Can We Be Lovers & Not Have Sex?

Via Brentan Schellenbach
on Oct 1, 2013
get elephant's newsletter


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. Brentan says:

    Hahaha. Chris? I'm not dating a Chris.

  2. Ana Luminos says:

    Oh gods … I think I forgot to breathe a few times as I read this. It felt you were looking directly inside me. Not a whole lot of people seem to understand a desire to be intimate isn't the same thing as wanting to have sex with them. Thank you so much for sharing this wonderful post. (((huggles))) Ana 🙂

  3. Damon says:

    this article inspire me that beyond sex there is a life of love who need nothing in return only a smile of love…

  4. Ana Luminos says:

    I'm one of those people who tend to think everyone needs a hug, but I'm learning that isn't always right for everyone. Sometimes, things I would make other people happy actually makes them unhappy, or even sometimes hurts them. I'm not always good at guessing at what people want or need. While I do still sometimes guess incorrectly, I'm starting to get better at it. 🙂

  5. elissascott says:

    The Best…

  6. @templestark says:

    So, sure this is good. But there are ways to see deeper into a person with sex, too. No sex is not better in a relationship, just as sex does not make a relationship better – usually. This just reads like, "let's be friends." Which is fine for friends.

  7. Joe says:

    This is the only kind of friendship Ill ever want. Im never getting married. Decided right now. Id rather jam out to a record with my friends, go biking, talk about something deep/get in heated arguments about subject, lounge around, smoke weed, watch funny videos on the internet or a great movie, and create things. Thats all Ill ever want. Thanks for making my thought process valid.

  8. austinrbray says:

    I'm certain that I love you in these millions. Blessings for how your life is lived and share with us all you would.

  9. Mz. Chocolate says:

    Love <3 <3 <3 Love It!!!!!…..* So True

  10. @sariahdance says:

    Beautifully put! Thank you for describing what my heart truly wants but my mouth wont say! You are an Angel! xo-S

  11. Roger Whittaker says:

    It said much of what is never discussed. By being habitually kind to strangers and smiling at them too, we are building a potential for further love, and this shows we have a common creature feeling that wants nothing from the that person. I don't who said this: "Love and Lust is all mixed up with human dust" It is a statement worth pondering, I think ? Roger Whittaker, South Australia

  12. Sharon says:

    Love without sex is fine – it's selfless. Sex without love is selfish. We DON'T need sex; we ALL need love.

  13. Sharon says:

    YEP, speaks to my soul too – FINALLY, a person (a MAN, even!) who thinks the same way as I do, and proved it by writing this article. =)

  14. Sharon says:

    NOT hard to understand for me. =) WE ALL need love – NONE OF US need sex; we just convince ourselves we want it…HOWEVER, if we DO HAVE IT, it should be part of love, as sex without love is purely selfish and will HURT other people – there is no such thing as sex with no strings attached, PARTICULARLY if you are a woman. BUT, love without sex with selfless, and should be the most common kind of love people should encounter for a healthy society, I believe – it is the knd of love children, AND all adults I believe, need. =) I know I benefit HEAPS from it myself, if even a complete stranger holds my hand or gives me a hug when I feel upset – it makes me feel loved when they do that. =)

  15. Sharon says:

    HUGS WORK TOO, Damon! =) AS do kind words or a listening ear to someone's problems, or a helping hand when they need help – whatever kindness you can give out to people, DO SO! =) THAT'S my philosophy – and if we all did that, imagine how much society would benefit. =)

  16. Sharon says:

    OOH I like your thought processes Joe. =) YES, me too – that's why *I* never want to get married or get into a relationship either – I'd FAR rather have lots of nice friends that understand me and feel like family, and whom I can share all my problems with, and interests with, and people that I can do things with that I and they are both interested in, and people that can help further my career, as that involves things that I like to do as well. =) PEOPLE who have interests in common with me. You know. =) That's enough to make for a VERY fulfilling and interesting life, WITHOUT the codependency, frustration, negative mind-addling qualities and flat-out TIME-WASTING pointlessness of marriage OR a sexual relationship. =P NAH, I've just got better things to do and many women (AND men like yourself!) feel JUST the same way as you and I do. =) Heh. =P

  17. Sharon says:

    DON'T BE AFRAID TO SAY IT – I am not! =) In fact, I say it ALL THE TIME to my friends, EVEN IF THEY DON'T GET IT!!! =) GOOD ON YA, sariahdance. =D

