Did you know that there is more than just one type of touch? When I work with couple’s in sex therapy, many have developed this step by step process that they follow when they are going to have sex. First we kiss awhile, then I touch you here and here, you touch me here and here, then we have intercourse, some type of penetration, or oral sex until one or both people orgasm.


In the Beginning
In the beginning of our relationships, everything is new and fun and we love exploring our partner. Finding the different things that excite them also excites us. However, eventually the newness of our partner wears off, the honeymoon phase is over, and we can get stuck in a rut of doing the same things over and over again until we become bored and do not remember how we used to have all this hot passionate sex every day.

Past the “Honeymoon Phase” and In the Now
I am not saying that I can get you back to that euphoria. Don’t we all wish we could?! The honeymoon phase is just that… a phase. Do to the stress it puts on our bodies, the way our bodies and minds respond to our partner in the beginning is not sustainable. So we have to find new ways of coping with where our love and connection is now.

A good place to start is expanding our understanding and knowledge of touch. There are 5 types of touch that Barry McCarthy discusses in his book, “Sex Made Simple.” 

1.)    Affectionate Touch – usually clothes on touching such as holding hands, hugging, and kissing

2.)    Sensual Touch – this involves non-genital touch, can be clothed, semi-clothed, or nude, and includes head, back, or foot rub, cuddling on the couch watching Netflix, being situated in a trust position where you feel safe and connected, and cradling each other as you go to sleep or wake in the morning

3.)    Playful Touch – intermixes genital and non-genital touch while semi-clothed or nude and includes touching in the shower or bath, full body massage, seductive or erotic dancing, and playing games such as strip poker or Twister.

4.)    Erotic Touch – Can include manual, oral, rubbing, or vibrator stimulation, it can be mutual or one way, it can proceed to orgasm or transition to the next stage of touch

5.)    Intercourse – two important principles to keep in mind for this type of touch: 1.) intercourse is a natural continuation of this pleasure and erotic process, not a pass/fail performance test 2.) We want to transition to this touch when there are high levels of arousal on both sides AND other forms of touch or multiple ways of being stimulated are being used during intercourse 


Shifting Gears through Touch

All of these types of touch work together like gears in a car. Affectionate touch can be thought of as first gear and intercourse as fifth. They all work together to get you where you want to go. Some people cannot get enough arousal for fifth gear without spending some time in each gear all the way. Others can start at third or fourth gear and be ready to go to fifth relatively quickly.

All of these gears can also operate separately. Many couples also get to a place where ANY touch signals to one of both partners that intercourse IS going to happen. What would it look like if you just stayed in first, second, third, or even fourth gear and did not go to fifth gear? Can you have fun and be playful in each gear to the point where you are enjoying each type of touch for what it is, and are not just looking forward to going to fifth gear?

Try this Exercise:

With your partner, go through each type of touch and discuss how much of that type of touch you are currently utilizing and experiencing. Then, go through each type of touch and say what you would want in terms of how much you want that incorporated and what does that look like? Do you need more or less of some of the types of touch? Explain in detail to each other what that would look like.


If you want more information on touch or want specific therapy around sex and intimacy in your relationship, you are more than welcome to make an appointment with me at Acuity Counseling.

Kayla Moore, MS, LMFTA

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