Give up on all-or-nothing thinking. You and your partner can be physically intimate without having sexual intercourse. If you're comfortable making out but you're not comfortable having sexual intercourse, then don’t have sexual intercourse. You don’t owe it to your partner.
Don’t let anyone else define your boundaries for you. Only do what you’re comfortable with.
Touch each other in non-sexual ways. Hold hands, hug, or sit close to each other in bed. Enjoy touching and being close to one another without it having to go any further than that.
Work on great kissing. Kiss each other, taking time to explore different ways of kissing. Do an online search for “how to kiss” and try out the different methods.
Don’t take yourselves too seriously. Laugh when the kisses feel awkward! You’re building intimacy by experimenting with what works and doesn't work.
Give each other full-body massages. Using a scented oil or lotion, take turns massaging each other’s bodies. How much of each other’s bodies you massage depends on your boundaries: you can just massage one another’s necks and backs if you aren’t ready to go further than that.
Make out, but with rules. Setting rules will not only help you stick to your boundaries; it will also make things extra sexy. An example of a rule you might set is that neither of you can remove even one item of clothing. Another possible rule is no hands allowed below the waist.
Explore each other’s bodies. Touch and kiss the areas of your partner’s body that don’t usually get attention during sex — for example, their legs, stomach, or back. Take time to enjoy exploring your partner’s body; build a physical intimacy with your partner that doesn’t depend on sexual intercourse.
Explore your own bodies together. You can do this to varying degrees. For example, you might agree not to touch each other, and then sit across from each other and slowly undress.
To take it up a notch, you could sit across from each other and touch yourselves, with the rule that you are not allowed to touch each other.
Draw each other naked. This is a fun way for you and your partner to explore one another’s bodies without touching each other. Doing this allows you to slow down and appreciate every detail of your partner's body.
Do a sexy boudoir photo shoot. Take photos of each other looking sexy in bed. You can make this as silly or as sexy as you want. Do an online search of “80s glamour shots” for inspiration.
A funny boudoir photo shoot would be to wear a fancy dress or suit and a feather boa, then make silly faces while posing on top of the bed.
If you have cats, you can incorporate them into the photo for added hilariousness.
Have fun over the phone. Make a date to have a sexy phone call or text messaging session while you’re both in bed. This could range from flirting to sending sexy photos of each other, to having a full phone sex session.
If you do send sexy photos to one another, exercise caution: anything you send to your partner could end up in someone else’s hands.
If you’re worried about someone else seeing you in a vulnerable position, either don’t take the photo, or keep your face out of it.
Know that sex isn’t the only way to be close with your partner. In a healthy relationship, you’ll be close with your partner for many reasons beyond having sex. You can build closeness and trust in the relationship by talking, listening, sharing, respecting each other’s ideas, and simply by hanging out/taking pleasure in each other’s company.
If you partner tries to tell you that sex is the only way you can be close, you may want to consider whether the relationship is really what you want.
Play a board game in bed. It can be fun just to sit in bed with your partner and do non-sexual things. Playing a board game is a great way to cozy up with your partner in bed without it turning into something sexual.
Read each other stories. Sit next to each other fully clothed, propped up on pillows, and take turns reading to each other. You can even take turns choosing which book you read. How close you sit depends on your level of comfort.
If you’re worried about it turning sexual, try staying above the covers while sitting next to each other. You could also sit on opposite ends of the bed with only your feet touching.
You can read each other romantic stories for a sexy twist (and maybe to laugh at how cheesy they are).
Listen to music together. Sitting in bed, listen to an album. Go over the lyrics. Sit close to each other and enjoy the closeness of your partner’s body, but don’t go further than simply holding hands or cuddling up close.
Do surveys together. Write questionnaires out for each other or print some pre-made ones off the Internet (search “fun questions to ask your partner”). Sit on opposite sides of the bed, each with a clipboard, and fill out your answers, then pass them to each other once you’re done so you can read the responses.
Watch a movie. Cozy up in bed together with some snacks and lots of pillows, and watch a movie. If you're worried that it will turn into a make-out session, try placing some pillows between you and using separate blankets.
