Hugs to Share Your Romantic Feelings

What if you want your normally friendly hug to send a clear message that you have feelings for somebody? How can you do that without being more than a bit creepy?

The most important tip here isn't any sort of magic trick. Just be respectful before your arms encircle the other person. You don't want to be known as a creepy "where's my hug" guy.

Still, there are some things you can do to send a subtle message when you want that friendly hug to be something a bit more intense.

Count to Three

A romantic hug just lasts longer than a friendly hug. Try holding your hug just a little bit longer. Remember that you want to be kind of subtle and more flirtatious than sexual.

So, don't do weird hand movements or make the embrace last for too long. That's just awkward.

Whisper in Their Ear as You Are Hugging Them

You can turn a pretty normal hug into something special by whispering something in the other person's ear as you're hugging them.

Again, it shouldn't be weird or overly sexual. Simply tell them they look amazing or that you can't wait to see them again.

Pull Them a Little Closer

Wrap your arm around their waist and pull them close so your upper bodies touch. Then, make eye contact. If they are into you, they will absolutely move a bit closer.

Obvious Blunders to Avoid

The last thing you want to do is ruin a nice friendly hug by making an embarrassing misstep. Here are some things to do to avoid embarrassing hugging weirdness:

  • Read the room - sometimes it isn't the right time or place to make your move

  • A friendly hug is not the time to cop a feel

  • Don't try a romantic hug in front of a family member - Awkward!

  • Pay attention to their signals when it's clear that your hugging is too much

  • Read the signals for consent - Just because they are giving hugs to other people in the room don't automatically assume they want to hug you as well.

What to Do if You Mistake a Friendly Hug for a Romantic Hug.

A very common blunder is when people read the signals incorrectly and assume that a hug that was meant to be friendly was intended to be romantic. Or when a romantic hug was intended to be a friendly one.

People make these mistakes all the time, even family photos have seen this type of blunder when a family friend gets to be in the picture.

So how do you fix this mistake? Remember that all hugs, even romantic ones, and most friendly hugs have certain forms of etiquette that should be followed.

There are also times when you may realize your mistake sooner than the person you are hugging.

Don't suddenly stop the hug, this may call out your mistake and make you and the person you are hugging the center of some awkward attention

Do allow yourself to disengage as you normally would. Remember that everybody makes mistakes and it's best not to call attention to them.

If the person you gave the wrong type of hug appears to be uncomfortable don't call attention to the mistake in the public eye unless they call you out on it right there.

If they call you out on their discomfort immediately then apologize immediately. It may be embarrassing but it's better to admit your mistakes at that moment than to deny them.

If they don't call you out on their discomfort then find a point in time when you can apologize for your blunder. They may also feel embarrassed about what happened and they may feel better after your apology.

In Conclusion

Always remember that there are many key differences between the types of hugs that one can give or receive. However, it's easy to make mistakes when it comes to reading into these types of hugs.

Take your time to read the hug, and pull away as they start to pull away themselves. Read the signals for consent, these can be physical and verbal. If they appear to be uncomfortable don't hesitate to apologize to them.

By taking all of the factors discussed here you will be able to tell that a hug is romantic or friendly with ease.

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