Man and woman lying down with their heads close but their bodies in opposite directions
Illustration by Marta Pucci

Ways to Get Closer to Your Partner Beyond Sex

Photo of Dr Katherine Hertlein
Reviewed by Dr Katherine Hertlein,
created by Blueheart
created by Josh Green
created by Sophie Browness
Date published:
1/27/2022
Last updated:
7/25/2022
Photo of Dr Katherine Hertlein
Reviewed by Dr Laura Vowels,
created by Blueheart
created by Josh Green
created by Sophie Browness
Date published:
1/27/2022
Last updated:
7/25/2022

TL;DR

  • It’s quite normal to go through a phase in your relationship where you feel a little distant from one another and sex becomes less frequent.
  • Emotional intimacy is as important as physical contact. Take time to enjoy one another’s company and reconnect on a non-sexual level.
  • Learn about love languages and how you and your partner most like to give and receive love.
  • Physical touch is vital for building connection, but it does not always have to lead to sex. Focus on trying to include small touches as you talk or at other times throughout the day.
  • Try injecting some fun into your relationship by doing different things to those you normally would.
  • Don’t forget the importance of conversation.

Sometimes we go through a phase in a romantic relationship where we feel we’re growing apart. It might be that life has taken over and we’ve stopped prioritizing one another. Or perhaps kids or work have become overwhelming, leaving little time to focus on sexual activity.

When intimacy wanes and sex becomes an afterthought it can leave one or both partners feeling lost, frustrated or insecure. And worse, the very idea of sex can begin to make us feel anxious for fear of rejection or lack of confidence. It can be difficult to know where to begin to get things back on track.

Don’t worry. If the sex sessions of the past seem out of reach, start slowly. Explore ways of getting close to one another without sex. Allow yourselves to simply enjoy one another’s company and remember the love you share without any pressure at all.

A bit about love languages

Have you heard of love languages? Learning a bit about the psychology behind giving and receiving love can lead to a stronger relationship and greater understanding of your partner’s motivations.

The five love languages are Words of Affirmation, Acts of Service, Receiving Gifts, Quality Time and Physical Touch. They relate to different types of intimacy. Think about when you feel the most loved or happy in your relationship. Is it when your partner complements you, offers supportive words or simply says 'thank you' for something you’ve done? Or is it when they’ve helped you with something without having to be asked? If so, Words of Affirmation or Acts of Service could be your love language.

Similarly, if you just love to be given gifts and treats or want nothing more than to spend time with them in a meaningful way, then perhaps Receiving Gifts or Quality Time speak the loudest to you. And finally Physical Touch. Do you feel happiest when you’re snuggled up with your partner or gently stroking one another’s arms?

Once you understand how your sexual partner likes to receive love, you can work on giving love in that way. And in return help them to understand what makes you happiest in your relationship.

Little touches everywhere

Whether you or your partner believes that Physical Touch is your love language or not, touch is actually really important in any relationship. It can mark the difference between a sexual relationship and a platonic relationship.  

Unfortunately, as life gets busy and priorities shift, it can be easy to fall out of the habit of touch. Perhaps you no longer naturally slip your hand into theirs as you stroll side by side along the road. Maybe you’ve taken to stretching out on your own sofa when you 'Netflix' after the kids are in bed. Not like when you used to drape your legs across one another. And do you still make a habit of kissing one another goodbye before one of you leaves the house?

The thing is, sometimes we don’t even notice these little things have stopped. And worse, if sex has become an issue, we may even actively avoid these little touches for fear that they could lead somewhere.

That’s why we recommend Sensate Focus as an aid to growing intimacy in a non-stressful way for healthy relationships. It takes sexual intercourse out of the equation to begin with and starts simply with tiny touches – as small as sitting next to one another, touching when talking or a short hug. Backed by science, the Blueheart app uses these sex therapist techniques to take couples from unsure to back in control of their relationship. These help couples to build emotional intimacy and – once they’re both ready - move towards a sex life that makes both partners happy.

Change things up a bit

If things have become a little...well…dull lately, no one will blame you. With successive lockdowns in the Covid-19 pandemic, and nervousness about where it’s safe to go, it’s not surprising if you have got stuck in a little bit of a rut. Perhaps you’ve only visited the same local restaurant in the last six months, or maybe the cinema (where you can’t even chat) has become your default date. Or have you just got out of the habit entirely. The good news is, with a little bit of effort, it’s quite possible to get things back on track.

Maybe agree to one date night per month - it doesn’t even have to be outside the house if a babysitter isn't an option - and take it in turns to organize something new or different. That’s only six ideas you each have to come up with in a year – that should be doable. Perhaps order a recipe kit for a meal you both love, or that reminds you of honeymoon, cook it together and enjoy by candlelight? Maybe book a cocktail making lesson at a local bar? Arrange a picnic in the woods or at the beach? Learn a new skill together or even try a new sport? Or... ask your partner some great questions to get to know them better, and to find out what they'd like to do in the bedroom.

If you are struggling for ideas there is even an app that can help. Called Cobble, it's like a dating app but for things to do, it invites you to swipe on ideas and then share them with your partner to weigh in. It's fun, saves you time, and can help you avoid any pesky arguments about making plans.

You can’t beat good ol’ conversation

While gamification is fun, there has to be a serious point here. The most important thing in any romantic relationship is and always will be communication. And if you’re experiencing anxiety in the bedroom, this importance increases tenfold. Almost anything can be overcome if you can learn to truly feel your feelings and trust your partner with them. Overcoming issues is far easier if you’re able to work together as a team.

There is a lot of beauty in communication. Sharing your wants, desires and needs can really help in terms of emotional intimacy. Talk to each other and ask personal questions. Our sex questions could be a great starting point – and we promise they’re not all about sex.  

Knowing your partner trusts you enough to share their innermost feelings, and the understanding that you’re the only person in the world with whom they would want to do that, is a feeling like no other. It really does help to build a genuine emotional connection.

And in time, that could lead you back to exactly where you want to be in terms of physical intimacy too.

Want to know more about how Blueheart could help? Take the assessment to find out what might be lacking in your relationship, and get a personalized plan to start working on those areas step-by-step, like you would in real-life sex therapy.

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