How Do You Initiate Sex?

Bless your husband with your desire for him.

Has your husband ever said he would like you to initiate sex more?

Mine has. It used to be that when he would say that, I would tell him that since he was the one who wanted sex so much, he needed to initiate it. It made absolutely no sense to me that I would initiate something I didn’t even want to do.

The closest I ever came to initiating sex in those days was to say, “I suppose you want to have sex, so let’s get it over with.”


As part of my effort to grow as a wife, I have made a point of initiating—a lot.

Or so I thought.

A few months ago, my husband and I were listening to a marriage podcast while we were in the car. One of the hosts was talking about how much he loves it when his wife initiates. I sat there feeling all smug, thinking about how nice it was that I had that one figured out.

Big Guy burst that bubble, though, when he said words that sounded all too familiar: “I wish you would initiate more.”

“What??!!! I initiate a lot. I initiate more than you do!”

It turns out that he and I don’t define sexual initiation in the same way.

I always thought it meant to bring up the topic of sex—you know, initiating the conversation that led to sex. If I said “how about some nakey play time?” or “how about it, Big Guy?” or “let’s go to bed,” I was initiating. If I grabbed him by the hand and walked him to the bedroom, I was initiating. Standing naked in front of him in the living room? Initiation!

If I did anything at all to indicate that I was interested in sex, or even just available and willing, I thought I was initiating.


It turns out that his definition is completely different.

For Big Guy—and, I suspect, for most guys—initiating is more than getting things started. It is also keeping things moving.

I admit that I haven’t been so good at that. Sure, I occasionally plan and prepare and take charge of part of a sexual encounter (see here and here). Generally, though, I let my husband do the driving once things get underway.

Even when I would initiate according to my definition, once we got started, I let my husband take the lead. I may offer suggestions, make requests, ask if something is okay, and redirect, but he is generally the one who sets the pace, decides what we are going to do and how, and does the work and decision-making.

Like many women, my sexuality tends to be responsive. My husband acts, and I respond to him.

Although my husband loves my sexual responsiveness, there are times he wants me to make love to him. He wants me to lead the charge.

A husband wants to feel desired by the woman he loves most in all the world. Initiation shows him that in a way that speaks deeply to him. Yes, that may be a generalization, but I’m pretty sure it’s true for a lot of husbands.

If your husband says he would like you to initiate, ask him to describe what he means. You may be as surprised as I was.


Whether you are still learning to be the first to indicate an interest in sex or you’re ready to figure out how to ravish your husband, I’d like to offer some suggestions of things you can do to initiate.

This list begins with starting the conversation that leads to sex (what I always thought initiation meant) and moves toward making love to your husband (what initiation means to my husband).

  • Think sexually. If you have even one sexual tingle, mention it to your husband. If it happens during the day when you’re apart, text him to let him know.
  • Translate. If you want to feel close to your husband and you know that sex will accomplish that, translate your mental I want the emotional closeness of afterglow into words you speak to your husband: “I want sex” or “I want you.”
  • Use words. Whispering spicy language into your husband’s ear when you arrive at his parents’ house for Sunday dinner can let him know he can look forward to some sexy time later. Remember that unspicy language can be just as expressive: “When we are in bed tonight, maybe I could kiss you all the way from your toes to your head.”
  • Communicate non-verbally. Some men would love to be grabbed or caressed between the legs. You can also wink or make kissing or licking motions with your mouth, slowly unbutton the top button of your blouse when you know your husband is looking, or hold his hand and walk him to the bedroom.
  • Be direct. Many men say they just don’t pick up hints. You may think that throwing your leg over your husband and stroking his thigh with your foot is obvious, but he may have no idea that you are trying to initiate sex.
  • Be selfish sometimes. Think about what you would enjoy. Not sure? Think of things you’ve enjoyed in the past and pick one of them to request that you and your husband do together. If your husband touches you somewhere, tell him you would rather have his mouth there instead. This may not seem to have anything to do with initiating. However, it is a way of helping you express your desire and sexuality to your husband in very specific ways. It also helps you get more comfortable making decisions about how to proceed.
  • Do something unexpected. If you and your husband have a usual progression of things (such as you kiss for a while, then you fondle each other’s sexual parts for a bit, then he stimulates you to orgasm, and then you move to intercourse), do something out of sequence—like touching him between the legs before you even start kissing.
  • Offer your husband a sexual treat that you know he likes. Instead of waiting for him to ask you for oral sex, just start doing it. (Check out these posts if you are not yet comfortable giving oral sex: Oral Blessings, Dealing with a Gag Reflex, Because He’s Worth It, and Oral Blessings: More Resources.)
  • Make it all about him sometimes. Think of things he has enjoyed, and do them. Be sure to let him see how much you enjoy his responses. If there is a position he loves that doesn’t do much for you, do it for him. I don’t mean to just let him have his way with you. I mean to offer and enjoy giving him the things he really likes—as a way of actively blessing him. Sex shouldn’t be just about him all the time (or even most of the time), but it’s a good thing to do now and then. (I’d like to note that it is also a good thing to let your husband make it all about you sometimes. It is a blessing to receive as much as it is to give.)

