Who initiates sexual activity in your marriage?
Are you ok with how it is?

One of the more common areas of sexual dissatisfaction I see in my office is in the area of initiating sexual activity. Complaints of who initiates, how often, and how lovemaking is initiated are common. To help address this concern, this series of articles will address ways to enrich and problem-solve sexual initiation your marriage.

“If we have sex, it’s because I asked for it. I really wish she would approach me sometimes.”

The most common complaint comes from husbands wishing their wives would initiate sex more frequently. While I do work with couples were both initiate sex fairly equally, what is typical is that the spouse with the highest sexual drive generally initiates sex the vast majority of the time. Statistically speaking, this is generally the husband.

If we think in terms of roles, we can identify one spouse as the usually initiating and the other as usually receptive. Sometimes, one or both spouses might also be resistant — avoiding or not wanting sex. Surveying couples who attended the Passionate Intimacy Workshop reveals that 69% of husbands identify with the role of initiator. Similarly, 63% of wives generally play the receptive role.

Husband’s Self-reported Role

Wife’s Self-reported Role

This means if you are the husband and feel like you typically initiate sex in your marriage, you are among the majority and, in fact, quite normal. So is your wife. This dynamic is tied pretty closely to the type of desire we experience as males and females. Note that if you are a lower drive male, or a higher drive female, your marriage may seem “backwards” in regards to who initiates. This doesn’t make you broken or strange. You are like about 1 in 5 people.

Being “Resistant” for a day or two can be normal and is not wrong in and of itself. Talking through the “why” of these time with your spouse can help you gain a better understanding of what roles you each play and can be part of a healthy intimacy-building process. If you consistently live in the resistant category, however, I recommend you problem-solve for yourself. Do you know why? What are you doing to resolve the block?

What was particularly interesting to me as I reviewed the survey responses was the number of individuals who do not initiate even when they are interested. Of those spouses who identified themselves as primarily receptive, 31% said that even if they were “in the mood” they would generally wait for their spouse to initiate. Over 42% said they would sometimes wait for their spouse to initiate even if they were interested in sex.

There may be a number of reasons for this, but if you tend to wait for your spouse to initiate even when you are “in the mood,” do you know why you wait? Sometimes waiting a bit is best for your marriage. Sometimes it’s not. I do think this is worth talking about as a couple!


I invite you to have a Working Date as a couple. Discuss the following questions.

  • Which do you think is most characteristic of you in your marriage? Initiating, Receptive, or Resistant? Why do you believe that is most characteristic of you?
  • Do you like this role in your marriage? (Not do you want your spouse to be different, but do you like who you are?)
  • How often do you wait for your spouse to initiate even if you are in the mood? What are your reasons for this

Remember to stay curious. Your spouse is not you and doesn’t think or want like you. Rather than trying to convince them to be something they aren’t, seek to discover who your spouse is.

Next time… How do you initiate?