ain't 2 proud 2 beg
March 23, 2014 9:09 PM   Subscribe

I have a wonderful relationship with my boyfriend. We are both mid-thirties; have discussed marriage and kids and are on the same page;we live together; and things are great. Except for one thing - I initiate sex most of the time and want it more. I know the next part is not right, but, me initiating things all of the time makes me feel bad. I know it is a stereotype to expect men to be wanting to have sex more.

Recently it seems important for me to feel like I am desirable. Basically, I want to be wanted physically. And, I don't feel this way when I am the one who is initiating things all of the time.

I have brought this up with him. He assures me that I am hot, sexy, he said I am more attractive than he is and so on. I am not a supermodel but take care of my appearance and am in good shape. He told me he just doesn't want sex that often. Which is fine, I don't need it all of the time. But for whatever reason, it's hard for me to always be the one initiating things. And then sometimes I try to and he doesn't want to and I feel even worse, either sad or frustrated.

I don't know if I am being insecure or unreasonable (I do realize it's not fair to expect him to always initiate sex) or having a third life crises. Sometimes I fantasize about hooking up with random people I know, even though I would never act on it, it bothers me to think this. When we do have sex it is great. I think the real underlying thing that is bothering me is that I do not feel wanted sexually. In my previous relationships, my exes always wanted it much more than I did, so I suppose I got used to that pattern. Am I just being vain or insecure? Is there something I could ask him to do; or do for myself?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (9 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite

Honestly, this to some extent (as you note) is most relationships. What really worked for us was scheduling it... yup, really. My libido is...delicate, so I knew when to expect it and could sort of clear my mind/time. It was scheduled, so he wasn't always initiating. It eliminated a lot of pull and tug, which was hard on both of us. We allowed cancellation by mutual agreement and I (with the lesser libido) had 1 out per week where I could um....lend a hand if I really wasn't up for the whole deal. I think the agreement was twice during the week, and once over the weekend. Make it as vague or specific as necessary. I'm pregnant so all bets are off at the moment...but I still aim for somethin' on the weekend ;-).

I also found that knowing when to expect it and to be um... active regularly helped me want it more. Probably also not feeling like I was getting hit on constantly helped too.

Ask too, if there's anything you can do that helps. I carry my tension in my neck, which makes having it kissed SUPER tickly and not sexy AT ALL. A 15 min neck/shoulder rub goes a long long way toward sexytime success rates.
posted by jrobin276 at 9:37 PM on March 23, 2014 [3 favorites]

You seem to be conflating frequency of sex/how often a person wants to have sex with "initiating", which is interesting. Because they're not the same thing.

If you want your boyfriend, who has a lower sex drive than you, to initiate sex more often, then just back off a little and let him initiate.

If you want your boyfriend to have a higher sex drive than you, that's probably not something that's realistic to expect.

Another thought: do you place a high degree of importance on your partner showing you physical affection? Could physical touch in general, kissing, snuggling, etc. stand in for initiating sex, in terms of feeling desirable, for you? It seems a little more reasonable to ask someone to initiate more physical affection in general than to ask someone to initiate sex when they don't even want to have sex.
posted by Sara C. at 10:24 PM on March 23, 2014 [7 favorites]

You were forthright with your partner about what you desire.

His response describes your future.

You can either devise a strategy that allows you to continue your relationship with this man without driving yourself quietly insane, or your can break up with him and find someone else.
posted by Pudhoho at 11:22 PM on March 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

It's disconcerting when there's a mismatch, and if this hasn't happened in past relationships, sure it's understandable you might feel upset. I think it's common for women to grow up with the 'being wanted' script. Remember age gets to men, too, that might be part of it - were your previous relationships with men in their 20s?

Is there something I could ask him to do

As far as sex drive goes - if he's not already working out, and is amenable, he could try that. Anecdotal observation suggests exercise invigorates people in all kinds of ways.
posted by cotton dress sock at 11:23 PM on March 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

IMHO, a libidinal mismatch is a dealbreaker. However, if you can get your needs met, i.e. your partner sexually satisfies you even if he's not "turned on" or whatever-- well, then your needs are met and the problem is solved.

What I came here to say though is that if your partner is trying to accommodate, it sounds like you've been sexually starved for so long that you might not recognize the changes that he's making. In other words, he might be trying to change to meet your needs, and to you it doesn't seem like anything is different. So, be a little patient and a little charitable.

If he knows that you're unhappy and he's unwilling or unable to meet your needs, well, I'd say there are plenty of fish in the sea. I'm sorry. It hurts. I hope he's both Willing and Able! (And no, it's not on him to make you happy. It's on you to make yourself happy, possibly with another partner whose sex drive is higher.)
posted by little_dog_laughing at 6:57 AM on March 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

Yes, I sort of have the same thing going in my relationship just libido wise. I have a higher libido than my boyfriend. It doesn't bother me but I think it bothers him a little. He recently told me that he was going to get more serious about exercising daily because he said it boosts his sex drive - he was worrying that his libido would surpass mine in a few months. So I suppose your boyfriend could try that.

