Coping with lack of intimacy when you’re single

Lack of intimacy


Lack of intimacy, affection and touch can have detrimental effects on our body and mind. If you have been single for a long time you will know what I mean.

Humans are designed to be close, intimate, cuddle and have sex with one another. Being touched is what most of us miss when we are in-between relationships. It is the case for me.

While great sex is wonderful and often desired, it’s the cuddles and hugs I crave most. Our bodies know what is required to function properly and research suggests that affection belongs on that list closely behind food, water and rest.

We humans need touch; touch is vital for us all. Without human touch, we can feel an increase in anxiety and depression disorders, experience sleep issues, and suffer more health issues. Touch can make us feel better, it can alleviate the challenges of the day, release the endorphins in our brain, increase our immunity and create that feel-good sensation we all need.

When we are single we often crave that intimate touch, the urge of someone to hold us gently, touch us affectionately, desire us physically and satisfy our sexual passions. Even the most independent person needs the kind of closeness that physical intimacy brings. Longing for intimacy means being human. Touching is healing for us in many ways and cuddling calms the chaos in our busy lives.

A woman desires a partner, but she certainly doesn’t need one. A woman does need to be touched because she is human.

Further reading: How to get your sexual needs met as a single mum.

Understand the importance of intimacy

Don’t sit back and think it’s ok to live without intimacy and the touch of another human. If you are craving it, know that it is perfectly normal.

We learned a lot about intimacy during covid when so many people suffered from a lack of physical contact. The National Library of Medicine surveyed 1746 people to examine touch experiences during the pandemic and found that:

“Intimate touch deprivation during COVID-19-related restrictions is associated with higher anxiety and greater loneliness.”

For me, understanding that intimacy is a human need and wanting it is normal is the first step to coping and then finding ways to fill the closeness gap.

Spend quality time with close friends and family

We all need connection and while family and friends can’t satisfy all our intimacy needs, they can certainly aid us in obtaining the close connection of touch and intimacy of conversation that is equally important in our lives. Take the time to enjoy your family and friends rather than isolate yourself.

When single, use the opportunity to catch up with your friends and family that you may not have connected with for a while and do those things you love and enjoy with others.

Cuddles and hugs will help with lack of intimacy

When you spend time with family and friends give them a tender hug or cuddle. We all love these, young and old, men and women. If there were more cuddles and hugs in the world people would be far happier, stronger and certainly more resilient within themselves.

Again, the pandemic created a void where cuddles used to be, and even now in 2023, people are less likely to reach in for an embrace or a kiss on the cheek.

Body connection between two people is invaluable. It is a good feeling for both because you can’t touch without being touched. This is one of the simplest ways to cope with a lack of intimacy when you are between relationships.

Try a sensory deprivation tank (float tank)

We know that sex helps release the "feel good" hormones. Sometimes, it's not the sex we crave, but the need to loosen up and relax. In this case, you might consider checking out a float tank before reaching out for a human.

Sensory deprivation tanks, also called isolation tanks or flotation tanks, are known to help in muscle relaxation, sleep improvement, pain reduction, and lessening stress and anxiety.

In this treatment, you go inside a soundproof, lightproof, and temperature-controlled room and float in a pool with Epsom salt. I've had a few treatment sessions and have ended up feeling fully relaxed.

Of course, each of us will experience it differently, so take my experience with a grain of, well, Epsom salt.

Lie with your kids (if you have them)

I know a lot of single mums who love co-sleeping with their kids as it fulfils their need for human touch, and their children love it too. And why not? Snuggling up to another person in your sleep is heavenly.

Personally, I have never encouraged co-sleeping so would feel selfish to start it now to satisfy my own needs. Instead, I instigate lots of movies and cuddles on the couch together, which we all love.

When I lie with my kids I like to stop and focus on the moment. I feel the softness of their skin, the warmth of their body, and the gentle rise and fall of their breath. I fill myself up with the feeling and create a reserve of affection to draw strength from when I feel alone.

Have a fling

If you're craving sex and not looking at getting into a serious relationship right now, it's okay to have a fling. No shame, no judgement. Do what's right for you.

A fling allows you most of the benefits (aka intimacy) minus the responsibilities of being in a committed relationship. It's also an excellent way to gauge if you're ready to engage in something long-term again.

If you've never been in one before, I suggest trying out apps designed to find a casual fling. They're fantastic for judgement-free, no-strings-attached arrangements.

As always, remember to practice due caution to stay safe.

Love your pets

I’m not suggesting you head out and buy a pet to relieve your need for intimacy, although many do. 

The Guardian in the US reported that:

“Almost 9 million dogs have been acquired by households since the start of the pandemic (a number equivalent to the population of New York City).”

This shows how pets can replace our need for affection if human loving is sparse.

My cats have saved me during times of loneliness. And the cuddles are the best. 

Of course, pets don’t fulfil the human need but they certainly fill a gap.

Recognise you don’t need to wait for the perfect long-term partner

Moving back to humans …

If you need intimate connection, rather than waiting for that perfect partner, practice. Practice with a person you like and respect. Practice with a person you are attracted to and who respects you.

This doesn’t mean get onto everyone you meet, goodness no! It means to consider enjoying a physical connection, without strings. We usually only have difficulty once emotions are escalated and we expect more. Yes, it is acceptable for women to want sex, just like a male.

You never know, you might have a friend who feels the same way as you, and you could satisfy one another’s intimacy needs … it’s a win/win.

Further reading: Friends with benefits: 6 Rules to make it work.

Never feel embarrassed

Never be embarrassed about wanting to feel the gentle touch of another.

Our lives are so isolated. Admitting you need to feel that human touch and connection can be seen as weak. It is not, it is normal. Everyone needs touch, to be held and to be sexual.

To feel the body of a person next to us, feel the warmth of their breath, the softness of their touch, the power of their arms holding you.

Know that seeking this connection is healthy and right, for all of us.

Further reading: 10 Mind-blowing vibrators for absolute beginners.

Final words on coping with lack of intimacy when you’re single

Being single can have harmful effects on our psyche, especially for those coming from long-term relationships. After all, as humans, it's natural for us to need physical intimacy. The absence of touch can cause various physical and mental health issues.

Sometimes, especially if you've been single for a long time and feeling the adverse effects of the lack of intimacy in your body and mind, you wonder if you need to get into a relationship to fill the void. But that's not always the case - and in fact, you shouldn't get into a serious relationship just because you're craving intimacy.

In this article, I have listed some genuine, doable ways to cope with the lack of intimacy. You can find the closeness you need from your friends, children, and pets. You can also try meditation and therapies to alleviate stress and anxiety.

The key is to recognise that what you're feeling is normal. There's nothing to be ashamed of if you find yourself seeking physical touch. Try some of my suggestions to feel loved-up without the commitment of a relationship.

Keep reading

Flower Decoractions Leaf Decoractions Plant Decoractions Branch Decoractions

Save. Share.

Dr Karen Phillip

About the author

Dr Karen Phillip has been a Counselling Psychotherapist for almost two decades, and a professional Clinical Hypnotherapist for over 10 years. Karen is an expert in the fields of relationships, parenting and communications.

Visit website

Further reading