Non-Sexual Ways to Show Affection

So many sources—movies, advertising, your friends—suggest that intimacy has only one way to express itself: sex. But that’s not true.

There are lots of ways to show affection without being sexually active, including these: kissing your partner, giving them a massage, or snuggling up for a book together. Plus, talking about sex-free topics can be surprisingly intimate, too.

1. Physical Touch

Sex may seem like the only way to feel intimate with a partner, but it isn’t always. While romantic and sexual intimacy often includes physical touch, you can create a sense of emotional intimacy with a loved one without touching in a sexually active way.

One of the best ways to show affection without being sexually active is by holding your spouse’s hand. This can help you and your partner bond over a shared interest, such as a favorite hobby, and cultivate the sense of closeness that can be so important in a relationship.

You can also show affection by giving your partner non-sexual kisses. This can include kisses on the forehead, cheek, neck, and hands. Try to give your partner different kinds of kisses, such as soft lips and deep penetrating ones, in order to explore their unique preference and increase the intensity of your physical intimacy.

Another great way to build emotional intimacy is by spending time together doing a hobby that you both enjoy, such as working on a home improvement project, gardening, or playing an instrument. This type of activity can provide the perfect setting for a couple to discuss their feelings, as well as work on a common project that can bring them closer together and create invaluable memories. The key to success in this area is to communicate and agree on what type of activity you will do.

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2. Words of Affection

Words of affirmation, or positive words of appreciation, are a great way to show affection in a non-sexual way. People with this love language thrive on receiving compliments and verbal expressions of love, appreciation, and encouragement from their romantic partner or loved ones. Often, they prefer to receive these positive messages in person rather than over the phone.

People with this primary love language need to hear that their partner loves them, appreciates them, and will always be there for them. They thrive when their significant other calls them “babe” or another term of endearment to show them how much they mean to them. They also like to be congratulated for their accomplishments, whether it’s finishing a major project at work or parallel parking on the first try.

Words of affirmation is one of the five love languages that Gary Chapman describes in his book, The 5 Love Languages. Taking the time to understand how your partner feels most loved and appreciated can help you build a stronger, more fulfilling relationship. For this reason, it’s important to learn which love languages your partner speaks and work to incorporate them into your relationship. Conversely, negative words or a lack of words of affirmation can be hurtful for this type of person.

3. Shared Activities

Having shared activities can be a wonderful way to feel close to a partner without sexual intimacy. Sharing in things that you both enjoy, whether it’s hiking, playing a board game, or reading together can spark feelings of connection and intimacy. This can also be a fun way to introduce new things to your partner, such as learning to play an instrument or cooking together.

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Spending quality time is an important part of any relationship, and if you’re having trouble with physical intimacy, this can be especially helpful. It can help to set aside specific times for cuddling, or even making your bed into a cozy fort with fairy lights and snuggling up together. The act of touching releases oxytocin, which is known as the “cuddle hormone.” This can elevate moods and make you both feel good.

If you have to resort to scheduling sex, don’t worry – this can be just as romantic and fulfilling as spontaneous sex. Just make sure to choose a time that works well for both of you, so that it’s a win-win.

For couples who want to spice up their physical intimacy, try adding some dirty talk into the mix. Describe what turns you on about your partner, or have them tell you what turn them on. It can be a great way to build heat and excitement, while easing back into sexy activities.

4. Emotional Touch

Affection and intimacy can be expressed in many ways that do not involve sex. Many couples who find themselves struggling with a lack of emotional intimacy can benefit from exploring some creative non-sexual intimacy ideas that can help them bond and connect with their spouse in healthy, loving ways.

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A light brush of the hand can provoke a variety of emotions — excitement, comfort, or repulsion, depending on who’s touching you and when. A simple pat on the back or a soft caress of the shoulder can be an intimate way to show your partner that you are happy and excited about them. This type of touch can even trigger the release of oxytocin, a cuddle hormone that can help lower stress levels and increase feelings of trust.

The impact of touch is so profound that even a slight brush of the finger tips can be interpreted in different ways by people with varying cultures and social backgrounds. For example, a gentle touch from a woman can trigger positive Midas Touch effects, while the same touch may be perceived as aggressive by men.

There are many reasons why you might need to explore non-sexual intimacy ideas with your spouse, including health problems or sex issues that make sexual intimacy impossible. Creating a deeper level of emotional intimacy with your spouse can help you feel closer to them and can lead to more satisfying relationship experiences in general.

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