Episode 315 – The Burden of Initiating

burden of initiating

Initiating sex is really important in your relationship, but it can also be really hard. Because of societal norms, we sometimes think that men should always initiate because women should be more passive in bed. This can lead to resentment, especially when he is always being rejected. Now, I’m not saying that women always need to initiate sex or always say yes, but I am saying that talking about it is key. So, in this episode, let’s talk about how initiating sex can be a burden, but it doesn’t have to be.

burden of initiating

Show Notes:

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References for this episode:

Episode 77

Episode 169

Show Summary:

Today, we’re going to talk about a topic that can sometimes feel challenging in relationships: the burden of initiating sex.  Before we dive into the discussion, I just want to acknowledge how important it is to have open conversations about these topics. Sex and intimacy are vital aspects of a healthy marriage, and addressing the challenges we face can strengthen our relationships.

Let’s start with the basics.

What is Initiating?

Initiating sex is the act of expressing interest in having sex with your partner. It can be as simple as giving them a loving look, a gentle touch, or even a direct verbal invitation to engage in intimacy. Initiating encompasses the various ways one can signal their desire for physical intimacy.  

Why Do We Need to Initiate?

Initiating sex is essential in any relationship because it helps maintain intimacy and emotional connection between partners.  If no one initiates, sex isn’t going to happen. By taking the initiative, you’re showing your partner that you value your relationship and your sexual relationship and want to nurture it. It also shows them that you love them and desire them.  Everyone wants to feel loved and desired.  Sometimes I hear from women that they wish their partner didn’t try to initiate so much, and I get that.  If you see your partner initiating as pressure, that can feel overwhelming.  But I want you to think about how it would feel if your partner NEVER initiated.  NEVER expressed desire for you.  While that may sound good right now, I guarantee that you wouldn’t always feel that way.  It would feel pretty terrible to think that your partner didn’t care and didn’t ever want to be with you.  Well ladies, that is how many of your husbands are feeling.  If you never initiate, then he doesn’t know that you want and desire him and that feels pretty terrible for him.  When both partners take turns initiating, it creates a sense of balance and mutual interest.  Both feel wanted, cherished, and desired.  And that feels pretty darn good.  When you initiate you are expressing to your partner not just a want and desire for sex but a want and desire and love for them.  By initiating, you’re showing your partner that you’re thinking about them and that you want to be close to them.

Different Ways We Can Initiate

There are countless ways to initiate intimacy, ranging from subtle to more direct approaches. Here are a few ideas:

  • Physical Touch: A gentle touch, a hug, or a kiss can signal interest.  
  • Verbal Communication: Expressing your desire with words like, “I’m really feeling close to you tonight” or “I’d love to spend some intimate time together.”
  • Flirting: Sending a playful text message, sharing a secret smile, or even wearing something your partner loves.
  • Setting the Mood: Dim the lights, play some soft music, or light some candles to create a romantic atmosphere.

If you are looking for more ideas on how to initiate, check out Episode 169 – Initiating Ideas and Styles

Why It Is Hard to Initiate

Initiating sex can be difficult for various reasons. It can make us feel vulnerable, as we’re putting ourselves out there and risking rejection. This vulnerability can trigger fear or anxiety, causing us to hesitate or avoid initiating altogether.  For men, initiating can sometimes feel like a burden due to societal expectations. There’s often an assumption that men should always be ready and willing to have sex. This can lead to pressure to perform, making the act of initiating more challenging. Women may find initiating difficult due to concerns about how they will be perceived. There’s a stereotype that women should be passive in the sexual relationship, which can create hesitation. Additionally, fear of rejection or lack of confidence in expressing desires can be barriers for women.

Even if you have a lot of fear or anxiety around it, I would encourage you to step into that fear and anxiety and do it anyway.  I talk a lot about changing your thinking, and changing your thoughts around it can reduce the fear or anxiety.  But sometimes you need to act first, in the face of that fear and anxiety.  Dr. David Schanarch talks about acting into a new way of being.  This takes courage but is often worth the effort.  You’ll never get over the fear unless you are willing to put yourself out there, face the possibility of rejection, and do it anyway.

