Why Do We Withhold Love?

My four year-old just told me that her very liberal, uber-crunchy, 100 percent woo-woo Waldorf kindergarten has a rule — no kissing in school. She’s heartbroken. Siena LOVES to kiss. She kisses everyone — and makes their day. We lip kiss, cheek kiss, butterfly kiss, Eskimo kiss — you name it. She loves kissing so much that last year, when we went to a benefit concert where 100 people were sitting in chairs in neat little rows, she started at the back, climbing on the laps of each person to give them a kiss and a hug, before crawling onto the next chair and kissing and hugging the next person. After they were kissed and hugged by my magical child, people wept. I mean seriously wept. While I watched her, open-mouthed, she finished hugging and kissing the whole audience, and I told her it was time to go. It was past her bedtime. She looked at me with wide eyes and said, “No Mama. They need more.” And she went to the back and started all over again.

I was floored. I’m raising Amma. Holy shit.

But now she can’t kiss at school. Amma is being thwarted. Love is being withheld. The lesson that we need to tone down our natural instinct to express love is being instilled at the delicate age of four. Damn.

I was just like Siena when I was young. Very loving. Very cuddly. Very affectionate. In fact, when I started college at Duke University, I went to fraternity parties and hugged everyone — the girls, the boys — indiscriminately. If you were some new person I had never met before, I hugged you. It’s just who I am.

The boys seemed to like my hugs. But the other girls didn’t like it at all. They told me it was weird. They made fun of me. They convinced me it wasn’t cool to hug. So I stopped. For twenty years, I stopped. Until recently. When I said “Why not?” and started hugging strangers again. I don’t do handshakes. I do hugs. Whether you’re a patient, a TV producer, another Mom at school, a magazine editor, a guy at the Buddhist temple, my publisher, someone I meet at a party, a fan who shows up at one of my events, or the CEO of some major corporation. I hug. So sue me.

Offering Free Love

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t sleep around. I’m not talking about that kind of free love (but if that floats your boat, more power to ya).  But I’m committed to offering free love — no strings, no expectations, no concern about whether you want to be loved or not. You may notice it at OwningPink.com. I call everyone sweetie. I think you’re all rock stars. I dish out love and snuggles and group hugs every single chance I get. Does that mean that nobody is special because I don’t reserve those terms of endearment for my inner circle? No. It means you’re ALL special. Everyone is deserving of love, and I am blessed to have plenty to share.

When Joy and I first started OwningPink.com back in April of 2009, Joy asked me, “Is there such a thing as being ‘over the top’ with our readers?” She was longing to refer to readers as “lovie” or “sweetie pie” or “lovemuffin,” but her inner critic was holding her back.

I told Joy there was no such thing as “over-the-top.” Everyone wants to be loved. And everyone deserves it. The ones who have a hard time with it just have trouble receiving. Or they distrust anyone who offers love without strings. If they can’t stand being called “sweetie,” they’ll move on, and that will be just fine. But maybe, somewhere in the back of their mind, they’ll realize how good it feels to be loved on, even if it’s by someone you’ve never met. Maybe, one day, when they’re ready to receive, they’ll come back.

Why Do We Withhold Love?

When almost everyone I know in this world is starved for love, craving hugs and kisses and validation and affection, why do we hold back? As children, we are naturally loving, giving, and snuggly, but what happens to us? Why are we afraid to love when we all want it and we all have so much to give?

What if we decided to change that? What if we started offering free hugs? What if we touched fingers and caressed hair and put our heads on shoulders? What if we called each other terms of endearment? What if we were to bark less and wag more? Would anarchy ensue? Or would the world be a better place?

What do you think? Are you an affectionate person? Do you like being touched? Does it make you feel uncomfortable? Would people misunderstand you? Are you dying to express how you feel to people? Do you wish people would touch and love on your more? Tell us what you think!

Related Links:
The Art of Receiving
How Pets Improve Health and Raise Spirits

Love This? Never Miss Another Story.


bharathi A.
bharathi A.3 years ago

Love is all... in the end!

Judith Valente
Judith Valente4 years ago

If a person is not 'huggable' then send them good thoughts. Then there are people that you do not feel comfortable hugging. Go by your 'gut' feelings. There is usually a reason for that. Also, if you don't want a hug from someone you don't feel comfortable around, then DON'T let them!
But-given time, some people that 'bear acquaintance' usually open up to a hug.Be patient. We don't know what their life is/was like!

Teresa Wlosowicz
Teresa W.4 years ago

There is nothing to withold. Love doesn't exist!

Becky Leiby
Becky Leiby4 years ago

Run P., your comment is rather unfair... Not liking to be touched does not make anyone a psychopath. As a victim of childhood abuse, I can vouch for the concept that early trauma = later reluctance.

Becky Leiby
Becky Leiby4 years ago

I dislike being touched when I know it is simply a kneejerk, meaningless reaction - as a college girl, nothing drives me crazier when an arbitrary classmate gives me a hug... but not because of the physical contact, rather because I often feel it is a two-faced action. The Spontaneous Huggers out there today seem to do it because if fits a certain mental image they have of themselves, rather than because they actually feel love. Does that make sense?

I wish more people had your brand of hug-enthusiasm.

Hester Goedhart
Eternal Gardener4 years ago

Love is all... in the end!

Run P.
Run P.4 years ago

Some people are just psychopaths who can't feel love or be affectionate at all, and hate being touched.

Past Member
Past Member 4 years ago

I haven't gotten to all 135 comments but sure hope someone mentioned the worldwide "Free Hugs" campaign! Go to YouTube and search for my favorite, Free Hugs Scotland. It'll warm the cockles of your heart for sure!

Sue T.
Susan T.4 years ago

what a wonderful article! touch is such a powerful thing and affection is amazing...I am starting to believe in the touches and hugs I receive...there really are some people that are just NICE and LOVING. I hope to become one someday. :)

Karena M.
Doreen Gonzales4 years ago

I admit, I do have trouble with gestures of affection. I have been vandalised and robbed of my feelings, talents, and possessions. It would be such a relief to be able to hug or be hugged without the worry that it will be followed by a loss of some kind.