Flip the Switch from Initiation to Availability

Today’s post is aimed at higher drive spouses—wives and husbands—who feel frustrated by the gap in sexual interest.

If you’re the lower drive spouse, you may appreciate this post and want to share it with your higher drive mate. If you’re the higher drive spouse, but you’re not frustrated, you may still like this tip. And if you’re equally matched, my advice here will also serve you during the busy seasons of your lives.

This is not for sexless marriages, which have greater challenges. (See instead this post for a rundown of my series on sexless marriages.)

But assuming a higher drive spouse and a willing but less interested mate, let’s get on with it.

How Often Do You Initiate?

What percentage of sex initiation attempts in your marriage come from you?

That’s the question I recently asked of my higher drive wife community, but I also answered it for myself—80%.

Yep. In my marriage, I’d guess 4 out of 5 times someone suggests a sexual encounter, that someone is me. One to 3 of those 4 times, I get a favorable answer. One to 3 of those times, I get a pass. But most of Spock’s passes come with rain checks, so I certainly don’t feel deprived.

In fact, by happenstance, I made a discovery about initiating that has made the current libido gap between my husband and me much less distressing. I flipped the switch from initiation to availability.

Initiation and Hope Deferred

Initiation simply means getting something started. That can happen in all kinds of ways—some obvious, some less so. But at some point, there’s a word, a look, an action that indicates one spouse wants to make love.

The bid for sexual attention is made, and the other spouse must decide whether to match that bid and go for it.

As the higher drive spouse, you may already start from the perspective of not initiating every single time you’d like to have sex. Or you may go ahead and give it a shot each time, figuring you definitely won’t get a yes if you don’t even ask.

Regardless, if you’re frustrated about the frequency of sex in your marriage, you likely initiate, get turned down, and then feel hurt. Because somewhere between the ask and the no is hope — hope that this time, your beloved will say yes! And as the Bible so aptly tells us, “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life” (Proverbs 13:12).

What if you could feel hope without being hurt when it doesn’t work out the way you want?

Availability and Desire Fulfilled

Hailing back to my 4 out of 5 times that I initiate sex in my marriage, 2 of those are straightforward initiation. I say what I want, he can say yes or “another time.”

But the other 2 times—half of the time, that is—I just make myself available. No strings, no expectations. Hope, yes. But without real initiation, I’m not caught up as much in the outcome. I haven’t really put out a bid.

It’s the difference, I suppose, between saying, “Hey, if you want to play a board game, I’m up for it,” and saying, “Let’s play a board game!” while you’re setting up game pieces on the kitchen table. If your potential partner says no, in which version have you invested more and will thus feel more hurt?

Intimacy Revealed Ad

“I’m Available” Statements

If you go this route, you can’t be ambiguous. You have to be explicit that you are available for sex from X time to Y time. But don’t wait around. If your spouse doesn’t jump on the notion right away, go busy yourself with other stuff. You’ve made it clear, they know the deal, and they can take you up on it or not.

What does that explicit statement look like? Here are a few ideas:

  • “I’m headed to bed. I’d love for you to come join me so we could have some intimate time before I fall asleep.”
  • “If you want, I can give you a massage. If that sounds good to you, take off your clothes and lie down.”
  • “Just so you know, I’m feeling particularly interested in sex tonight. If you’re up for it, let me know.”
  • As you’re headed out for work or elsewhere: “It’s been a while, so sex today would be great. Text me if you’re interested.”

In all of these cases, you’re making it clear what you want, but you’re not setting an expectation that it will happen.

Paradoxically, some lower drive spouses are more willing to say yes to an if you wanna invitation than a let’s do it suggestion. It’s a softer startup and feels less insistent.

That’s what’s actually happened in my own marriage. Perhaps it was that my tone and facial expression were less tense, which made the prospect of sex even more appealing to my husband. I’m not sure. I just know that since flipping this switch, I’ve felt less tense, more accepted, and happier with our sex life.

Have you tried availability instead of direct initiation. If so, how has that gone? If not, could flipping this switch help?

Also check out 40 Ways to Initiate Sex with Your Husband here on Hot, Holy & Humorous and and Why Doesn’t She Initiate? from our new blog for husbands, KHS Ministry!

19 thoughts on “Flip the Switch from Initiation to Availability”

  1. In our 40 years of marriage, my spouse has only initiated sex once. She has told me that she just “feels uncomfortable” initiating…

    Since my spouse would turn me down most of the time early in our marriage, I now just make myself available so she does not feel pressure for sex from me.

    1. These are the instances when I wish I could talk to the spouse! Of course it’s uncomfortable. Everything’s uncomfortable the first (and second and third) time you do something. But I agree that if your spouse has drawn a line, it’s best to figure out how to work around it without letting it douse your intimacy or create resentment. Always do the best you can with what — and the lovely who — that you have.

  2. This is interesting as I’ve always considered “availability” to be my lower-drive substitute for initiation. My husband would like me to actually initiate more (which makes me feel more like a cougar pouncing on her boy-toy…not sexy) but for the most part I’m simply available – with the exception of certain times like when I’m making dinner or under a deadline to get out the door, etc. But honestly from blogs like yours I had always imagined this to be a cop-out that would be met with disapproval by those who insist that wives must initiate more often. How would you flip this topic to describe what availability should look like from the lower-drive side of things?

    1. “My husband would like me to actually initiate more (which makes me feel more like a cougar pouncing on her boy-toy…not sexy) ”

      Maybe not for you. But I bet it would be for him.

  3. Interesting approach. Some men would probably find your method less intimidating than direct initiation by a woman. As for the subject of female initiation, some Christian women seem to have been taught that men are to initiate everything sexual. This becomes a mental block, despite the depiction in Song of Songs where the woman is clearly on the prowl.