  18. Rowan says:

    Love the idea, but to make sex the bad guy is also going to the opposite extreme…. how about being able to love, be open, walk hand in hand and express what you would like to experience without fear or either rejection or being socially unacceptable. If wanting to share through sex arises its been good for me to note 1. where it comes from in me ( a sticky place ) which has indicated in the past i'm still in conflict with my feelings ) 2. As i rest with myself and honour my human experience which includes my sensuality i find i'm able to be open and vulnerable in my strength. I have become clearer on my intentions and boundaries and i feel free to ask for what I would like to experience, which changes by the way and has no strategy or reason… fluidity is beautiful, strategy seems to arise from conflict. "The next time this happens I will do this "

  19. Fox says:


  20. Pedro says:

    I like the concept very much, however I think there’s an incompatibility between the statements,

    “I would like you to share yourself with me—every stitch of you—so that I may be warmed and nourished by your tapestry.”


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

    Clearly you are arguing that two ‘persons’ / minds / identities can interact without necessarily expressing that physically.

    But I have to wonder, instead of finding frustration with those who desire sex as part of a relationship, has the author or anyone else here gone to the very people who need this type of love most and are best prepared to offer it? The group includes burn victims, quadriplegics, terminal AIDS patients, and so on, basically anyone who is either already unable or unwilling to have sex but who are fully formed personalities in desperate search for this very experience?

    An unfortunate paradox would be to crave a nonsexual love but only with those who are able and willing to have sex but must put it aside or otherwise ‘deal with it’ in order to reach this type of interaction.

  21. Karl Koston says:

    Love that four letter word we all spend most of our lives trying to figure out how to get some. To me that's easy first you have to give to recieve. Our society has too many rules and barriers,checklist that creates walls we try to pick and choose who we love, too much work. I love everybody on this planet as long you are one of God's creatures you have the right to be loved unconditionaly by everyone why limit to just a few.If you have a abundance of love even for the negative people you can see the change in their eyes when love starts to replace what they had before.Why do we make it so hard to share the love?Try to walk in the light with Budda and be more spontanious and the rest will happen automatically.

  22. <-- I'm with stupid. says:

    This already exists, it's called friendship!

  23. Jazzyroota says:

    Absolutely beautiful!

  24. Dave says:

    Sorry, all love is not the same. Quality is real and variable.

  25. anon says:

    When people say things like this to me, I immediately know they are untrustworthy. As if the thought of a stranger staring into your "soul" was any less aggressive than copulation.

  26. Giving a Big Fat Thank you! This link was sent to me via one of my Truthful Touch Cuddle Party participants (we have two events a month in Chicago). I love it so much I was moved to perform it for 100 participants of Polypalooza-a 4 day polyamorous retreat in Calif. They fell in love with it and all wanted the link!

    If you would like more of this kind of love in your life go to and find one in your area. Not only do they "dangle their bodies" on one another and know one another "the way litters of kittens know each other" (we call it a puppy pile :), but they teach communication skills that facilitate creating more of this in the world.

  27. Jessii Powers says:

    Oh I swooned… You have just put into words everything I've felt the last few years… it's taken many many MANY moons to feel as you do but god damn, it's a beautiful place to be and you captured it in prose so beautifully. Sending love your way!


  28. kim says:

    love relationships without hierarchy?
    this is beautiful. understanding that so much is possible in our connection with others … there are so many gifts that are reaped from connection that is fearless, open to depth, and honest.
    but i do disagree with the statement "we are the same"
    at our essence, yes, we are all humans and as i understand, we are all spiritual beings, but we can't ignore how "we are all different" too. more harm than good can be done when differences are not acknowledged. i would rather someone acknowledge that i am filipina, lesbian, brown, (etc) than pretend that these things don't exist.
    but there's also this fear of "difference" in our society which sprouts from this idea of "whiteness" being the norm. when, nope, it ain't.
    though those holding ideals of "oneness" and "universality" have good intentions,
    what can follow is the homogenizing of differences so that identity becomes singular …
    i think it's almost easier to say "we're all the same", slap on a smile and maybe sing kumbaya than it is to say "we have similarities but we're all different". living in peace means different things to different people.
    understanding that it takes an ongoing STRUGGLE to get to peace is the key, it's gonna take people being honest enough to admit that it's not gonna be easy. this is the difference between equity and equality. the difference between ignorant bliss and facing what's going on. the difference between reaching consensus (which takes time) and going with the majority vote. the difference between dialogue vs. debate. the difference between hearing and listening.
    and damn this world needs better listeners.

  29. SeanPetteway says:

    I might enjoy this piece more if it did not contain, from this line:
    "Please do not get confused: I do not want to have sex with you"
    to this line:
    "And I do not think that our connection is somehow weakened because we do not share our bodies with each other."

