Practicing intimacy is a way to stay in tune with one another. It solidifies and strengthens the connection between couples, maintaining the spark in the relationship. When someone is denied intimacy, for instance, non-sexual physical intimacy, they may feel rejected in the relationship. It is a complex emotion when someone you love rebuffs your needs.

Non-sexual physical intimacy issues arise when there is a disregard for close contact that does not involve sex. Some examples of non-sexual physical closeness include cuddling, hugging, and kissing. You may feel unheard and unsatisfied in a relationship when physical touch is always a prelude to sex. While both forms of physical closeness are essential, prioritizing one without a mutual consensus can harm the relationship. If your relationship starves you of this, here is how to deal with the lack of non-sexual physical intimacy.

What Is Physical Intimacy?

physical intimacy meaning

Intimacy creates the foundation for every relationship, as it is critical to building a connection. Many people equate the term ‘intimacy’ to physical closeness. Although intimacy can lead to interconnectedness, there are different categories. Some examples are emotional, intellectual, and spiritual intimacy. However, all forms of intimacy connect you deeply to someone differs from physical intimacy.

So, what exactly is physical intimacy? Physical intimacy in relationship settings involves sharing affectionate moments with a partner through touch and body proximity. There are different types of physical intimacy, which are sexual and non-sexual. The lines between the two types are often blurred. Often, people find difficulty in expressing their feelings through other means of physical touch without involving sexual activities.

Examples Of Physical Intimacy

Here are a few examples of physical intimacy to further distinguish the difference between the two types.

Sexual IntimacyNon-Sexual Physical Intimacy
– Foreplay
– Mutual masturbation
– Oral sex
– Sexual intercourse
– Hand holding
– Scalp massage
– Cuddling
– Casual touch

Effects Of Lack of Physical Intimacy in A Relationship

Effects of Lack Of Physical Intimacy In A Relationship

Human touch is a vital part of development in childhood. It remains an essential part of life in adulthood. Research suggests low levels of stress after experiencing physical touch from close partners. This interaction helps release oxytocin, known as the “love hormone’.” It is an important chemical that indicates trust, empathy, and bonding in healthy relationships. This feeling is often exhilarating and brings you closer to your partner.

In physically intimate romantic relationships, you can experience the release of the love hormone. However, the lack of non-sexual physically intimate moments may trigger opposite feelings. You may feel:

  • Unreciprocated.
  • Confused.
  • Disconnected.
  • As if you love a stranger.

How To Handle a Relationship That Withholds the Non-Sexual Physical Elements

Everyone has a different love language. While you may crave physical touch, your partner may not appreciate it as much. It is essential to come to a mutually beneficial agreement without experiencing dismissal.

Work On Emotional Intimacy

Although you’re building the physical aspect, you must first connect emotionally. Sometimes, misunderstandings arise when you have not established emotional intimacy.

Building emotional intimacy involves sharing genuine moments. This includes expressing thoughts and personal feelings and being open to discussing vulnerabilities. These moments act as the ‘sealant’ in your relationship and help establish other forms of intimacy. Additionally, establishing an emotional connection is essential to relationship-building, as it improves closeness.

Talk to your partner about your fears, needs, wants, and desires. Exploring this type of intimacy builds a safe space with you and your partner. Starting early in your relationship ensures a healthier dynamic. However, you can still improve or start building even years into a relationship.

Ways To Build Emotional Intimacy

While your partner should take responsibility in this journey, you should also take accountability. No one is perfect, and there is always room for improvement. However, this does not mean you should fault yourself for being in this situation. Be open to growth as much as you expect improvement from your partner. In brief, work together while exploring this form of intimacy. Here are some ways to nurture emotional intimacy:

  • Be understanding when your partner brings up concerns.
  • Practice active listening to demonstrate care.
  • Give your partner compliments.
  • Provide support in different areas of your partner’s life.
  • Connect with your partner through their love language.

