Guest Post: Initiating Sex

2 Oct

Commenter and MMP supporter KaralynZ has joined us for a guest post. Please welcome her and add your ideas to answer her questions in the comments.

While reading some of the blogs another poster had linked to, I read a couple of articles by a husband/wife blog team. There were a pair of posts, one by the husband and one by the wife, about “How to ask for more sex/how to offer more sex“. While interesting, I felt they just skimmed this topic and that the people at MMP would have a lot more to say.

Now with my husband and I, our sex drives are better matched than some couples, though not perfect. What I have found is an issue now though was not an issue when we first got married: Asking for sex.

Back when we were newlyweds, and even in the years following when we were not-so-newly-wed, but not yet parents, I tended to take the view of sex that “it’s more romantic if it just happens.” I could go on about how stupid this idea is, and how our society perpetuates it through media: movies and TV and yes, even those romance novels I like so much. But stupid or not, I absorbed that view REALLY well without realizing it. The romantic thing is to get swept away in the heat of passion- saying, “Ok, we have half an hour alone, do you have time for sex?” is not ‘romantic’ at all.

I didn’t really realize this until after our child was born. All those previous years (6 of ’em) we did our best to spend time alone together in the evening even if we didn’t go to sleep at the same time. We had arguments the first few years if one person had to initiate too many times and felt unhappy it, and mostly we settled on a middle road. Cuddling/sleeping together on an almost nightly basis allowed us a pattern where sex just happened. I got really good at body language. I rarely if ever had to ask outright for what I wanted, because we had that quiet alone time for things to “just happen.” Then the kid arrived. Suddenly, having an hour together to just cuddle or lie in bed is a pipe dream. We never know when the kid will decide to buck his sleep schedule, or skip a nap, or when the trip to Grandma’s for the weekend will be derailed, even planned sex in more than a general, hypothetical fashion is tricky.

This is how I learned I was really bad at verbally asking for sex. There are times we’ll find ourselves alone and I’ll want to have sex but I won’t want to ask for it. He’s supposed to KNOW that I want sex, right now and come sweep me off my feet. (Even though last time he tried that I didn’t want sex.) My reasons for not wanting to be blunt are about the fantasy of how I want things to go and I don’t like to break the “script”- but perhaps for others it’s embarrassment, fear of rejection, fear of being seen as pushy or unfeminine- you name it.

My husband doesn’t seem to have this problem. He is much better at just saying, “Were you interested in making love?”

I think a lot of people face a tough choice: either initiate often and get turned down or wait for your partner initiate and risk missing out on sex. I’d like to hear from others on how you’ve solved – or not solved – these issues. How do you balance who initiates and how do you communicate your desire for sex in a way that works for both you and your spouse?

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25 Responses to “Guest Post: Initiating Sex”

  1. Strong Man October 3, 2011 at 5:46 am #

    I always initiate. I’ve come to think of ghat as simply my job since I have the hormones. Quite often she resists and says she initially isn’t interested, but then I persist anyway and she ends up generally being happy and glad I did in end.

    In general in most relationships where the man is inclined to be sensitive and caring, I dont believe “no” is a good answer to a request for sex very often. My relationship has improved significantly since I became persistent enough to be very honest and clear about how strong my desires are.

    If she absolutely cannot stand it, I’ll respect her wishes, but I’ll be very clear how much I desired her.

    Too often, I feel women don’t understand how strong and how frequently mne desire sex and men just back off at the first sign of hesitation.

  2. Mouse October 3, 2011 at 10:08 am #

    Ha ha ha, Strong Man, this is bitter, bitter laughter. Those types of naive broad brush statements are part of the reason I struggle with feeling rejected and undesired by my husband, even though he is horrified that I feel that way. Every relationship is different, every partner has varying levels of desire and generalities about men always wanting sex and “hormones” is damaging bull.
    It is damaging to women who have a stronger sex drive than their partners, to men who can’t keep up with their partners and resent them for it, to men who feel too embarrassed to seek medical advice because it isn’t “manly” to struggle with this issue, to women who are bullied into sex they don’t want because “everyone knows” that men have higher sex drives and it is their job to just give in, to men who use the weight of that social expectation to be selfish lovers because “they are built that way.”
    It is also a huge underlying issue for victim blaming in our culture when it comes to sexual assaults.