Personally I am not bothered by it, though. When he doesn't want to have sex I don't feel rejected - he sometimes feels like he is rejecting me, but I don't. I'm trying to figure out why. I think it's because I'm satisfied with the other parts of the relationship - particularly in how affectionate he is in a non-sexual way. He also compliments my appearance a lot and notices things like a different color eye liner, new perfume, or a new outfit. And he seems to genuinely really want me to have happiness and he's so willing to do non-sexual things to give me joy that the mismatch in our libidos is, in my mind, not an issue.

The other thing that works for me is knowing that I am desirable myself. I am pretty attractive for my age. I take care of myself and I love every second of it. I love feeling pretty. It makes me feel great. When I do stuff that makes me feel pretty I do it for me - shaving my legs and getting a monthly Brazilian are just things I do and like, for myself. They make me feel sexy and desirable and I don't need my boyfriend to validate that for me.

So I don't know. A libido mismatch can be a challenge but with all the other good stuff you describe I don't think it's insurmountable. Try doing sexy things only for yourself. I think the way you describe the problem it's less about the libido mismatch and more about the way you hope that your partner will make you feel sexy. Maybe trying to feel sexy without his aid - without anyone but yourself - would help a bit. And to that end, I would also recommend you get yourself a nice new vibrator. Why not - it can't hurt.
posted by sockermom at 7:24 AM on March 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

he said I am more attractive than he is and so on.

That, right there, is likely part of your issue. If he really feels that way then he may feel insecure, and therefore less comfortable initiating.

All you can do is what you have done. I'd give clear conversation another shot before contemplating whether or not this relationship can work out. I'd say something like "I know you say that you find me sexy/attractive, etc, and rationally I know you do feel that way, but I NEED you to do more than say it. I need you to initiate sex more often. I need you SHOW how you feel, not just say. Action, not just words. I feel uncomfortable always having to be the one to initiate it. I worry that if I didn't initiate sex that we wouldn't have any at all, and that isn't okay. This is a very important thing for me, and it is something that I need in a relationship." <>

Frankly, mismatched libidos can be a majorly big hurtle for a relationship, one that can be very difficult to deal with. If very often leaves the higher libido person feeling guilty and unwanted and feeling like they are forcing their partner to do something they don't want to every time the persue sex. It leaves the lower libido person feeling like they are disappointing their partner, like they aren't satisfying them, and sometimes makes the lower libido person feeling pressured and coerced. if it doesn't get better then you need to see this as a possible permanent state. He may never initiate sex and you may never have as much sex as you want/need. You need to decide if that is something you can live with long term.

FWIW I have a good friend who has been dealing with exactly this with her husband. It started off being a bit of an annoyance but not so big a deal. As time as gone on it has become a major problem in their relationship. She constantly feels rejected because he so rarely wants to have sex (and he sure as heck never initiates), and he feels like a failure and a disappointment to her because he doesn't have as high a sexual need as she does. They have gone to counselling and a lot of relationship work has been done, but it is still a big big problem. It has not gotten better or easier for either of them despite a LOT of hard work and effort on both their sides. I am pretty sure that if they didn't have kids they would have divorced by now. It just isn't something that gets easier with time to deal with, it seems, and for them at least it has made all the other smaller issues in their relationship that much worse.
posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 7:34 AM on March 24, 2014 [2 favorites]

Is there a pattern to the instances of him initiating?

You might be able to build on that.

As suggested, you might try being friendly and affectionate and loving, but not seducing and see if that leads to him seducing you.

If you are as serious as you say, couples therapy should be on the table.

Sex is a significant, non-optional part of romantic relationships for me. However, I am willing to work on ways to have that with LDRs, crushing work schedules, and other complications so long as my partner is equally committed.
posted by Lesser Shrew at 8:08 AM on March 24, 2014

Can you think of things that make you feel desired other than him initiating sex? For example, him describing how much he enjoys you, watching appreciatively while you masturbate, giving you massages while describing how sexy each body part is, sexting, sending you flowers at work, etc.? All of these things might feel awkward to ask for and the first few times you do it, but could be worth a shot…

I see your desire to feel more desired as a very separate thing than the libido imbalance. (And I experience it too, I think it’s common in a lot of people but especially in women who’ve always been told that men always want to %$^& them.) The imbalance, for a lot of people, can be managed in a variety of ways assuming it’s not a huge difference. Figuring out how you can keep from feeling rejected is a whole ‘nother thing that needs different solutions.
posted by metasarah at 10:11 AM on March 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

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