If being separated by pillows and blankets doesn’t work, it’s okay to say it isn't working and ask your partner if they are into doing something else that makes your urges easier to resist.
Make a fort. Turn your bed into a fort. Add some fairy lights and warm blankets. When it’s done, sit inside and watch a movie or tell spooky stories.
Avoid the urge to let it go further. Sitting close to your partner in bed, you might find it difficult to resist the urge to do more than just cuddle. If you find yourself thinking about going further than your pre-set boundaries, consider moving away from your partner or even suggesting that you two move to a different location.
If you’re worried about offending your partner by moving away from them, you could make up an excuse for wanting to move — for example, “My back hurts sitting here, let’s move over to the couch in the living room,” or “Hey I’m feeling a bit restless, let’s take a break and go for a walk!”
Getting out into public spaces will make it easier to resist acting on your sexual urges.
Know that you can say “No” at any time. If you do end up making out and you begin to feel bad about it, it’s okay to stop and say that you don’t feel comfortable continuing. Your partner should respect your wishes immediately.
If your partner repeatedly tries to convince you to go further than the boundaries you've set, you may want to consider whether they are worth continuing a relationship with.
While it's okay for your partner to check in with you now and then, they should never make you feel bad for your decision.
Know what being abstinent means to you. Does it mean everything but sexual intercourse? Does it mean kissing and cuddling, but nothing else? Having clearly defined boundaries will make it easier for you and your partner to hold off on having sex until you’re both ready.
Explore your own feelings about the relationship. You might find it helpful to write these down on a piece of paper, in your journal, or in a text document on your computer. This is just for you, so don’t be afraid to be completely honest. Things to consider:
What would the perfect relationship be for you? Are you in it right now?
What do you love about your partner? Are they a kind person? Supportive? Funny? Smart? Physically fit?
Telling your partner what you like about them should help them understand your reasons for wanting to be in the relationship beyond sex; they should understand that it’s nothing personal — it’s not about them.
Broach the subject before things get sexual. It can be difficult to think clearly in the heat of the moment. Make the decision to talk about abstinence together before you’re aroused — preferably before you’ve become too physically intimate at all.
Clearly stating your boundaries early in the relationship may be daunting, but it will make things easier for you and your partner in the long run.
Explain your boundaries and concerns in a clear, respectful way. How you discuss your boundaries will depend largely upon your age and experience: a discussion between 30 year olds will be much different from one between teens. Regardless of your demographic, be clear, direct, and respectful. As an example, here are some tips for talking to a teenager or young adult:
A younger, less mature teen might have difficulty dealing with a serious conversation. It may be helpful to bring it up ahead of time with them — for example, “I want to talk to you about something kind of serious — it’s not bad though. Can we do that after school?”
Make sure they aren't hungry or otherwise irritable before you talk to them.
If you can, try to talk to them while you two are walking together. Walking as you talk will also make them feel less stressed or trapped than if you’re sitting still somewhere.
Don’t stare. Another good thing about walking while you talk is that you are looking straight ahead for the most part. Staring into your partner’s eyes while talking about something serious may be frightening for them; it may make things seem even more serious, which could cause them to shut down and stop communicating with you.
Let them know you care. Make sure they know how happy you are in the relationship and how much you like them
You two are on the same team: make sure they know this. You’re talking to them because you want them to know your wants and needs, and you are open to hearing theirs, too.
Be considerate. If this is the first time you’ve brought up abstinence with your partner, they may be surprised. They may have a lot of questions: it's important that you both communicate in an open and considerate manner.
Do not be defensive if your partner has a lot of questions. They may just be trying to get a better understanding of where you’re coming from.
If you are in a healthy relationship, you should be able to discuss your thoughts, feelings, and needs with your partner without it turning into a fight. If your partner gets upset at you, try to stay calm. It may even be necessary to leave them alone and give them some time to process what you've said.