    I go through cycles- either I initiate and then get upset because I had to initiate and don’t really feel desired, or I give up and don’t bother, which leads to resentment and further upset. These are both completely horrible outcomes, and I’m trying really hard to find some middle ground that will work better.

  3. Lucy W. October 3, 2011 at 10:58 am #

    @StrongMan

    1. Why do you talk about your sex drive in terms of “men’s” sex drive, as if yours is no different from anyone else?

    2. Why do you press sex on your wife if she says no?

    My relationship has improved significantly since I became persistent enough to be very honest and clear about how strong my desires are.

    We only have your word for that. Perhaps, if she could/were allowed to speak here (anonymously), she might give a different answer. Women have been faking orgasm and pleasure with sex (and the relationship) for centuries, mostly because life will get very bad for them if they express any displeasure with the will of the man.

  4. Felix October 3, 2011 at 12:33 pm #

    KaralynZ, just imagine how it is for couple with multiple kids. There’s alot of truth in the jke that if the Catholics really wanted celibate priests, they’d let them marry.

  5. Felix October 3, 2011 at 12:36 pm #

    Communicating and negotiating sex needs is one of the most difficult aspects of marriage I’ve encountered. It’s SO difficult to discuss the factors involved without one or both individuals feeling frustrated/misunderstood/hurt.

  6. The Other Brother Jones October 3, 2011 at 5:40 pm #

    To add to Felix’s comments…
    It takes a lot of love in trust to have that difficult conversation trusting that the intent of the other is not to hurt. A lot of communication and love in other areas of the relationship goes a long way here. My wife often jokes(or not) that if I want to put her in the mood I should fold the laundry or empty the dishwasher.

  7. The Other Brother Jones October 3, 2011 at 5:47 pm #

    …and often, although it is not my intent to hurt, it is sometimes more that just to express out love. Sometimes I get want to cure a sperm retention headache!

    Andsometimes she really does have a headache, and that sometimes if I press her a little (lovingly) she responds, then she is happy she did. And sometimes she really isn’t in the mood but she gives in just because she loves me. I think that is sweet. I would do that for her, but that situation does not usually present itself.

    and having an open conversation about these issues is difficult when one of you is getting naked and the other one of you is trying to roll over and get some sleep. Have a conversation during other times of the day, not in the bedroom and fully clothed. Add some food and this is called a date.

  8. Eliza R October 3, 2011 at 6:15 pm #

    I ask for sex. Sometimes blatantly: “honey, get ready, I am going to need you to do _____ here in a bit”

    It’s mostly humorous now. Earlier in the marriage, I struggled w/ feeling rejected etc. Perhaps humor and blatant requests are now I deal? It helps that our relationship is mellow/laid back enough that I feel comfortable doing this.

    It also helps that I feel comfortable masturbating. (He is not always able to comply. sometimes tired, sometimes too busy, etc. I no longer take this personally.)

  9. KaralynZ October 3, 2011 at 7:02 pm #

    What fascinates me is that it seems to be so common that even in a long-term committed relationship, being rejected for sex when you ask for it can be a crushing thing.

  10. Eliza R October 3, 2011 at 8:09 pm #

    KaralynZ~ yah. Early on in the marriage it was a crushing thing. it felt like a personal rejection, (“I’m not good enough, not attractive enough, etc etc etc”).

    I remember us driving back to our apartment after our honeymoon, our first night in the place together!! My assumption was that *of COURSE* we’re gonna ‘do it’. But DH was tired after a long honeymoon, and work/school starting the next day etc. I felt pretty humiliated.

    For us, we eventually found patterns that were mutually satisfactory (we have sex pretty frequently now)… but this could easily have been a breaking factor in our marriage if we hadn’t worked that out.

  11. KaralynZ October 3, 2011 at 8:43 pm #

    And that’s pretty common. I guess my interest in it is more philosophical. Is it the nature of sex itself or is it conditioning of the way we’re taught?

  12. alex w. October 3, 2011 at 9:04 pm #

    Oh, StrongMan, I’m a woman, and trust me. Hormones, I haz them.

