The Benefits of Cuddling and Spooning In a Relationship

If for some reason you haven't been cuddling with your partner after sex, you probably didn't realize that post-sex intimacy is just as important for many people as foreplay. Whether you struggle with intimacy issues or not, a little thing called cuddling doesn't take much effort at all, and can actually reap some benefits for you and your partner. Sometimes some of us just want to be held, ya know?

Spooning refers to lying on your side with a partner (or more!) lying on their side and curling up behind you, mimicking spoons that seamlessly fit together. People have been cuddling for centuries, as evident from historic artwork depicting erotic embraces and positions between same-sex and heterosexual couples.

So what are the benefits of cuddling? And is there a right way to spoon someone?

Benefits of cuddling

There are some instinctual elements at play as to why cuddling tends to trigger such strong emotions.

"The largest organ we have on our bodies is our skin, and the primal urge to have skin-to-skin contact for the majority of humans is due to our desire to be soothed, comforted and loved," explains Sari Cooper, CST, LCSW, founder and director of The Center for Love and Sex in New York City, a private practice specializing in sex therapy, individual, and couples therapy.

Relaxation And Hormone Release

When you spoon with a partner, you'll notice your breath begin to slow, deepen, and sync, according to Pam Costa, sex coach and founder of Down To There, a resource for people who seek to cultivate better sex and relationships.

"Not only does this feel relaxing, but it also triggers a release of oxytocin, a hormone and neurotransmitter which researchers believe is linked to feelings of bonding and sexual arousal," she says.

There's a reason cuddling can provide that feel-good connection between you and your partner. "cuddling is a form of intimacy that helps our nervous system relax," says Rebecca Hendrix, an LMFT psychotherapist in New York City. "We are are hardwired to connect as human beings, and the physical touch and hugging that occurs during cuddling lowers our blood pressure and sends a message to our bodies that it’s OK to relax and let go."

Couples Can Feel Closer

Some therapists have even found that employing cuddling techniques in their sessions can help couples feel closer.

"When I’m working with couples, I’ll have them try this in the office by setting a timer for five minutes and asking them to lie down together, with as much of their bodies touching as possible, with no agenda other than to observe what is happening in their bodies," Costa says. "By the end of 5 minutes, most couples report feeling closer emotionally and interested in escalating their physical connection."

Alternate Form Of Intimacy

Cuddling is a good alternative for people who have difficulty with eye contact after sex, Cooper points out. The position offers an alternative, where the inside spoon partner is so close to the other they can hear their breathing, feel the other’s heartbeat, and be held — without any demand on that big spoon partner.

It's an Easy Segue To Intercourse

But cuddling can also be a sexual position, one that can be easily incorporated if you're feeling a little tired or lazy. During sex, Cooper explains that the inner “spoonnee” is the receiving partner, and the outer spooner is the one penetrating, either with their penis or a strap-on.

"The 'spoonee' can guide their partner in while arching in order to get the right angle," she says. "Depending on each person’s size, there may be some adjusting needed going up, down, or forward in order to get a comfortable fit. Both partners can contribute to the thrusting, and both partners can contribute to stimulating the spoonee so that they are getting aroused externally and internally using hands, fingers, and/or toys."

Is There a Right Way and Right Time to Spoon?

Post-sex cuddling is a way to continue the intense intimacy experienced during orgasm.

"There are many ways we make love to each other, with the act of sex being just one of them," says Hendrix. "cuddling and holding each other is a form of expressing love and a deep sense of caring for other."

Challenges Of Holding The Cuddling Position

For some couples, staying in one position for an extended period of time may prove challenging.

"Our bodies are basically electric blankets and when we put them next to each other as spoons, it can cause quite a lot of heat, which can make sleeping difficult," Hendrix notes. "One can also experience numbness and tingling from staying in one position too long, or having the weight of your partner’s arm or head on your body."

Adjusting Is Welcome

To alleviate that problem, "it’s helpful to find a comfortable way of holding the side position," Hendrix says. "For some, it may mean folding their elbow in and laying on their hand, while for others they may need some supports like a pillow or wedge under their arm or between their knees to prevent cramping or a limb falling asleep."

Your other arm can either just rest in front of you or be intertwined with your partner's arm for more intimacy.

Big spoon and little spoon

According to Cooper, you can have a specific cuddling position preference or alternate between big and little spoon. "Does a person always like to be the leader, or can they enjoy taking turns being a 'switch'?" she says.

But for most people, whether you're solely the big spoon or little spoon has less to do with your personality and more to do with whatever you feel comfortable with in the moment.