Can We Be Lovers & Not Have Sex?

Via Brentan Schellenbach
on Oct 1, 2013
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I want a life of a million lovers.

I want to love you.

I want to love you if you are male or female, young or old, single or married…

When I see you we will embrace and hold a hug long enough to glimpse some insight from each other’s heartbeat.

When we walk down the street we shall link arms, pause frequently, and turn our toes and noses towards the other to speak directly without modesty.

I would like us to share the couch together, rather than creating a “do not cross” line where we may as well be sitting on brick blocks seated four feet away. Give me your knee, your foot, your thigh—let your body dangle on top of my body so I can know you the way litters of kittens know each other.

I want to show up to you and look into your eyes instead of at your eyes. I want to feel your hand and be consumed by it until the rest of the world ceases to exist. I want to be in your presence and be in want of nothing.

I would like you to leave our time together feeling loved and free and full of your most vibrant and luscious hue of you-ness.

Please do not get confused: I do not want to have sex with you—whether you are male or female.

I have no sexual agenda, as you know, because we laugh at the freedom we feel to speak to strangers for reasons other than because we have to or because we’re hitting on them.

For me, sharing sex with someone requires a certain alignment, and I do not take that lightly. My sex requires that I can possibly foresee living with a person and combining all my stuff with all of their stuff (and I mean physical, emotional, cognitive and spiritual stuff—the stuff that just feels heavy if it’s not the right fit, but feels buoyant beyond imagination when it is). It is delicate, it is careful, it is not presumptuous or impulsive.

And I do not think that our connection is somehow weakened because we do not share our bodies with each other.

For love is love is love is love, and that is what I want.

I only want us to fall in love.

Now I realize that at some point, either you or I may change our minds and crave sexual expression with each other.

For I am human—as are you—and we have wants that change and grow.

But if that desire should spring upon one of us, I hope that we will talk about it, the way we talk about the universe, cultural tropes, the nature of depression, what makes a good cup of coffee, and how your day was yesterday.

I hope that that topic of conversation is no more avoided than talking about the latest episode of Doctor Who or how to effectively clean one’s mouth from Oreo breath.

I would like you to share yourself with me—every stitch of you—so that I may be warmed and nourished by your tapestry. And I would not like you to worry that some of your threading is inappropriate or uncomfortable to share with me, because I am only here to accept you exactly as you are and to take interest in the way you step through life.

So lay on me your doubts, your troubles, your faux pas, your suffering, your sadness. Lay on me your hopes, your dreams, your excitements, your curiosities, your guilty pleasures.

I want to see you how you see yourself.

And while you tell me all of this and more, I would like to rest my eyes upon your eyes, and take my hand upon your back, and laugh up to the ceiling as you divulge, because it is in these moments of pure exposure that I bask in the ever-so-specific you, and I become the ever-so-specific me, and even though you’ve never stepped into the tides of the pacific and I’ve never ridden a skateboard, I am more sure than I’ve ever been that we are the same.

I don’t care if I see you everyday or if I see you only just the one time when I happened to be in that coffee shop and you happened to be making my drink (which was delicious, by the way, and thank you for not rolling your eyes when I asked if your only non-dairy milk was soy)—I want to be your lover.

And I will have the lover whom I share a bed with, and it will be none the less—on the contrary, that love will be all the more—because I take on another million lovers.

So if you’re ready, let me see you and let me love you.

My insides, my arm, my couch, my laugh, my eyes, my toes are all for you.

I hope that is enough.


Bonus: How to have a fun, sexy, heartfelt, genuine, mutual experience when making love.


Learning to Make Friends with Ourselves: a Pema Chodron video, on “Maitri.”

Maitri: how to be Alone.



Like elephant love on Facebook.

Ed: Bryonie Wise




About Brentan Schellenbach

Brentan Schellenbach is a yoga teacher, writer and spiritual truth seeker. She teaches and writes for Pilgrimage of the Heart Yoga in San Diego, which serves over 1,000 yogis a week in person and online. She is dedicated to the study of herself and the world around her and offers knowledgeable insight from these observations. Connect with her on Facebook and Instagram and keep up with the different studio writers online. Take a class when you’re in town!


