Relationship Advice

Welcome back to Just the Tips, where college experts Angie and Cass answer your questions about love, relationships, and more. This week, we were asked about intimacy and sex, and we have answers for you!

1. What is a good way to show intimacy without sex?

Angie: Non-sexual intimacy, to me, starts when it's just you and your partner. But there are tons of types of intimacy — cuddling has an entirely different vibe to, say, crying. I think to have an intimate moment, you have to trust your partner completely, and enjoy being close to them. That's why cuddling is my go-to — it's a lovely way to be physically close and enjoy your partner's presence and body in a way that isn't sexual. A different way to show intimacy is to open up to your partner about something that you may not reveal to others. Sharing insecurities, worries, and other things that are tough to talk about can be extremely intimate, and it's a great way to show your partner that you trust them. Plus, when you're done, your partner will know a little more about you (or you about them) and that will often bring you even closer.

Cass: Intimacy is defined as closeness to another person, familiarity if you will. By that definition, intimacy is not about just sex and it shouldn't be. You can show intimacy through a variety of ways. Like Angie mentioned, cuddling is a good way to show physical intimacy without sex. Personally, I find the most intimate moments when I'm talking with someone about things they've been thinking about and just having that space as a way for them to process and work through what they're thinking about. Also just sharing a space with someone, sitting quietly and doing your own thing, can be intimate if you're enjoying your time with the other person. That also adds a new level to the relationship because it shows you can enjoy each other's time without necessarily needing to interact with each other, you can just exist together and be okay with that simplicity.

2. When, in your opinion, is it a good time to have sex in a relationship?

A: The easiest answer is when you're ready. But how do you know when you and your partner are on the same page? As always, communication is key to have a healthy relationship, so you have to find a way to make sure your partner is comfortable with the same activities as you. One way to figure out where they're at is to have a simple conversation: you can ask about their sexual history to find out if they move fast or slow (and this is a great way to make sure you're having safe sex — your partner's sexual history is important for your own sexual health!), and get an idea about pacing from there. You can also just straight up ask them if sex is something they're interested in doing. Or, if you find yourself in a particularly steamy moment, ask if it's okay to go a step further, and act on your partner's response.

The most important thing is to make sure you're both ready. If either of you seems unsure or hesitates, stop the encounter and either wait until you're sure or have a conversation about what you and your partner are comfortable with.

C: Once you talk to your partner! For some people, the idea of sex isn't the most present thing on their mind in a relationship, but that doesn't mean that it's something they are opposed to. Some people just really don't think about it, so your partner might not mention it unless they think you are also ready to have sex. You also need to feel comfortable with the idea of having sex and making sure you're doing it for yourself rather than for someone else. Also, you don't have to go all in all at once, you can test different boundaries and get comfortable with a person before doing the deed. Basically, just get consent from all parties and make sure that you're actually enjoying yourself.

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