Don’t let it drag on too long. Having a serious talk can be exhausting both physically and emotionally. Try not to let the talk go on for longer than an hour if possible. When you’re both exhausted, you’re more likely to say things you don't mean and to make decisions you regret.
If your discussion isn’t done but you’re both tired, make a date to continue the discussion later. You don’t even have to leave each other’s presence if you don't want to; you can just agree to put the discussion on hold until you both have more energy to return to it.
Give your partner time to process and respond. It may take some time for your partner to process what you’ve talked about and come back to you with their own questions and answers. If they listen but doesn’t respond right away, don’t panic. They might just need some time to process what you’ve talked about.
Your partner could need anywhere from a few minutes to a few days, to even a few weeks, to think about what you’ve said. Give them the time they need to process his/her feelings; don’t push them for a response when they aren't ready to give you one.
Think about how you’ll say no. Prepare yourself for the possibility that your partner will try to convince you to have sex. Anticipate your partner’s possible responses so that they don’t catch you off guard.
Knowing what you’ll say and how you’ll behave ahead of time will make it easier for you to clearly articulate yourself — especially if the topic arises while you’re aroused and potentially not thinking clearly.
Remind yourself of why you have chosen to be abstinent. Periodically remind yourself of your reasons for choosing to abstain from sex. You can write them down in a journal once a week or whenever you’re questioning your commitment to abstinence.
You can also think them to yourself when you’re aroused with your partner.
Strengthen your resolve by reading other people’s stories online, and by reading about reasons to be abstinent.
Think about the consequences of having sex. If, in the heat of the moment, you’re struggling to stay abstinent, think of all the negative potential consequences of sex: STIs (sexually transmitted infections), unplanned pregnancies, and the regret you may have if you aren’t ready for it when it happens.
Although sex is not something “dirty” that you should be ashamed of, it’s possible that you will feel regret if you have it before you are ready.
If you are unsure of whether you’re ready to have sex, it’s healthier for you to wait until you are sure.
Promise yourself that you will only have sex if you make the decision with a clear head. As your relationship develops, you may decide that you’re ready for sex with your partner. Just make sure that you don’t make this decision in the heat of the moment, while you’re making out.
If you have the feeling that you want to have sex in the heat of the moment, it may be time to pull away and do something else.
If you still want to have sex a few days later, when you’re clear-headed, you can revisit your decision.
You may even want to talk it over with a friend, a close relative, a counselor, or a nurse.
If you do decide to have sex, be sure that you have protection, such as condoms, birth control, or dental dams. You can obtain condoms at drug stores and most grocery stores; for birth control, you will have to see your doctor or go to a family planning clinic.
Avoid situations that will make it difficult for you to stay abstinent. If you’re at a party and you’ve had a bit to drink, and your partner wants to go home together, you may be best declining the offer and going home alone. Alcohol can make you less inhibited and more likely to have sex.
Maybe you know that whenever you’re alone in your room with your partner, you end up making out and getting close to having sex. You might want to avoid this if you aren’t sure that you can continue to fight the urge to have sex.
Enlist the help of your friends. A good friend will support you in your goals. If you want to be abstinent, talk to a friend about it. If you have other friends who also want to remain abstinent, make a promise to check in with each other and help one another stay true to your goals.
If you decide to confide in a friend about your relationship and your desire to remain abstinent, make sure that it’s a close friend who you trust — someone who you know will support you and keep your secrets.
You might also find it useful to join an online community. There are many online communities for people who are abstaining from sex. Do an online search for one that best suits your needs.
Don’t let your partner guilt you into having sex. In a healthy relationship, partners treat one another with love and respect. Being a caring, considerate partner is your only obligation to your partner. It is not your responsibility to have sex with your partner.
Physical intimacy is an important element of most romantic relationships, but that doesn’t mean that you have to jump into bed with your partner right away. You have every right to wait until it feels right for you, and your partner needs to respect this.
If you’ve previously had sexual intercourse but are now abstinent, your desire to abstain from sex is just as valid as it would be if you had never had sex before. Don’t let anyone try to convince you that you should have sex against your wishes simply because you’ve had it before.