    Anyway, the idea of pressing one’s partner to engage in sex irritates me to no end. I don’t want to be nagged (however pleasantly/sexily/whatever) into anything good, whether that’s free dessert or free books or sexy time. And I won’t push my husband when he’s not into it, either. Of course, sometimes one will say “I’m tired, why don’t we just snuggle?” when the other is wanting sex, and yadda yadda yadda eventually we’re not just snuggling. This is, to me, a million times better than -ugh- persisting despite your partner’s lack of desire.

    I’m not even sure who initiates it more because we both go about it in such different ways. As far as communications…hmm. I guess because we don’t have any kids, we don’t really think about how to communicate it, instead we’ll either just start coming on to one another (when we’re not busy) or say “hey, how about when you’re finished with dishes/reading/work, we take this to the bedroom/couch/shower?”

  13. Fanny A October 4, 2011 at 1:22 am #

    Strong Man, you have got to get over the misguided idea that men are the only ones with hormones, or with strong sex drives. We get a ton of mail here from LDS couples where the woman is the one with the stronger drive, and it creates many issues and as much pain in both directions.

    I am bothered by what almost comes across as assault in how you describe your treatment of your wife. If she’s game for this and it’s part of your sexual repertoire, that’s one thing, but if you honestly don’t take no for an answer when it’s given, you have bigger issues.

    I commend you for being honest and communicating your desires, and I agree with you that “no” should not be the default answer to sex. I just wish your comments didn’t leave a misogynist taste in my mouth.

  14. Anonymous for this topic October 4, 2011 at 9:53 am #

    Eliza R, how did you move on to the place where you don’t take it personally? I’m having a really hard time with not taking it personally, and I think it has a lot to do with expecting my husband to want sex as often or more than I do. Especially since our relationship and marriage is relatively new… I keep thinking, wait, isn’t this supposed to be the honeymoon phase where we can’t keep our hands off each other?

    I need some tools to help me get past that sort of thinking. I know he loves me and is attracted to me, but that knowledge doesn’t seem to be enough in the moment, when he’s told me, “not tonight”…

  15. Bah October 4, 2011 at 11:51 am #

    Nice try, Stong Man. Gender stereotypes are really not helpful. Ideally, I’d like to have sex every day with my husband. He wants it maybe twice per week. I almost always initiate, and almost never turn him down if he initiates–he very frequently turns me down. So much for all those male hormones.

  16. Rob October 4, 2011 at 10:31 pm #

    Strong Man is speaking to the more common scenario. Men are being wussified by society and need encouragement to be more aggressive. Their sexual needs are generally stronger (hi there, testosterone) and the arousal patterns differ such that both benefit by him getting things going. It’s just in the way men and women are wired. Great article on the topic here: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/01/25/magazine/25desire-t.html?pagewanted=all

    But nobody is denying that there are many cases where the wife is the higher drive spouse. Given the fact that some 300+ women posted their stories of this on this About Marriage page (http://marriage.about.com/b/2008/01/07/is-your-husband-not-interested-in-sex.htm), you can see it’s also a major problem. I’m sure it’s more painful because neither party in that situation feels like their situation is “normal”. But that doesn’t mean that it happens just as often or it’s the same problem with the same solutions just with the body parts reversed.

    All that said, I think the safe thing to say is this: higher drive spouse, it’s on you to initiate, persist beyond your Nice Guy/Gal comfort zone, and don’t go quietly in the night!

  17. Zookie October 5, 2011 at 12:29 pm #

    Fanny, I disagree that what Strong Man does could be considered almost an assault. He doesn’t take the initial no for an answer and doesn’t back off at the least hesitation from his wife. He also said his wife ends up glad he persisted. He also said if she can’t stand it, he lets it go.
    My husband and I don’t take an initial no for an answer, either. If I were to say no, I don’t feel like it, he’d say, well, let me get you to feel like it. In our marriage I respect him enough and trust him enough to acquiesce. He’s said no to me a couple times, too, and I persist. No is not a good answer. Let me change your mind. We need this. You need this. And when it’s all said and done, we’re thanking each other profusely.

    Anyway, at this point in our marriage, one of us will say, “Hey, babe, we are doing the wild thing tonight!” and the other will say, “Absolutely!”

    Recently I have come to a point where I would like daily sex. I would like it to be a given that at the end of the day we are going to have sex and that is the norm. Then there is no asking or initiating, it just is. We’re getting there.