What Happens When We Are Turned Down or Rejected

So what happens if you initiate and you get turned down? When we’re turned down, it can feel personal and hurtful.  You may feel like your partner isn’t attracted to you or they don’t love you anymore, even if that’s not the case.  You might internalize the rejection and believe there’s something wrong with you, which can create a negative cycle of avoidance.  Most likely none of those are true.  The truth is your partner just doesn’t want sex right now.  It’s not that they don’t want or love you.  But thinking these things can lead to feelings of inadequacy or fear of rejection in the future. I talked a lot about rejection  in Episode 77.  Rejection is painful, and this fear of rejection can create a negative cycle where we avoid initiating to protect ourselves from potential hurt.  These emotions can discourage us from initiating again, potentially leading to a lack of intimacy in the relationship.

If you’ve experienced rejection, it’s important to communicate openly with your partner about how you’re feeling. Share your concerns and work together to find a solution. Remember that rejection doesn’t mean you’re not desired; there could be external factors at play, so talking about them and what is going on for each of you is important.  You might say something like, “I felt hurt when you turned me down the other night. Can we talk about what’s going on?”  And instead of avoiding initiating in the future, try to approach your partner with curiosity and compassion to understand their perspective instead of going with the stories that your brain likes to create to explain it.  

How to Begin Initiating When You Haven’t Before

If you’re new to initiating, it can seem scary and overwhelming at first.  That vulnerability and fear of rejection is really strong.  So start by trying small gestures and gradually build your confidence. Communicate your desires and needs with your partner and let them know you’re exploring this new aspect of your relationship. Mutual support and encouragement can make the process easier.  You can start with a simple compliment or a loving touch to let your partner know you’re interested in being closer and gradually work your way up to more direct approaches, like verbalizing your desires and setting the mood.

Why We Think Men Should Always Be the Initiators

Cultural stereotypes often portray men as the primary initiators of sex, while women are seen as passive participants. This expectation can place undue pressure on men and limit the sexual agency of women. It’s important to challenge these norms and recognize that both partners can take the lead.  When women initiate, it creates a more balanced and equal dynamic in the relationship. It allows both partners to express their desires and preferences openly, fostering intimacy and mutual satisfaction. A woman who feels comfortable initiating can create a more open and honest conversation about sex and intimacy. And when women initiate, it can take the pressure off men and create a more relaxed, enjoyable experience for both partners.

Something I see quite often is that after being rejected a lot, men decide not to initiate and put the ball completely in their wife’s court, so to speak.  And while I understand why this happens, it usually doesn’t work.  Why?  Because it puts even more pressure on the wife, which shuts down her desire.  Do I think men should have to do all the initiating? Nope.  But I don’t think women should have to either.  It needs to be a balanced approach.

Discussing How to Initiate with Your Spouse

Communication is key when it comes to initiating sex. Talk to your spouse about your preferred way to initiate intimacy. Sometimes we are trying to be subtle and our partner just doesn’t see it.  Other times we are being really blunt and overt and it’s too much for our partner.  So really talking about the best ways that each of you like to be initiated to is important.  Being open and honest can help you both feel more comfortable and confident in taking the lead.  For example, you might say something like, “I would love it if you could be more direct when you’re in the mood. It helps me understand your desires better.”  Or you might say “A slow build up over a couple of days really helps me get in the mood.  Could you try this, this, and this?”

So now that we’ve talked about all of these different aspects, let’s briefly discuss why initiating can be a burden.  In the context of initiating sex, “burden” refers to the sense of responsibility or pressure one might feel when it comes to being the partner who consistently starts or suggests sexual encounters. It can involve the emotional or mental weight that one might carry when they perceive initiating as a challenging or potentially vulnerable task.

This burden can arise for several reasons:

  • Fear of rejection: The worry that initiating may lead to being turned down can weigh heavily on the initiator.
  • Pressure to perform: There can be societal or internal expectations around sexual performance, causing anxiety or stress for the person initiating.
  • Uneven responsibility: When one partner feels they are always the one initiating, it can create a sense of imbalance in the relationship and lead to feelings of resentment or frustration.
  • Concerns about perception: Worrying about how the partner or society may perceive their initiation, especially for women who might feel it’s outside of traditional norms, can add to the burden.

What Happens When No One Is Willing to Initiate

If neither partner is willing to initiate, to take on that burden, and put themselves out there, the relationship may experience a lack of intimacy and connection. This can lead to misunderstandings and feelings of disconnection. It’s important to address the issue and work together to find a solution, and if you need some help with that, you know where to find me.  

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