If your partner doesn’t initiate intimacy, this can leave you feeling undesired. Many reasons can contribute to the lack of initiation. You can cope by addressing any underlying issues.

If you’re married, intimacy has probably had ups and downs throughout your relationship. Some people may feel frustrated or emotional when intimacy is lower. If your spouse never initiates intimacy, it can leave you feeling undesired or resentful.

There are some ways to tackle periods of lower intimacy with your spouse. It takes open communication and both people fulfilling their roles in a relationship. A variety of factors could be involved in them not initiating intimacy. There are ways you can address the situation.

Communication is the first step in addressing any issue. Your partner may not initiate intimacy for various reasons that could make it difficult. Talking about it is the first step in learning how to overcome it.

There may be significant anxiety, trauma, or desire discrepancy, a common problem that couples in long-term relationships often have. If you’re open to communicating what’s going on without defensiveness, then it may help you both have a more satisfying sex life.

If you’re facing challenges with intimacy or there’s a lack of feeling connected, a sex therapist can help you work through intimacy-related issues and give you strategies for working through it.

A sex therapist cannot only help you have a better sex life but also address the underlying causes leading to a lack of one person initiating intimacy. Intimacy goes beyond just sex; being vulnerable with each other and feeling an emotional connection is part of a relationship as well.

Taking the steps to make your spouse feel desired is essential. You can try complimenting or flirting with your partner more. Engaging in more touch that isn’t overtly sexual, like hugging or kissing more often, may make them feel special and valued.

It may be hard to do if you are not feeling desired, but it can increase your connection with your partner. They may be more open to initiating sex when they feel valued and desired.

One reason your partner may not initiate sex is that they may be taking on more of the domestic tasks in the household. 2022 research indicates that women tend to take on more household labor and perceive it as unfair more often than men.

The authors suggest that this is a reason for lower sexual desire in women partnered with men.

This unequal distribution of labor can cause more stress. If the labor continues to be unequal, it can decrease relationship satisfaction.

Sex vs. intimacy

Some people confuse the terms sex and intimacy. Sex is a physical behavior that can consist of lots of different activities such as intercourse, oral sex, anal sex, and other pleasurable actions.

Research defines intimacy as strong feelings of bonding, connectedness, and closeness. Sex can be an intimate activity for many people, but not always.

The same authors suggest that there’s a link between emotional intimacy and sexual desire. If you can be vulnerable with your spouse or partner, and feel close and connected, this can increase the desire for sex.

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There are many reasons why your spouse may not initiate sex. Getting to the root of the lack of initiation can create a healthier sex life for you both.

Traditional gender roles

One reason that your spouse may not initiate sex is due to attitudes about traditional gender roles. Research suggests that women may have challenges with initiating sex due to beliefs that men should be more assertive and dominant about initiating sex.

While not everyone holds these beliefs about traditional gender roles, it may be important to have a conversation with your partner about what messages they have received about sex and who should initiate it.

Communicating expectations may give some important insight into what underlying messages may affect you both.

Mental health challenges

They may have anxiety about initiating sex. It may be hard to initiate because they’re unsure how to initiate, or they fear rejection. Asking them if this is an issue may be an area to communicate with your spouse about more and make them feel safe to initiate.

Mental health challenges like anxiety, depression, and stress can cause difficulties with sex. If your partner has a trauma history, this may also make initiating and talking about sex challenging. Listening without judgment and providing reassurance may be helpful in these situations.

Desire discrepancy

When one person has a higher sex drive, and another has a lower sex drive relative to their partner, this is called sex desire differences. This occurs commonly in couples and, according to 2020 research, is one of the main reasons couples seek out relationship therapy.

The authors note that the factors influencing sexual desire can be interpersonal, individual, or societal. Sex desire differences can happen for various reasons; discussing what factors may influence desire may be helpful in these situations.

Unequal mental loads

If your partner takes on most of the unpaid labor, this can lead to problems in your relationship. A 2023 review of heterosexual couples found that women tend to take on more of the mental labor, especially when it comes to parenting and child care decisions.

The authors also indicate that due to the increased mental labor, compared to men, women experience negative consequences, such as:

  • higher stress levels
  • decreased life and relationship satisfaction
  • negative impacts on their career

If you aren’t sharing your part of the unpaid labor, this can drive a wedge between you and your partner, which can result in lower sex drive or desire.

Various factors could be at play if your spouse isn’t initiating intimacy. Open communication is vital to healthy and intimate relationships with your spouse.

If you or your partner are having trouble discussing what’s going on, you may seek out the help of a sex therapist. You can find a sex therapist near you using the AASECT directory.