  18. Fanny A October 5, 2011 at 10:37 pm #

    Zookie, I get your point, and to a degree I understand. Sure, there’s nothing wrong with trying to convince your partner. I suppose I’m basing my opinion Strong Man has shown in many other comments; he makes it clear he subscribes to a philosophy of him being the big strong man, and that he believes his wife has neither his drive nor his hormone levels, and that somehow he is exceptional in that. It causes me concern. Of course, if it works for both of them, who am I to say anything.

    I just hate putting forth the idea that no doesn’t actually mean no.

    And I want a relationship where I can have sex everyday, too. 😉

  19. handle with care October 6, 2011 at 4:16 pm #

    Ooh,sex every day.We can all dream.

    I’m interested in what Strongman says,and also question it.Seduction is a great art,and the willingness to be seduced can demand considerable personal growth and courage.At the same time,it’s important to remember that we are all different,even within our own gender.There is an assumption that men are ever ready,and we all know that is not necessarily the case.Desire and performance can be at variance for both genders,and we have to deal with each other with compassion.

    On a personal level ,what I have interpreted for many years as my husband’s lack of desire for me turns out to be about his own lack of confidence in his performance.There have been a lot hurt feelings,and now there will be a lot of hard work to put things right.It’s really very challenging to get over ourselves and do whatever it takes to build unity in our sexual partnerships.But hey,what a great project.

    So great that this dialogue can take place, this forum enables wonderful work.

  20. ceridwen October 6, 2011 at 8:53 pm #

    Zookie said:

    Recently I have come to a point where I would like daily sex. I would like it to be a given that at the end of the day we are going to have sex and that is the norm.

    HA! I would be happy if it was even once a month. I miss having sex with my husband. 😦

  21. Zookie October 6, 2011 at 10:22 pm #

    So sorry, ceridwen.
    I don’t know why you don’t have sex with him more often, but I’m assuming it’s because he’s refusing you? The problem of women being refused is not as well known as the other way around, but it does happen more frequently than most people know. It’s a lonely, sad place to be.

  22. sexybutcelibate October 7, 2011 at 5:55 am #

    I am not as forthright as Strong Man. After my wife rejected my advances for a few years I decided to wait until she was ready. I waited…and waited. I am still waiting. My children are all over 17 years of age, so I am sure we had sex about 18 years ago. I have spoken to her about it a few times, and she has assured me that she loves me, but she is just not interested. I am now taking anti depressants and they have the useful side effect of reducing my sex drive to the point where it doesn’t hurt as much any more when I think of the loving marriage and regular sex I could have had with a more compatible partner.
    I love my children and they love me and I don’t believe in divorce except in dire circumstances. When he prescribed the anti depressants, my doctor assured me that my situation was ‘very common’. If you are living a life like mine, I feel your pain, and all I can suggest is that you try to live the best life you can and remember that it is still a beautiful world full of colour and adventure if you look for it, as I am trying to do each day. It is no one’s fault, just the problem of incompatible libidos.

  23. Fanny A October 7, 2011 at 10:00 am #

    Based on what we know from our data here, it happens A LOT more than anyone suspects. And it’s kept quieter, too- since the accepted story is that men are horny and want sex- so a woman who is routinely rejected thinks it surely must be about her.

    And yes, I speak from experience.

  24. too chicken October 8, 2011 at 7:10 pm #

    I asked for sex the other day and got a flat out “no”. No explanation etc. I’ve been married a long time with totally mismatched libidos and I just masturbate now to relieve myself. I know most mormons would blush (or worse, see their bishop!) at the idea but my wife knows and doesn’t care and I stopped feeling guilty about it a long time ago. I love my wife but the tension that being constantly sexually frustrated brought to our relationship was terrible. Anyway this seems to work for us, let the condemning remarks ensue.

  25. handle with care October 24, 2011 at 3:52 pm #

    Too Chicken,have a look at the Mormon Therapist,preferably eventually with your wife. She is very sex positive,in a very non threatening way.I hope things can improve for you both,emotional and physical obstacles can be overcome with some knowledge and good will.You both deserve as much pleasure as you can get.Solo can be fun,but sex is a great shared project.

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