How Each Spouse Can Initiate in Marriage
By Jaime Jo Wright, Crosswalk.com
You've seen or heard it a thousand times. The old "I have a headache" excuse typically applied to women trying to ward off their husbands' advances. Granted, I think popular culture has shortchanged the husbands a bit here because they can get "too tired" themselves. The fact is, we're all human. This means, initiating within a marriage can be tricky for some. For others, maybe it's no big deal. But who should initiate? How should they initiate? When should they initiate, and—I see a pattern developing here. So, let's do it. Let's talk about sex. The who, the what, the when, the where, and the whys of it!
Who – well, preferably, your spouse.
But let's bypass that rather obvious moral criterion and ask ourselves, who should initiate? Is there a role to play in the regard of who brings it up as the next pastime? In the days of old, traditionally, it was a very male-dominated role. The man needed it, and the woman complied. We've found this changing significantly with culture, and frankly, as one studies Scripture, there are no specific passages that state it is the man's role to initiate lovemaking.
Rather, there is the reference in I Corinthians 7 where Paul writes that "The husband should give to his wife her conjugal rights, and likewise the wife to her husband." In very simplified terms, the meaning behind this verse is that marriage is an act of sacrifice and love with the intent to please the other. It isn't an issue of dominance or submission; rather, it is a quest to honor and cherish the other and their needs/desires.
So, who should initiate becomes a moot question. It could be either-or. The idea is that the response of the one being asked as well as the asker does so with a desire to please, not solely to receive fulfillment. Should there be a desire that makes one uncomfortable, the other should respond with respect and love, being cautious to not take it as a slight or rejection, but a preference or simply a frame of mind at that moment in time.
What – what is initiation?
Initiation is instigating the event. This means making the first move, sending the first hint, creating a scenario that will inspire an end result. This does not imply a requirement, a forcing upon, or a guilting into. Initiating is typically understood as a request of sorts. Meaning that a "no" may be an appropriate response and should be respected.
Within the construct of marriage, there will be times when a spouse prefers to refuse an initiation. It is important that this is respected. Granted, if it happens frequently and consistently, other underlying issues may need to be addressed. But otherwise, it is important to recognize that initiation also involves emotion. Treat your spouse and your reaction to their initiation as such. Tenderly. With consideration. Be cautious of an irritated response, or annoyance, or flippancy. Initiation, even in marriage, can take bravery to make that first move. Think of your spouse and temper your reaction with kindness and love.
When – when should you initiate?
Let's be honest. Before you initiate, how often do you observe your spouse and their current frame of mind, state of energy, and emotional well-being? Sex often is an inward-facing need that drives a person into asking to have that need met rather than seeking to meet someone else's need.
If we return to the Scripture in I Corinthians, in short, you both belong to each other. You should both be invested in cherishing and treasuring the needs of the other. This means you may be craving physical interaction while your spouse is craving to be left alone. Have you identified this? Are you willing to step back and give them a night off? Or maybe, you're dog tired after a long day, but you notice your spouse is particularly affectionate and dropping all the signals. You know where their mind is going; you know what they need. Have you identified that maybe they need you, even though you're tired, and showing them your love is just as important as any other event you took part in today?
See, again, when we're looking out for the other person, personal interest becomes secondary. Your priority becomes your spouse and their needs. In a strong and healthy marriage, this means one will acquiesce to another's need to rest, and another time, one will muster enough energy to show their love to the other who has energy in spades. In a perfect situation, you're both ready, willing, and able, and the "when" becomes semantics as to the literal "where."
Where – well, this is sort of up to you as a couple.
But what we can say is initiating time together should be done in a proper setting. Be aware of your surroundings. What will make your spouse uncomfortable? A hint during a public event? Then avoid that. That's not kind or polite, and it could be self-serving if it gets you excited, but it mortifies your spouse. What is your spouse currently engaged in? There's nothing worse than being knee-deep in a task list with your mind solely focused on production only to be interrupted with the flirtatious suggestion of a spouse who wants you to drop everything for a good time. Use discretion where you choose to initiate, whether that has to do with your actual physical location or what is going on around you.
How – How to initiate? Keep it simple. And by that, I mean, don't complicate the situation by initiating with self-seeking purposes. Go into the initiation by observing your spouse. Is this a good time? Are they in good spirits and mindset? Will this hurt or help the relationship at this point in time?
Remembering that marriage is about serving the other means that how you initiate will have a lot to do with what your spouse needs. Maybe you don't really need or even enjoy lovemaking. But maybe your spouse does. Think about the magnitude of the moment when you initiate? They'll likely be stunned, pleased, and probably feel highly valued because they know your heart. There are nuances to every relationship. This means all that you just read needs to be tempered to your marriage. If your marriage is struggling, initiation will probably become even trickier. If your marriage is healthy, this may just be a reminder not to become selfish with your desires but always to keep your spouse's needs a priority.
Remember, a husband and wife's coming together is a unification of body, mind, and spirit. It brings you together in a way nothing else will. It's an act of intimacy that, if handled honorably and with self-sacrificial love, will bring you both even closer together. At which point, who initiates and how it's initiated becomes a non-issue. The issue will become that time together when the world falls away when it is just the two of you, and when you are the most vulnerable you'll ever be with another human being. In the eyes of God, this union is sacred.
Related Resource: Listen to our new, FREE podcast on marriage: Team Us. The best marriages have a teamwork mentality. Find practical, realistic ideas for strengthening your marriage. Listen to an episode here, and then head over to LifeAudio.com to check out all of our episodes:
Photo credit: © Getty Images/Goran13
Jaime Jo Wright is the winner of the Carol, Daphne du Maurier, and INSPY Awards. She's also the Publishers Weekly and ECPA bestselling author of three novellas. The Christy Award-Winning author of “The House on Foster Hill”, Jaime Jo Wright resides in the hills of Wisconsin writing suspenseful mysteries stained with history's secrets. Jaime lives in dreamland, exists in reality, and invites you to join her adventures at jaimewrightbooks.com!