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Stop Saying “I Can’t Plan/Initiate Because You Beat Me To It”

Hoca

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Every day in my office, I hear partners make the excuse that they cannot take the initiative in whatever way would be most meaningful to their partner because their partner “beats them to it.” Here are some examples:

“I can’t plan a date like she wants me to because she packs our calendar weeks in advance.”

“I can’t initiate sex because not a day goes by that he isn’t all over me and initiating constantly.”

I can’t propose because every day she brings up how angry she is that we aren’t married.”

“I can’t ask her anything about her day because she starts downloading as soon as she sees me.”

“I can’t touch him because he turns all touch into sex.”



It can be useful to view the translation of any of these comments as:

“I am the avoidant partner and it makes me very uncomfortable to put myself out there and be vulnerable. Also, I am pretty poor at planning, even to the point that I probably have ADHD, and I am actually bad at taking the initiative in all aspects of my life.”

Couples therapy can be very useful in helping widen the context of the partner’s behavior. For example, many women think that their husbands are go getters at work, constantly initiating projects proactively, and their inability to plan a date is therefore something the woman takes very personally as an example that he doesn’t love or prioritize her. In reality, this man may have been reprimanded by his boss for not being a self-starter, or told by coworkers that he leaves everything till the very last minute.

On the other side, the woman who says that she would never have a moment to initiate physical touch or intimacy can be helped by the therapist to explore this idea more objectively. Often, going through the week and looking at all the moments that she could have chosen to sit next to her husband or even initiate sex, while he was busy with something else or just on his phone can be eye opening. There is no man who is initiating sex 100% of the day with his wife despite having kids and a job.

Individuals who have avoidant attachment (learn about that in men here and in women here) struggle with intimacy and vulnerability. Avoidant men are often the sexual initiators, but struggle with nonsexual physical touch and emotional intimacy, and often make sex a lot like porn. Avoidant women often struggle with sex as well as emotional closeness. People with avoidant attachment partner with people with preoccupied attachment, who make them feel smothered and controlled; a perfect example is here.

The avoidant partner fantasizes that if their spouse were more independent and “chill,” they would be able to come forward more and initiate more sex/dates/whatever else. However, the reality is that a securely attached, independent partner would never have been drawn to them, because their detachment and discomfort with closeness would turn off anyone who isn’t preoccupied. That is because the preoccupied partner, at a core level, expects relationships to be difficult and to have to pursue a partner just as they pursued a parent for love when growing up.


Of course, in some cases, the partner may have a point. For example, there are some men that do turn any nonsexual physical touch into sex. However, this guy isn’t usually asking for more nonsexual physical touch! And there are women who are obsessive with calendaring and likely have undiagnosed anxiety, but these are not usually the women begging for more romance. And if they are, then therapy can help them recognize how they are self-sabotaging by asking a partner to do something that they are rendering impossible to execute.

The deeper reason why some people do this is because their childhood was very difficult, and they were being constantly disappointed by caregivers. Therefore, they make themselves impossible to please so that they can proactively protect against the potential disappointment of someone not trying to take care of them, which is what they expect at the deepest level. This can be worked on productively in therapy, processing and grieving the sorrow of their upbringing while recognizing that the way they currently act is preventing their partner from rewriting this script in a healing way, or reparenting them.

If this article spoke to you, try your hardest to think about your blind spots in terms of thinking that you have “no time” to plan/initiate, and disproving this with actually trying to get outside your comfort zone and do this. For instance, call a sitter right now and reserve something for the next couple of weeks, and if every single Friday and Saturday evening are already booked, text your partner about a lunch or breakfast date. If you are the woman who says initiation is never possible, where is your husband right this second as you read this article? Apparently not initiating sex and likely not touching you either, so get up and find him and give him a hug.

Incidentally, I said that being a poor planner may contribute to this dynamic as well. If you really find it quite difficult to plan anything or even think a couple hours or days in advance, it also could be useful to get assessed for ADHD. Many people don’t even know what ADHD really is, so they assume everyone is walking around in a fog that is punctuated by adrenaline bursts when deadlines loom. This is not true. Listen to this for more.

Hopefully, this post was the kick in the pants you needed to reexamine your relationship behaviors, whether you’re the excuse maker or the self-sabotager (aka the one who literally makes it impossible for the other to initiate). In the latter case, by the way, read this. And till we meet again, I remain, The Blogapist Who Says, It Takes Two To Live An Examined Marriage!
 
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