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Wifey Wednesday: Why You've Got to Initiate, Baby

It's Wednesday, the day when we talk marriage! I introduce a topic, and then you follow up either by commenting or by writing your own post!

Ladies, today I am going to totally tick a bunch of you off. I understand that, and believe me when I say that this is not my intention. It's just that I think this is such a vital part of marriage, and it's something that we women often get totally wrong.

Let me start with some personal history that might make this pill a little easier to swallow. When Keith and I were first married, we used to get into a lot of fights about one thing: He wanted me to want him, and I never really understood what he meant.

He would say, "I just want you to want me!" and I would yell back, "But I do want you! I want you as my husband! I want you to be happy! I want you with me always!" etc. etc. etc.

What he really wanted was just for me to jump him.

And I couldn't do that, because it felt somehow like lying. I really didn't particularly want to make love. Sure I'd do it if he started it, but it wasn't like I was sitting there, jets ready to go, just waiting to take off. I would much rather watch a movie, or read a book, or cuddle, or just about anything. I was frequently tired. I was still new at this so it didn't always work all that well. And I was so, so tired of him wanting it all the time.

What I only understood later was how intrinsic to a man's self-esteem is the idea that his wife actually desires him sexually. Most men really struggle with questions like, "Am I good enough?", or "Does she really love me?". What they want to know, more than anything, is that we think they are the best.

It's not really so surprising. Remember all the books talking about how important respect is to a guy? Even more important than love? A man needs to feel like we are glad we married him not because we love him, but because we've looked around, and we've honestly concluded that he is the perfect one for us. We appreciate who he is and what he does.

Tied up in all of that is his sexuality. It's hard for him to believe that you're proud of him, and that you're happy to be married to him, if you don't also want him sexually. If you don't want him like that, then you really don't think he can take on the world. You really don't think he's a capable guy, a strong guy, an amazing guy. You just want to be married to somebody, but you don't actually respect him anymore.

It's men's ultimate self-esteem issue. And the best way to address it is if we, every now and then, actually initiate.

That may be the last thing you want to do, for a host of reasons. You may be tired. You may be angry at him because he doesn't really pay attention to you, so why should you pay attention to him? You may be tired of sex because it just doesn't work well for you, and he gets all the fun.

Let me suggest that if you start initiating, a lot of those issues will diminish in importance.

Let's take just one: whether or not it feels good for you. The nice thing is that if you initiate, you get to set the tone and the direction for what you do! Perhaps one of the reasons it hasn't felt that good is because he's been rushing things. If you initiate, you can figure out what you want him to do. You can do it yourself! You can control things a little better. So why not jump in with the express purpose of figuring out what's nice for you?

Or, conversely, if you're tired of the stress of making sure that sex is nice for you (because many couples get locked into this quest to make sure that she climaxes, for instance, and then it becomes too goal oriented for you to enjoy), you can initiate so that he can feel good. You can throw yourself into making sure that he enjoys it and giving him a gift. And he'll feel ten feet tall. When sex becomes about him feeling good, but you're the one who initiated it, it's okay. When he initiates it and you don't enjoy it as much, he can feel like a failure. It's just a different dynamic.

What about the other problems? Let's say that you feel as if he is distant, and you're a little ticked at him. Part of the reason that he might feel distant, though, is because he feels as if you don't want him. Truly, we need to understand how important this is to most men. They marry thinking that we will want them all the time, and when real life intrudes and it doesn't work out that way, they have nowhere to go but to retreat. I'm not saying it's right; I'm just saying that's what a lot of men do. So if you're feeling distant, why not take that first step to repairing the rift?

Men really don't want to be married to someone who will comply when they suggest sex. They want to be married to someone who is actually enthusiastic about it. I know it's hard to be enthusiastic sometimes, but I think we can talk ourselves into it. Make it a priority to think about sex in a positive light throughout the day. Try to figure out what you'd enjoy doing. Touch him throughout the day. And then, when the kids are in bed, you be the one to lead him to the bedroom.

