This past week, we were having a discussion in our Uncovering Intimacy Champions group. I won’t post the full start of the conversation because I haven’t asked if I could, but the gist of it was this: How do you keep initiating sex when your spouse, while receptive, never initiates back? How do you fight the discouragement when you feel that they don’t love to be with you as much as you want to be with them?
Many higher-drive spouses feel this way. When they initiate, even successfully, if they’re always the one initiating, then they feel discouraged. I have three things to say to this. The first two are directed to the spouse who is usually initiating. The last is for their husband or wife.
1. Be happy with what you got
Firstly, we need to be content with what we have in these situations. If you are initiating regularly and your spouse is receptive to that initiation, you should count your blessings. You desired something, and you got it.
Some of us have even come from marriages where initiation didn’t lead to reception but instead let to rejection. We should be over the moon that the dynamic has changed. And some are. It’s not always perceived that way, as I discussed in my last post.
However, what sometimes happens is that the new “normal” becomes intolerable. This isn’t a good frame of mind. It’s like deciding you need to lose 20lbs, so you start exercising more. You put in the work, lose the weight, and then are unhappy that you aren’t even fitter. You should be happy with the progress, while still being hopeful and dedicated to making it even better.
Unfortunately, many of us are perfectionists, and when it’s not perfect, then it’s not good enough. We become dissatisfied with the new reality rather than counting our blessings and hoping for even more.
2. Don’t judge your spouse’s feelings based on your behaviours
Too often, we have bad “theory of mind”. Theory of mind is what we call the ability to recognize that other people have different perspectives, different beliefs. Here’s a great video that explains it:
No, as we grow up, we learn that what we know isn’t what other people know. However, when it comes to feelings and behaviours, we sometimes get a bit hung up still. We believe that the way we feel about something is the way that other people feel. The behaviours we have should be the behaviours others have.
Of course, we don’t consciously think this, but it comes out so often in daily life that it’s obvious that this is what’s going on in most human, adult, minds below the surface.
So, with our spouses that feel that our spouse should initiate, they are portraying their own view of love, desire, arousal, and the behaviours that are associated with those things into their husband or wife. I’ve done it too, so you’re not alone if this is you.
If we want sex, we initiate. So, we assume that if our spouse doesn’t initiate, then they don’t want to have sex with us.
We love our spouse and that drives a desire to be physically intimate with us. So, we assume that if your spouse isn’t showing an active desire to be physically intimate with us, then they don’t love us.
And remember, it’s not that they aren’t willing to have sex in these cases. That does become a serious problem in the long term. It’s just that they aren’t showing desire in the same way you are. In many cases, they just aren’t built that way. If they have more of a responsive arousal pattern than a spontaneous one, then expecting them to act as if they are driven by spontaneous arousal is ludicrous. It’s like complaining that your pet doesn’t love you because it doesn’t buy food for you when you buy food for it all the time. And I don’t want to hear anyone complaining that I’d comparing spouses to dogs, that’s not the point of that sentence. The point is, it’s not wise to assume that someone who operates completely differently will show love in the same ways you do.
If you want more on that topic, check out the book The 5 Love Languages. While it doesn’t address sex specifically, the premise is the same.
3. For the “other” spouse: try to initiate sometimes
For the spouse that doesn’t usually initiate. Try it some time. I know, I know, there are a lot of reasons why you don’t want to. Let me address some rapid-fire style:
It feels awkward. Yes, it will if you rarely do it. As you do it more, it will become less awkward. That’s just how it is with learning new things. If you did nothing that was awkward, you’d never start a new job, drive a car, ride a bike, have a conversation, walk, or even eat solid food. You ever see a toddler eat semi-solid food for the first time? It looks awkward. Like “what is this stuff in my mouth?!” Point is, awkward isn’t a reason not to do something.
You don’t know how to. I know a lot of wives, in particular, have this objection. Want to know the simplest way to initiate? Try saying “Let’s go have sex”. I know, it’s hard to spit out, but it’s simple and direct. The other option is simply grabbing your spouse by the hand, pulling them into the bedroom and start undressing them. That way you don’t even need to say anything.