151 Responses to “Can We Be Lovers & Not Have Sex?”

  1. Tara says:

    Thank you so much for this article. I relate to his so much, often conflicted by cultural limitations of closeness with others & yearn to be able to have the (non-sexual) closeness from the grounded, whole place as you have described.

  2. David says:

    Amazing. When I read this piece, I felt that it expressed so much that I have not been able to put into words. I felt like I was in a HAI workshop again. There is no reason, but fear and ignorance that we can all have this all of the time. But because of lack of emotional literacy, deep neurosis, fear, ignorance, etc….we don't have this on a wide scale basis – most people. When I did, out of desperation and some kind of Divine guidance, discover this aspect of life described in this piece, so many miracles opened up in all aspects of my life – too many to describe here. Most people reply my never ending experience as "only Dave can do it because you are strong and special" or "Life is good enough already. I don't need anymore good." or "It's too hard." or "It's a sin." or "It's bad.' or "It's crazy." or "It's better to be closed." Most have no comment….just silence. I truly don't believe all of this stuff people claim about having extreme love described in this piece. But all I can do is move them inch by inch while I explode into the Light. The Love described here is probably the most healthy kind of love…….I love this article and am printing it out to add to my collection. A new favorite.

  3. Sarah says:

    This is exactly what I want…..but no one seems to understand. So I am left wanting. Thank you so much for putting it into words.

  4. jason allen says:

    This piece has everything that I would have wanted to express and the position described here is one of great COURAGE that nourishes the web of life in ways other ideas/taboos about physical touch don’t. I have experienced some form of this in different cultures all across the globe and this intimacy is the antidote to so many social illnesses and pathologies: many of which exist as potential within each of us but flower best when watered by separation, isolation (mental and physical) and the fear of self expression.

    I grew up in a physically but not mentally intimate family and the edge for me has been appreciating and sharing my own feelings. Finally, here in Portland among my Beloved tribe I have found a family to share with on the level described in your article. It defies the dominant paradigms of intimacy=sex and is therefore confusing to people outside of this understanding. Your article is a useful tool to decode this difference for the uninitiated and to widen our circle of intimacy : thank you.

  5. Brentan says:

    Thank you for your response, Dave!

    I have no doubt that most relationships in my life will continue to exist outside of the paradigm that we are talking about, but I think this conversation is important nonetheless. Thank you for your "inch-by-inch" comment. I like the idea of chipping away at things moment to moment =)


  6. Brentan says:

    Healthy intimacy for all! It's so good to see humans transcending circumstances they were born into. Thank you for your response =)


  7. Brentan says:

    You're welcome. Thank you for reading =) Perhaps with new intention, we can begin creating this with the people around us little by little.


  8. Brentan says:


  9. Randy Enlight says:

    You, I, We are lovely. Thanks. Made my day. I'd love to love you over a coffee someday! 😉 Shine!

  10. Eddie says:

    I never heard of you five minutes ago but I'm glad now I do. Thanks for a precise exposition of what I believe everyone feels but can't name. If you're ever in Santa Barbara please drop by the studio, lay on the couch and teach a class.

  11. Brentan says:

    Thanks, Eddie!

    The next time I'm in Santa Barbara I'll do exactly that =) That little city feels really good to me. Solidarity to the west coasters!


  12. Brentan says:

    If not in person, then in spirit =)

  13. I had a deep connection at Rainbow Gathering this year with emotional sharing, touch, eye gazing and no sex (which we discussed our wants and chose not to). It was great! And lots of loving and hugs with many other people. And deep conversations with strangers. For me this is how I want to be in the world.

    I find in non Anglo cultures there is much more hand holding and hugs and connection – one of the things I like about Peru, Indonesia and other countries I travel in 🙂

  14. Bob says:

    Am I the only one here thinking this is a copout strange article or maybe a new club is forming for the un-sexual people… lol just go take a Viagra if you need help!

  15. Elle says:

    Beautiful. Thank you! People are too afraid to say this more often. I am too afraid to say this more often, yet I feel it constantly. As the years have gone on, I felt like I was navigating too murky of waters trying to find such lovers. I began putting up a polite wall between myself and potential lovers, which is sad and silly and unfair all around. Your article makes me want to risk trying again.

