She Said, He Said: The Struggle Over Who Initiates Sex
Dear Lori and Jeff,
My wife and I struggle with who initiates sex. I used to initiate more often, but over the past six months or so, there have been multiple times when she said she wasn't in the mood. Now I find myself waiting for her to initiate so that we're doing it when she wants. She'd still like for me to initiate but I don't like being rejected so I hold back. She's assured me that nothing is wrong and she's still very attracted to me, but that sometimes she just doesn't feel like having sex. Neither of us are initiating much anymore, and our sex life seems to be in a slump. What should I do?
Dear Initiation Hesitation,
Lori and Jeff: You are not alone. Issues around sex and intimacy are some of the most common relationship snags we've seen over the years. Many factors contribute to intimacy impasses including emotional and physiological differences between men and women, the intimate and vulnerable nature of sex, and the awkwardness of talking about it.
It's true that women want to feel wanted. Ladies take note: Men have emotions connected to sex, too. Sex for them isn't just about release. For men, sex deepens their feelings of connection, and sexual rejection can hurt. Men, please understand, not being in the mood can stem from a multitude of factors, and they may have nothing to do with you, or how attracted she is to you. The truth is, many women lose their impulsive lust over time. The science is still out on why. One hypothesis is that women's brains pair sex with risk because pregnancy stresses our biological resources. Other theories look at hormones, differences in how men and women bond, and even social expectations for why the female fire fizzles.
Lori: What we do know is once the honeymoon stage is over, women typically require a little warming up before feeling their erotic energy kick in. Part of her reluctance may have to do with timing. Don't wait until lights-out to suddenly turn on the charm. Keep intimacy a constant by practicing more "simmering." Let embraces linger a moment longer, brush her hair to the side and gently kiss the nape of her neck. Create moments of closeness throughout the day that build into the evening rather than trying to create a spark when it's already cold and dark.
Jeff: You've hit on one of the most common issues that keep men from feeling confident enough to regularly initiate sex — the fear of rejection. Because men tend to think about sex more, they often initiate more, and purely based on numbers, face a greater possibility of being turned down. Sometimes it feels as though women are the gatekeepers, the ones who decide whether we're going to have sex. But this shouldn't discourage you from expressing your attraction and desire — show up as your authentic, erotic self and set the mood. Ideally, it's a mutual decision, with both partners' needs being considered.
Lori and Jeff: Sexual intimacy in a committed relationship is a profoundly vulnerable experience. It's being in this vulnerable place together that makes it so powerful, and simultaneously difficult to talk about. But this seems like an important time for you and your partner to get on the same page. Share your needs, wants and expectations with each other. Studies have shown that the more you talk about sex with your partner, the more sex you have and the more satisfying it is. So guys (and ladies), let's talk more about sex.