You never think about sex. That makes sense. If you are geared for responsive arousal instead of spontaneous, it will likely never just “pop” into your head that you want sex. If it does, there’s a good chance your spouse won’t be around, or it will be an inopportune time. Luckily, we have reminders on all our smartphones these days. So, set one for a time you know has a high chance of being “opportune”. Then set another one for a few hours earlier to give you a heads-up so you can start planning. Then set another one in between those two just so you don’t forget.
You believe your spouse should because they want it more. This one is pure selfishnesses. What if your spouse told you “Well if you want a birthday present, you should buy it for yourself.” Or flowers, or an anniversary gift, or a get-well card, or whatever. You’d probably feel pretty irritated. Well, the same thing goes here. There are some things that are just more “valuable” or cherished because they are given and sex is one of those things. Once in a while, you should give this gift. Ideally more often than one in a blue moon. In fact, I’d encourage you to initiate sex once for every two to three times your spouse does. See what it does for your marriage. Don’t want to do it for them? Then do it for yourself. Initiating sex will make it better for you as well, so long as it’s done with the right spirit.
Whether you’re the spouse who’s always initiating or the one who isn’t, there’s likely work to be done here. So, which side do you fit on? Let us know in the comments below. What are your experiences? Have you been through this?
And if you’re interested in joining discussing like this in our Uncovering Intimacy Champions group, click here for more information.
10 thoughts on “Why am I always the one who has to initiate sex?”
That “Theory of Mind” was very interesting. So what you are saying is, “we act like a 3 year old sometimes.”
Okay, generally it seemed good, and I agree for the most part, but if people give the “excuse” “I never think about sex.” They are probably lying. If they aren’t they and their marriage have serious problems. Sex is the singular behavior that separates marriage from all other relationships, at least, right relationships. If a person truly NEVER thinks about sex they are psycho-socially asexual. This is a real clinical state that often requires medical treatment, and is often the result of something else such as a hysterectomy, or vasectomy gone bad, cancer treatment, heart condition etc. However, if a physically healthy person never thinks about sex with their spouse whom they have had sex with in the past then they have serious issues. Secular research has focused on mental-trauma models, but has shown that often when it reaches the “Never stage” it is often because the person has stopped thinking of their spouse is sexy and/or beautiful. This is a heart problem because spouses are to be the standard of physical beauty for each other, and they have let another standard replace their spouse, possibly even a younger version of their spouse.
Often, I’ve discovered the “Never” isn’t really never, but an exaggeration of infrequently and usually briefly at in opportune times. Which is usually a relief to the other spouse, who has often been thinking, “Have I become so ugly he/she can’t even think of having sex with me!?” The “I never think of sex” excuse is a very hurtful excuse. It tells the other spouse they so unattractive to their spouse they are incapable of stirring sexual desire in them. I’ve noticed that “Never think of…” spouses will do well to follow your advice; Jot a note or cell text, but it helps if they first acknowledge that it is “infrequently” and not “never.” There is even the possibility that they think about sex, or sexy things, and don’t or aren’t willing to consider those things sexy.
Reading ur comment make me scary coz i know our marriage is in danger. My husband never initiate. I do always, i prepare to look more beautiful and sexy but he never attracted to me anymore. In bedroom he watch YouTube, movie and sleep… Ur advice. Without telling me to open conversation with him because i cant, iam from my desire, even its normal, he pretend that its normal and there is no problem, we r married only 3 years ago,
You desired something, and you got it? Not so fast there. You are assuming that all they want is the physical act of sex. If that was all somebody wanted they wouldn’t care that they always had to initiate. When the other spouse does initiate it shows they have sexual feelings for their partner, or are aware of, accept and care about their spouse’s sexual needs, or they have a desire inside themselves to please their spouse and make them happy. When the other spouse doesn’t ever initiate, then it takes an emotional toll on the other spouse because they are not getting what they want (and need) emotionally.
