Skip to main content

Sex, Intimacy, and Relationships During COVID-19

mixed race couple drinking from the same glass while wearing PPE masks against a yellow background

Living with COVID-19 and the coronavirus is impacting all aspects of our lives. When it comes to our relationships and sex lives, we are adjusting to new ways of relating and new stresses. Some of us are now living with our partner(s) 24/7 while others are separated indefinitely, and some are trying to date while social distancing. Some folks have lots more time on their hands, others have very little time to manage the extra workload while occupying the kids—especially with limited space and resources. 

Many are facing additional financial pressures, concerns for loved ones we cannot visit, less access to the resources that sustain us, uncertainty about the future, as well as the real fear of our physical health. All of these added stressors no doubt impact our patience, how we treat each other, our desire to have sex, and how well we cope with our (hopefully temporary) new realities. 

How to Maintain Harmony if You're Social Distancing Together

    • Respect each other's alone time. Introverts need lots of alone time, but even most extroverts also need some time alone. Whether you are used to living alone and having lots of solo time or are mostly comfortable with having people around you, it is important to carve out physical spaces and times for yourself. Decide whether you want to go for some or all of your walks by yourself or together. Don't be insulted by an introverted partner's desire for extra time alone or an extrovert's desire to connect with other friends and family in their downtime. Decide when you want to be together and respect how the other(s) want to spend their time apart. 
    • Create some physically separate spaces. You can check-in during breaks, but try to create some visual and auditory separation if you can, even if it is just your own corner of the couch with earbuds playing your favourite music, meditation, or podcast. 
    • Carve out special time together. It can be easy to just be around each other all the time and forget to make time to connect. Decide what you want to do together and when. Plan those times, just like you would if you were going out on a date. It’s a slippery slope to hang out on your phones mindlessly scrolling through social media or working, ignoring each other and feeling disconnected at the end of the day. 
    • Pay attention to each other. It might seem as though you are together all the time but most of it might actually feel like just existing together. Emotional closeness feels much more satisfying than just being in the same room. Make sure that you feel like priorities to each other. 
    • Dress up a little. Although you might be able to work in your pyjamas or sweatpants, try to spruce yourself up for your partner-time. If you wouldn't wear sweats on a date, don't take your partner's attraction to you for granted by not putting in a little effort into how you look. Even a shower and fresh set of clothes can make a difference in how you feel and how you present yourself. 
    • Establish tech-free times. Especially if you have been staring at a screen most of the day, try to do something active together. Dig out a board game or cards. Do an online workout together (stretching, yoga, cardio, dance—whatever you like). Make dinner together. Get to know each other more with the Ask Deep Questions card deck or I Dare You game that instructs you to either ask your partner a unique question about their sexual desires or do something sexy, fun, and creative with or to them (with their consent, of course). For a steamier game, try the Sex Deck for some intimate inspiration. Keep reading for ways to incorporate sex toys like vibrators and dildos, as well as coronavirus safe sex tips.
    • Set aside time to check-in. While it might seem like you're constantly interacting, it's important to talk about your relationship and how you are feeling in this new way of being together. Agree on your social distancing practices when anyone in the house goes out for errands like getting groceries and supplies so that everyone feels comfortable. Be forthright with your feelings. Talk about what is bugging you or what you want to do before it becomes a big deal. You can even preface it with, “ I know that this seems silly or trivial...” Ensuring that you clear the air with small things helps to give you skills, practice, and emotional closeness to weather larger storms if they arise.

Listen to Your Desire

These are stressful times and our desire for sex can be greatly affected by our level of anxiety and depression. For some, our circumstances lead us to want more sex and connection, for others it means a lower desire for sex. Our personal histories with stress, trauma, health, and relationships as well as our current level of health, workload, and stress level relative to our baseline level all can impact our current libido. Any added stresses in the relationship and lack of privacy due to COVID-19 restrictions also contribute to our desire for sexual contact. 

Even if our libidos remain the same, sex is likely to be and feel different under current isolation conditions. Using sex toys can be one way to manage differences in desire or add something different to your usual sexual repertoire. Find ways to remain physically connected that work for you, such as hugs, foot rubs, massage and snuggles. Incorporate an edible massage bar to keep things playful and light. Try to offer small gestures of appreciation and love: baking your partner's favourite cookies, a text message saying what you love about your partner, or your undivided attention as you play a game or watch a movie that your partner enjoys. 

If You Live Together:

When it comes to safe sex during coronavirus, social distancing recommendations are that we limit sexual contact—like any other form of contact—to those with whom we live. If you live with someone who has been infected with COVID-19, you will likely get it from day-to-day household interactions. That means there’s no need to hold back on having sex with a partner if you are up-close and personal the rest of the day. If, however, one person in the house comes in contact with someone who has coronavirus or later develops symptoms, you should isolate yourselves from each other (including in-person sexual contact) for 14 days to prevent any possible transmission, as people can be infectious but asymptomatic. And solo sex remains the safest kind of sex you can have! 

If You Live Apart:

When social distancing is recommended by health authorities, some people might decide they’re ready to take the plunge and move in together. In this case, it’s best to isolate together so as to not bring potential contagion to two or more households. Some people who work in high-risk environments such as front-line health care are also choosing to isolate themselves in their homes from their families or partners so as to limit passing on the risk to them. 

If you are social distancing from a partner, there are options for maintaining connection. Make online dates with each other, and, as recommended above, dress up a little as you would for a date in person. Putting in the effort helps to keep the spark alive. You can plan time together such as cooking the same meal at the same time, ordering in food from the same restaurant and eating together virtually, watching a movie together and talking on the phone. 

If you want to get intimate, trying sexting, video sex, using vibrators with apps like the We-Vibe line, Or try writing and sharing sexy stories with each other can help to keep the passion flowing while apart. 

Coronavirus Safer Sex and Harm Reduction

A harm reduction approach to safer sex and coronavirus safety means that we should only have sex with people we live with as long as all partners are not sick or have not been exposed to someone who is sick for 14 days. We are asked to not come within 6 feet of those outside our household. If you choose to have sex with those outside of your household:

  • Always wash or sanitize your hands (and preferably your whole body) before and after contact
  • Keep your number of partners at a minimum, preferably those who are also otherwise social distancing and sticking to the same sex partner(s) if possible
  • Be careful as to how you travel to see each other, social distancing if possible
  • Be creative and use mutual solo pleasure at a distance of at least 6 feet (each touching yourselves only and not each other) with hands, dildos, and/ or vibrators. Using a remote-controlled toy such as the We-Vibe Ditto or Lelo Hugo or app-controlled sex toys such as the Nova or Mio lets you to interact without touch 
  • If you come close to each other, avoid kissing and close facial contact
  • Avoid touching to your own and partner’s faces  
  • Coronavirus has been found in feces and in semen, although it is unlear whether it is in vaginal fluids. It is thus recommended to use condoms for intercourse and dental dams for oral pleasure; be careful with their disposal and wash/disinfect your hands afterwards
  • Doggy style, reverse on-top, and sixty-nine intercourse positions can help minimize face-to-face contact if you are going to have physical touch
  • Wash any sex toys, including dildos, anal toys, and vibrators with toy-safe soap and water before and after sex; Silicone toys without vibrators inside can usually be boiled for 3 minutes for added safety
  • Wipe down any surfaces that either of you touched with anti-bacterial wipes and/or soap 
  • Be aware that some STI testing and consultation may not be as readily available as usual should you require it