Try to remember the last five times you made love. If you didn't initiate at least one of those, you've likely got a problem. So why not rectify that by deciding that tonight is going to be different? Just try for a month being the one to initiate every now and then, and see if, at the end of that month, you both feel differently about the relationship. I'm pretty sure you'll both have a lot more goodwill towards the marriage, and things will be better!

UPDATE: Now, one caveat: I know a lot of women who would actually love to have this problem. They DO initiate, but their husbands reject them (Like the first commenter!). You've got a slightly different problem, that I'll deal with in future Wifey Wednesdays (and that I have addressed before). For various reasons, men's libidos are diminishing in our society. In many marriages it's actually HER who has the higher sex drive. If that's the case, then excuse this post and my emphasis on women in a different situation than the one you find yourselves in. I'll try to post for you soon, too!

UPDATE 2: I revised this post a bit from this morning and added a thought or two I had while in the shower. But the gist is pretty much the same!

So here's my question: do you have trouble initiating? Why? Leave a comment (anonymously if you want to), and let's talk about it!

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At 9:17 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said…

I'll be honest- I don't initiate often. I've only been married a few years, but I've found that my husband only seems to want sex once or twice a week. When I try to initiate, I'm usually rejected. It doesn't feel very good... I know I should initiate, but I just feel like I'm bugging him when I try to do little things (kissing/touching, ect) that could lead to sex later.

We're both Christians and have an otherwise healthy relationship. It's not really like there are a lot of complicated factors here. I kind of feel like your husband did in your first few years of marriage- I want to be wanted.

Thank you for giving me the freedom to post this anonymously. :)


At 10:33 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said…

I don't really initiate either. Because sex hurts for me. Even when we were doing it more often it still hurt. Thankfully my huusband is very understanding but I still know that he would like it more often.
That being said, I'm trying to make time for just the two of us (with no children around) so that we can actually have some ALONE TIME to work on our sex life. It's always been a struggle, since the day we got married but we both want to work on it. The only problem is that our ideas of "working on it" are different.
Things have been getting better but we both just need to make it more of a priority I guess. Because it should be a priority! It's just hard to get back into the swing of things when you've been out of it for so long.


At 10:36 AM , Blogger Sheri said…

No trouble at all initiating...although I wish he'd initiate more. I think my depression has affected him in that manner, he can't read me anymore or is scared to read me, therefore it's ALWAYS up to me right now and THAT'S frustrating.

But I will say this, in the early days it felt "dirty" to initiate. Like nice girls don't initiate. It took a long long time to get past that.


At 10:38 AM , Blogger Sheila said…

Sheri raises an interesting point--I think many men stop initiating because they're afraid of being shot down, and then they leave it up to us to initiate all the time (which is no fun for us, either). There really needs to be a balance.

Second Anonymous: I TOTALLY hear you. When we were first married, sex hurt for me like crazy. In fact, it hurt really until after my second child was born. I tried all kinds of exercises and relaxation techniques and everything, but it was awful. Maybe I'll write a post about that sometime, because I think it's a more common problem than we know! But if I can give you any encouragement, I'm totally better now!


At 1:41 PM , Anonymous thetravelwife said…

I, too, had pain during sex for the first few years of marriage. It got much better after birthing children. AFter 40, it became enjoyable.
I tried to be "actively" submissive or initiate for years. Finally, I gave it up to God, yes, I asked, "increase my passion for him!" Only when I let the Holy Spirit take over and remake my sex drive did it happen. Now I naturally have the hots for my husband and he enjoys pleasing me. It may not be a "woman" issue, it may be a spirit issue...


At 3:03 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said…

Dear Shila, I love your blog so much! It is so usefull for me! I do not initiate too often because I am tired, and don't feel so good in my skin (due to some minor health issues - that I am pretty guilty myself...)... but I do want to be loving wife. So now I go tell bedtime story, and enjoy with hubby. Thank you! I need constant support, though, so you please keep up the good work here!
I must grow in this area, really! Poor guy! He married to a normal woman, and he has now some stone besides him!


