Q: I’m 21 and have been with my partner for two years, and we’re getting married next summer. She is amazing and we’re great together. My only dilemma is that she rarely — and I mean once or twice in the past two years — initiates sex. When we have sex it’s great. I’ve expressed my feelings about this to her multiple times and she just says she’s not used to having to initiate it and she’ll try to work on it. We have had numerous conversations about the subject and I feel like we resolved the issue, but after a week or two and nothing happens, it’s like we’re right back where we started. I’ve encouraged her while we’re intimate and I’ve always been up for anything she wanted to try. This isn’t a deal breaker, but with all the years ahead of us, I’d like to figure out why she is so timid about starting intimacy. Is there anything I can do?
A: You’re already doing all the right things by both talking openly with your fiancée about your feelings and indulging her curiosity and desire while you’re having sex. Now you just have to figure out what’s going on in her head when you’re not doing it. Here are some things you two should talk about the next time you have a conversation:
Is she confident about her body? A lot of women have self-esteem issues, especially when they’re younger, that can prevent them from feeling sexy. If she doesn’t feel sexy, she’s not going to initiate sex. You can help her boost her body image by telling her how much you’re attracted to her, whether she’s dressed in heels for dinner or painting the front porch in your old T-shirt. You’d hit it anytime.
Is she afraid that you’re going to reject her? Rejection can be a powerfully negative feeling when it comes from someone we love. Let her know on a regular basis that she’s the total package — she’s the ideal combination of intelligence, sexiness, humor and compassion. Reassure her that you love her and will always be there for her no matter what she might be going through. That’s why you asked her to marry you, right?
Does she feel particularly vulnerable as far as sex is concerned? If you’re not her first sex partner, she might be bringing some emotional baggage to the bedroom. Maybe someone from her past laughed at a request she made in bed, or made her feel ashamed for wanting sex in the first place. Memories of that kind of stuff can surface in new relationships despite the fact that they should be left behind with old ones. Remind her that she can trust you to not make fun of her or cause her any emotional distress when it comes to expressing her desires.
Always being the initiator of sex may not seem like a deal breaker to you now, but I can pretty much guarantee that it will be in the future. You’ve already identified it as a problem in your relationship and have even asked a third party (me) for assistance because it’s one you can’t seem to solve together. Imagine year after year of being the only partner to initiate sex. You start to feel rejected, then you begin resenting your wife, and then you get angry and maybe even seek sexual gratification elsewhere.
That’s a painful way to end a marriage, and I only know because I’ve received more than one plea for advice from men and women who are at that point with their spouses. If the plan is happily ever after, then now is the time to get to the bottom of why your fiancée is holding back her desires.