Are you the initiator in a relationship?


Screen shot 2010-05-26 at 1.48.59 PMI was at a relationship “talk” last night with Marianne Williamson…(“seminar” and “lecture” just sound too clinical…besides, there was mood lighting and a faint smell of Patchouli).  It was in a packed theatre, so there were like 300+ people there.  When we got to the Q&A portion, a thirty-something woman seated in the back stood up and said that she wanted to break up with the guy she’s dating.  The problem?  He never initiates anything.

She went on to say that they’ve only been dating for 2 months, but she doesn’t think anything will change.  He never plans anything, so she ends up doing the planning.  He never calls her, so she ends up doing the calling.  He never seduces her, so she ends up seducing.  I rolled my eyes, thinking yeah, it’s obvious…he’s just not that into you.  Break it off.  Next question.

But then, Marianne suggested that everyone in a relationship either takes on the male or female role.  That is, the “masculine” role of being the initiator or the “feminine” role of being the one pursued.  But once a man is denied his masculine role because a woman initiates, he is less likely to initiate anything himself.  It’s like he’s emasculated.

She suggested the woman step back and allow him to initiate, since this was what she wanted.  That maybe her controlling the relationship was keeping him from reaching out.  Now, I got a little annoyed at first because this smelled to me like “The Rules”.  And it insulted my feminist sensibilities…equal rights and all that.  But relationships are a little more complex.  They don’t fit into categories.  And how can you possibly be politically righteous and intimate?  Relationships are based in connection, not in power.

I’m not a big fan of relationship manipulation.  But is backing off really manipulation, or a favor to the building of a relationship?

I think there are many women who take on the role of the initiator, maybe without even realizing it..and some guys like this.  But then, how do they really know unless both sides get a chance to take charge of the relationship?

More importantly, how do guys know what we want, since some women they’ve dated take charge and others expect to be pursued?

The weird thing was…after the woman claimed that her boyfriend would never be the one to call first or to think of something for them to do, or even to initiate sex, her cell phone rang.  Guess who it was.

Anyway, it was kind of funny that after all of the insistence about how he would never take charge, he called her.  She hadn’t messaged him earlier apparently…he just decided to pick up the phone and reach out, all on his own.

Who knows, maybe he wasn’t that into her after all.  But I guess the only way to find out is to step back and let him do the pursuing.  If he doesn’t rise to the challenge, then she should move on.

Any thoughts on this?  Do you like to be the initiator in a relationship?

About Kelly Seal

Kelly is a freelance writer based in Los Angeles, CA. She blogs about dating, relationships, and sometimes peanut butter. You can follow her on Google+, Twitter @kellyseal or through her website


  1. says

    I tend to lean toward your initial instincts. Generally speaking, when I’m interested in a woman, I’m going to make contact; I’m going to plan something. But remember, with every rule, there are exceptions.

    Backing off, I suppose, can help to send the relationship in a better direction. However, for the most part, it does suggest game playing. I would much prefer a woman to be straight and direct, work with me to improve the relationship, rather than opt for this seemingly passive-agressive option.

  2. says

    Early in a relationship I like to be the one who is being pursued, mainly because I think that it is a good indication of how much a man values you. That being said, as the relationship progresses, if you still have doubts about being the one to initiate contact first for fear of losing “power” in the relationship, then it’s time to get out because this will never be an honest relationship.

  3. says

    CleuXFour – Thanks so much for stopping by! I tend to shy away from anything that involves game playing. But I think there is something to be said for the balance of power in a relationship. It’s a delicate thing.

    Tina – good point. Maybe it’s more about the beginning of a relationship vs. several months later. I like being pursued too…makes a difference in how supported/ valued I feel in a relationship. But then, I tend not to be assertive in pursuing guys.

  4. says

    Hmmm… I don’t think that I’m much of an overt initiator. I’m a bit of an over-thinker, so I’m always just watching, waiting, and looking for cues about how to proceed. It’s been my downfall many a time, unfortunately. I’ve been trying to seize the reins more, in order to compensate for the overly analytical hunk of grey matter that serves as my brain, but it’s proven to take heaps of effort, and I’m afraid that it may not be sustainable…

  5. says

    I wholeheartedly agree with Marianne Williamson. Even a control freak will get tired of a man who never initiates over time. It’s not romantic or sexy or conducive to keeping the spark alive for the long haul.


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