Husbands of gate-keeping and refusing wives often say that even more than sex, their desire is to be desired. My husband says there’s nothing that makes him feel more like a man than being wanted by his woman. It’s a caveman thing, I’m told.
Throughout my years of restricting sex, one of the common refrains I heard was that he wanted me to initiate sex sometimes. My usual response was along these lines:
Seriously? It’s bad enough that I have to have sex, but now I have to be the one to ask for it? That makes no sense. If you want sex, you initiate.
Or, Fine. I’ll initiate sex when I want it—which is, like, almost never.
I couldn’t believe the man. He was the one who wanted sex and thought we needed to do it more. I was perfectly content with our sex life. And what was the point of me initiating anyway? He would know that I didn’t mean it, right? How would that make him feel wanted?
Now, I cringe reading my own words, even though there is still part of me that can still see my old logic in them. My husband opened his heart to me. He made himself vulnerable to me. At some level, I think I recognized that he was being authentic and vulnerable with me, and I reacted against that as well. How dare he be real with me? That makes me look bad because I’m won’t do the same thing. So my reaction was to not provide him with what he had just told me he desired. It was to taunt him with how he wouldn’t know it was real desire if I did initiate.
On very rare occasions, I would initiate—by saying something like, “So, I suppose you’re going to want sex tonight? Fine. Let’s go get it over with.”
My heart was horrid.
After I began to open my heart and body to my husband, I had a lot to learn. During the early months of intentionally making some changes, I focused first on being an active participant when we were having sex; then, I worked on not saying “no.” My next big thing was to try to initiate sometimes. I didn’t understand why it mattered to my husband who started a sexual encounter. In my effort to try to do things differently, I decided to try to initiate just to be able to check it off the list of all the effort I was making. (Confession: I had a mental checklist in my head, and I was pretty sure that one day, I’d be able to pull it out, show him all the things I’d done that he’d asked, and then make my own demands. My transformation began for selfish reasons, and it took time and a lot of work to control that selfishness.)
It couldn’t be too hard, right? I remembered initiating during our early years, so I’d done it before. And by now, I was actually starting to enjoy being more sexually active. I was starting to feel more content in our marriage outside the bedroom and was thinking that maybe things could really get better. Initiation? No problem!
You know the phrase, “Use it or lose it”? Yeah, that’s what had happened. I had absolutely no idea what to do.
I’d spent almost twenty years learning how to creatively say “no,” “not now,” and “fine” (usually said with a martyr-like sigh). I’d never learned how to say, “Ya wanna?”
It took me a long time to work my way up to it. I needed to learn to express willingness to accommodate his sexual interest. Then I needed to learn how to express my own interest (and by then, I had some!). Each of these steps took several months. I needed to try things, get comfortable, say things in the dark so he couldn’t watch me say the words, try new phrases, and touch him in new ways. Bit by bit, I got more comfortable with this.
One of the things we need to remember while we are trying to break out of hurtful sexual patterns is that learning is a process. We have to unlearn bad habits and then learn new and good ones. I knew that what my husband really wanted was for me to say, “I want you.” So many times, I would think about how I just wasn’t able to do that. I wanted to give up and stop trying—but I pushed myself. Each small thing I tried, I repeated until it became comfortable and felt natural. And then I tried one small step further. And each small step became a bit easier to take.
Slowly, as I was opening my heart to my husband and finding my courage, I realized that my desire for him was genuinely increasing. I began to really want him, for my own sexual sake and not just for his. So one day, I initiated because I had a hunger for my man.
After years and years of sexual restriction, my husband finally experienced his desire. I will never forget the look in his eyes the first time I said, “I want you. Now.” And really, really meant it.
My caveman was very, very happy.
Image courtesy of Stuart Miles / FreeDigitalPhotos.net