Dear Prudence:

I have been mostly happily married for 13 years. My husband and I get along really well, and I love him very much. That being said, he is not the most affectionate person anymore. We used to cuddle a lot when we were first married and I have told him how much I miss it.

He says he doesn’t enjoy it because it’s too hot. He’ll make an effort to snuggle while watching TV sometimes if I ask, but I can tell while we’re doing it that he is counting the minutes until he can stop. About a month ago, I was having a very bad day at work and a male co-worker/friend told me I looked like I could use a hug. Prudie, I did need a hug and he gave me one and I started crying because I couldn’t remember the last time I had received nonsexual affection from someone without begging. My co-worker asked why I was crying and when I told him he said he loved his wife very much, but she wasn’t affectionate either and he knew exactly how I was feeling. Since that day we’ve been meeting in his or my office after work a couple of times a week to hug each other. And that’s all we do — there is no groping or kissing or even talking going on, we just hold each other for five to 10 minutes and then we go home.

I like having a hug buddy and I’ve found my relationship with my husband is actually getting stronger because I am not so needy for affection from him. Of course, I have not told him about hugging my co-worker and I’m sure if I did he’d be upset, but I don’t feel like what I’m doing is cheating. Is it?

— Huggy Bared

Dear Huggy:

Ah, Hug Buddies! Forget whether this is cheating, I see the possibility for a fantastic franchise opportunity ahead. Unless you are married to someone who is insanely jealous over totally normal interactions with members of the opposite sex, a good rule of thumb about cheating is that if you wonder about the propriety of what you’re doing it, and if you know your spouse would object, then you’ve entered dangerous territory. Additionally, your after-hours body contact at the office may be therapeutic for the two of you, but you have the makings of a Feydeau-esque farce when someone walks in to discuss the quarterly sales figures. Of course, if you decide to take the hugs off-premises, you know it won’t be long before you realize neither of you get kissed very often by your spouses, and you’ll add that to the repertoire.

Then it will be short trip to horizontal affection and you two can be buddies of a more vernacular sort. The fact that you have found such release and comfort from your colleague’s hug tells you what a trough your marriage has fallen into. Your husband’s excuse for not touching you is that it’s too hot. Unless you live in a tropical climate and the air-conditioner is broken, this explanation is absurd. You don’t need to tell your husband about your hug buddy, although I think you need to let go of said buddy. You need to address something that’s become a crisis in your marriage.

Tell your husband you are withering from a lack of affection. It would be one thing if you married someone who couldn’t stand touching you, but when you got together there was plenty of nonsexual touching. Say that if he won’t go to a counselor with you, you’ll go alone, because while you love him very much, you feel he’s set you adrift.

Dear Prudence:

My husband and I recently found out I’m pregnant (yay!). We have very few disagreements and generally see eye-to-eye on most things. But we fundamentally disagree on whether or not to find out the gender of our unborn child. I don’t want to find out; he does. I could go through all of the arguments, but neither of us views it logically. Me: It doesn’t really matter what the gender is, I’d rather be surprised. Him: Hates surprises. This is one of the few things in life that there’s no compromise, because you either find out or you don’t.

I also don’t think that it would work for him to find out and me not to — I know the answer would be revealed one way or another. How can we resolve this?

— Future Mom

Dear Future,

Relative to the length of human history, it’s only in the last nanosecond that we’ve had the technology to know the sex of an unborn child. For endless millennia, parents-to-be have accepted they’ll just have to wait for the baby’s arrival and in the meantime they just paint the cave a neutral color. Your husband’s argument that he doesn’t like surprises is specious because anyone who can’t handle surprises should not get into the parenting game.

You’re right there’s no compromise position here, except maybe to be told that one of the baby’s sex chromosomes is X. But all things aren’t equal in the childbearing business, and to break this deadlock, I say the choice goes to the person who’s actually doing the gestating. In any case, in a few months this mystery will be resolved and you’ll realize how silly it was to fight over this, because having a child is a series of unfolding mysteries.

As for this information coming out beforehand, when I was pregnant I elected to be told our daughter’s sex. Then at one of my last obstetrician appointments before my due date, as my doctor looked at the sonogram screen she said to me, “I can’t remember. Did you want to know what sex she is?”

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