I am almost always the one who initiates sex in my relationship. If I don’t, it doesn’t happen. Because I like having sex, I don’t let it go too long. But if I didn’t initiate, I think we’d have sex twice a year.
Joe and I are about the same age (mid-30s) and have been together three years. When I do initiate, the sex is good and he seems to enjoy it, so it’s not like his libido is fading.
I’ve brought this up to him but haven’t gotten anywhere. No surprise, he sees the situation differently. He claims he initiates more frequently than I give him credit for. He also says that because I want sex more than he does, I always beat him to the punch by initiating so often.
In fairness, when we have sex I like being more the top and being the initiator is a part of this role. But I want to feel like Joe really wants to have sex with me, not just that he is happy to go along with it when I start something.
Lately I’m getting resentful. I raised this issue with him, he knows it’s important to me and nothing has changed. I decided to just wait till he initiates, to prove a point, but now I am totally focusing on this issue and getting mad. I brought up couples therapy and he said no. He thinks we’re doing fine. Any pointers?
It’s tough not to get what you want from your partner, but everyone who is coupled faces this at points. Now you must figure out what you want to do.
Is this a deal-breaker issue? Do you want to end the relationship if Joe doesn’t start initiating more? As you contemplate your answer, please consider more than this one issue. You haven’t told me much about your relationship, other than that the sex is good when you have it. So I don’t know if there are other ways that that you enjoy your life with Joe, whether you feel valued or whether the two of you respect and care about each other, all key considerations when evaluating your relationship as a whole.
I’m curious what you make of Joe’s not initiating and what it means to you to be uncertain that Joe wants you. Do you tell yourself that you’re not sexy enough, not a good enough lover or an inadequate partner in some ways?
If you’re thinking along those lines, I understand why you badly want Joe to start initiating more. However, the reality is that he may not change. So rather than counting on Joe to help you feel better, you’ve got to find ways to feel more solid about yourself as a lover who is the primary initiator of sex. Of course, you can also keep advocating for what you want. But take a different tack: Coming at this punitively by withholding sex is a bad idea, as you’re discovering. Keeping score never brings people closer. Instead, focus on what you would like and on making clear to Joe why it is important to you.
Do you think that Joe is stingy with affection? Scared to make the first move? Maybe he doesn’t want to make himself vulnerable by letting you know he wants you and then possibly face your rejection? Or maybe he doesn’t even allow himself to acknowledge his desire for you, to avoid feeling needy or dependent? Do you think he is simply lazy, so he’s fine with you doing all the work? I’m encouraging you to think about how his choices don’t necessarily reflect whom you are and need not dictate how you feel about yourself.
To Joe, and all the Joes reading this: The questions I just raised are ones that you would do well to grapple with. Don’t hide behind the illusion that you would make a move if only your partner gave you the time and space to do so. While it can be hard to deal with your partner shaking things up or asking for things that are beyond your comfort zone, that’s life when you’re part of a couple. And while there’s no law that says you must accede to your partner’s requests, it’s worth having a better reason than fear, anxiety or laziness for saying “no.”
I understand you don’t think there’s a problem, but if your partner has a problem, you do, too. Rather than opposing him, consider collaborating on a relationship that is challenging and rewarding for both of you.
Michael Radkowsky, Psy.D, licensed psychologist, specializes in gay couples counseling and individual therapy in Washington, D.C. He can be found online at personalgrowthzone.com. All identifying information has been changed for reasons of confidentiality. Have a question? Send it to Michael@personalgrowthzone.com.