At 4:28 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said…

i feel like i always initiate and recently it's become a problem. i never used to mind it until i started "comparing" how often he initiates compared to how often i initiate. we have a perfectly healthy sex life it just has a few problems at the onset. after that, it's fantastic. any suggestions? should i just let it go and continue to initiate? i guess another problem is usually by the time he does initiate, i am well on my way to being fast asleep.


At 4:39 PM , Blogger Sheila said…

Anonymous #3,

I hear what you're saying about him not initiating enough. Can you talk to him about it? How often does he want to make love? Are there reasons that he's not that interested?

I think it's good that you're intiating, but if you're feeling hurt that he's not, then I would work on spending more time with him in general and getting your friendship/relationship really, really strong. Then just talk to him about it.

I hope that helps! I know it's not much to go with!


At 5:00 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said…

I totally agree!!! I just initiated mid day with our boys in the other room playing in a tent. Hubby was very happy and on top of the world. After he said how much he needs me to want him. How important it is to him. He often says he doesn't need presents he just wants me. Just the other day I asked him what that meant. I don't recall a coherent answer. But me wanting him may truly be the answer. Thank you!!


At 5:29 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said…

I am like the first poster, I have a higher sex drive most the time than my husband, plus he also needs Viagra because of his medications causing problems in that area.

Early on in our marriage before kids and illness etc, I used to initiate more often. I would dress up, put on romantic music, and wait for him to get home from work. I also found adult toys can help you know what feels good to you, so in turn you can teach your husband how to please you as well. Feel free to explore your body, God gave us the gift of sexual pleasure, we can't expect our husbands to please us if we don't know what we like.


At 9:43 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said…

I think it depends on the people. In my first marriage I would try to initiate and be "shot down" -- there are a million things that I'd rather do than have sex with you (I'd be told!) ... finally it would happen maybe once every three months... and sometimes he'd change his mind midstream, leaving me frustrated.... this partially may have been due to medications he had to take but I think there was a lot of mental stuff going on that affected things because initially our sex life was very fulfilling and fun and then (after 13 years) dwindled to next to nothing....

Now, remarried... and in a new relationship for almost four years, hubby is totally different... no, not a sex-crazed dirty old man but he laughs and says that you should "always leave a woman wanting more" -- and I guess that's why, when he kisses me good-bye in the morning, that he might sneak in a little caress brushing by the breast or putting "just a little bit of passion" into the good-bye peck, or little suggestive remarks on the mike phone prior to returning home. Having two kids (mine) and working around them and truck driving hours, it is not always possible to be spontaneous, but after a while you begin to find that 4 in the morning works just as well as 10:30 at night! I know you shouldn't "compare" lovers but in this case, there is nothing to compare!!!!

I think it is all about feeling truly and unconditionally loved and cared for -- if that's in place, the sparks will fly in the bedroom!!

And if it hurts THAT MUCH definitely go see a medical doctor for an examination. Perhaps there is something that can be done or maybe hubby needs to learn new techniques or a new position or more foreplay so it is "better" for you....

Another Anon poster (for obvious reasons!) - but I do think you are right about men "needing you to want them").

Would you believe my verification word is "SHEER SIN??!"


At 2:00 AM , Blogger Greta, Lilly Noelle said…

My husband and I, only married since July, have recently been dealing with this issue as well. Like some of the previous commenters, I have become the initiator. I bought lingerie and was shot down, I felt like a fool. I'll never try to put on a sexy outfit again. I talked to him about it, trying to be delicate and unaccusing. He seemed to brush it off at the time but I have noticed him giving me more attention the way we've learned that I need. I think it stems back to the 5 love languages. Mine is definitely physical touch but I think his is words of encouragement. Not that there is anything wrong with either, just something we are learning about each other.


