Monthly Archives: March 2018

The Art and Science of Non-Sexual Touch

I obviously work with a lot of couples who are dissatisfied sexually.   As such, I find myself writing frequently about sex.  Like here.   Also here and here

One thing I haven’t written about before – and probably should have – is the importance of non-sexual touch in a relationship.  

While there are no quick fixes and no single road map that fits every couple (that’s why all the work we do at The Marriage Place is customized to the couple), you might be surprised at how often I ask couples that are struggling in the bedroom to first focus on activities outside of the bedroom.

Non-Sexual Touching

One of the things I teach my clients is to be deliberate about increasing non-sexual touch.

What tends to happen within a couple – especially a couple where the partners have distinctly different sex drives (which is most couples, by the way) – is that the lower desire spouse will quit touching the higher desire spouse because any touch is interpreted as an invitation for sex.  

Many of you know exactly what I’m talking about. Your husband walks by you in the kitchen, gently pats your backside, and your brain goes straight to “He’s expecting sex tonight”.  Or husbands, your wife puts her hand on your arm as she’s asking a question and it translates to “I’m going to get lucky!”  Invariably, one or both partners in these situations end up frustrated or resentful.

Why Non-Sexual Touch is Important

Touching without the expectation of sex can be a deep bonding experience. It builds a level of trust otherwise missing from the relationship, which in turn, enhances the couple’s sexual relationship as well.

Touching without the expectation of sex can be a deeply bonding experience and build a level of trust otherwise missing from the relationship. Click To Tweet

When couples quit touching, hugging, and kissing except as a prelude to sex, the passion in the relationship usually dies. In fact, I can often gauge a couple’s sex life before they tell me anything about it, simply by how much they touch each other in a non-sexual way.

What Non-Sexual Touch Looks Like

Non-sexual touching can be holding hands or cuddling during a movie or just sitting close enough to each other that you are touching arms or legs.

Really, it can be any touch that you both agree is not intended to lead to sex.

The list of options is limitless, but here are a couple of purposeful ones if you are looking to be intentional.

The 3-Minute Hug

It’s as simple as it sounds.  Hug your partner (we’re talking full body hug) for 3 straight minutes.  You can even set a timer.  I’ll warn you though – 3 minutes can feel like forever, especially if this is the first time. So if needed, start with just one minute and work up to it.

Occasionally I’ll have my clients hug during a session.  If I were to video you’d notice a few things. First, couples often start out in a stiff awkward embrace. Their eyes jump around looking for distraction and at least one will glance at me with that “How much time is left?” look. But as the seconds tick off, I start to see some changes. Both partners will shift to get comfortable. Their bodies relax, often kind of melting together.  Their breathing slows and begins to regulate, even to the point where they may breathe in unison.  All in a matter of 3 minutes.  

 The 30-Second Kiss

Most couples typically kiss for just a split second at a time.  It’s the quick peck as you are leaving for work or the greeting when you get home in the evening.  

What if you kissed your partner for a solid 30 seconds each day?

30 seconds isn’t that long, but an intentional half a minute of kissing will feel like much longer (You can thank me later). It’s long enough that you can’t fake it and you are forced to connect with each other.  In fact, it’s nearly impossible to kiss that long and not feel closer to your partner.  

 The Science Behind it

Physical contact like hugging and kissing causes your body to release endorphins and oxytocin. Endorphins are the natural “feel-good” chemicals we all have that reduce stress, anxiety and depression. Oxytocin is known as the “bonding hormone.”  Our skin has receptors that stimulate our brain to produce more of these chemicals. So more hugging & kissing = more endorphins & oxytocin = more happiness, less anxiety, and more physical intimacy.  

Now this, by itself, does not guarantee more or better sex.   I can tell you this though – show me a couple with limited (or no) non-sexual physical intimacy, and I’ll show you a couple that is also struggling in the bedroom. The two are connected.

In case you haven’t noticed, none of this work can begin without open, honest, direct dialogue with your partner.  If you aren’t having those now on other topics, starting with sex may be awkward.  Really awkward.  But that’s okay.  Do it anyway!  If you need help getting started, you can schedule an appointment online or simply call us.

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Marriage Counseling Didn’t Work. So Now What?

Did you know a couple waits an average of 6 years between the time they are first unhappy in the relationship to when they finally reach out for help?  SIX YEARS! That’s a lot of time for resentment and unhealthy patterns to build.

And when a couple finally does reach out, knowing who to go to for help can, quite frankly, be a confusing guessing game.

It’s not unusual for clients to come see me after having already been to one, two, or even three or more other counselors first.  They are typically very frustrated and have often lost all but that last shred of hope their marriage can be saved. I usually hear something along the lines of “Marriage counseling hasn’t worked for us.  How can you help us?”

The Marriage Intensive

Couples that find themselves in this situation want – and need – a different approach.  They need a game changer.  A Marriage Intensive can be that game changer.

While traditional therapy is appropriate for many couples, sometimes an hour every week or two just isn’t enough.  Work, family, kids, and LIFE get in the way and derail a couple’s honest attempts to gain the traction they need to truly get to the root of their issues and rediscover hope for their relationship.

What it is.  And Isn’t.

Depending on where you go or who you talk to, a Marriage Intensive (also known as a Couples Intensive) could be anything from a group workshop, to a weekend retreat or boot camp, to something just short of a mini- vacation, interspersed with spa treatments and fancy dinners.

If I’m being honest, none of those fit what I do. At The Marriage Place, a Marriage Intensive is entirely focused – and I mean laser-focused – on the marriage.  YOUR marriage.

They are done in my office and include just 3 people – the two of you and me.  Together, we spend the better part of a day, or two days, transforming your relationship.  That’s it. No fancy dinners and no spa treatments. Truthfully, there isn’t time for that stuff.

What you can expect from an Intensive

I call them “Intensives” for a reason.   The condensed, accelerated format strips away the starts and stops necessitated by traditionally-structured therapy, making them particularly effective in helping couples make significant progress that otherwise would take months to achieve.

Now not every couple comes to an Intensive with the same goals or needs in mind. But for couples that feel “stuck”, or who are on the brink of divorce, or have been frustrated by prior attempts at therapy, a Marriage Intensive can be a smart choice and wise investment in your relationship.

Each Intensive I do is a unique, personalized, custom experience for the couple with whom I’m working.   And from the Intensive, the couple can expect:

  • Increased clarity on what has happened in the marriage and how you each contributed to where you are now
  • Creative solutions to problems that have kept you stuck in repeating patterns of conflict
  • Perspective and understanding of what you each want and need in the future
  • And for many couples, a renewed optimism and a roadmap to a more fulfilling relationship


As I mentioned before, couples often wait years before seeking help, so it should be no surprise when I say an Intensive is not a 1 or 2-day marriage “fix”.  I don’t believe those even exist.

I do however believe a Marriage Intensive is the best way to quickly gain the momentum necessary to put a rocky relationship on track such that more traditionally structured follow-up therapy can be effective.   In fact, a follow-up plan and next steps are something that I discuss with each and every couple that completes an Intensive to ensure the substantial progress made in the Intensive becomes lasting change for the relationship.

If a Marriage Intensive sounds like just the thing your marriage needs, don’t wait any longer.  Call my office and let’s get something scheduled soon.

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