Better Relationships ♯5. initiate sex

5. Intiate SexUnless both partners are initiators, things in the bedroom very soon get out of balance. The initiator will tire of their role and become resentful, and sex becomes a point of friction. If the initiator gives up, this can be a relief to the other, or it may be a disappointment – interpreted as the initiator lacking interest in them. This is a common reason that people stop having sex.

In every relationship one partner will be more interested in having sex than the other. It may be a woman or a man.  Dr David Schnarch identifies this as the High Desire Partner (HDP) and the Low Desire Partner (LDP). Know that there will be a difference in desire – it may be nominal, it may change over time (or alter in different relationships) or it can be major point of distress and conflict.  Whatever the disparity, the reality is that the LDP controls the sex – this means sex isn’t going to happen unless the low desire partner is willing.

Sex is an essential element of a good relationship – all those bonding hormones and delicious contact makes us feel good, so all you LDPs need to take responsibility for ensuring it is part of your shared life. Even if you are not feeling sexual, often just making the decision to do it changes how you feel and once you get started, you warm to it. How often have you said (or thought) that was great, we should do it more often?

Loss of libido will happen during stressful times and at different life stages, and over time our sexuality changes (for some becoming more dynamic and meaningful in mid age and beyond). In all relationships, sexuality fluctuates but in good relationships the biggest element is desire for our partner. We may not always feel hot and bothered yet still have enthusiasm for sexual connection with our beloved.

Its well accepted that there are four stages to sexual response; desire, arousal, orgasm and resolution, but new research shows that these stages may not necessarily happen in this order for all women.  Many women need to feel aroused before they have desire.  This changes the picture completely. Most women will recognise this experience; You’re having a nice time together, and he comes on to you. You’re not feeling any sexual desire, but now there is pressure to respond or not, and better to fend him off before hope turns to expectation.  But this new information means that if you go with it, and just allow yourself to be open to becoming aroused, you may begin to feel desire, and if not, you’ve stayed responsive and this alone expands your intimate connection.

When both partners are initiators, the occasions when one is unresponsive to the other’s advances will be far more benign. When rejection is not an established pattern, when is giving in is not ‘mercy fucking’, making love can be a shared intimacy where each is free to express themselves without coercion or resentment.

Sex is one of the first casualties in most couple difficulties. There are many things that will get in the way of having good sex –or having sex at all.  So give it attention, talk openly about it, and if its a big stumbling block, then get some help.


There are two kinds of sex, classical and baroque. Classical sex is romantic, profound, serious, emotional, moral, mysterious, spontaneous, abandoned, focused on a particular person, and stereotypically feminine.

Baroque sex is pop, playful, funny, experimental, conscious, deliberate, amoral, anonymous, focused on sensation for sensation’s sake, and stereotypically masculine.

Ideally, a sexual relation ought to create a satisfying tension between the two modes or else blend them so well that the distinction disappears.

– Ellen Willis

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