Tuesday, February 11, 2014

The Initiation Situation

I wonder if there are any marriages where initiating sex is never an issue.  I know in my marriage it's been a bit of a hurdle to overcome and there are a lot of times when it still causes problems, big problems!  Neither one of us really wants to be the one that initiates sex.  We have different reasons for it but they both amount to the same thing, less intimacy, or even none at all.

Who's the one that does the majority (or all) the initiating in your marriage?  I'm guessing it's the one with the higher libido.  Since that is more often the man then my guess would be the husband, however we women aren't entirely off the hook.  In the research for Sheila Gregoire's book "The Good Girl's Guide to Great Sex" she interviewed thousands of men and women and discovered that in 30% of marriages, it's the woman that has the higher drive.  You won't believe how relieved I was to hear this information!  If you are one of those 3 in 10 women out there like me I'm sure this is a reassurance to you too.  It really helps you to feel like less of a freak.  I even made me feel more confident in myself, my attributes and improved my self esteem a little.  In a society where men are expected to have an almost insatiable drive, it feels unfeminine to be more eager than your husband.

For some obvious reasons the person with the higher drive will be the one who does more of the initiating.  After all, if you want it more, you're going to ask more.  If you are the one with the lower drive you might think, what's the problem?  If they want it, it's their job to ask, right?  Though this IS logical and for the most part works decently well, having a marriage where one partner never initiates can be very hard on the relationship! 

I was chatting with a married friend of mine a while ago and we somehow got on the topic of our intimate relationships (maybe because I was sending out feelers to see if I was the only woman with a higher drive than my husband).  We spoke about being busy and how having kids can put a kink in how often you are intimate with your spouse but one thing she mentioned was that her husband's desire for her was a large factor in her confidence in herself.  I don't know if enough women (since self esteem problems are so rampant these days) really internalize this idea.  Having a husband that loves and wants you should make you feel better about yourself and more confident in who you are.  I tell you one thing, we 30% of women with the higher drive would love to be in your shoes so please don't take it for granted.   

When you are led to believe that men have the monopoly on sexual desire but your man isn't as interested as you it can make you feel less feminine.  Doing the majority of the sexual initiation stripped me of my confidence and caused me to doubt my attractiveness.  My chain of logic went something like this:
 I want sex more often than my husband -> He doesn't initiate sex with me -> He isn't interested in sleeping with me -> There is something wrong with me.
Though this line of thinking might be a lot more common for women with the higher libido, I don't, for one second think men are exempt.  When someone desires you and express that desire for you, it gives you a boost.  You feel more accepted, not just physically either.  Your sexual desirability doesn't just affect things in the bedroom.  It can have huge consequences in our everyday life.  You might not realize this, but, being pursued by our partner isn't just about confidence in our appearance. 

Have you ever met someone that you initially thought was quite attractive, then as you got to know them better you started to realize they weren't a very nice person.  The more you get to know their personality, the less and less attractive you find them.  The same works in reverse.  You meet a guy (or girl), They're decent looking but nothing to write home about, then you get to know them a bit better and discover they're actually a fantastic person.  Kind, considerate, generous, a good listener, funny, easygoing, interested in the same things as you, anything that floats your boat, and gradually they start to look more and more physically attractive to you too.  Taking this logic one step further, if your partner never initiates or seems interested in being intimate with you, it can give you the impression that they don't think that highly of you as a person either.  Guys know that women don't tend to be quite as visually stimulated as they are, (though the sexual objectification of men does seem to be on the rise as well) so they are relying on their personality and their attributes to make them sexually appealing to their wives.  If there spouse doesn't seem to be interested in them "in that way" it is very easy for them to take that as a knock to their value as a person. 

I understand that a lot of women can feel like it's not our "job" to initiate.  We feel that we are the ones that are to be pursued and desired.  Even though I am the one with the higher drive in my relationship, it didn't make me exempt from this type of thinking.  This has led me to be very reluctant to initiate because that meant I wasn't being pursued.  Since my husband is also reluctant to initiate that caused some pretty long "dry spells" between sexual encounters.  It wasn't until we had a good conversation about this topic that we started to get things sorted out (although I think this will always be a bit of a sore spot in our marriage).  After years of marriage my husband finally opened up a little more about his reluctance.  He confessed that he felt that when you initiated sex it came with an expectation.  That expectation was that it was going to go well for you.  For someone that struggles sometimes with maintaining an erection he thought it would be a huge let down for me if he started something he couldn't finish.  Although women don't have the same physical restriction to participating, even if they aren't in the mood, I do believe some of the reasoning still applies.  Women might feel that if they initiate there is a pressure to perform, literally.  They might feel that they then need to be completely uninhibited and have to create a really spectacular time.  The truth is, not every encounter is going to be magical, with fireworks and total bliss.  Sometimes it just doesn't work as well as other times and this is coming from the one that initiates most in my relationship.  Yes, sometimes it is toe curlingly amazing, but sometimes it's more about being close to one another.  I don't climax every encounter but sometimes I will have multiple, and that doesn't correlate with if I have initiated or not (cause it's pretty likely that I did). 

If this type of thinking has been a drawback to your willingness to initiate with your partner, I challenge you to set it aside and break out of your comfort zone a bit.  You might be surprised at what a difference it could make to your partner.  Besides boosting their self esteem, give them confidence in your esteem for them and building your partnership, you might find that they are more willing meet you half way on things you would like their assistance with.

Another thing that could be hindering your willingness to initiate is your own self esteem.  If you aren't confident in how you look then it's a lot more difficult to present yourself to your spouse.  Initiating is definitely the more vulnerable position to be in so some confidence issues could be a huge deterrent.  I have struggled a lot with my self image and I know that it, for sure, held me back from being as intimate with my husband as I could have been.  Looking back on all the issues both of us had, it's no wonder we weren't making love very often.  My negative self image spiraled almost out of control in the first few years of marriage and it made me desperate for male attention.  My desire to feel accepted (something that was lacking in my marriage) got so bad that I was terribly vulnerable.  If you think you're self esteem is just something that you deal with and doesn't effect your relationship, let me tell you, you're wrong.  Your self worth has a big impact on the strength of your marriage and undervaluing yourself will undermine your relationship.  It will take a lot of time and introspection and be very painful to deal with but you can't be confident in your partnership if you don't feel like a valuable partner. 

I will be sharing with you some of the steps and process I took to actively improve my self esteem.  Even though I have issues I would still like to see improvement in (I don't think anyone is ever 100% happy with how they look), I am more confident now than I have been at any other point in my life, even though there have been times when I have been much closer to my "ideal".  I promise that, if you work on feeling better about yourself, it WILL translate into feeling better about your marriage.  Taking time for you is not a selfish endeavour, but a relationship builder.

Creating a more even distribution in the number of times one partner initiates sex might not seem like a big deal to you, especially if you are already being "pestered" more than you would like, but I'm sure your willingness to set your own limitations and drawbacks aside will be greatly appreciated by your partner.  You might not even think that it bothers them to be the one setting the sex schedule but, take a little initiative and it could knock their socks off and make them feel so much more appreciated than the times when they are hounding you.  Also, if you have made it a habit to turn them down regularly when they approach you, their confidence could be pretty shaken (I know mine was) so it might take quite a number of attempts on your part to build that trust and confidence of your acceptance back up. 

It also wouldn't hurt to talk to your partner about the issues that prevent you from engaging in that way.  I know I felt so much better about my husbands lack of initiation when I understood it wasn't about my attractiveness but the pressure he felt initiation implied.  You might just find, like I did, that there is a simple explanation for something that seems like a huge hurtle. 

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