Is Sex The Only Way To Be Intimate With Your Partner? 17 Non-Sexual Intimacy Ideas You Should Know

Way back in 1986, R&B sensation Jermaine Stewart told the world that “we don't have to take our clothes off, to have a good time, oh no.”

Instead, he urged everyone to “dance and party, all night, and drink some cherry wine, a-ha.”

We agree with Jermaine that intimacy can take several shapes, not all of which are sexual.

Although non-sexual intimacy may lead to sex, it doesn’t always have to.

These emotionally-driven activities can simply be ways to bring you closer together.

So today, we're talking about non-sexual acts of intimacy in which couples can engage.

What is Non-Sexual Intimacy?

Simply stated, non-sexual intimacy is the act of bonding with a romantic partner without sexual intercourse.

The need for alternative intimacy may arise for myriad reasons. Perhaps:

  • Illness or injury is preventing physical connection
  • Religious restrictions keep you from engaging in sexual relationships with people you’re dating
  • One partner is navigating a particularly bad bout of depression or stress
  • You’re entering a new stage of life and navigating a newly diminished sex drive

Or maybe you're searching for ways to strengthen your non-physical relationship to enhance the corporeal part.

Whatever the case, there are many ways to forge non-sexual intimacy.

17 Non-Sexual Intimacy Ideas Couples Should Explore

What are non-sexual forms of intimacy? Intimacy isn't only a physical phenomenon. We also bond with other people on spiritual, biochemical, emotional, and intellectual levels.

We've curated this list of 17 ways to be intimate with your partner without having sex in recognition of that reality.

1. Cuddle

Cuddling feels amazing with the right person, and there's a scientific reason for the pleasant sensation. You see, touch stimulates dopamine and serotonin, the body's natural feel-good hormones.

Experiencing a rush of pleasure alongside another person is bonding and a great way to engage in non-sexual touch.

2. Hold Hands

Holding hands is sweet, and it's another way to enjoy contact with your partner without getting overly physical. Like cuddling, holding hands tickles our dopamine and serotonin receptors.

couple eating ice cream non-sexual intimacy ideas

Plus, when we lock paws with another person, it makes us feel loved, protected, and wanted — which is an excellent workout for our mental health muscles.

3. Kiss

For some, kissing crosses a line. If you're one of those people, feel free to skip ahead. Otherwise, yes! Kissing is the ultimate form of non-sexual intimacy. It gets the heart pumping and ignites our libidos.

For people who are simply refraining from having sex with other people but enjoy self-love, a goodnight kiss can be powerful mind candy for your intimate solo time.

4. Massage

Few things in life are better than a massage. They feel divine because:

  • Massages trigger the brain to release feel-good chemicals, which diminishes pain and invites a sense of euphoria.
  • They help alleviate stress embedded in the muscle tissue.
  • Massages refocus our awareness, allowing us to live in the moment, the most relaxing state.
  • They stimulate our immune systems, helping us feel healthier and stronger.
  • Massages stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system, which turns off our fight-or-flight response, allowing us to fall into a deep state of relaxation.

Massages can be highly sexual, especially if you introduce oils and lotions. However, be aware that naked massages with someone you're attracted to can easily result in sex — no matter how much willpower you think you possess.

So if you're already having difficulty refraining from intercourse, it may be wise not to tempt yourself with an intimate body rub.

5. Exercise Together

As you may have already surmised, when it comes to building non-sexual intimacy, activities that produce serotonin and dopamine — the natural hormones that make us happy — rank high on the list. And you guessed it: exercise falls into that category.

When working out with someone, you simultaneously flood your systems with serotonin and dopamine — side-by-side. As a result, you'll subconsciously start to associate that rush of pleasure with each other.

However, if your fitness levels are different, cater to the person with the least athletic prowess. After all, you don't want frustration to spoil the fun.

6. Go on a Romantic Date

Candlelight, delicious food (prepared by someone else), cocktails, and loving conversation is the longtime recipe for a romantic date. Cave people likely paired off and stepped away from the pack for a fireside snuggle on a prehistoric cliff.

It may sound cliche, but some classics withstand the ravages of time.

7. Watch Shows or Movies That You Both Love

Enjoying a movie or TV show together is another way to bond with a partner. Comedies are an excellent option because they make us feel great, and laughter stimulates our heart, muscles, and lungs. 

Plus, howling with laughter releases endorphins — another happy chemical — into the brain. Romantic movies can also stimulate the body's joyful juices.

couple hugging in the city non-sexual intimacy ideas

Also, don't be afraid to branch out. Budget permitting, head to an actual play or recital. The old-time charm of live entertainment is a lovely experience.

