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14 Ways to Be Intimate With Your Partner If Penetrative Sex Is Too Painful


Sometimes penetrative sex can feel so painful, you don’t want to have it at all. This could be the result of chronic illness, disability, your mental health or even the side effects of some medications. While you may find this frustrating or think it puts a damper on your love life, who says you can’t steam up the bedroom without penetrative sex?

Share your experience by responding to this community Question on The Mighty: Mighty Question about intimacy that doesn't involve penetrative sex There is more to “sex” than penetration. Expanding your view of what it means to have sex can — like those who identify as LGBTQ already know — lead to new and exciting ways to connect with your partner. There’s no reason your intimate life can’t be romantic, meaningful and satisfying. 

“I’m queer and have stage 4 endometriosis, and don’t have sex involving penetration of my vagina because of severe pain,” Mighty community member Cat P. said. “I don’t feel limited by this because there are so many ways to be intimate with partners. … Perhaps not defining one specific act as the goal could open up more conversation between partners about what they want to try, and increase depth and honesty in the relationship.”

Intimacy, after all, is important to your personal well-being and the health of your relationship.

“Emotional and physical intimacy and closeness and mutual support are ways that we express and maintain our attachment to another,” sex therapist Joanne Bagshaw, PhD, LCPC, told The Mighty. “Intimacy, which includes sex, but is much more than sex, helps couples maintain a connection that is warm and loving.”

To broach the conversation about exploring new ways to connect, couples and sex therapist Lisa Thomas, LCSW, LMFT, DAACS, recommends talking with your partner about what types of intimacy you like. Maybe deep kissing really turns you on or snuggling in bed gives you that sense of closeness. From there, collaboratively work out how you’ll make your sexy time routine mutually beneficial.

To get you started, here are some suggestions from The Mighty community that can help you maintain intimacy.

1. Kissing

Welcome to first base aka kissing. Like the baseball metaphor implies, kissing is often considered the first step along the path to a sexual home run. What this really means is kissing helps you initiate intimacy with a partner, so take your kissing game to the next level. You can give french kissing a try, like Mighty community member Tabi recommended, try kissing fast and slow, position yourselves lying down or sitting up. Explore, have fun and get reacquainted.

2. Oral Sex

You’ll want to have a conversation with your partner about their comfort with oral sex before you try it. But if this fits your sex life, oral sex can be incredibly gratifying. The connection of your mouth to a partner’s genitals lights up sensitive erogenous zones and may be an alternate way for one or both of you to experience an orgasm. Explore a variety of adaptive positions based on your mutual needs and let your lips and tongues do the rest.

3. Mutual Masturbation

If orgasming during sex is important to you or your partner, mutual masturbation is another way to get there. Also, orgasm or not, talk about intimacy watching a partner’s pleasure up close! You can watch each other masturbate or masturbate each other in any way that feels good to you. As an added bonus, mutual masturbation helps your partner see exactly how you like to be touched.

4. Holding Each Other

According to Thomas, any kind of touch creates “a stronger level of attachment, closeness [and] more intimacy” in addition to generating “more oxytocin.” To help get your love hormones (oxytocin) flowing, try holding each other. You could be sitting, laying down or you could even sit in your partner’s lap. Concentrate on the feeling of each other and enjoy the warmth and togetherness of that contact.

5. Cuddling In Bed

A close cousin to holding each other, dedicate time to cuddle together in bed, whether clothed or naked. You can make this part of your bedtime routine to fall asleep wrapped up together or use the time to get better acquainted. This is how Mighty community member Laxton and their husband have found intimacy. Laxton said:

My husband is very kind and understanding about my past and issues I have because of it, so when certain things are off the table we cuddle and touch, to touch his shoulders and his neck, look into his eyes and kiss.

6. Massage

Lay your hands all over your lover for an amazing massage. Touch creates a sense of closeness, relaxation and pleasure. You’ve got several erogenous zones that can be surprising pleasure centers. Try massaging your partner’s armpits, ears, stomach, the soles of your feet and nape of your neck. “Massage is such a pleasure,” Mighty community member Helen said. “He has valium skin I swear. It is soothing for the both of us.” Add in lotion for a bonus sensory experience.

7. The Karezza Technique

You might not believe the Karezza Technique dates back to 1896, but Dr. Alice Stockhalm saw this intimate intermingling as key to Victorian-era pleasure (and equality). According to Hot Octopuss, you Karezza by lying naked with your partner in a position that allows your genitals to touch. Stay in this position for 30 or so minutes without moving against each other. Focus on your breathing, the sensations you feel and the warmth of your connection.

8. Sex Toys

You might like adding a sex toy when you’re getting down with a partner. The extra sensations from a vibrator, for example, can provide an extra jolt of electricity where it counts, especially if you’re not as sensitive down there or have trouble reaching orgasm. Sex toys can also bring variety to your routine and may be another stimulating way to accomplish an orgasm if that’s important to you.

9. Shower or Bathe Together

Beyond the obvious closeness and touching factor, taking a shower or bathing together can be erotic and deeply vulnerable. It’s also a way to show your partner their body has value and deserves care by taking the time to lather and appreciate your partner in a loving way. Enjoy the warm water as it envelops and cascades around you while you caress each other’s body. It’s a scene that writes itself, right?

10. Dry Humping

It’s not the most appealing phrase but dry humping can feel pretty good. By rubbing your bodies together in a way that stimulates your genitals — positioning yourself over a partner’s leg, for example — you can generate enough friction for a throbbing…heartbeat. This is another way you may be able to achieve orgasm. Plus, you can make it a game and get creative!

11. BDSM Play

In recent years, it’s no longer so taboo to talk about BDSM, a type of consensual sexual role-playing that includes themes such as bondage, dominance and submission. BDSM, which according to Bustle favors non-penetrative sexual experiences, can be an exciting way to add another dimension to your sex life. BDSM practices you can explore might include teasing, sensory deprivation, hidden public teasing and more.

12. Eye Contact

Scheduling time to make sustained eye contact with a partner may be just what your intimate life needs. Your eyes are the window to your soul, and science says that even just four minutes of eye contact without talking encourages deep connection. You can also incorporate meaningful eye contact into almost any other sexy activity you might want to try.

13. Erotic Visualizations

Don’t be afraid to let your imagination run wild and spend time indulging your partner in some erotic visualizations. This could mean talking in detail about your fantasies, perhaps with some heavy petting, watching erotic videos together or reading each other a naughty story. You’ll get to know your partner on a deeper level. 

14. Laugh Together

It may sound corny, but there’s a lot of intimacy to be found in laughing with your partner. Some studies have shown that the ability to laugh together is actually one of the most important building blocks for a relationship. It knits together your bond and attachment to each other. It’s a way to recognize your partner is really present, both physically and emotionally. Because as Thomas said, “We’re social creatures and none of us really want to be alone.”

Want more adaptive ways to spice up your sex life? Check out these accessible sex toys and these disability-inclusive sex positions.

Header image via Vera Petrunina/Getty Images.