It’s not the least bit uncommon for men these days to see hugging as something feminine, the domain of women and romance. This isn’t really the way it should be. It’s not really manly to hug like many ladies do but it is if it’s done right.
Who to Hug
Obviously, hugging is quite intimate. You’re thoroughly merging your personal space with another person, so you should only ever hug someone if you’re comfortable with that level of intimacy with them. Ladies are often comfortable with this level of intimacy with very wide circles, but men should reserve it for friends, family, and lovers. If you’re not sure if you’re close enough, ask yourself if you’d consider telling them that you love them. How you love them, how you’d say it, or even if you’d say it are all irrelevant, all that matters is if you’d consider it. You’d probably consider telling your close friends, parents, or wife that you love them, and they’re all appropriate to hug.
Why to Hug
The inherent intimacy of hugs means they should be reserved for more emotional moments. All circumstances that warrant hugs fall into four categories; greetings, farewells, expressing intimacy, and emotional support. It’s pretty obvious what qualifies as a greeting or farewell but the other two are more complicated, usually you’ll have to use your own judgement.
The “Bro Hug”
Normally I hate the use of the word “bro” but it perfectly describes the fraternal feelings that men hugging should embody. Any hug between men should be no longer than it would take to quickly pat him on the back a couple of times if you so choose. It’s also appropriate to shake hands simultaneously, just make sure your hands migrate up, no man’s hand should ever come near another man’s “equipment.”
There are really only two factors controlling hugs with the woman you love; practicality and the state of your relationship. When it comes to romantic hugs, you have completely freedom in terms of how you embrace, where your hands end up, and whether or not it progresses further. The only limits are that you must never conduct yourself in a more sexual manner than is appropriate, nor force a relationship to progress faster than she’s comfortable with. Not to mention, it would be rather hard to drive a stick through Midtown Manhattan with one arm around a woman’s shoulders.
Chances are, there are women in your life that you aren’t in love with, and hugging them should be different, lest it become creepy. Simply face her and put your arms around her back and hold her close briefly. This kind of hug can last longer than a “bro hug,” especially if it’s for emotional support or a farewell before an extended or indefinite absence, so long as it’s not so long as to qualify as cuddling.
Children are unique when it comes to any kind of physical intimacy, their completely non-sexual. Children are more emotionally needy than adults as well. The goal here is to help them grow up to see the above standards as normal and healthy, through how you treat them and the other adults around them.