Getting It Started

Your Initiation Style Can Make Or Break Your Sex Life

Get to know the six initiation styles — and be better in bed.

by Vanessa & Xander Marin
Originally Published: 
Close up of man kissing woman's neck to initiate sex

When it comes to sex, someone always has to step up and get it started. As much as you may dream of having those magic fairytale moments when you just look at each other in the right way and it’s on, sex in a long-term relationship almost always requires a more active initiation. One person needs to get the ball rolling. But initiating always feels vulnerable because it means putting yourself in the position of being turned down.

To help minimize feelings of vulnerability and increase chances of connection, I developed my initiation styles model. We all have different things that turn us on in the moment, and unique ways that we like to be invited to have sex. You might be daydreaming about your partner aggressively pushing you up against a wall, but to your partner that might feel demanding or even unsafe.

Based on my work with thousands of people, I’ve identified six unique initiation styles. Your style is your preferred initiation technique. You may respond positively to any of the six styles at any given time, but your initiation style is the one you’re most likely to say “Hell yes!” to the most consistently. The initiation styles model also thinks about desire in a holistic way, and invites you to think about the mental, emotional, physical, relational, and sensory dynamics that get you interested in sex.

1. Excite Me

You want to create an element of anticipation around sex. For you, initiation is a slow burn. You want to keep the Sex Drive Simmer going with your partner for days, teasing each other with knowing looks and taunting touch. You like sex to be an open topic of conversation and initiation to be verbal. You might enjoy scheduling sex because it gives you the opportunity to build up desire. You may also appreciate some additional stimulation to get you going in the moment, like reading erotica or talking dirty.

2. Take Care of Me

You feel the most turned on when your partner is being a caretaker. You may feel so overloaded and exhausted in your day-to-day life that you need relaxation more than seduction. You love it when your partner does chores without being asked or takes over for you in the moment. You have a hard time closing all the tabs in your brain and shifting into sexy mode, so you appreciate when your partner takes over and gives you a few minutes of alone time. This helps you wind down and come home into your own skin.

3. Play With Me

You love when your partner appeals to your playful side. The fastest way to get into your pants is to make you laugh! You don’t want sex to feel so serious all the time, and your partner definitely does not need to seduce you. You like having inside jokes for initiation, like a song you always play or an emoji you send to each other.

4. Desire Me

You want your partner to make you feel desirable. Nothing turns you on more than knowing your partner is turned on by you and needs you. For others, that strong sense of need may feel overwhelming, but for you it’s a huge turn-on. You like spontaneity, too, like that feeling that your partner has to have you immediately. You want your partner to give you tons of compliments and help you see how sexy you are. You may like it when your partner gets assertive with you, like grabbing you out of nowhere or pushing you up against a wall.

5. Connect With Me

For you, sex is all about that emotional connection. You absolutely need to feel emotional intimacy before you feel open to physical intimacy. You want to spend quality time with your partner and feel like your partner is fully there in the moment with you. You need intimate conversation. You can be hyper attuned to touch, easily susceptible to the Bristle Reaction, because you never want to feel pressured to have sex.

6. Touch Me

You love any sort of physical touch. You don’t want your partner to verbally initiate with you; you like them to appeal to your body first. You love it when your partner sneaks up behind you and kisses you on the neck or rubs your back. It’s not so much about feeling desired by your partner; it’s more about them being willing to put the time into awakening your body.

The initiation styles don’t have to be limiting. If you’re interested in something different in the moment, you can use the list of styles to name what you want. But for many couples, the Initiation Styles may still feel quite vulnerable. The good news is that you’ll know what your partner will respond best to, so the Initiation Styles will set you up for success. And if you’re both making an effort to speak each other’s language, it will give you the courage to step out of your comfort zones. Remember — sex is a team sport.

Excerpted from Sex Talks: The Five Conversations That Will Transform Your Love Life Copyright © 2023, Vanessa Marin and Xander Marin. Reproduced by permission of Simon Element, an imprint of Simon & Schuster. All rights reserved.

Vanessa Marin is a licensed psychotherapist with two decades of experience in the sex therapy field. She and her husband, Xander Marin, produce online guides and courses to help couples keep the spark alive in long-term relationships. They co-host the “Pillow Talks” sex and relationships podcast, and their first book, Sex Talks, is available now.

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