  16. Kari says:

    No, not alone Bob. This article describes what I understand as erotic energy. It is always around us, from birth to death. It is also a part of how we connect in the most intimate of ways. Unfortunately in our society there is a divide and huge distintinction between full sexual experience and these kinds of erotic energy experiences we share every day with strangers, friends and others or just with nature. It is unfortunate that actual sex has so many negative connotations, experiences and fears attached in our society. It is shame we have become so repressed. But yes, until we undergo and let go of all of our own and societies fears and negativity attached to full sexual experience, just being aware if erotic energy and sharing it will suffice as a beautiful experience. However, it will never be enough.

  17. Ami Amema says:

    YAY! It's so wonderful, so beautiful, so refreshing, SUCH A RELIEF, to see someone outside a HAI workshop finally saying this so eloquently! This is the way I have always lived and wondered how it could be that everyone around me doesn't live this way too! It has been incredibly lonely at times being the only person I knew who thought this way! But being the love has always brought the love! And on we go! Again, thanks so much! I love you (just based on what you wrote here)!
    Ami Amema

  18. BobObvious says:

    "How far are you from me, O Fruit?"
    "I am hidden in your heart, O Flower."

  19. Iesha V says:

    thank you for writing this. so many people are blinded by their sexual desires that they forget to love each other. we forget to look into a strangers eyes not at their eyes.

    you are a beautiful man.

  20. ilona says:

    Thank you thank you thank you for the essay, especially this.

    "For me, sharing sex with someone requires a certain alignment, and I do not take that lightly. My sex requires that I can possibly foresee living with a person and combining all my stuff with all of their stuff (and I mean physical, emotional, cognitive and spiritual stuff—the stuff that just feels heavy if it’s not the right fit, but feels buoyant beyond imagination when it is). It is delicate, it is careful, it is not presumptuous or impulsive.

    And I do not think that our connection is somehow weakened because we do not share our bodies with each other."

  21. Patrick says:

    You've put words to emotions that I can't, or haven't, put words to; this is the first thing I've read in years that I've truly felt compelled to share. I loves ya, thanks.

  22. Valter_V says:

    "Can We Be Lovers & Not Have Sex?"

    Yeah, sure. Let's talk about it.

    But, on the other hand, let me also ask you this: "Can we be friends and have sex?"
    Because, if love can exists without sex (and it most certainly does), then also sex can exists without love (although a certain affection is most welcome).

    Just because, you know, I like things to be… even. 🙂

  23. fedelmia says:

    This is absolutely how I feel and have never expressed it with words like this with many of the people in my life. As I grow in love, I love all beings more and more. I want to exude love, walk in love, know love, be love. <3

  24. Emily says:

    Can I kiss you.

  25. Corey says:

    "I /want/ to be in your presence and be in want of /nothing/." There is a better way to find the tranquillity you're looking for, sexual abstinence helps. Very thoughtful article.

  26. just me says:

    This is exactly what I am in the throes of just at the moment. I wrote a long and important letter that completely mirrors your ideas, just a few days ago, to a new friend I was trying to sidestep some complications with. So reading this is a bit trippy (did I write this? karmically speaking. haha, but not.)
    So, I was having a long conversation with a friend about it, just a few hours ago. She brought up something that I thought was interesting. She has had her own experiences of being too open and too friendly and too loving with people who frankly couldn't handle it. I experience that as well. The world is so love deprived, that sometimes when they see it, it's so bright and good and they can't get enough, you know? And we're so generous and so loving that we want to keep giving to them, because they're so in need. But what I'm considering, is that the whole thing depends so completely on each specific person involved (which is a relationship), and that often the way to love the person in front of me is to give them clear boundaries. For me, it's becoming more about walking through the day and being available for whatever the world NEEDS and not necessarily forcing my happy little face into theirs and thinking everyone just needs a hug, because that's all I want to give them. Love is about wanting others to be happy; it's an attitude. And when that attitude is genuine, it can see the other person and what they need to be happy, much more clearly than little old me:) So thank you for your huge-love-vision and laying it down for all to enjoy. It's so important. It's something I've fought for my whole life. I hope some of this is useful in the mission!

