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What Partners Can Do When Only One Ever Initiates Sex

Is it time for a change?

Key points

  • Always asking for sex, while never being asked, leads to a feeling of being unloved.
  • Men in a heterosexual relationships often initiate sex more, but not always. Approaches toward sex can also vary within all types of couples.
  • Those who typically initiate sex can benefit from raising the issue to their partner without complaining.
  • Those who are sexually passive should ask their partner if their lack of initiation is undesirable, and if so, be willing to make changes.
George Rudy/Shutterstock
Source: George Rudy/Shutterstock

Doctor: Are you sexually active?

Patient: No, I usually just lie there.

The old joke is funny unless it describes your own partner, particularly your longtime partner. Always being the one to initiate sexual activity gets old very soon. Always asking and never being asked creates the feeling of being unloved, no matter how responsive the partner is to the invitation you make.

When this issue comes up in couples’ therapy, the habitually passive partner’s usual defense is some version of, “But I don’t like being refused! Who does?"

It’s more common for the male in a heterosexual couple to be the aggressor, possibly because of his usually higher libido, but this isn’t always so. There are men with low libidos and women with higher ones. Sometimes they couple with each other. Also, there are same-sex couples whose libidos are often not a match. And that’s what it is — an unequal desire for sex, an unequal libido, and/or an unequal willingness to take the risk of initiating. What’s to be done?

If you normally initiate sex

If you are the constant initiator, it’s time to tell it like it is to your partner without complaining. Something like: “I initiate sex between us most or all of the time. I would like you to do it some of the time. What would be easiest for you? Maybe saying that you’re interested or showing me by some means we both understand like taking a bath before bed or offering a massage? Would you do that for me?”

Be prepared to hear some reasons why she or he can’t or why it’s particularly difficult. They may not all be excuses for acting out of their comfort zone. Be aware that some people respond to arousal but don’t feel it themselves spontaneously unless stimulated in some way. If that’s the case with your partner, ask him or her to pay you more compliments, tell you you’re loved more often, or otherwise make sure you feel loved and desirable.

If your partner usually initiates sex

If you are the customarily passive partner, are you willing to make a few changes for the sake of your relationship? If your partner has never brought the issue up, don’t assume it hasn’t been noticed or that your partner likes things the way they are. Ask, or better yet, give yourself a good talking to and make the unambiguous move in a way you both can appreciate — offer a kiss that's more passionate than usual, allow your touch to be more sensual, or make an invitation to share a bath, shower or massage.

You can be sure your partner will say something about your atypical behavior afterward. Talk about it. Did she or he like it? Did it feel uncomfortable for either of you? Is it worth doing again?

The conversation you have about the change in which of you initiated sex and how each of you felt about it will open the door to more self-revealing conversations, I’m sure, and a much closer relationship.

Facebook image: George Rudy/Shutterstock