I agree they should be grateful for getting some of what they wanted, or more of what they wanted than before. They should not be critical of their spouse or pressure them, but if the situation bothers them they should communicate that appropriately and the couple should work together to improve things further. It is possible to be happy with progress and still seek to progress even further. One step forward doesn’t mean the journey is over.
That makes so much sense. What I really want is a wife who really wants to have sex. She used to initiate before we were married but not anymore. I feel like I’m talking her into going for a hike or exercising. She never regrets doing it and says she enjoys it and knows it’s good for her and us but somehow that just isn’t as satisfying for me compared to when I knew she really wanted it and came looking for it.
You should address why us women stopped reaching for him/them. It’s devastating to have your sex life destroyed by a mans selfishness, His lies, his deceit. Do you have any idea what it’s like for a women to reach for her man to find that the selfish SOB has taken his pleasure with other means. I’ve been betrayed and lied to more times than I care to admit. For years he’s taken his sex elsewhere and given me the most boring vanilla sex that I’d rather go without. In fact I don’t have a sex drive anymore, it was ruined by years of fighting with him about his distractions. He’s done nothing but lie and hide in his shame for years. In fact he would run away rather than even address the subject. Now years later I hurt him by sharing some pic of myself with another man. They weren’t naked pic of me but a few where rather racy, Now he’s been hurt by me, He tried to apologized for making me feel the way he’s feeling. If I’d know he’d only address this after I hurt him I’d have hurt him years sooner. Doesn’t that sound terrible coming from a wife? Terrible that that’s what it took to get him to address this. Now it just feels like it’s too little, too late. I’ve got so much anger towards him right now. I could scream at the top of my lungs. Years this shit has been an issue. Now he admits his had inappropriate behavior, after lying to me, telling me I was crazy. I feel dragged through the sewer, my emotions are all over the place and I’m pissed. Now I feel broken down and hate him for theses whores being in my bed/my/our life. I tried to tell him my emotions where all over the place and I was having a hard time. His response was well you don’t have that market cornered, Your not the only person to be hurt. Takes a lot more than a man just admitting he’s been doing things that have hurt his wife and marriage. Empty promises said too many years, too late. The worst part about this is his lies, he’s still lying and hiding his secret’s. I’m not sure I want to repair this anymore. Feel we have caused too much damage and neither of us trust the other person. Like I said my emotions have been all over the place. Sorry if it’s long and I’m all over the place. Been a rough week:-(
Take it slow. Broken trust takes time to heal, but it is possible. I can’t remember who said “Don’t make long-term decisions based on short-term emotions.”
But yeah, I think I addressed your point in this post: Why masturbation is a problem, whether you’re married or single
and this one: How does porn use harm a marriage?
Its not the sex. Its the lack of physical contact. I had been moving HUGE roles of carpet and my back was killing me. At the end of the day while we were relaxing and watching a show before bed I asked him if he would massage my back. “No way in hell”, was his exact answer. Partly joking and partly because he hates doing it. He can never go to sleep holding me. He says I’m a furnace and make him too hot. And the sex… I always initiate and do favors. He always accepts the “favors”, but usually not the sex… so when he says its his libedo I know he is full of shit. I’m fit. I get hit on by random men frequently so I know my looks aren’t the problem. I do most of the cooking and cleaning. What am I doing wrong here? I’ve been getting depressed and resentful. Part of me wants to shut down and swear off all contact just so he knows the humiliation and hurt that go with it. We’ve done counseling before and I’ve talked with him about it and things get better for a week or so… and then go back to the same old thing. Years ago we had separated ( specifically because of this… but he said he had no idea why it happened). I never had sex with another man during this time, but I did talk to 2 men, went on a date, had a drunken night and kissed a random guy… I enjoyed all of the attention, but at the same time missed and knew I wanted my husband back. Separation is not the answer; counseling and talking about it – in the long run- does not work; I know resentment will be fruitless and will cause more problems. The only thing that makes me feel better is when I get attention from other men, but I don’t want them, I want my husband. Any words of encouragement, advice or commiseration would be helpful.
Counseling is rarely a “one and done” thing. It can take a lot of time to change people’s behaviours and marriages. I’d go back to that if it worked for a week and see if more visits helps.