Lacking The Initiative in Your Relationship? 6 Ways to Change

One of the most common complaints from women that I hear is that their guy doesn’t take enough initiative in their relationship or marriage. These women feel frustrated and burdened because they feel they have to do a lot of the “heavy lifting” in the relationship when it comes to planning, organizing, structuring and attending to things in and out of the relationship. They don’t feel that their guy is involved in the romantic part of the relationship, whether that means initiating sex, physical touching, date nights, or general interest in the relationship’s well being.

This causes women to feel unnecessarily responsible for doing a lot of the work required, and leaves good feelings about a partner compromised. Trust gets eroded, and after enough time, the relationship starts to break down after resentment, distrust and feelings of loneliness ferment and change a partner’s position in the relationship. At the extreme, it beacons your marital partner to “play the parent” to your “child,” which kills emotional, romantic and sexual intimacy.

This lack of initiative could include the relationship or marriage itself, but can also be played out in the arenas of parenting, budgeting, trip planning, domestic and chores, and lots of other places. What men don’t always realize is that constant lack of initiative promotes relationship “scars” for years to come. It chips away at the foundation of your otherwise good relationship.

Does this lack of initiative pattern characterize your relationship or marriage? Are you lacking the initiative in your relationship? How would you know it if you’re not?

A lot of men simply ignore the signs or messages when women try to tell them otherwise. They brush it off or dismiss their partner’s complaints, relegating them to the bin of the unimportant concerns. That’s a dangerous stance to take.

If you think you’ve gotten lazy, or have had a problem taking the initiative in your relationship, consider these 6 ways to change your lack of initiation:

1. Start by listening and taking her words more seriously. She’s probably been telling you for sometime what her issues are, but have you been tuned in? Has she felt like you are really taking her seriously, and not just giving her lip service?

2. Consider the ways from which you fail to take the initiative: what could alternative behaviors look like? What would you do differently if you were in her shoes?

3. Think about the areas where you can take more initiation in your relationship or marriage: romantically (initiate more physical touch, sex, more activities together), domestically (cleaning, cooking, trash, bills, parenting), hobbies (planning nights out, vacations, etc.), or general interest in her well-being, stress or overall health.

4. Admit to yourself what prevents you from taking initiative: laziness? depression? thinking about yourself? Disinterest in your partner? Boredom? Resentment or defiance? All of these could be valid reasons once you admit them to yourself, put them out on the table and start talking about them. They can change your stance and make you more open once you start acknowledging them.

5. Approach your relationship with a different “How can I help?” attitude. It might change your perspective, and change your approach to taking initiative. Take your marriage more seriously, and think about how the things you do (and don’t do) have effects on your partner – positively or negatively. Find your place of empathy for your wife or girlfriend, and see what the world looks like from her perspective.

6. Find out what motivates you to initiate. You may not be a planner by nature, or are particular interested in doing many things to take more initiative. But what do you do that motivates you? Taking the initiative at home or in your marriage may look different than her version of you having more initiative. So, communicate about it, and make sure she understands that it’s still initiative on your part – even if it looks different from her version. You may be taking initiative in your work, or in other ways you haven’t been validated for, so start communicating more with your wife, girlfriend or partner.

You allocate hard-earned time, resources and money on the things that you value most, and sometimes, your relationship could use some more of that attention and resources. I think one of the best ways is to ask yourself the above questions, start to take a bit more initiative, and see how your relationship improves as a result. Without the constant “stepping up” to take more initiative, your relationship (and you) may have problems on your hands down the road as a result.

About Jason

As "The Man That Men Will Talk To," Jason Fierstein, MA, LPC is a private practice counselor and psychotherapist for men and couples in the greater Phoenix, Arizona, area. He works with struggling men to find happiness in their lives, and with their wives.
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