How to Tell If a Hug is Romantic (21 Easy Ways)

Last updated on August 29, 2022 by April Maccario

A hug is just a hug until…well, until it isn’t. You are likely no stranger to them, most people have given and received all sorts from platonic to intimate, intentionally or otherwise, throughout their lifetime. 

Thing is, though, having been there, done that, doesn’t always make you an authority on a grey area like what constitutes a romantic hug.

Sometimes you just aren’t sure. And the tells to drill down on in moments like this are mostly the easy-to-miss little things like where the other person’s arm goes, the timing, their body language, etc. 

But not to worry, here are 21 easy-to-remember ways to tell a romantic hug apart from non-romantic ones.

21 Easy Ways to Understand What a Hug Reveals

1. Body contact

I know bodies coming in contact while hugging is somewhat inevitable, but you’ll also agree that there are levels to this. How much surface is touching and, more specifically, which areas are involved is where the real tea lies. Anyone can lock arms with you, maybe even give you a little pat on the back or the shoulder, but a romantic hug tends to traverse a little lower.

Of course, this is still subject to the room between you two and the general mood/situation. Going lower doesn’t imply that romantic hugs always turn hot and heavy, just that one or both parties are either comfortable with or want less distance between them than otherwise.

2. Arm placement

Where the arm goes during the hug is another place to look. While there are always allowances to be made for certain types of hug, it’s kind of an unspoken rule that the lower the arms go, the less likely the hug is to be platonic.

So, if they stay in the upper body area, odds are, they are not thinking much of it or don’t have the green light to go farther yet. However, if the arms go down the back, between torso and waist, or even lower, there’s probably more there. 

3. Single or both arms

Some hugs only require one arm, while others take both. A romantic hug is more likely to fit the latter than the former. Why? Because you want more of the person you have such feelings for, so you typically want to hug them tightly, not put distance between you.

Unless physical limitations necessitate it, if someone habitually hugs you with one arm, they are probably not genuinely invested in you. And I’m not just talking romantically. That or they have some issue with close or tight hugs. 

4. Hand movement

Beyond just where the hugger’s arms rest, pay attention to what they do with their hands. Do they draw you in even closer with their free hand, rub whatever part of you it’s resting on, or run it through your hair? That sounds a lot like romance to me.

Some might even take a romantic hug further and twirl you after pulling away or delicately tuck a stray hair behind your ear as the mood dictates. In contrast, if they tap you briefly on the shoulder or upper back, they are probably just proud of you or something. 

5. Tightness

This may not be the most comfortable thing, especially if tight hugs aren’t your favorite, but a romantic hug, done right, can make you not think of the pressure for a bit. This feels like a good time to mention that not every tight hug is romantic, some people just naturally go in too hard by squeezing tighter.

The type you want is the one where it starts warm and cuddly, and then they progressively squeeze you tightly, like in a bear hug. While this type of hug can also be used to express security, platonic or filial love, hugs like this are also equally adopted by lovers.

6. Angle of approach

angle of approach

The direction from which the hugger approaches you also says something. A sideway hug, for instance, doesn’t mean much on its own. Whereas, if someone who shares your romantic orientation is attracted to you, embraces you from behind, they are most likely thinking romantic. 

Think: spooning. Arm to chest/torso, back to front in all the interesting parts, and without the usual constrictions of a hug, plus you still get the same view. If that isn’t romantic, I honestly don’t know what is. In comparison, a frontal hug leaves more room for what-ifs, especially when your relationship with the said person isn’t yet defined.

7. Body positioning

Meanwhile, the arms and hands aren’t the only ones with a story to tell. Take note of other parts of their body from where their head goes to their posture. You probably wouldn’t position yourself for a straddle hug with someone you’re not into, for instance. 

Just the fact that you have to expose yourself somehow implies established trust between you and the other person. Or at least some attraction. The same principle applies if they tilt their head gently into your neck or hair to take in your essence. The London bridge style, on the other hand, leaves little or no room for such confusion coming from just a friend, what with the distance and all. 

8. Eye contact

As mentioned earlier, body language is one of those things that are so loaded for cues yet so easily overlooked. We’ve discussed how wanting to close the gap is a huge sign in itself. But an even more specific one, in this case, is eye contact.

