How To Be Intimate Without Sex In A Romantic Relationship

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Figuring out how to be intimate without sex may seem like an impossible task. After all, doesn’t the word “intimate” mean sex? While the word “intimate” has become the polite way to talk about sex in mixed company, the truth is that it means much more than that.

Ensuring that both partners are comfortable with how you nurture your intimacy is one of the keys to a successful, long-lasting relationship. While sex is one way to be intimate, there are also a variety of ways to be intimate that do not involve sexual activity.

What Is Intimacy?


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Before we can explore how to be intimate without sex, first we have to define what exactly “intimate” means. To do this, we will examine the definitions of physical and emotional intimacy and also what defines an intimate relationship.


According to the website Healthy Place, physical intimacy can include sharing sexual and sensuous activity as well as sharing thoughts and emotion about that activity. That is, sharing both physical and emotional closeness. But you don't have to engage in sexual activity to be physically close to someone. Some ways to show physical intimacy include holding hands, swimming together, and hugging. As for sharing thoughts and emotions? It's easy to do that fully clothed as well.


Emotional intimacy is both a simple and an infinitely complicated subject. Good Therapy defines emotional intimacy as a “long-term pattern of closeness and warmth.” The Good Men Project defines emotional intimacy as “shared feelings, trust, and vulnerability.”

This kind of intimacy is something that is built up over time. Keep in mind that emotional intimacy does not need to be confined to a romantic relationship. You can experience emotional intimacy with family and close friends.




Why Be Intimate Without Sex?


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Though it is common to associate the idea of intimacy with sexual activity, the truth is that intimacy does not necessarily have to include sex. The reasons for wanting to pursue intimacy without having sexual contact can be varied and personal.


Not wanting to have sex is a valid reason to learn how to be intimate without sex. There do not have to be any underlying reasons for not wanting to have sex.

For example, some people who identify as asexual have no desire to be sexually intimate with another person though they may still desire a romantic connection. In this case, sexual intimacy is not a personal requirement for emotional intimacy.

Health reasons

Health could be a factor on whether or not you can or should be sexually active. For example, if you are a woman who just gave birth, your doctor may medically advise against sexual activity for a while to allow you to heal.

Disease transmission may also be a factor. If you or your partner have either been diagnosed with or exposed to a sexually transmitted disease, abstaining from sexual activity is the best way to prevent transmission.

Physical limitations

Similar to health reasons, physical limitations can also be a factor on whether or not you can be sexually intimate with a partner. For example, chronic conditions that cause pain may prevent you or your partner from participating in sexual activity. Other physical conditions like injury or cardiac complications may also prevent or limit your ability to have sex comfortably and safely.

Emotional reasons

You may want to learn how to be intimate without sex for emotional reasons. For many people, having sex is an expression of deep connection and emotion. You or a partner may not be ready to share such an experience, particularly when just starting in a relationship.

Past trauma or abuse can make sexual contact difficult or scary. In these cases, a partner may want to set sexual boundaries as a way to cope with their past trauma. You or your partner may also not want to have sex due to emotional troubles in your relationship, like past trust issues or stress or other problems.

Religious reasons

Some religions prohibit sexual intercourse before marriage. For people who want to be faithful to their religion, learning how to be intimate without sex is a way to strengthen a romantic relationship without violating any religious teachings.

How To Be Intimate Without Sex

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There are a variety of reasons that you or your partner may want to learn how to be intimate without sex. The good news is, you can. Here's how.


Communication is an essential part of any healthy relationship. Learning how to communicate well is key to strengthening your emotional intimacy with your partner. Sometimes, you and your partner may find it difficult to communicate with each other, but there are ways to change this. Making small talk with your partner is a way of opening up the communication. Even though small talk may seem trivial, mundane moments have a significant impact on the health of a relationship.

Do something together

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Finding something to do with your partner is a great way to be intimate without having sex. Shared experiences help to build intimacy by allowing you to share a fun time. Doing something together could be things like traveling to explore a new place or playing a video game where you need to help each other.

Be present

Another way to learn how to be intimate without sex is to be present in the moment with your partner. Though the busy, modern world likes to encourage multitasking, to help intimacy in a relationship, put all that aside to focus and be present for your partner.

That does not necessarily mean being physically there, because sometimes in life, partners may have to be physically distant due to circumstance.

However, to be present means to be there with your partner in the times that you are together. Listening to and conversing with your partner is a way to be present. Focusing on actively "communicating with" rather than "talking at" your partner is very important.

Cuddle without expectations

For some physical intimacy, cuddle with your partner without having any expectations of sexual activity. Cuddling releases the hormone oxytocin, also known as the “bonding hormone.”

Try cuddling up on the couch after a hard day of work, watching Netflix, or even the news. Maybe do a quick cuddle while your partner is standing about, or a kiss on the cheek to show you care.

Hold hands

Holding hands is a simple yet powerful way to be intimate with your partner. Like cuddling, the act of holding hands can stimulate the release of oxytocin, allowing you to feel closer with your partner.

Revisit memories

Another way to encourage intimacy without sex is to revisit memories. Share some of the good times that you have had together, letting your memories together draw you together.

That could involve traveling to a place you have been to before, like a first date. However, you can also do things like scroll through old photos on your computer of previous trips or events.

Intimacy On Your Terms

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Intimacy is vital to cultivating a robust and long-lasting relationship. Finding common ground for you and your partner to express and nurture intimacy is just as important. Learning how to be intimate without sex can also help nurture a healthy emotional connection.


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