  27. just me says:

    Perhaps I can add, that for me, this is Freedom. Freedom to actually love, which means (to me), being there for Them. Caring enough to look closely at them with my heart and Respond to Them. It was easy for me to tell people what I wanted (which was always to love everyone freely), and to tell them what they wanted, (how to overcome their suffering), but it's taken me longer to see that every teaching and every gift has to be appropriate for the recipient or else it's more of a burden for them (me). I have to be Careful with my love for people, and give them just exactly (and a little bit more than:) what they can handle. I would want the same.

  28. jarod says:

    I’m 24 and having n

  29. Vanessa says:

    I not only like this and love this, but I have FELT this a number of times!!!! I have been blessed and am blessed now for knowing this exists in others too!!! Thank you! I am so grateful!!!! This IS love!!!! 🙂

  30. LPS says:

    Feel this so much. Beautifully well said and delighted to have found it today. Love.

  31. Sam Millus says:

    I'm crying, tears of joy, understanding, love and want. I feel every word in this and need to figure out how to digest it and live it. I love you. Xo

  32. Brentan says:

    Yes, I definitely agree with meeting people where they're at and listening (not just with ears) to how they are presently taking in the world and their surroundings and what they want and need from human interactions. And I know that being forceful in my approach is something that is not necessarily helpful for either party (although I think that no matter how things play out in life, it's always helpful). But I do want to create dialogue around this so that my personal relationships–with the people whom I love and spend time with and invite into my inner sphere–are created with nothing but love and are limitless in their love expressions.

    And I want to bring a heart full of love to any and all interactions that I have in this world, and by love, I don't mean force and I don't mean naiveté.

    Thank you for your responses, they are definitely helpful, and my interpretation of what you've said is essentially, "what you're saying is great, but pay attention to other people." Paying attention is definitely part of this as well.

    I only write to inspire love in myself and in others. That is where I am coming from.

  33. fluxustulip says:

    Real intimacy= Real Tantra=Being intimate with everyone and everything.

    Great article.

  34. just me says:

    thank you for responding and please don't get me wrong, dear one (i'm not sure if you think i was criticizing you). i absolutely love what you wrote. i just wanted to add this for people who maybe haven't spent so much energy thinking about and exploring it as much as we have. hopefully save a few people some heartache. but i think it Should be said the way you said it! strong and direct. it's complicated enough. i just think there should be some similarly potent words for thought in the comments… if only to allow the conversation. so again, thank you.

  35. Daniel says:

    Hey Bob, I think you miss the point. This is directed towards all the people you don't want to bone, Guys, Girls, And everything within the human spectrum. I imagine there is at least one in that million or so?
    Thank you for your words.


  36. TMC says:

    This is beautiful.

    I relate so much.

    I am disheartened by having to limit my “I love you’s” around people. I got deleted from Facebook by telling an old friend that I am inspired by her and that I loved her. She totally thought I was a raging hippie lol (and I am! 😉

  37. abortiveattempt says:

    This feels like I found a sheet of paper I stashed somewhere in a book or pile of papers I write at moments of clarity or emotion. It feels like words from years ago that I'd forgotten I'd written. Words that gushed and flowed in a moment of soaring epiphany. You speak with my words, my cadence, my voice. I'm so pleased to see you wrote my meaning.
    And I feel your (plural) embrace when I recognise the warmth of 82,655 readers and 3,402 shares who loved 'my' meaning. Thank you Brentan, I love you too.

  38. MVT says:

    Don't forget that the converse is true too. It's possible to have sex without being lovers. Sex can be a purely physical thing, where you're in it just for the physical ecstasy. You may have a deep, loving, personal connection with the other person, or maybe you don't, and are just partners in the pursuit of mutual pleasure. I know sexual preferences vary, and what I said is not true for everyone, but for many people it is true.

    Unfortunately, there is a social stigma against people who like having sex primarily for the physical pleasure. It pushes people to hide their sexual desires for someone if they don't already have a loving relationship with them. It results in a lot of missed opportunities, and in the worst case, someone may even fake a love relationship to satisfy social expectations, causing much hurt for everyone involved.

    Anyone who supports decoupling of love & sex needs to support both sides of the coin. They are both essential for the decoupling to work. Yes, that means both supporting people's desires to have sex without love, and people's desires to have love with sex. It also means supporting people who want both together, or want neither.

