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How To Be Intimate — Without Having Actual Sex

Although sex sells, don’t fall for the bait.

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Anna Rupprecht
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Intimacy. When most people hear the word, their minds immediately jump to all things sexual. No wonder: In today’s day and age, sex sells. It is quite literally everywhere at our fingertips on TikTok and Instagram, Netflix and Prime — and always a click away. It is all too easy to think that sex is the ultimate (and only) intimate act, but you would be wrong.  

Whereas sex can indeed be an intimate act, it isn’t the only one (and it isn’t necessarily intimate all the time). According to the dictionary, intimacy is defined as “the state of being in a very personal or private relationship,” which can certainly include the act of sex, but doesn’t require it or equate to it.  

Think about your first love and the hours upon hours you spent on the phone in deep conversation. Or perhaps the first time you opened up to someone about an emotional issue? Or how about this: Do you remember seeing your partner cry for the first time or vice versa? These are acts of emotional intimacy. All intimacy, whether physical or emotional, requires a beautiful and brave willingness to be vulnerable — and that isn’t easy.

The result, however, is a stronger and closer bond between two people.  There are so many ways to increase intimacy between you and your significant other. It requires intention, willingness and action, but the results just may be worth it. And don’t be surprised if these alternate methods increase your physical intimacy as well as your emotional closeness, because the mind, body and spirit are all connected. So, although sex sells, don’t fall for the bait. I’m here to help you broaden your intimacy horizons. Want to know how? Read on!  

Eye-gazing: Embrace the uncomfortable

They say your eyes are the windows to your soul — and “they” don’t lie, now do they? Sara Bick, clinical hypnotherapist and somatic coach at Inna Therapies, says, “Gazing into each other’s eyes is a powerful, sometimes challenging practice, which can help deepen connection and understanding between two people.” OK, so how do you start implementing this potentially awkward practice? “Sit comfortably opposite each other, set a timer so you don’t have to worry about the time passing, and decide whether you would like to involve touch, such as hand holding, or not.”

Start with shorter periods of time and work your way up as you grow more comfortable with the practice. While you are eye-gazing, simply “breathe deeply and don’t worry about blinking, but really try to hold each other’s gaze for the duration, noticing any emotion that may come up, and see if you can allow it to be felt.”  

Ask and tell: Challenge yourselves and your relationships

Think back to those early days of getting-to-know-you when butterflies took over and you wanted to know everything there was to know about your partner. No matter how long you have been together, I promise you, there is more to know because humans are constantly evolving. Sandra Myers, cofounder of the luxury matchmaking firm Select Date Society, says, “There have been psychological studies demonstrating how asking the right questions can accelerate intimacy.” You can spend time crafting five to 10 meaningful/philosophical questions for your upcoming date night. Or perhaps craft a personalized game of “would you rather?” If all else fails, consult the The New York Times’ famously published 36 questions that lead to love. Myers promises that “going through the questions with your partner will bring the two of you closer.” Ask a question a day or 100 in one sitting. Just challenge yourself to dig deeper, ask more and listen well.   

Coregulating: Take new risks 

Most of us have learned our own methods of self-regulation prior to reaching adulthood. What are the things you do that help soothe your mind, body and spirit amid stress, chaos and anxiety? Perhaps you do breathing exercises, meditation or exercise. Well, you can call on your partner to coregulate too. Bick says this technique “is especially helpful before important discussions, or even after arguments, to get back on the same aligned level.” She suggests one way to implement the coregulation is “sit comfortably opposite each other, place a hand over each other’s heart area where you can feel their heart beating. Close your eyes and begin taking slow, deep belly breaths. Exhale slowly at the same time and repeat three to five times. Notice the heartbeat, notice as you match each other.” If this makes you slightly uncomfortable, try to remember that is because this is indeed an intimate act, and one that requires vulnerability.              

Play together: Think outside the box

Embrace your inner child! Run around outside barefoot, have a water-gun fight, embark in a game of hide-and-seek, or grab your favorite board game from way back when. Laugh more, think less, and be sure your phones and other electronics are turned completely off! Margaret Rutherford, a clinical psychologist, says the idea is to “introduce spontaneity and get out of doing the same old, same old every day.” She and her husband “played a game where we surprised one another with a stuffed toy turkey that was part of our normal Thanksgiving decor. But one of us would surprise the other about when Mr. Turkey would suddenly show up! I put it in my husband’s golf bag. He mailed it to my son when I was attending a seminar where he went to college. Mr. Turkey was sitting in my hotel room when I walked in! Spontaneity, laughter and knowing that both of us were planning the surprise visit of Mr. T builds a sense of partnership.”   

Dance: Be creatively intimate 

Have you ever watched Dancing with the Stars? It is fascinating to see the couples start as strangers, but after a few days of dancing together it is as if they have known each other their whole lives. Dancing will have your bodies talking and souls connecting in no time. You can dance fast or dance slow, dance in public or in the privacy of your own kitchen, dance in the morning or late at night. You need not be good to reap the benefits. Simply blast the music and let your bodies react. Chances are you will be smiling — maybe even laughing — in no time.

To sum it up, in four words only … if you desire more intimacy: Be vulnerable more often.