At 3:13 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said…

This has been a very helpful discussion. When we first married, I didn't want it a lot (sexually abused as a child and an adult) and would push him away a lot, which made him feel rejected. But he constantly wanted me, he was all over me. I've gained a LOT of weight through the years & so has he, plus he's on a lot of medications now. I've wondered if it's my weight - that he's just not attracted to me anymore and it turns him off. He's also bitter at me about things in our marriage & won't let it go so that is part of it. He now withholds love, conversation, affection & sex from me, despite my attempts daily to honor and love him. We go literally months without sex now and I am extremely frustrated. I am very uncomfortable initiating sex and he says all I have to do is initiate. Even when I've gotten in bed with no clothes at all which is a blatant hint (I ALWAYS wear pj's!), he just lays there and refuses to touch me. We've had a lot of conversations about this and he now says he isn't going to be "used" for sex and that I should just initiate and he won't refuse. Otherwise, he has no desire and isn't even going to try anymore. Where is he getting satisfied? I don't believe he's having an affair or into porn, but don't understand why he has no sexual desire at all anymore. He's only in his mid 40's and from what I understand, even people in their 80's can and do still enjoy sex! When I pointed out that he used to initiate all the time, he said, "Yes, and you told me to get off you." Basically he's punishing me for the past and he knows now my sex drive has increased & I now want it, so he is withholding it. Not sure what the answer is other than initiating it myself but initiating is extremely difficult for me.


At 10:04 PM , Anonymous shine said…

I have been married for almost 12 years and I have trouble initiating, and my husband has been asking me to for years. Like Sheri said, it "feels dirty" to me to initiate. I totally have bought into the notion that "nice girls/good girls don't initiate". We also had 3 kids in our first 5 years of marriage and I went through menopause. I've been so tired and moody… it's been hard to think about passion with my husband.

I love him dearly, but I had some work to do with me, first. It took three years to get on track with my health and making sure I took care of me (because no one else was going to, and if I wasn't happy NOBODY was happy). Now, what thetravelwife said resonates with me: I am focusing more on my relationship with my husband (the kids can be so consuming, but they have to come after God, my health and my relationship with hubby) and I need to pray that the Holy Spirit remake my sex drive. I agree, it may not be a woman issue, it may be a spirit issue. But I'm curious, Sheri –– how did you get over the "dirty" feeling about initiating?


At 9:57 AM , Anonymous Sue said…

in our pre-marital counselling, initiating was brought up... we both agreed that it is okay for the wife to initiate...
... my husband has a low sex drive.. porn issues.. (doesn't even see problem with Sports Ill swim suit issue... cause they have clothes on)
After we had kids it was almost always me who initiated.. and got shot down many many times... I kept trying .. month after's so hard to be rejected. Long story short, we haven't had sex in 2 years. he told me straight out that he doesn't want sex anymore and that he doesn't love me anymore.
... for many reasons, including reading this post today, I feel God telling me it's time to "step up and try"... so for Christmas I am going to give him a box of condoms and a "sex for a year card"...valid anytime, as many times as he wants from now till Christmas 2011.
I have to trust God in that if my husband refuses me that God will honour my efforts, and I will not appear too disappointed. Praying for you ladies...


At 9:29 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said…

As a single man, I painfully, painfully learned a fundamental rule in dating, and once I embraced it, it served me well: "If she's not interested enough to make the first move, she's not interested at all."

Too bad it took me til 36 to figure it out. Think how much rejection I could have spared myself.

At 38 I finally married (we met on the net, she emailed first!), and lost my much hated virginity on the wedding night. After 8 years and 3 kids I've learned a thing or 2 about sex. In those 8 years, the number of times my attempts at initiation, have led to sex, can be counted on one hand. For all practical purposes, my old dating rule applies perfectly in this new context: "If she's not interested enough to make the first move, she's not interested at all!!!"

Fortunately, she initiates fairly regularly. Go thou and do likewise, ladies!

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Name: Sheila

Home: Belleville, Ontario, Canada

About Me: I'm a Christian author of a bunch of books, and a frequent speaker to women's groups and marriage conferences. Best of all, I love homeschooling my daughters, Rebecca and Katie. And I love to knit. Preferably simultaneously.

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