Dear Lori and Jeff,
My wife and I still have great sex but it’s way less frequent than it was when first met a few years ago. My wife says she wants me to initiate more but I really don’t like feeling rejected when she isn’t in the mood. I try to look for signs from her that show she’s interested as it gets later in the evening. I listen for subtle things she might say, like if she’s tired or stressed. I check out what she’s wearing to bed and whether or not she’s put in her retainer. I know this isn’t a foolproof strategy but I’m at a loss of what else to do.
Looking For Signs
Lori and Jeff: We often see couples struggling to get on the same intimacy wavelength. Your experience of a slowed-down sex life is common for most relationships, and not necessarily indicative of a problem in and of itself. However, if one or both partners is unsatisfied, it’s worth putting in the effort to reignite the spark. Often it’s men who are looking for more, and for a good reason. Many men experience sex as a way to feel emotionally connected, and a dry spell can evoke feelings of vulnerability, insecurity and detachment. But how you make a move (or avoid doing so) can have a huge impact on whether you’re getting any.
Jeff: Stop thinking about sex like a baseball game where you’re looking to the third base coach to wave you home. Sometimes you have to make that decision on your own and risk the possibility of being tagged out. The bottom line is that you have to make it easy and fun for both of you to talk about sex so you’re not resorting to cryptic measures to avoid feeling rejected. If you’re not comfortable talking about it, it’s up to you to figure out why — don’t leave it up to her to break the ice.
If your wife isn’t in the mood, it likely has nothing to do with you. Learn to separate whether she wants to have sex with you on any given day, from whether she loves you, accepts you and approves of you. This will help lessen the fear of rejection and getting relegated to the bench.
Lori: Waiting for her to initiate doesn’t ever give her the experience of feeling desired, and that’s a downer for anyone. Furthermore, being passive, subtle, unsure or insecure in the bedroom is not going to ignite the flames of passion. For many women, it’s a huge turn-off. I was recently listening to Esther Perel’s podcast in which she said women often need to feel that their partners are strong and self-assured in order to be secure in really opening up sexually. We want to know that if we unleash our most uninhibited selves, you can at least handle it, and at best, join us in it. That doesn’t mean you need to swagger in like an adult film star, but she’s definitely going to be more interested if you bring the energy of a confident man rather than trepidation.
Lori and Jeff: Couples should see sex as a dynamic of the relationship rather than a series of events. It’s an overall atmosphere of sensuality and titillating tension that you need to play with throughout the day, not just at 10 p.m. She’s still not going to be into it 100% of the time. No one is. But occasionally not wanting sex is a non-issue when your communication about it is solid and your connection is simmering.
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.