If you have a history of rejecting your husband’s sexual advances or initiating only by telling your husband you’d like to get sex over with, any of these things is likely to thrill him.

Start where you are, and move forward.

Get comfortable letting him know you’re interested, gradually work on being aware of and communicating your desire for your husband, and then work on lavishing him with your love.

Bless your husband with your desire for him. Give generously, seeking his deep pleasure as well as your own. Let him know that you want him and that you enjoy pouring your sexual attention into him.

It will help him feel loved in a way only you can do.

His mouth is sweetness itself; he is altogether lovely.
This is my beloved, this is my friend, daughters of Jerusalem.
Song of Songs 5:16

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17 Comments on “How Do You Initiate Sex?”

  1. My husband has said this and I thought he meant exactly what you said so the beginning. I have a lot of work to do!

    1. I have some work to do, too. I’ve practiced a little since I wrote this post, and I had to step outside my comfort zone a bit. Fortunately, I know that practice will make it easier!

  2. Initiating covers a broad territory, and you offer many helpful examples. It sounds as if husbands long to be ravished. It is wonderful to feel accepted, affirmed, appreciated. Even better to be sought out and celebrated. And perhaps a relief to know your spouse needs you in this way as desperately as you need her. One thing to say “you may touch my body and give me pleasure”; another to say “I must have you right now!”

  3. More thoughts – I understand why a husband longs for his wife to want/need him in this way as desperately as he wants/need her. He is in an incredibly vulnerable position. Yet it almost seems he is asking her to be a man instead of a woman. She lacks the testosterone that he has naturally and she carries significantly more oxytocin in her body than he does, other than when he orgasms. Chemically speaking, his need is much greater and the reward is much greater also. I’m not saying we can’t grow in this area; I just want to help us be realistic and avoid putting undue pressure on ourselves.

    1. Women often aren’t in the mood for sex until sex is already underway. Fortunately, we can initiate when we don’t feel like it yet, with the knowledge that we soon will. You’re so right, though, that no one should be expecting us to be like men. 🙂

  4. Wow. I am seriously convicted. I have really messed this one up badly. I had no idea. My husband has completely shut down. He won’t touch me or barely even speak to me. One of his complaints is that I never initiate sex, which is true…..I have complied, but not joyfully :(. I desperately want to change and please him….but I don’t know how to start now. How can I get him to trust that I have changed when he doesn’t even want me to touch him? I offered twice and was turned down coldly. Any suggestions and your prayers would be greatly appreciated.

    1. So this is coming from a husband, who had been there before. The first thing you need to do is get him alone and TALK. It needs to sound something like this – “Hey hon, I’m so sorry I have been totally clueless about your needs for me to be sexual towords you. I had no idea that it meant that much to you, and I really want to change. Will you give me another chance?”

      When a guy has been sexually neglected for a long time, there tends to be a bill wall built up. Call it a “protection wall”. You have to get through that. And it’s not easy at first. He’s going to have a really hard time trusting that you have really changed at first. You are going to start things about 90% of the time for the first few months. Don’t worry, this will change at some point, but you have to convince him that you’re really into sex for a while, and that YOU want it – he’s not “talking you into it”.

