Fulfilment in a relationship comes from many different sources and it is important to remember there's no guarantee that having sex will mean the relationship is stronger or will last longer.

Some of the ways that couples can enjoy intimacy without having penetrative sex are by touching, kissing and cuddling. The most important thing to remember is that someone who cares about us will respect our right to say 'no' if we are not comfortable with anything. A good relationship is one where both partners can be honest with each other and no one feels pressured. 

Here are some ways couples can enjoy each other without the risk of pregnancy or STIs:

Kissing

Kissing is one of the most sensual and exciting things to do in a relationship, and doesn't carry any risk of STI transmission or pregnancy. It can take some experimenting to get your kissing technique right for both of you, but telling each other what you like and don't like so much is a good way to do this (in a kind and gentle way!). For more about kissing, click here.

Touching

It can be enjoyable to touch, stroke and rub each other with clothes on. Alternatively, mutual masturbation (touching each other's genitals), can also feel good. But remember, only go as far as you want to go, and don't expect your partner to do anything that they are not comfortable with. 

Although these activities do not carry the risk of STI and pregnancy by themselves, if any sperm gets onto either partner's fingers and transferred to the other's genitals there could be a risk - so protect both of you by using a condom. For more on touching, click here.

STIs can be passed on by oral sex, so again, be safe and use a condom. If either partner has sores in their mouth then oral sex and kissing should be avoided until they have visited a GP to get it checked out because it could be a sign of infection.

To learn how to put on a condom correctly, click here.

All of these activities can mean you and your partner feel intimate without having sex. They can end up building towards sex (if both partners want to). They are a good way of getting to know each other, building trust between you and having fun.

Remember - you have the right to decide what happens to your body and should only go as far, or do anything that you are comfortable with.

Related pages:

Sex and peer pressure

It's fine to say 'NO'.