She Said, He Said: Couples often look for lust to come back after years of love, inhibition
She Said, He Said
Dear Lori and Jeff,
My husband is a really amazing, kind, caring and respectful man. He’s always been a little shy in the bedroom, and reluctant to initiate out of concern that I might not be interested. I’ve told him before, many times, that it turns me on when he makes a strong move, but I still am the one who has to get things going most of the time. He often compliments me and tells me how attractive I am to him, but I do miss the feeling of being wanted in that primal, lustful way. How can I empower him to be more assertive?
Wanting Him To Want Me
Lori and Jeff: The question of who initiates sex is one we frequently hear. Many factors play into the expectations of our partners to be the ones to make the first move. Ideally, intimacy is a two-way street with each partner willing to lean in to the connection as the other makes a bid.
Jeff: It sounds like your husband is afraid of rejection — at least in the bedroom. Men sometimes have a difficult time finding the balance between being kind and respectful to women while being sexually assertive and confident. There can be a learned belief that lust and primal urges are shameful and should be controlled or, at the very least, only expressed when invited or when permission is given. Your husband may believe that love and lust can’t coexist in your relationship, leading to a fear of rejection and an ensuing sense of shame when a lustful advance is refused. As a result, there is more caution or reluctance when it comes time to initiate.
What do you do? Start by letting him know that it’s OK for him to embrace his sexuality by connecting with his more primal urges (with you, of course). Also, if he does make advances when you aren’t in the mood, make sure that he knows you appreciate the move and give him a fairly specific rain check in which you commit to being the initiator. In other words, try to let him down easy, with compassion and understanding. When he is more assertive and you connect sexually, let him know how great it was and how much it turned you on.
Lori: For many couples, passion follows a predictable path to petering out. In the beginning, there’s often more freedom to express ourselves openly. We know the person enough to feel comfortable and safe, but not so much that we’re deeply invested in the relationship. As the bond grows, two things happen. First, we become more complacent. We don’t put in as much effort as we did in the beginning and it becomes easy to fall into routines and roles. Second, and even more important in your case, is that we tend to become more inhibited with our partners. As relationships develop, we begin to care much more about how our partner sees us, and the idea of possible rejection becomes much more painful. We don’t want to be perceived as weird, or slutty. So we create an unspoken agreement with our partners about what is “normal” for our intimacy, and then we color inside the lines. If you’ve become bored with the sweet, tentative, caring tone of your sex life, challenge yourself to bring more adventure, sass or spice to the bedroom. You can’t ask him to be more primal unless you’re willing to show up that way yourself.
Lori and Jeff: It’s OK to want something different, but you have to understand that you’re asking your husband to step out of a comfort zone that you’ve created together. You may need to be the one to redraw the lines, rather than trying to empower him to do it.
Lori and Jeff are married, licensed psychotherapists and couple-to-couple coaches at Aspen Relationship Institute. Submit your relationship questions to info@AspenRelationshipCoaching.com and your query may be selected for a future column.
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