Notice the way they look at you just before going for the hug as well as when they pull away. If their gaze lingers and you can pick up hints of what feels like desire in their eyes, the hug is romantic.

9. Facial expression

While your attention is still on their face, see if they smile or furrow their brows before going in for the hug. If there’s a smile, is it sheepish or a mere response to a friendly presence? A burning gaze suggesting longing, perhaps? Or just a straight face like any other day?

If the hug is romantic, they may look anywhere from pleased to wanting more when they pull away. If nothing changes in their expression going in and coming out, no squeeze, extra touching, or attempt at prolonging the hug, it probably isn’t. 

10. Hug duration

How long a hug lasts is yet another way to tell a romantic one apart from other types. Just as a tight hug suggests they want more of you in their personal space, if they take their time and you’re not family, they are probably romantically invested in you.

You don’t have to take my word for this one, it turns out there’s some science to even hugging. Apparently, a hug has to last at least six seconds for the love hormones (oxytocin) to start flowing. If you hug longer without getting uncomfortable, it might be romantic.

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11. Reluctance to disengage

If the other person lingers, no matter how long the hug, they either need the healing powers of your hugs or are working their way up to becoming (more) intimate with you. You can tell it’s not just the touching they don’t want to stop, it’s everything such a hug brings with it.

Reluctance to pull away from you is even more likely to be the tell when the position of the hug isn’t the most convenient. When they are not extremely comfortable but being physically connected to you takes precedence at that moment.

12. Timing

timing

Like with everything that goes right in a romantic relationship (or any kind for that matter), the timing of the hug can also be a pointer. Think about what led up to the hug. Was it totally random from an acquaintance or a sentimental reunion hug with an ex cum friend? Either one of them can be romantic actually, just that some instances aren’t so clear-cut.

Getting an intimate hug from someone you are already close to and haven’t necessarily had any reason to miss you, for instance, can be a bit more ambiguous. Did the current mood of the room make them go there, or is it another long-time-coming thing to *finally* happen naturally? The timing will tell.

13. Ease of hug

Meanwhile, a romantic hug mustn’t always happen like romantic partners who share genuine commitment do it. You know that arms wide, whole-body relaxed type hug where you’re already settled into how the other person feels. As nice as that sounds, sometimes, romantic hugs feel awkward or tense too.

If your connection is still in its early stages or the feelings are one-sided, they or you may be a bit nervous about even talking, let alone physical touch. In that way, it’s probably not a romantic hug if, despite the newness of it all, they hug you as normal without betraying any emotion one way or another.

14. Existing dynamic

Your relationship/history/present dynamic with your hugger is another thing worth checking twice. Has there been a longstanding attraction between you two? Are they your partner or just a friend? A bear hug from a family member might suggest one thing, but the same type of hug coming from a crush is a whole other ballgame.

Also, some hugs that may have lost their touch coming from a regular like your spouse or long-term partner can get the butterflies going from a new lover.

15. Consistency

More precisely, consider how consistent the hug that had you questioning is with the previous ones you gave or received from the same person. In other words, compare how they’ve always hugged you with the most recent/ambiguous one(s). Do they usually go in for quick hugs but are starting to push their luck lately?

Is the eye contact, gentle rub/hair stroking somewhat new, or getting more pronounced? As signs go, these usually point to a new flickering romantic flame. Conversely, if these things dwindle, it doesn’t exactly bode well for the state of your romance, if any.

16. Body response

Romantic desire is relatively easier to spot in men. When a man hugs someone he’s attracted to, the movements down south alone are enough to give him away, and so we tend to concentrate there when looking for such signs. Females may not have tells that open, but hugs offer more uniform options thanks to the proximity. 

For starters, the increased everything (read: temperature, heart/breathing rate) characteristic of the kind of excitement a romantic hug might induce can give anyone away, irrespective of what’s between their legs. And those are just the physiological ones. 

17. The type of hug

If someone asked me how to tell if a hug is romantic in person, honestly, the first question I’d ask is what kind of hug it was. Is it a buddy hug like the one from the side or more of an eye-to-eye couple’s wedding dance type? It goes without saying that the latter fits the romantic description more. 

