I get so many emails from women saying, “my husband never initiates sex.”
And it hurts them, because women like to feel chased. We like to feel like our husbands truly want us.
And so today, for Wifey Wednesday, I thought I’d look at what to do if your husband just doesn’t initiate sex.
Sometimes the issue is that he has no sex drive at all. If that’s the case, then I’d recommend a different series that I wrote on what to do if your husband never wants sex. Today I want to look at a guy who WILL have sex, usually, if you initiate, but who very rarely initiates making love himself.
So let’s look at the different reasons that this may happen.
1. He used to initiate sex, but now he never does
When I wrote The Good Girl’s Guide to Great Sex, I took surveys of 2000 women, and asked about how much they enjoyed sex, how often they had sex, and many other things. After looking at the results I figured I had better survey some men, too, so I sent out surveys to about 500 men and had really similar results about how often people had sex.
But the comments from the guys were really interesting.
I had quite a few men saying things like,
I used to try to initiate all the time. It got to the point where I felt like I was begging. Every now and then she’d say okay, but she was never into it. It was humiliating. And eventually I decided I didn’t want that. So I just stopped. And now I don’t care anymore.
And in talking to men in their late 30s, 40s, or 50s, I often find this attitude. After a decade or so of trying to get frequent sex, they just gave up initiating altogether.
The problem is that many women don’t have much of a sex drive when they marry because they’re nervous, they haven’t figured out how to make it feel good yet, they can’t fully relax during sex–or they have babies and they’re exhausted all the time.
By the time a woman gets to her late 30s and things start to kick in, then, he may have checked out. And now suddenly he’s the one with the lower sex drive, it seems. I’ve even known men who have taken pleasure in turning their wives down when their wives initiate sex. It’s become this punishment.
It’s a common dynamic, and it’s very dangerous.
So if your husband never initiates sex, is this a new thing, or has it always been the case? If he had a high sex drive for years, but it’s now almost gone completely away, it may be that a dynamic has sprung up where he is so hurt by rejection that he’s decided to shut that part off.
What to do: Apologize deeply for withholding sex or for refusing sex, if that’s what you did for years. Tell him you know it was wrong. But tell him that you also want to rebuild the marriage, and creating a sexless marriage or a marriage without passion isn’t the way to do that.
If he really won’t have a conversation about it, then it’s probably time to sit down with a counselor. Even if he won’t go, a counselor may give you some help on how you can communicate.
2. He never initiates sex because he’s nervous about sex
Here’s another scenario, that a woman wrote to me about:
First off I’d like to say that I got married about a month ago & before I got married I read your book The Good Girl’s Guide to Great Sex. Well, because of what I read in your book, your perspective, my parents advice & my husband’s gentle patience with me, we had a really good experience & we both really enjoyed each other.
My husband and I are in our early 30s. I grew up in a Christian home where both parents were committed to their marriage, were openly affectionate toward each other & their children. My husband became a Christian 6 years ago. His parents are still married, however there was never any open display of affection between them. Also, he had a failed marriage before he came to the Lord.
My husband is very timid about initiating sex. I would say that 9 times out of 10 I’m the one asking for it or initiating it. It makes me feel like there’s something wrong with me, especially if he turns me down because he’s tired. It’s not that we aren’t intimate on a regular basis, it’s more that he just doesn’t initiate & he’s extremely cautious about touching me because he says he doesn’t want to make me feel like my body is just some object. I’ve tried to be very encouraging in this area.
But, I still feel like I’m practically begging him to touch me, he still says he feels like there are these unspoken boundaries & he’s not sure what’s ok or what’s not outside of just your basic hugging, kissing & intercourse.
In this case there could be several things going on, but let’s deal with just one: your husband is confused about what healthy sexuality is, and now that he’s trying to live for God, he doesn’t want to do anything wrong.
That’s hardly surprising. If you ask the average person on the street what Adam & Eve’s original sin was, a large proportion of them will say, “having sex.” They don’t realize it was eating the fruit. If they know about the fruit, they think it’s an allegory for sex.
Sex is the sin.
And in many ways different strains of Christian tradition have, over the years, reinforced that view. Sex is dirty.