      A little note about “starting things” too – guys don’t get hints. And if we say we’re “not interested”, odds are, that if YOU show us that your’e horny, and you “need it badly”, we’d be up and ready to go in no time. Again, he’s used to always being the one that had the need, so it’s really refreshing to him to see that you need it for once. Or twice. So what does “I need it badly” look like to a guy? Rubbing yourself on him, jumping on top and starting at it, rubbing yoursel, etc. A hand on his inner thigh is not going to do it. Guys are pretty blatently sexual we it comes to getting things going, so we expect the same when you want it, even if that’s wrong. 🙂

      There is hope for your marriage! Don’t think that it’s over, or that it can’t change, because it CAN! Just be honest, keep talking about it, and don’t get dissapointed if it doesn’t change in two days. It’s a process! If you want to see a little more into how us crazy husbands think, check out my blog at

    2. StartingOver, it is going to take time for your husband to learn to trust you again. (See Rebuilding His Trust.) You start by taking steps where you are–and then give him time.

      Here are some things I would suggest:

      • Respond positively to any words or actions from your husband. If he asks for attention, give it to him (as much as possible–sometimes this just isn’t practical). Let him see that he is a priority to you.
      • Reach out to him in non-sexual ways, showing that you value his preferences and value him. This might including touching him on the shoulder when you walk by him, wearing an outfit that you know he likes, asking him what he would like for dinner and then preparing it, and expressing an interest in things that matter to him.
      • Continue to reach out to him sexually. Offering says that you’re available but not interested yourself. Instead, express a desire to be with him. In the middle of the week, you could say, “Honey, I’d like to spend some time alone with you/make love with you/rock your world” this weekend. And then be absolutely sure to follow through.
      • When he indicates that he doesn’t want you to touch him, how does he indicate this–with words or with actions? If he says he doesn’t want you to touch him, his words might be a protection against further hurt. If you reach out to touch him, does he push you away? If you initiate sex and he turns you down, respond to that with love. This might mean a hug and the words, “I’m disappointed. Let me know when you change your mind.” And then make another effort the following night.
      • Tell him–in conversation or in a letter–that you are convicted. Tell him what you understand about how you’ve hurt him, and tell him that you are committed to doing what is needed to turn things around. If he tells you he doesn’t believe you, acknowledge his right to feel that way–but do what you’ve said you will do anyway.

        It may be a long time before he believes you. I didn’t sense that my husband believed it was real and was going to be okay for about a year after I started making the effort to change. It was very hard to persist through that, but I did it with God’s help.

        You will be in my prayers.

  5. Mission:Husband,
    First of all, thank you for your response and encouragement! It means a lot to me, especially coming from a man who has been there! I have been feeling pretty hopeless. So, to clarify, even though he is at this point barely speaking to me, I should attempt the conversation with him and then, when (if) he gives me permission, initiate physically? I don’t want to disrespect/control him further by “pushing” him if he is not ready, but I totally get that he needs to see me be into it. I just wasn’t sure if I should initiate without a word, or get his “okay” first, or just let him know I’m ready when he is…..

    1. Would your husband be open to being touched in bed? Even if you don’t touch him sexually, just reaching out to “spoon” him might make a difference. Some guys would like their wives to just start in touching the sexual parts–but if your husband is barely communicating with you, it’s hard to know if that would be good.

      I would suggest a conversation or possibly a letter to let him know that you are committed to change.

    2. Yes! Conversation first, then (and this sounds funny, but it’s true), he needs to know you NEED him. He wants to know you’re horny, and that you are desperate for sexual satisfaction. NOTHING turns a man on, like his wife when she’s all worked up. For example, if you’re both in bad (Sorry about the graphic), instead of reaching over and grabbing him, start lightly rubbing yourself, and bucking your hips slightly. Say something about really needing him NOW, and watch that man spring into action. 🙂 Sometimes when you just go for his junk, he feels like you’re just trying to “be the good wife”. But if YOU are the one that is needing it, he feels much better about getting into it too. There’s nothing hotter than a wife who is so excited, she can’t stop touching herself. 😉 Does that make sense at all?

  6. Thank you both for replying, and for the details. You’re right, I have been completely clueless! And selfish. He sleeps in bed with me, but not touching me at all. I have given him a few back massages and he is tense, but allowed it and thanked me. When I tried to touch him sexually, he said no and got out of bed (it was morning). I also offered him something he really likes sexually verbally and he said no. I was very hurt but I tried not to show it…..I am sure this is how he has been feeling as well :(. And I haven’t thought about communicating that it would be something I would want/need; he may have thought of my offer as me not being interested myself, as you said. I did verbalize a few weeks ago how wrong and sorry I was and that I was going to change, but he did not really respond. I don’t think he believes me at all.

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