    Go ahead, re-read it without that chunk. And change the title-take out: "& not have sex?"
    The reason being is that it inserts a steaming pile of fear right into a whimsical and sensual message. Making such a divide between love and sex seems Puritanical. You say you have no sexual agenda. What if that someone else feels more than just ascetic agape while you are spooning and whispering to one another in bed? Why would that be out of place? By what moral stigma is a line drawn separating this valorous asexual touch from consensual sexual touch? In reference to the above quote, you ARE sharing bodies- you are draping arms and thighs, locking arms. Why are some parts off limits? Why cant caresses turn to kisses with such onerous inventory of both of our "stuff"? I was taught abstinence in place of sexual education and it took me years to find a sexual being within myself. Cant we envision path to fearless and consensual loving, without the suspect disclaimer that it be a-sexual? This feels too embattled…too much of a reinforcement that some parts of are bodies are good while other parts are bad. love is love is love, no disclaimers allowed!

  30. Kartik Aggarwal says:

    That was, beautiful, poetic, amazing…I just don’t have any words for what I just read. I literally had tears in my eyes cause I know and feel exactly like you, or at least what you wrote, as I don’t know what kind of person you really are.

    Why the hell are there no girls like you where I live?

    P.S. – Keep on living it your way girl.

  31. Brentan says:

    Thanks for your response, Kim.

    I didn't mean to insinuate that "we are the same," is a homogenization of individual characteristics and qualities. By "we are the same," I was aiming to describe the feeling of being completely and wholly connected with another person who is so completely different and distinct, and yet there is complete union and unity. I've had that feeling with many people before in simple conversation, where it feels almost plugged in, and I think we often times associate that feeling with physical love-making and I would like to say, yes, physical love-making is beautiful wonderful and it should never ever stop, but that feeling is also attainable in other ways.

    "We are the same," is not a phrase I use to invoke naiveté or to skip over topics of conversation about our differences as humans.

  32. Brentan says:

    Hey Sean,

    Thank you for your response.

    It's interesting that you received fear from my message, because in writing it, I felt nothing but love.

    I am a very sex-positive person, and I enjoy sex immensely and I would never suggest that other people put limitations or barriers on their sexual expression. Do whatever makes you happy, man.

    I think my central thesis (if I can have a moment to reword it), is that we can be fully and totally intimate with more than just our romantic partners. I am a monogamist, and I choose that paradigm very carefully and with attentiveness and precision. That doesn't mean that I am resigned to internal transparency with only one person–I want relationships in my life that are free and wholesome and completely transparent, where both party's internal worlds are vibrant and open and unafraid.

    This is a piece to talk about how to engage in relationships with people we are not sleeping with. And in the course of developing those relationships, I understand that feelings may change between either person, which is natural and normal. Maybe I could get into a friendship with someone and we could fall totally and madly in love with each other and want to bang all the time. That's cool. But I will never start a friendship based in the idea, "oh this person is fuckable, I'm going to lay this option on the back burner and audition them for the role of my lover as I get to know them." I want to take sex out of my friendships and if it spontaneously and naturally arises, then good for us. But living with sexual agenda has never made me happy before, and from what I can tell, it hasn't made my close friends happy either.

    I agree with you that sex-negativity is probably not healthy, especially as cultural dialogue. But I don't think that's what I'm saying in this piece =)

  33. John says:

    If you are talking about falling in love with a man, there one major elephant in the room that is relentless–his penis. You can talk about how it feels to avoid male hormones, sexual desires, and how the penis not going to get any action–but in the end the penis keeps you on the sidelines for the future chance, or moves on. I am a dude that has seen so many men become "loving friends without sex" with women…but there is never a time when every single one them comes to terms with Maslow's needs. The desire is just to strong. A woman can hold a mans hand for years "in love without sex" before he might move on–that is the real situation you are describing–men that will hope for longer than a day, month, or year. If your an attractive woman and married, you only are putting more opportunity for sexual desire in the universe and will eventually succeed with hurting your man and true love. You may want to consider open relationships, that way it wont matter so much when the time comes, and it will absolutely come if you keep gazing into other men's eyes with love, smiles, and holding each others heartbeats.

  34. thankful for your words says:

    This is lovely. All the comments that this is ‘just friendship’ and ‘would be better without the “no sex” parts’ are missing the point. As someone on the asexual spectrum I really appreciated this piece which doesn’t let sex equate to the “real ” or “only” way to experience intimacy.