8. Verbal Affection and Admiration

Showing and not telling is excellent advice for novelists — but the adage doesn't hold when it comes to communicating with your significant other. People appreciate verbal affirmations. It makes our hearts go pitter-patter.

Granted, lifelessly spewing “nice” words in your partner's general direction without any affection or feeling won't have much of an impact — in fact, it might cause problems.

But tender moments topped off with words of love can be magical and affirming.


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9. Establish Rituals Together

There's a reason why most cultures, clubs, religions, and even companies establish rituals: they galvanize people and create a sense of togetherness. Creating traditions with your partner works the same way. 

Not only does it carve out something special just for the two of you, but it's a touchstone to which you can always return to feel grounded and bonded.

10. Pull Back on Punching Down

When we've been in a relationship for a long time, it's easy to get in a rut and bludgeon our significant others with life's stresses. 

And when we're down in the emotional trenches, we tend to be less careful with other folk's feelings. We tease a little too hard, gripe a little too loudly, and are generally less considerate. Basically, we punch down on our partners.

When this happens, intimacy can suffer.

Try a hefty dose of thoughtfulness and affection to get back on track. Think before you speak and hold back on the hurtful zingers. Make an effort to be gentle and kind. Doing so can return things to a loving keel and reignite your relationship.

11. Send Each Other Loving Text Messages

Knowing someone loves us is half the battle, and daily text messages can go a long way in conveying said sentiments.

Before firing up a text message schedule, think about the realities of your partner's life. Don't pester them with hourly messages if they're busy from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and need to focus on work. Instead, consider sending a daily morning message.

Try not to go overboard. Too much texting can sour a budding connection, especially early in the relationship.

12. Be Fully Supportive of Your Partner

We discussed how eradicating the urge to “punch down” can increase intimacy between partners. Being supportive is a close cousin but not quite the same. Being mindful of your partner's feelings and taking care not to say unkind things is one thing. But being supportive requires more action.

For example: let's say your better half enjoys playing an online game. Instead of criticizing your partner for “wasting” time in front of the computer, ask questions about the game. Maybe even get in on the action.

It's greatly appreciated when we do things for our better halves out of pure love. It also builds a strong emotional connection.

13. Go Grocery Shopping Together

Sharing everyday chores with your spouse or significant other can be an enjoyable bonding adventure. For starters, it makes an ordinarily mundane experience a lot more fun. After all, the supermarket is always more pleasurable when you go with a partner in crime.

Secondly, it’s a baby step toward “nesting” — especially when things are getting serious in a relationship, but you’re not yet living together.

14. Cook Together

Creating anything — including meals — with another person is a connecting experience. Not only are you working in tandem to fulfill the recipe, but it’s an opportunity to chat and spend quality time in each other’s company.

Not only are you nourishing each other’s bellies but also each other’s innate need for affection and teamwork.

15. Make a Big To-Do of At-Home Dinners

A meal at home can be a fantastic opportunity to create an intimate atmosphere. Break out the good china and fire up some candles.

Heck, eat in the dining room instead of in the kitchen — or plopped in front of the television! Then, dim the lights, put on some light music, and enjoy a romantic meal in the privacy of your own home. It’s an intimate experience!

16. Talk Philosophy

This one may sound a bit weird — but hear us out.

Sharing our most intimate and philosophical thoughts can be exhilarating and galvanizing. Like physical activity, intellectual exploration stimulates our senses.

Transform geeking-out into an intimate experience by sticking to ephemeral and general topics, like “the nature of consciousness” or comparing the different schools of thought. 

Outside of grad students and professional academics, it’s rare for people to indulge in deep conversations about philosophical concepts. But doing so can be a bonding experience that generates a unique intellectual intimacy.

17. Set and Strive for Goals Together

Reaching a goal sets off a fireworks display of dopamine, making us feel like a million bucks. When you plan and achieve goals with a partner or spouse, it’s a shared high, forging an intimacy of achievement between the two of you. 

No, saving up enough money to go on a dream vacation may not bring you to O-town, but don’t knock it till you try it — especially people in it for the long haul. After all, a couple that plans and executes together often stays together.

How Do You Have Non-Sexual Intimacy?

Intercourse is not the end-all-be-all of a romantic relationship. Life is a carnival of non-sexual intimacies that you can create with your partner. 

With a bit of planning, creativity, and commitment, it’s possible to have an actively sensual and bonded partnership without intercourse taking center stage.