Over the last 3 decades, I have spent a lot of time working with women who feel inhibited or ashamed in the bedroom. Many of these women feel as though they aren’t attractive enough or thin enough to be sexy and desired by their partner, and these feelings of low self-esteem often impede women from being able to open up sexually and truly enjoy intimacy.
But it is not just women who struggle with feeling desirable in the bedroom. Men need to feel confident and sexy too, and this fact can often be overlooked as many people wrongly assume that men are ‘always in the mood’ or that men don’t need reassurance that they are desired and cherished by their partners.
Yet a new study published in the Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy has found that over 95% of men say that feeling sexually desired by their partners is an important part of their sexual experiences. In other words, the overwhelming majority of men say that feeling attractive to their partners is a big part of their sexual pleasure.
“While we tend to believe that men are the ones who ‘do the wanting’ and are the ones to pursue sexual activity and demonstrate desire for their partners, men also want to be desired in return. Men in my study described that they didn’t just want their partner to initiate more sexual activity, they wanted to be romanced,” says Sarah Hunter Murray, a marriage researcher who led the study.
This is a good example of how gender stereotypes harm both women and men. When we cast men in the role of pursuer or aggressor, it not only sets women up to be passive participants during intimate encounters, but it also means we forget that men are emotionally complex human beings in their own right. We forget that they long to feel desirable and cherished by their mates. We forget that they are not ‘always in the mood,’ or that they may suffer from low self-esteem in the bedroom, or that they may need extra praise or encouragement.
So, what can you do to make your male partner feel more desired?
First, use your words. The study showed that 41% of men say they want to hear verbal affirmation from their sexual partner. So, rather than assuming he knows you like what he is doing, speak up! Moan, coo, and tell him “That feels so good” or “You are SO good at that.” Praise the way his body looks or tell him how much you want him. Send him flirty texts during the day like “I can’t stop thinking about last night” or “I am so lucky to have you.” It might feel a bit awkward at first if you aren’t used to praising your partner, but it’s so important for your bond as well as for his mental health.
So, praise him to his face, and don’t be afraid to brag about him behind his back (even better if he can hear you, such as if you’re raving about what a good dad he is when he is in the next room and can overhear). Here’s the best part: The more you focus on what you love about your partner and what you desire about him, the more gratitude and attraction you’re going to feel for him. It’s a virtuous cycle that keeps on giving.
Second, don’t be afraid to initiate things in the bedroom. In the study, 34% of men say that they wish their partner would initiate physical touch in the bedroom. This doesn’t mean you have to walk right up and jump on top of him (though, hey, that works too!) but it means you can give him a long kiss in morning, snuggle up to him on the couch, hold his hand when you’re stuck in traffic, feel his biceps when he gets home from the gym—little sweet actions that show you enjoy his body and you long to touch him.
Finally, be willing to show your excitement in the bedroom. 19% of men in the study say that they wish their partners would be more enthusiastic about sex. You can show this enthusiasm by initiating sex but also by prioritizing sexual activity. Instead of leaving it last on your ‘to-do’ list, make sexual connection with your partner one of your top priorities. Think about it: One of the BEST ways to show your partner that you desire them is by creating time and energy to connect with them sexually on a regular basis.
Men, what do you think? What can your partner to do to make you feel more wanted in the bedroom?