Of course, there’s always room for context. Even as little as a quick hug from someone you are heavily into can be dreamy as hell.

18. Relative quietness

relative quietness

If your hugger is usually talkative but barely gets a couple of words in for the entire length of a long hug, that might be a tell. It’s like they are mentally capturing the moment so they can relive it long when it’s over. It’s not just about touching you, but the experience as a whole. They want to take in how you feel, smell, sound, etc.

It doesn’t always have to come with an I love you to know there are feelings there. Sometimes those few seconds of shared silences are as romantic as it gets.

19. What they say

On the other hand, if you hug someone who likes to verbally express themselves rather than just show it, the sign you seek might specifically lie in what they say. It may not be quite as explicit as the famous three words, but something along the lines of I miss your smell, or it’s nice to feel you again says plenty.

Some of us also don’t like to make it easy even when we’re mush inside, so something witty or snarky might be your person’s go-to style of breaking the silence. The personality of the person you’re dealing with plus your dynamic with them gives nuance to whatever they say, so try not to make it too much about the words.

20. The feeling

Sometimes, maybe by the length of the hug or through a quickened breath, it’s straightforward to detect where your hugging partner’s mind is at. Other times, you only have your gut feeling to go by, and believe me, a woman knows these things. If only we all trusted our intuition more.

Again, a great hug may not necessarily be the longest, warmest, or even the most comfortable, but it has that key thing, you can feel the feels. Be it empathy, security, or romantic love. You can be assured in a romantic embrace without exchanging a word; sense each other beyond your physical contact, during and sometimes after the hug.

21. Know what happens afterward

Finally, and this one should be easy to remember, pay attention to what happens in the immediate moments after breaking the hug. Is it like a continued moment thing, say leading up to a kiss or prolonged eye contact? Or can they not wait to end the hug and move away from you?

It might not be a kiss being teased in your case, but them taking a minute to gather their thoughts, or even a smirk, before picking up where the conversation stopped. In any case, if it feels like a romantic hug, more often than not, it is.

FAQs

How do you know if a hug is more than friendly?

Friendly hugs are usually more conscious of the other person’s personal space than romantic hugs. You don’t want to offend or have the person you hug get the wrong idea, so you keep your hands around their upper back – shoulder. In contrast, a tight hug that lingers between two people of the same romantic orientation is very likely more than friendly.

What does a romantic hug feel like?

A romantic hug involves more touching, usually in areas considered intimate, than other types of hugs. Sometimes it’s this transcendent thing where your whole body melts into the other person’s embrace. Other times it’s awkward with your heart racing like crazy, yet somehow satisfying. And there are days when a romantic hug leaves you feeling unequivocally horny.

What is a flirty hug?

A flirty hug is primarily intended to tease or seduce the recipient. It can range from a coy, playful hug to downright NSFW. Flirty hugs are often planned and perfected, but they can also be unintentional, subject like everything else to misinterpretation.

Are hugs a sign of attraction?

Hugs can be a sign of attraction, especially between two unrelated people. But hugs are also a pretty common way of expressing self in healthy relationships, whether romantic, filial, or platonic. So it sometimes takes a few other signs like body response, what happens prior to and after the hug, eye contact, and how long it lasts to narrow it down to attraction.

Do guys get turned on by hugging a girl they like?

Yes, if a guy hugs a girl he likes, he may get aroused, especially if he also finds her sexually attractive. He will probably also be turned on if the girl does something to tease him during or after the hug. Then some erections are just pure coincidences and don’t necessarily have to do with the sexy girl in their arms.

To Conclude

So there you have it, all the different ways to tell a romantic hug apart from a friendly one. I did the work so you don’t have to, I hope you had fun reading it. Remember, the uniqueness of the personality you’re dealing with should always be considered along with each tip for best results.

If you liked what you read, why not let me know in the comments and then have your network do the same by sharing the article? This way, you help me serve you with even more personalized premium content, a world where everybody wins.

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April Maccario
I'm a huge nerd when it comes to understanding how relationships between men and women work, and what drives a certain behavior. I spend much of my time getting into the nitty-gritty and try to share my findings on this site with the hope of making life a little easier for women that are struggling in their relationships or love life.

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