Why Understanding Your Partner's Initiation Style Is Key To A Healthy Relationship

Communication is critical to building a healthy relationship, but many people fall short of understanding their partner's desires when it comes to nonverbal communication and emotional intimacy. This is especially true when it comes to the bedroom — it's much easier to express what you're enjoying in the heat of the moment. Still, when it comes to pinpointing precisely what turns you on and how you like to initiate physical intimacy, it can get a bit more confusing. This is where sexual initiation styles come into play.


Sexual initiation styles, much like love languages, act as a guide to your partner's needs and desires. Each person has a long list of different turn-ons. Learning what can help transition your partner from regular life to a headspace where they feel comfortable and excited to get intimate is necessary to keep the spark alive. Generally, these turn-ons fall into six categories, each pinpointing a specific activity or emotion that can act as a bridge to intimacy.

Physical touch

Physical touch is by far the most commonly represented sexual initiation style out there, and what most people likely started out thinking was the norm. You could fall into this category if you're ready to head off to the bedroom after a fun makeout session, cuddling on the couch, or an intimate back rub. People with a physical touch sexual initiation style could also have a physical touch love language — skin-to-skin contact makes them feel comfortable, loved, and appreciated, even more so than verbal expressions of that same appreciation.


If your partner has a physical touch initiation style, it's important to honor this before jumping right into more intimate sexual contact. Take your time and follow their lead when it comes to physical touch and foreplay. For someone with this initiation style, it's unlikely that a saucy text or more intimate conversation will be enough to actually turn them on. Words are still important to establish verbal and enthusiastic consent, but touch is definitely their primary focus.

Emotional intimacy

In contrast to those with a physical touch initiation style, people with an emotional intimacy initiation style are all about the conversation. Before they feel comfortable initiating sexual contact with someone, they want to know them on a deeper, more vulnerable level. People with this initiation style are likely opposed to the idea of hookups and casual sexual relationships as they want to feel a true bond with the person they're interested in, and they could have a quality time love language to match.


If your partner has this initiation style, they'll likely feel more turned on if you spend time fostering the connection in your relationship. Take them on a date and share stories over drinks and dinner, or schedule a night free of distractions. Their lead-in to physical intimacy is emotional intimacy, so don't be afraid to open up, even if what you're sharing isn't traditionally considered "bedroom talk." 

Building anticipation

For some people, sexual desire isn't a simple on-slash-off switch. Instead, they prefer to build up to the anticipation of the event. This period of waiting gives them time to fantasize and get excited — something that's easy at the beginning of relationships with scheduled dates and plans to see each other but can become rare if you move in together or frequently make last-minute plans.


To combat this, try to build up their excitement throughout the day. Send them a sultry text while you go about your daily errands, or keep it simple and appropriate for the workplace with an "I can't wait to see you tonight." People with this initiation style might also enjoy scheduling a special night where you know you're going to be intimate, even if it's a few days in advance. For someone that doesn't have this initiation style, scheduling sex might seem like the least sexy activity possible, but it's a bit more fun if you think of it as an extension of your typical foreplay.

Acts of service

The acts of service are heavily related to the love language of the same name. For people that fall into this category, their partner taking care of them and working to reduce their stress allows them to be more open to love, both romantically and sexually. This can apply to the more mundane aspects of a relationship — taking out the trash, doing the dishes, tidying up the house — but it can also dip into more luxurious romantic gestures like cooking your partner a romantic meal or setting up a relaxing bath. 


This initiation style is about helping your partner quiet the external noise, allowing them to get into the correct headspace required for intimacy. It's easy to let aspects of your relationship, namely, sex, fall away or go ignored when constantly focusing on a mental to-do list. Still, by honoring this initiation style, you'll be able to create a space where you can enjoy each other's company without the distractions of daily life.

Showing their desire

If you enjoy hearing words of affirmation as part of your love language, that craving for verbal validation might also translate into your initiation style. Many people don't feel turned on until they know their partner is turned on, and the simple act of seeing their partner's pleasure and desire for them also has an aphrodisiac effect on them. Unfortunately, however, couples with this initiation style might have issues if they don't communicate their desires effectively. If one partner stops initiating, they might reach a sort of stalemate, so it's important to keep the verbal reminders that you care about and are attracted to each other coming.


If your partner has this initiation style, do your best to dial up the vocal and physical expressions of what you're feeling. It doesn't have to be inherently sexual, but compliments and direct declarations of your attraction and admiration go a long way in making them feel loved and comfortable.

Humor and fun

For some, laughter is the best medicine — and the best aphrodisiac. Sex is often represented as something ultra-serious and intense, but it should be fun at its core. People with this sexual initiation style want to lean into that sense of playfulness, enjoy their partner's humor, and have fun before heading to the bedroom. It makes sense — according to Mayo Clinic, the simple act of laughing can help improve mood, decrease tension, and ease stress, and a bit of fun can remind you why you enjoy spending time with your partner in the first place, increasing your attraction to them.


This can be as simple as engaging in some witty banter or being more involved, like enjoying an inherently silly activity like laser tag or belting your heart out at karaoke night. Essentially, people with this initiation style want to dissolve any awkwardness around sex, feel more connected to their partner, and get themselves in the right mood to have a good time.

Why knowing your partner's initiation style is so important

Some people fall heavily into one initiation style. In contrast, others are comfortable with a mix, but by learning what it takes to turn your partner on, you can deepen your relationship, avoid any miscommunication, and become even better at showing your partner you care, both in romantic and sexual scenarios.


A relationship can stay afloat without knowing each other's initiation styles. Still, by making an effort to learn, you're essentially giving yourself a guidebook on how to keep everything running smoothly, especially if your partner has a style you're unfamiliar with. Take, for example, a relationship between someone with a physical touch initiation style and an emotional connection initiation style. The partner that prefers physical touch might feel rejected when their better half isn't in the mood after cuddling on the couch. However, if they improve communication in their relationship and talk about these differences, they can add a bit of deeper conversation and honor what both parties need to feel turned on.