  35. Frank says:

    I had this kind of my relationship with my girlfriend and later fiance – at her request. We loved each other so much that we never had sex. Therefore, I had to have real sex with other people. Then she left me!

  36. Joe Sparks says:

    Nice post! All human beings need physical contact with other human beings in a regular and continuing way. This has been confused by our culture with sexual or erotic activity and feelings. Certainly the two can occur together, but they are completely separate phenomena.
    We must learn to love boldly and more deeply and love more people, because warm loving humans everywhere surround us. Thanks for reminding me of our inherently loving nature.

  37. Lisa H says:

    I aspire to one day love with such purity.

  38. Howard says:

    Just me… thank you for this. Hugs are good! Physical contact is good! but it can all get confusing, especially at the beginning, and especially when you need to spend more time listening. Often your listening energy and mindful presence is the best expression of love you can give.

    Brentan I love this idea, thanks for your thoughts.

  39. Alden says:

    I thank you from the bottom of my heart for your views and opinions. For many years I have felt that something was lacking in me both socially and psychologically because my best friends have always been women. The relationships were always very intimate, and brought much meaning to my life, yet family and friends, including lovers, have seen my actions as wrong. One should not feel guilty because they enjoy the friendship of the opposite sex. And, as you say, sex never has had anything to do with these wonderful relationships. As a man reaching end of days, I am secure now in the knowledge that maybe I'm not so fucked up after all…


  40. Rebekah C says:

    I love this article! I so agree w/ everything you've said. The world needs more real love between everyone. Sex is wonderful & I very much agree w/ your views on it as posted here. But love exists outside of sexual relationships too. And too often our society doesn't seem to understand that.

  41. isatawi says:

    This article has been posted to the mars-one group on facebook.
    this was my comment there:
    classic move by mystic yogi types(lol). word play with sexual connotation to literally force the listener to catch a glimpse of transcendence. for those more sexually repressed than others, it is relatively less effective(see comments above). This is out of the fear of parental reprisal agaist the mere mulling of the subject of sex. This is compounded by the fact that for young people it's all about themselves , as it were. While you have tried to say that universal love is better than sex, you have posted it before the eyes of people who have yet to bound their linear logic. You were clear, maybe they didn't read it all. Instead of "they're gonna take our guns!" they're like "they're gonna take our sex!" facepalm

  42. brentan says:

    Thank you so much for your response. I think you bring up a very good point that the relationship paradigm addressed in the article is written as if it can be universally adopted and applied, when in fact, it cannot. I have realized this and continue to realize this everyday in meeting new people, and engaging in ways that others are comfortable with and are not alienated by. By no means do I suggest that this is what everyone wants from their loved ones, and I don’t blame that or think that’s wrong in any way. We are all just living and figuring out what feels good to us NOW. thank you again for your perspective, I enjoyed reading it immensely 🙂

  43. Dan says:

    Thank you for sharing!

    In my journey, yoga brings us to love in precisely the terms you've described (of course, tempered by my interpretation of your words). The semantics of "love," "lover," and "sex" tend to cause us to become befuddled, and our attempts to distill or compartmentalize love into individuals fall over, finally, at the realization and experience of truth as described in the Gita.

  44. J says:

    Wow, very impreSsive writing. I was utterly impressed by your ability of self expression in such a meaning, articulate, yet powerful manner. I think our differences is what makes love the essence of life. The infinite amount of knowledge gained through differences.

  45. JOYOUSTIME says:

    Absolutely, this is the world I want…I love the article and would like to know more about how to create this for myself — I want to have a life full of lovers! Thank you so much Brentan..I visit Chicago a lot and would love someday to hug and chat…thanks again….way to share!

  46. LouCarronHarris says:

    Those who are very close to me will get this. my best boy & girl friends … my soul family will understand how from an outsider i can be seen as over familiar! i have little boundaries with affection and love. apart from anything sexual, anything goes- Cuddles, a kiss on the lips, holding hands, draped legs, arms round the shoulders, linked arms… The innocence of affection is what makes me a strong human being and open to leaning about life and who we are – my husband too thinks the same – every human being needs a hug from mhy hubby they are THE BEST … Many can vouch for this!!! I think think blog is the closest thing I've read that gets this way of thinking 🙂 THANK YOU

  47. Chirag says:


  48. Eric says:

    Why can't the news be full of stories and ideas like this, instead of the depressing, perpetual news feed that we seem to see everywhere. A mentor of mine called this kind of "loverhood" by another name "true intimacy." It's the kind of thing that I used to think about constantly, but don't much anymore. That probably needs to change. Thanks for writing this. I enjoyed it a lot.