    If we can accomplish this, people will have more fulfilling relationships, both love- and sex- wise, without any extra unwanted baggage due to social expectations. There will be less confusion approaching relationships, because people will be able to make their desires clear from the very beginning, without fear of being stigmatized.

  39. Vanessa Springer says:

    No, when I fall in love, i have sex. I want to feel the "closest" I can to the one I love, and for me, there is only 1 way for that expression to occur: penis in the vagina.

  40. Amy says:

    Like in the 'where did I come from' book eh 🙂

  41. Sam says:

    As much as I adore and appreciate the language of this. A voice in the back of my mind keeps saying 'isn't this just what all women always want -intimacy, and if women could, they would always want intimacy without ever having sex (it is the way women are designed)'. I doubt this piece of writing would get the same praise if a guy said, ' all I want is sex, without the intimacy' or if he said, ' I just want to meld with you but I don't want burden you'. Now I know I am going to get some criticism for presuming all men just want sex, but it is a prime motivator for interacting with the opposite sex.

  42. Brentan says:

    Of course sex is a motivator! I completely agree with you! And I can only speak from the context of my own wants and needs, but I want sex just as much as any other person wants sex. But I know that when I, personally, act out sexual desires without thinking about the emotional consequences of my actions, it doesn't end well. I want to be more thoughtful with where I have my sexual offering so that I am no longer hurting myself or other people. And I want to be clear in my friendships that I will offer them all the closeness in the world, but if one of us were to ever come across that desire big time, I would want our friendship to be the kind where our care and concern of each other made it okay to talk about what me or they were experiencing in terms of desire.

    Basically, in response to your post, I just want to be more careful with sex.

    And I have a lot of guys in my life who, to my knowledge, don't have a sexual agenda with me. I'm sure they would bang me, but they wouldn't break an appointment to do it =)

  43. Danielea says:

    I have tried to have this conversation with two men recently and neither of them could grasp this concept. I gave them this form of my love and it was continuously misinterpreted. Cultural differences are part of the issue and perhaps quoting a bit if your writing might help. Thank you for this. And I I can admit I am surprised this was written by a man…..I’ve always had to bring this concept to the table myself. Thanks for helping me dissolve another unconscious assumption if mine.

  44. Guest says:

    Sarah 🙂 There are people that understand 🙂 I am one of them

  45. guest says:

    This article speaks to my soul on so many different levels. At first I thought this was about simply being friends to our neighbors, strangers, and existing friends. Im still learning how the inflow and outflow of continuous love can heal all hearts.

    In addition to that, as I got deeper into the article, I could see the relevance to the type of romantic relationship I yearn for. The pure love of God, Allah, Buddha, or the man/woman/spirit upstairs; to love the way children do with no prejudice, judgments, or boundaries. I know sometimes it feels like we might wander alone thinking no one else thinks or feels the way we do. All the more reason why this article and these comments reassure what I already had faith in.

    If anyone is reading this and feels alone, just know theres lots like us out there. I myself have found a handful of friends as support as well as one very special person that holds these same principles for a romantic relationship even in this modern time. Stick to your guns and dont settle

    Thank you for this wonderful article <3

  46. guest says:

    I am in no way offended by your inquisition I will call it. But I feel the need to say that your statements assumes women are not sexual beings that want physical intimacy. Which in my humble opinion is completely untrue. I do think that men and women think, feel, and love differently, but we do also have certain primal instincts that are completely the same. Just my opinion 🙂

  47. Mazarine says:


  48. brentan says:

    Well, I am a woman and I am sexual. My sexual and romantic paradigm may differ from others, but I do not presume to say that I, or other women are not sexually saddled and ready to go 🙂 I only write in a way that makes me feel healthy and loved and I want to create space with my writing for others to feel healthy and loved as well. From my perspective im not writing about gender or either gender’s sexual impulses or lack thereof. I’m writing about what happens when we have sexual desire for friends.

  49. John Michael says:

    This opens doors of possibility, permission and not just in the realm you describe, but also in the realm of all relationships… Asking for and negotiating for exactly what I most desire, and cultivating relationships where others are empowered to do the same. That is what is most sexy… empowerment, nowness, aliveness. Creation, acceptance satisfaction!

  50. snarflejinx says:

    How does Chris feel about this post, Brentan?