Sometimes, it is assumed that being in a relationship automatically connects you deeply to your partner. Therefore, some couples don’t take the time to form an emotional connection, making it difficult to see eye to eye. Emotional connection is pivotal to different types of intimacy, including physical. It creates depth in the relationship, which helps create authenticity.

Have A Serious Conversation with Your Partner

You’ve probably heard countless times that communication is necessary for healthy relationships, and it is true. Communicating helps you understand one another better. It isn’t easy to see things from someone’s point of view when they are not relatable or communicated. Therefore, if your partner can’t relate to non-sexual physical touch, communicating your concerns sets you both on the same page.

Set a standard of how you would like your needs met in the relationship by being upfront. For instance, voice it if you initiate non-sexual physical contact with your partner but are rejected. However, if this situation brings up unpleasant emotions, it is best to clear your mind to approach the problem with clear intentions later. Your language should not be accusatory or demanding.

To avoid this escalating into a blame game, take the “I” approach. Something like “I will appreciate it if I can talk to you deeply about a specific topic” is a great way to start the conversation. It shows seriousness, and there are no blame-shifting tones involved. In addition, starting the conversation this way highlights your needs, which is the purpose of the conversation.

When you talk with your partner and give them time to express their feelings, you might learn a few things about them. This can help you better understand why they withhold physical touch. While it can be intentional in some cases, further discussed below, it might be unintentional in others. Rejecting non-sexual physical touch unconsciously can be, but is not limited to, the following reasons:

  • Lack of affection in childhood.
  • They have been told they were needy in the past and are afraid they will experience the same thing with you. Essentially, they’re protecting their feelings.
  • Sensory processing disorder (SPD).

Talk To a Couples Counselor

Having someone who has the expertise to mediate the situation and provide unbiased advice is helpful. Besides the obvious, it can also help you learn better communication methods with your partner.

The lack of depth in the relationship leads you to search other areas. For example, if non-sexual physical touch is unreciprocated, you may overcompensate by having sex. This is the only time you feel close to your partner, so you seek it every chance. In some other instances, you may withhold sex to retaliate. For these reasons, you must speak to a couple’s counselor.

The dynamic of your relationship may change as you go through these issues. Having someone work you through your concerns helps create an environment where you can resolve things amicably. Although this is a couple’s session, there are sessions in which the counselor may speak to you alone to understand your feelings better. The goal is to understand both of you and discover healthier ways to continue the relationship or the best alternatives.

One important reason to attend couples counseling is to know whether your partner’s actions are intentional. Are they rejecting physical touch as a form of manipulation, or are there reasons buried deep down? For example, you might be dating a narcissist who knowingly dismisses touch. This type of partner may extend enough touch to keep you around, but it is usually a rarity. Narcissists approach relationships with limitations because they do not desire a deeper connection.

Often, you’ll need to talk to an expert to learn ways to better connect with your partner. It is also a good indicator of how you and your partner feel about the relationship, whether that involves improvements or long-term goals.

Check-In with Your Needs

physical intimacy ideas

Are you fulfilling your personal needs? Does your mood depend on the attention you receive from your partner? The need for such physical closeness may be from developing codependency.

Perform self-checks to make sure you’re well secured within yourself and are not seeking for the sake of feeling complete. You can start by doing everything with intentions while you go through the day. For instance, set the intention before washing your hair. Don’t rush through your routines, so you have enough time to spend with yourself. This lets you appreciate your company and every step you make during the day.

Making sure you take care of yourself eliminates the need to search elsewhere. Be present and learn to enjoy every moment you spend with yourself. If you lack this, take a moment to infuse your need for physical touch with honoring yourself. You’ll soon discover that true intimacy begins with yourself, your inner being.


Physical intimacy in marriage or other romantic relationships is crucial to long-lasting relationships. The lack thereof can instill disagreements and lead couples to feel disconnected.

Many individuals struggle in their relationships when certain things are not understood. Following the strategies highlighted above is essential to improve non-sexual physical connection or develop new ways to connect.