    1. Well, I don’t know that I’d use the phrase “on the prowl.” That has a negative connotation to many women. But the Song of Songs wife was certainly comfortable expressing her sensuality!

  4. Your statements make clear the availability, but also the desire (ie “I’d love for you”… “particularly interested”… “would be great”). In my experience, voicing desire like is still initiation.

    In my marriage, on the occasional times my wife initiates, she always starts with, “If you want to have sex tonight, I’m free”… or “I’m not too tired if you want to”. Sort of like she’s doing me a favor, so if _I_ want to have sex, she can muster up the strength to do it too. You might say she’s “available”, but also indifferent. At this point in my marriage, that’s less enjoyable than NOT having sex, since she’s starting with a reluctant attitude, and the entire act is rote and unengaging.

    Is she available? Yes. But she still has no engagement.

    TLDR: Simple availability isn’t good enough. You have to express desire–which seems more like initiation.

    1. Have you asked her what she’s feeling in that moment? Because it might not be what you think. That might actually be her way of expressing desire. Plus, many women have a more responsive desire, meaning that it doesn’t really kick in until she makes the decision to be available, engage, and things get going. Yes, I agree desire matters! But I’m just wondering if you’re “reading the tea leaves” right.

      1. Understood.

        How, then, do you reconcile this with “no means no” when it is always no? Never get a chance for any “responsive drive” to even start.

        She is also famous for telling me two or three days after the fact that she was interested but I never asked. But never says a word. I was just supposed “to know” when there are no signs, smoke signals, flirting, code words. Nothing.
        Certainly never came out and actually SAID anything either. But I can all but guarantee if I would have tried on that said day it would likely have been no. And no reason given either unless asked for. Some excuse or other. Over and over again. I quit asking the reason a long time ago. Doesn’t really matter in the end anyway does it? No soup for you!
        I don’t ask for “rain checks” that are never honored any more either.

        1. “She is also famous for telling me two or three days after the fact that she was interested but I never asked. But never says a word. I was just supposed “to know” when there are no signs, smoke signals, flirting, code words. Nothing.
          Certainly never came out and actually SAID anything either.”

          Why aren’t you talking to her in neutral times and places (e.g., conversation while driving on a trip, walking the neighborhood, chatting on a picnic bench) about ideas for her signaling you? There are lots of ideas in this regard. A couple of simple ones: (1) Put a candle on her night table and she can light it if she’s interested, or (2) Buy pillowcases with wording on them (like HIS/HERS), and ask her to flip the pillow over to the other side if she could be persuaded to respond that evening.

          Also, it sounds like she doesn’t have a good understanding of her own sex drive. Would she be willing to check out the webinar four Christian wives did about that? A replay can be purchased here for only $5.

  5. I have all but given up on initiating. There is something incredibly humiliating and depressing when most initiating leads nowhere. It seriously messes with a man’s confidence.

    1. To me, it matters how the rejection happens. If your spouse says no, do you follow up with asking when might be a better time? I’ve found that really helps, to do that without being pushy. It shows that you aren’t going to just forget about it, that you’ll still want physical intimacy later and you’d like it prioritized. Then again, if you’re getting turned down a lot, there are likely underlying issues that need to be addressed. And that requires a different kind of conversation. You might start here with some tips for that: How to Talk about Sexual Problems with Your Spouse

      1. It is something my wife and I have discussed many times. I am very careful not to push, but it has become a deep wound. It is not so much the getting turned down but sense that I am taken for granted. We have been married for nearly three decades and I will be here no matter the results. God has called me to follow His word. She recently told me that she wanted to know how she could make our marriage better. I believe she is honest in the question. I said that I would like her encouragement, but she is my biggest critic. I blame her parents, as this is a trait that has been passed down to generations. Sometimes God calls us to endure difficulties in order to rely on Him. I do, however, agree with the individual that wishes the sexual desire would be stopped. It would make life so much easier.

        1. I hear stuff like this all the time: “‘It would make life so much easier’ if my sex drive would just go away.”

          Actually, it might be easier in that your emotional pain would be at least temporarily relieved, but the relationship itself wouldn’t necessarily be better. We may think the marriage would go from frustrated to peaceable, but when neither spouse is invested in sex, it often goes from frustrated to stale. I continue to pray for a better way, one that brings the couple together in deeper intimacy. And that one spouse who still wants a physical connection can be the catalyst that makes it happen.

          Blessings!

    1. No, you don’t. I know you think you do, but having talked to a lot of low/no desire spouses — and been one myself at one time — it’s not so great. I’m sorry for the hurt you feel, but changing places would yet cause tension. What’s ideal is for two spouses of different desires to come together and prioritize intimacy of all kinds. Praying for your marriage.

      1. “No, you don’t. I know you think you do, but having talked to a lot of low/no desire spouses — and been one myself at one time — it’s not so great. I’m sorry for the hurt you feel, but changing places would yet cause tension. What’s ideal is for two spouses of different desires to come together and prioritize intimacy of all kinds. Praying for your marriage.“

        I appreciate this honest response.

        I personally hate being the higher drive wife.

        I truly believe I have married the best man, it just breaks my heart to be turned down by him so often.

        Before we got married I had always been told that I needed to be submissive to his desire, I just never dreamed it would be lower than mine. I just try to keep my head up and think that being submissive is also just leaving him alone if that’s what he needs and try not to over think about it.

        1. Thanks, and yes, I feel for you!

          But you might take a look at Song of Songs and so how overt the wife there is in pursuing sexual intimacy with her husband. I don’t think it’s a lack of marital submission to speak up for something that benefits both of you and your marriage. It’s how it’s done that matters.

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