And so here’s a guy who is a new Christian who already grew up with weird views of sex from his parents, and then who had a bad first marriage, and now he wants to do everything right. But every time he looks at his wife he worries that he’s sinning.
What to do: Have an honest conversation about what sex means and why God likes sex. It sounds as if this woman has tried to talk to him about how it’s okay if he touches her, but I’d go even more basic than that. Talk about why God actually wants you to enjoy sex, and why sex can be hot and holy at the same time. She has my book, The Good Girl’s Guide to Great Sex, and even though that’s written for women, I’d encourage her to read chapter 8–A Pure, Holy, and Hot Marriage!–out loud with him. Talk about how having passion for our spouses actually fuels passion for God, and vice versa. This is something God celebrates!
Here’s something else you can do: Declare a certain week “new beginnings” week. Now you’re married, and you want to see things differently and do things differently. So during this week, we’re going to talk about all the lies that we believe about marriage and sex, and write them down. Then we’re going to write down the truths that counteract the lies. At the end of the week, throw out the lies and keep the truths, maybe in a mason jar or a keepsake box.
Here are some lies you may believe: only some parts of the body are holy; it’s holier not to have sex very often; if we want sex too much we’re not chasing after God; marriages don’t last; people can’t stay affectionate forever; etc.
If you do all of this, and he’s still really reluctant to have sex, then perhaps he needs to see a counselor, because his problems could be much deeper than just believing lies.
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3. He never initiates sex because he’s just too lazy
I have a commenter yesterday, when I was talking about how to get out of a sexual rut, saying her husband is just too lazy to initiate. They’ve talked about it, she’s done everything–but he won’t have sex or indeed do much of anything else because he’s lazy.
Lots of people are completely self-centered and focused on entertainment. Life becomes only about how I can have fun when I want to have fun.
We’re silently killing ourselves.
All destructive behaviour comes from two sources: selfishness or brokenness, and very often both together. Maybe a man is hurt when he’s younger because his dad ignores him or never tells him that he’s capable of anything. When parents never praise what a kid does, or ignore any effort a kid makes, then a child often stops making any effort. The essence of ourselves is our will–that part of us that decides what to do and acts. If our will is stifled growing up, we often become super passive.
This looks like laziness, and it is laziness–but it also goes beyond that.
People like this, who suffer from brokenness, then often turn to selfish things, too, spending all their lives on video games or netflix or anything they want to do that requires very little effort.
And when you have no will to do anything, it’s extremely hard to feel sexual. Our sexuality, at heart, is about our will–deciding to act.
What to do: Such a person needs to be confronted about their laziness and selfishness, but they also really may need a counselor, too, to deal with the root of the issue. They need to see that God loves them, even if their parents didn’t notice them.
All destructive behaviour comes from two sources: selfishness or brokenness, and very often both together.
Something Different: He never initiates sex–but that’s okay
Finally, I want to give a slightly different perspective. One woman wrote in to me saying this:
I think she raises a good point. If your husband doesn’t initiate sex, but if he tends to be good to go if you initiate it, then is it really a huge deal?
After all, there are some real benefits to initiating sex–since you can go slower and position things right and get yourself worked up.
I know that, as women, we like to feel desired and pursued, and we definitely do need to talk to our husbands about this. And if this initiating tug-of-war goes on too long, we often get into a sexual rut where we figure it’s not worth the hassle, and that’s where my 10 points from yesterday can really help.
But until then, ask yourself: is my husband not initiating a sign that there’s a deep problem in our marriage (scenario 1 above)? A deep problem in the way he sees God (scenario 2)? A deep problem in himself (scenario 3)? Or is it simply who he is, and it isn’t a huge deal? If it doesn’t represent a deep character issue or a deep spiritual issue, then perhaps deciding not to get too mad about it is the way to go.
Yes, keep talking about it. Work through the 31 Days to Great Sex, which helps you talk about this stuff and figure out how to initiate. Talk about the 10 tips I gave yesterday about how to make initiating easier. But in the end, if it isn’t a huge deal, then I’d say, decide to live with it. Initiate yourself, especially if he says yes when you do. It’s not the worst problem in a marriage!