As Nancy Fish, psychotherapist and co-author of the book Healing Painful Sex reminds us, “Sexuality is a whole spectrum and intimacy encompasses many things. Intercourse is important, but it’s only part of sexuality. You could have intercourse 100 times a day and not be intimate.”
We often equate intimacy with sex, but in reality, it is only a fraction of it.
I like to think of sex as an extension of the intimacy and contectedness that is already established and practiced in a relationship. It is not absolutely necessary to have sex be a part of your intimate experience with your partner.
Last week, in part 1 of this series, I wrote about the importance of developing self-compassion. When you can accept yourself 100% and have compassion for yourself even in the most difficult times, you become more intimate with yourself. Ultimately, this will extend into your relationship and positively influence the intimacy experienced with your partner.
Today, I challenge you to re-frame your understanding and beliefs surrounding sexuality and intimacy by focusing on ways you can increase intimacy with your partner that do NOT involve sex.
Here are 6 guaranteed ways to increase intimacy in your relationship (without sex):
1) Nonsexual touching
Touching without the expectation of sex increases intimacy.
Putting your hands on your partners shoulders, legs or arms and rubbing them affectionately with a few kind words of support and love can make a huge impact when practiced regularly.
Physical contact increases your sense of connectedness with your partner. We all need physical touch. It’s a basic human need. In my opinion, the more touching, the better!
Massage has several benefits – it can make you feel wanted, relieve tension and stress and increase intimacy.
Designate one night a week massage night!
Try using some coconut, grapeseed or sesame oil with a few drops of lavender or other essential oils for an enhanced experience.
When you are connected to your partner, you can often innately sense where and how they need to be massaged and if not, simply ask them for feedback and openly communicate during the process.
It may even seem awkward at first, but stick with it!
3) Hug and kiss each other often
These acts of affection actually help to calm the nervous system and increase positive feelings between the two of you.
After 20-30 seconds of a full embrace your body begins to secrete the hormone oxytocin. This is the same hormone that is released during lovemaking, child birthing and kissing. Oxytocin strengthens the bond we feel with others.
All it takes is 30 seconds a day of hugging to increase intimacy with your partner. That’s good news!
4) Spend time in meaningful conversation
When is the last time you gave your partner your complete presence?
Next time you talk, make sure you make eye contact and truly listen to what they are saying.
Spending time in open and honest communication will allow your partner to feel safe enough to express their frustrations and fears with you, as well as their joys, hopes and dreams.
Creating and maintaining a safe container for the relationship will allow intimacy to flourish, free of the expectation of sex.
5) Learn the 5 love languages
Gary Chapman, author of The 5 Love Languages, explains that there are distinct ways that partners express and receive love. Have a conversation with your partner to discuss the 5 love languages and determine how each of you feel loved.
While you may be expressing love to your partner in the way you like to receive love, they may have a different love language. You need to demonstrate love to your partner based on their love language, which might not necessarily be your preference.
Although we may use all of these languages at one time or another, you and your partner will have a preference for one or two of the 5 love languages. The 5 love languages are:
1. Words of affirmation – These people feel most loved when given verbal affirmation of their partners love and verbal compliments.
2. Quality time – To this person, love is expressed through receiving undivided, focused attention from their partner.
3. Receiving gifts – Receiving a gift is what makes this person feel loved.
4. Acts of service – For this person, actions speak louder than words.
5. Physical touch – To this person, nothing speaks more deeply than appropriate and loving touch.
When you and your partner are attuned to each other’s love languages and act on them, intimacy and connectedness are enhanced and maintained.
6) Make gratitude a daily practice
It is easy to focus on what you don’t have, but true happiness comes from appreciating all of the things that you DO have.
Instead of focusing on the sex that you can’t have, keep a gratitude journal and write down one thing a day you are grateful for.
What you write down in your gratitude journal can be related to your partner or not, but the key is that by focusing on what you are grateful for, it can shift your perspective and increase positive feelings about yourself and your life.
Even if you just practice this yourself (although I recommend both partners keep their own gratitude journal), your shift in attitude will inevetebly cause a shift in your relationship for the better, making room for more joy and intimacy even in the midst of intense pain and struggles.
Have you found a way to increase intimacy with your partner that does not involve sex? If so, we’d love to hear about it in the comments section below, or shoot me an email directly!
Next week, in the final post of this series, I will look at other ways to give and receive sexual pleasure that do not involve sexual intercourse. I will also provide some IC friendly tips and suggestions to those of you who can tolerate some degree of sex.