Intimacy without Sex

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For variety of reasons, there may come a time in your relationship when you cannot have sex with your partner. This most often occurs as we age, but there are an increasing number of other reasons that my make this situation happen to couples of all ages. 


Reasons for a Sexless Marriage

First, not all reasons are physical. There could be a sexual trauma that’s happened to one partner and it may take time to mentally heal. Perhaps the overload of a stress-filled life is making sex a low priority. Or maybe it’s because you and your partner have drifted apart and there no longer seems to be a sexual connection between you. 


There seem to be far more physical reasons for lack of sex in a relationship. You may have just welcomed a baby into the world and your spouse is recovering from childbirth. There are plenty of surgeries where avoiding sex is recommended during the recovery period. There are also heart-related health issues, such as cardiovascular disease and congestive heart failure, where a physician will ask the patient to refrain from sexual activity.


More common physical circumstances are often related to painful sex, vaginal dryness, erectile dysfunction, and sex-related performance issues.  


Whatever the case may be, it’s important to stop and evaluate where you are in your relationship and see if you can pinpoint the reason you and your partner are no longer having sex. I’m going to share a few ways to help bring intimacy back to your relationship. 


Is Intimacy just Sex?

Intimacy is closeness between people in a personal relationship. It can involve physical or emotional intimacy. And it can build over time as you and your partner grow together and feel more comfortable around each other. 


The word intimacy does bring sex to mind. It can be used to infer sexual activity. But intimacy is so much more than just sex. 


Intimacy can also be used to describe a small party with close friends, aka “an intimate gathering”. It can also be used to describe genitals, as in “intimate parts”. 


Relationships with your spouse or partner, family, and close friends can all include elements of intimacy that may make you feel more closely connected with one another. 


Physical affection can contribute to intimacy. Sharing kisses and hugs can make a person feel intimately close to another, but it isn’t necessarily sexual. 


Ways to Bring Back Physical Intimacy without Sex

Now that we’ve identified what intimacy may be to you, let’s look at ways to bring it back to your relationship. 


Talk About It:

When was the last time you and your partner had a real conversation? Not a quick, superficial chat, but a deep conversation about your feelings—both of your feelings?


Real conversations can be scary. Asking to have one with your partner can be uncomfortable. But it’s the first step in getting intimacy back. 


Sharing your true thoughts on your relationship and how you’re feeling can be therapeutic for both partners. 


Make a date with your partner when you can both sit down without interruptions. Be kind and open. Do not become accusatory. Keep in mind that this is to be communication for connection. The goal is to get conversation flowing again between you and your partner. 


Re-start Slow:

When was the last time you enjoyed a passionate kiss with your partner? Can you remember when you last held hands and looked lovely at each other? 


Sharing affection with your partner may lead to reclaimed intimacy. 


I cannot stress how important touch is in a relationship. Touch is always the number one area that breaks down with struggling couples. I’ve found that asking couples to just sit and touch each other can cause both of them to feel pretty strong emotional responses.


Using touch is one of the most successful ways to bring two people back together.


Perhaps consider adding an element of touch to your conversations with your partner. Try holding hands to start. Touch is powerful. It’s a physical way to make an actual connection with the one you love. 


Let it Go: 

Sometimes the only thing keeping partners apart is resentment. Are you angry that intimacy is no longer present in your relationship? Have you or your mate said some things that you regret? 


Sometimes things are said in the heat of the moment. Perhaps your relationship is not what you envisioned. Are these things keeping you from intimacy with your partner and moving positively forward?


I suggest letting things in the past go and stop carrying around issues that are causing resentment. Ultimately, resentment may be stopping you from reconnecting with your partner and regaining your intimacy.  

Think about what you really want. Do you love your partner? Do you want to regain intimacy and connection? Let things go. Make a pact to start fresh. Share your true feelings of wanting to move forward together. 

Start Trying:

There’s a good chance that you or your partner, possibly both of you, have just stopped trying. Sometimes things seem so bleak that it’s easier to just stop trying and let things remain as they are. But this will never lead to happiness or intimacy. 

It’s time to start trying again. 

I understand that conflicts, rejections, loneliness can make a person feel like there isn’t any hope. There is always hope. Make the commitment to be happy in your relationship. Put intimacy with your partner first and foremost. 

Have you and your partner been together for so long that you feel like roommates? Sometimes you just need to take one step in front of the other. Stop and think about what you can do to start trying, and caring, again in your relationship. It’s time to make an effort. You may find that your partner has been trying to find a way to reconnect with you. 

Intimacy and Sex

There are times when our sex lives may not be what we envisioned them. This can be a common occurrence. Sex is important. Intimacy is important as well. But sex is not needed to create intimacy. 

Believe in yourself and your desire for intimacy with your partner. Have the courage to seek intimacy. Know that intimacy can make your heart full during those time periods when sexual activity is not possible. Focus on love. 

Also know that things change. Your partner may heal. Your libido may rise. Your communication and initiatives may create your love to be renewed. Having a strong intimate connection with your partner can help you sustain love when sex is not an option. 

Once you find yourselves on the same page, keep communication, touch, and affection going. Make a commitment to each other to stay close and be together in this life. You may find that intimacy can be just as emotionally fulfilling as an active sex life. 

Do you struggle with intimacy? Would you like to be more connected with your partner? Please send me your questions and comments. I’m always here to help you.

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Dr. Sunny Rodgers is a clinician, author, and speaker who has worked in the wellness industry since 2000. She holds a Ph.D. in Human Sexuality, a Master of Arts in Clinical Sexology, and is an accredited Sexual Health Educator. She is the Founder of The Institute of Intimate Health, an Ambassador for the American Sexual Health Association, regular lecturer for the UCLA David Geffen School of Medicine, Sexual Confidence Coach for the Marigold App, and a professional Sex Toy Concierge™. Rodgers hosted a popular weekly show on Playboy Radio, has been an expert guest on several TV and radio programs, and is a regular contributor to HuffPost, Men's Health, Cosmo, Bustle, and many more publications.