Did you know that you can now pay to cuddle with a STRANGER?
While I was sitting on the couch with my husband eating left over pumpkin pie and browsing through some websites and news, I came across this short article and story: “The Professional Cuddling Business Is Booming, Apparently How much is a good cuddle worth?”
A woman in Portland, Oregon opened up a Cuddle Up to Me business where customers pay $60 to cuddle with a stranger. The owner of the business reported that her cuddling business is booming because as clients come in, they are accepted for exactly who they are and no judgments are put on them.
If you are thinking what I was at time of reading this, let me reassure you … the business owner explained that there is “no secret menu” and “no upgrades” and the rooms are constantly monitored by security cameras. In fact, she reported that out of all of the things that people could do while cuddling, most of them end up crying a lot!
That actually didn’t surprise me at all!
We need human connection to survive and touch is one of most universal ways to do it.
We are wired to connect with others, and if we don’t, our physical health and mental health will suffer. Sue Johnson wrote that consistent emotional support lowers blood pressure, bolsters the immune system, and it reduces the death rate from cancer, heart disease and infectious disease. Close relationships make us happy and they make us more resilient against anxiety and depression. If we are in a close and emotionally secure relationship, we grow more confident to go out in the world and take on new challenges.
Sue Johnson in her book Love Sense said: “A good relationship is better health insurance than a careful diet and a better anti-aging strategy than taking vitamins.”
More than ever, we live in a word where human connection gets somehow ignored. It becomes easier for us to send an email or a text message than to walk down the hall and talk to our co-workers. We spend hours on Facebook, watching TV, and playing video games instead of spending time with those we love.
I remember growing up in Poland where a simple trip to a grocery store would turn into a “mini therapy session.” On the way, I would meet friends, neighbors, teachers…we would talk, connect, and instantly feel better. Nowadays, these types of interactions are happening less and less. Often, we rely solely on our partners (if we have one) to meet all of our needs. That can be challenging. And without enough awareness, our closest relationships start suffering too.
We start getting more and more lonely. No wonder then, that a cuddling business is blooming!
From the neurochemical perspective, oxytocin, which is a neurotransmitter and a hormone that only exists in mammals, has been called by scientists the “cuddle hormone.” It promotes strong bonds between mothers and infants and between adult partners. Sue Johnson wrote that oxytocin is not only released during breastfeeding and orgasm, but also whenever we are physically near to those we love or when we just think of them. Could it be possible than that while people pay to cuddle, a little dose of the cuddle hormone is released—even though they are cuddling with strangers? Well, isn’t that how we fall in love? Yes! But, professional cuddles do not provide their clients with “mutual vulnerability” which, according to Johnson, is something that when combined with oxytocin release, creates love.
Clients of the Cuddle Me Up business do get their basic need for connection and touch met; however, they do not get to learn how to be vulnerable with those close to them—so that THEY can cuddle them up. In therapy, this is exactly what I teach a client to do. Why? Because it is extremely powerful to be able to turn to your loved one and ask for reassurance, comfort, care, and connection. When we know that your partner has your back and that we can count on them, cry with them, cuddle with them, and just be with them without them judging us, we create a strong bond with them—the type of bond that make us healthy and happy.
I want to applaud the cuddle business owner for recognizing how needed connection and touch really are and for her creativity to turn that into a booming business. At the same time, I want to encourage those who are longing for more connection to look into couples counseling services. Who knows, maybe if we invest in therapy we won’t need to cuddle with strangers.