When you’re in a longterm relationship, it’s incredibly important to feel desired.
You want to know your partner thinks you’re hot. You’d quite like it if they constantly wanted to rip your clothes off.
You know they love you and all that important stuff, but there’s a special confidence boost that comes with your partner being really, really keen to get naked.
And so there are few things that can put a dent in your confidence quite like your partner not initiating sex.
As months go by and it feels like it’s always, always you kicking things off, you start to read into it.
Do they not fancy me? Do they secretly hate me? Am I being too pushy? Are they cheating on me with someone else, so don’t need to get any action at home?
As a rare-initiater of sex, I know it must be incredibly frustrating to be on the other side of the barren sex desert.
But I swear, someone’s reluctance to initiate sex is rarely for the reasons you dread. It’s nearly always nothing against you – there’s stuff going on with them that’s preventing them from getting into the sexy mood.
Here are just a few reasons that your partner might not be initiating sex.
1. They’re feeling sh*t about their body
When someone’s obsessing over the size of their thighs or the way their tummy folds, the last thing they’re keen to do is get naked in front of the person whose opinion they value most.
2. They’re stressed
Tension at work, money struggles, the endless horror of trying to find a new flat that has enough room for a bed – all that stuff takes up significant headspace, circling around their mind and preventing any thoughts of sex from popping in.
When someone’s stressed, their sex drive drops and they struggle to think about initiating when they’re too busy worrying about everything else that’s going on.
It isn’t a slight on you. It’s just tough to get in a sexual mood when you can feel a tension headache coming on.
3. They need you to get things started so they can get in the mood
This is often the case with women (but not always, obviously), who tend to have a desire that’s more responsive.
Basically, responsive desire means that someone doesn’t get turned on randomly – they’re not just suddenly in the mood and keen for sex.
Instead, they want sex in response to something. You’ve turned them on, or worked them up, or something’s happened to set the mood.
When your desire is more responsive, initiating doesn’t come naturally – because you need something or someone else to get things started.
A little bit of warmup and then they can get into it. But that requires some effort on your part first… which kind of counteracts the whole ‘I want them to initiate’ thing.
4. They’re struggling with their mental health
Anxiety, depression, obsessive thoughts. Most mental health issues aren’t exactly conducive to wanting an all night bone sesh.
Mental health issues can lower the sex drive, make people lethargic, and reduce people’s motivation to do anything, from getting out of bed to getting into it.
The fun part? Sometimes the medication used to treat these issues lowers their sex drive, too. Great stuff.
5. They’re into being submissive
Look, not everyone gets turned on by the idea of making a move.
If you’re in a relationship with someone who prefers to be submissive and let you take charge, they’re unlikely to fulfill your need for them to initiate things and take charge.
If that’s the case, you need to talk it out and work out a way to make sure you feel desired without them having to give up something that they feel is a turn-on.
Or, it might be a deal-breaker. Sexual incompatibility is absolutely a thing, and if you’ll both only be happy if the other initiates, things might not work out.
6. They’re not sure if you want them to
No one wants the sting of being rejected.
If your partner’s worried that you’ll turn them down if they initiate, they’re not going to go ahead and start rubbing your leg and winking (is that not how you initiate sex? I may be doing it wrong).
That’s likely not your fault – it’s more down to insecurity or a lack of confidence. But if you do ever reject your partner when they initiate, make sure to explain that it’s because you’re genuinely tired or not in the mood – don’t let them feel like you don’t want them.
7. They’re not confident in their sexual skills
Maybe you’re a sexual dynamo with a tongue like a snake and powerful thighs that can easily lift your partner and take them to new heights of sexual pleasure.
If so, congrats. But your partner might be feeling like they can’t measure up.
When someone’s not convinced they’re great at turning you on, they’ll be scared to try in case they fail. So they hand over control, don’t try, and you start to think they aren’t bothered about giving you pleasure.
They are. They just want to do it right.
8. Their sex drive is low
People’s sex drives vary, and that’s okay.
The thought of sex might not even cross your partner’s mind for a week, while you’re so sexually frustrated you’ve considered wanking at work.
That doesn’t mean all hope is lost. Instead, it’s about reminding your partner of your sexual desire, learning to compromise, and giving them a little nudge to initiate if it’s been a while. Easy.
9. There’s an issue in the relationship that needs resolving
If there’s resentment festering, frustrating forming, or boredom starting to take hold, the general vibe isn’t exactly ‘let’s rip our clothes of and have sex’.
You might think you’re issue-free, but if your partner’s interest in sex has suddenly dropped off, check in and see what’s going on. They might not be feeling stable in the relationship.
How to deal when your partner isn’t initiating sex:
Make sure they know you find them attractive
Don’t wait for them to ask. Don’t wait until they admit they’re feeling a bit rubbish about themselves.
Tell them you think they’re brilliant, let them know that you want them, and generally make them feel like an incredibly sexy person. They’ll be much more likely to initiate if they know they’re wanted, they feel good, and they’re not worried that you secretly think they’re hideous beasts.
Talk about it without blame
Don’t say ‘YOU NEVER INITIATE SEX AND I HATE YOU’, obviously.
Explain why you’re feeling frustrated and undesired, then ask what’s going on with them. The easiest way to find out why your partner isn’t initiating sex is to ask them, and once you know for sure, you can get started on sorting things out.
Make things easier
If they’re worried about their body, chat about positions that’ll make them feel more confident and comfortable.
If they’re stressed out, help them de-stress.
If their mental health issues are bringing down your sex life, chat about changing meds or going to a therapist.
Help because you care about your partner, not just because you’re trying to have sex. Because you know, you should also care about their mental wellbeing, not just their genitals.
Have a signal system
This sounds silly, but it can be a big help.
If your partner can’t tell when you want sex, and you can’t tell if they’re in the mood, come up with a signalling system to get the message across.
For example: When you’re in the mood, you tap them on the leg. If they’re not in the mood, they touch your shoulder. If they’re up for getting sexual, they tap your leg back.
Once you’ve got the leg taps done, you both know you’re up for it and can feel free to initiate.
And if they’re not in the mood, it doesn’t feel as embarrassing as going in for a neck kiss and getting the ‘no’. Easy.
Stop keeping score
Sex is not a competition or a to-do list, and feeling as though they’re being monitored is unlikely to make anyone feel sexy.
Don’t keep score. Don’t say your partner has to initiate because you did it the last three times.
Relax, let things happen, and allow your partner to initiate when they feel comfortable doing so. Ease the pressure a bit and let sex go back to being something that’s enjoyable, rather than an obligation.