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Staying intimate without sex

How can you keep the flame of intimacy alive in your relationship at times when sex is off the menu?


Posted: 10 October 2007
by Maria Muennich

There may be many times in your relationship when the thought of sex just leaves you cold. You might be pregnant and going through a phase of decreased sex drive, you may have recently given birth or be breastfeeding, perhaps you've had an illness or operation, are simply exhausted, or maybe you're going through a phase when you just don't feel interested in sex. There can be a whole host of very good reasons for lack of interest in sex that aren't a comment on your relationship or feelings for your partner, but getting through times when one of you isn't interested in sex can be difficult, and your partnership can miss the physical intimacy that sex provided. So how can you fan the flame of intimacy when sex is out of the question?

While sex can be an important part of the way you and your partner are intimate with each other, one of the key things about sex is that it's a form of communication between the two of you. When your sex life is taking a back seat for a while, try to find other ways of communicating your feelings with each other as well as other ways of offering your partner sexual fulfillment, if you are able. If you are concerned that any of these ideas will lead your partner onto the road to wanting sex and putting you in the position where you have to decline, then make a point of sitting down and discussing with him or her what you are, and aren't, comfortable with right now to help avoid any misunderstandings.

With a bit of time, and maybe effort, your sex life should return to normal before too long, meanwhile here are some ideas for maintaining a strong level of intimacy with your partner.

  • Cuddle every day- Even if you're not up to having sex, there's no reason to cut off physical contact and plenty of reasons to make sure that you include a loving touch in the day-to-day of your relationship. Physical contact with your partner will reassure him that you are attracted to him and love him and at the same time can give you some much-needed support and comfort. It might feel as though you don't have time to cuddle right now, but even stopping whichever of the hundred jobs you have lined up and holding each other for a minute or two can say so much and help keep the physical bond between you.

  • Go out on a date - Time with each other is even more precious once you have a family and whenever you are at home there will be a stack of unfinished tasks to distract you from having an intimate talk with your partner. If you can, try to arrange a regular slot for an evening out together on your own, so you can focus entirely on each other. You might feel tired and not in the mood to go out when it comes to it, but having the sitter will make you at least give it a go - it might be just the lift you need. If you can find a babysitter willing to do the ironing at the same time then all the better.

  • Try taking a long soak together - Water is a powerful relaxant and lying together in the tub - if it's big enough! - can be a wonderful way of creating closeness and taking comfort from each others' bodies without the pressure of sex. It's also a great setting for you to talk over your dreams and ideas together. If you're feeling self-conscious about your body then pour in the bubble bath and light those clich├ęd candles rather than sitting under the glare of the lightbulb. This can also have the added benefit of helping you along to a good night's sleep, particularly when followed with a spot of...

  • Massage- Massage is fantastic for creating intimacy with your partner and handily multi-tasks as a way to show physical affection and provide deep relaxation - just the thing for when you're totally exhausted. Why not try keeping a bottle of relaxing massage oil by your bed to serve as a reminder when you're collapsing into bed at the end of another exhausting day. Even fifteen minutes of massage can work wonders. One word of warning though, it is important to find out what kind of massage your partner enjoys and try to adapt your technique to his or her preferences: Some people like harder, deeper massage, and others prefer a lighter touch. It'll be a total waste of time if your partner isn't relaxing, so encourage him to give you some guidance (not criticism!) and vice versa.

  • Bedtime cuddling It might be that you get a better night's sleep when you have your half of the bed entirely to yourself, but if you can give over a good ten minutes - but don't get out your stop-clock! - before you settle down at night to non-sexual spooning (where you lie together on your sides facing the same direction, so one partner can wrap his or her front and arms around the other's back) or other cuddling with your partner it should hopefully leave you both feeling relaxed and loved.

  • Be demonstrative - Even small signs of affection can be mutually reassuring and help you stay physically intimate when sex is off the menu. Try reaching out for your partner at least several times a day to hold hands, stroke his/her arm, back or cheek or give a kiss: Initiate as well as return displays of affection. Notice how your partner looks and give regular compliments or say how much you love and appreciate him or her.

  • A bit of good old-fashioned snogging - For many couples the simpler physical pleasures can often fall by the wayside once you have a well-established sexual relationship, when was the last time you enjoyed bit of snogging with your partner? If you can't remember then maybe now is a good time to bring kissing back into the spotlight, you can either keep it innocent and thoughtful, or allow yourselves to get a little steamed up and in the mood for something more.

  • Physical intimacy without intercourse - If you and your partner have grown used to thinking of physical intimacy in terms of full intercourse then you may be neglecting other ways of reaching orgasm. If you can happily contemplate touching your partner sexually then oral sex and masturbation can be very fulfilling and give an important element of sexual reassurance in the relationship. If you aren't interested in pleasuring your partner in this way then maybe try the other suggestions above first to rekindle your physical intimacy and see if you can spark some desire.

  • Keep talking - Talking to each other, sharing your dreams, goals, troubles, daily experiences, emotions and feelings for your family and each other, is absolutely crucial to building trust and maintaining intimacy in your relationship. This is particularly important at times when your physical relationship is somehow limited. If lack of sex is becoming a problem between you then don't avoid the subject, try to discuss it as openly as you can. If you are the one not currently interested in sex then try to explain your feelings to your partner and ask for a bit of understanding and patience, at the same time as trying to explore other ways of remaining physically close.
Making an effort to stay intimate with each other even when sex isn't possible or appealing should help you both understand each other and lessen any feelings of rejection and insecurity that the change in your sex life can cause. It will hopefully also help lead you naturally back into full sexual relations when the time is right.

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