It starts with excitement, your relationship feels harmonious enough for you to think that having kids is a great idea. Of course you’ve heard of those couples whose relationships have fallen apart after having kids, but that’s not going to happen to you is it? Fast forward to after Junior is born; weeks, months, years may pass and as they do, your intimacy with your partner feels like a distant memory. Can it return? Why is it happening to so many modern couples? Does it mean the end?
Your sex drive is affected by so many factors. Your age and its affect on your menstrual cycle, your health and your sleep as well as any psychological factors that are bothering you will all take a toll. You are going to have to be a detective about it to uncover what’s really affecting your sex life most. Get a journal and start looking at your life. Journaling is a great tool for self discovery, and sex is so intimate, so personal that in the end you’ll need to uncover the answers in yourself. But we can give you some points to ponder along the way!
Your sleep patterns, or lack thereof
Most parents are not getting enough sleep, and that’s not just those with newborns. Work stresses, financial worry and anxiety will ruin a good night’s sleep and unless you are rested, you aren’t going to be in the mood for much else. While cutting out the usual suspects like tea and coffee after lunchtime will help, if you are looking after little ones, you’ll be relying on caffeine to keep you from flagging. Breathing issues at night, from allergies to snoring can be hidden culprits. It’s worth checking the quality of your sleep with a sleep app. Most smartphones have sleep tracking and alarm software to help you get the hours you desire.
Use your journal and apps to work out what affects your sleep, and monitor what your optimum sleep hours need to be.
No one is going to feel sexy while looking at a pile of dirty laundry, a box of diapers and half a dozen teddy bears staring at you. Get your kids’ stuff out of your bedroom. If you have kids who are in and out of your bedroom all night long, or if you are co-sleeping or have a crib in your room at night you’re going to have to get inventive about where sex can happen, and it may not be in the bedroom. But at some point your bedroom will need to become your space again and this will coincide with the kids’ rooms becoming their space.
Making your bedroom appealing can work wonders – why not try a little bedroom Feng Shui, at the very least you’ll sleep better in an environment that is less cluttered and full of good vibes.
His Health issues
Research suggests that new fathers suffer a drop in testosterone levels, meaning that they are less likely to stray and are more inclined to take care of the kids. However this could also mean he’s feeling less amorous.
Boosting his desire (or at least his general well being) could be as simple as feeding him a diet that enhances his natural libido and telling him he’s a great lover and provider.
But men are notoriously reluctant about looking after themselves when they aren’t feeling great. He might need a trip to the doc if he’s suffering with any long term sexual problems or other health problems. Here’s where you can be supportive and create intimacy by finding other ways to connect with him that take the focus off his performance until he’s at his peak again.
Your Health Issues
Your cycle is going to be all over the place. The birth itself, any parental worries about the health of your kids, how you feel your body has changed and all the attendant aches and pains aren’t going to help either, but let’s start with your periods.
Again a trip to the doc may be necessary if you are experiencing unusual symptoms around your cycles. Common sense really. Choosing an app like Groove can help you learn about your cycle. Most of us have no idea what are our hormones are doing on a good day; period tracking apps help us take charge of our hormones and enable us to say to our doctor, “Actually I’m having a problem on these days of the month specifically.”
Other health problems can get in the way, especially more serious things — again it’s important to explore how you view your sexuality being affected by this. Talking to your partner about how you are feeling is key, along with finding gentle ways to honour your need for closeness and reassurance during challenging health changes. In this online age, advice is often at the tip of your fingers.
What you think he thinks of you
Here is where communication really helps. You’ve got in your head all sorts of things that make you feel insecure about what you think your partner wants and desires. The good news is, unless he’s really immature, he’s not looking for a perfect relationship, for you to be in a great mood all the time, or for everything to be hunky dory. Ask him how he’s feeling! Don’t just guess or make assumptions.
“I kept thinking he was comparing me to my friend who was super slim after having her second baby. She had loads of energy and was holding down a job, but I couldn’t really compete — I was shattered and out of shape after my first,” said Sara, a 36 year old mum of two. “One day I had enough. I asked him if he thought she was better than me. He looked shocked. He hadn’t even thought of comparing us. He was just worried about me getting well again. I’d spent four months comparing myself to supermum, he just wanted me to be happy.”
What he really thinks of your body after seeing you give birth
Good guys aren’t as squeamish as we’ve been led to believe. Most men aren’t turned off by pubic hair, period sex, stretch marks, flabby bits or seeing their partners giving birth. If in doubt don’t guess, ask him what he’s thinking and ask him to reassure you. You’d be surprised at what he says if given a chance to express his love for your body. He probably has similar hangups about his own body. “I don’t care about her C-Section scar.” says Ray, of his wife Claire. “It really doesn’t turn me off. She’s more conscious of it than I ever am. Actually I think it makes her look brave and I respect her more for what she’s gone through to have our kid. That makes her more beautiful to me.”
Feeling good about what you see in the mirror
Be honest. Do you bother making an effort anymore? It’s so easy to just become a mumsy low maintenance version of ourselves, because exhaustion, busyness and low self esteem kick in when you are overworked, anxious and tired. We can even feel resentful of having to look good because of all the pressure of media images of super fit Moms doing yoga on a beach.
But this isn’t about any of that. Remember when you used to be excited to see him? You’d look in the mirror and try and see what he would see. A beautiful version of you is waiting for you to pay attention to her again. It might be time to look at your wardrobe and get rid of anything that makes you feel frumpy. You’ll have already read all the health and diet articles out there and turned away from the screen in misery. Forget all that. Start with you. Write in your journal, “What do I need to look and feel my most attractive, sexy self?” The answer might be as simple as a good haircut and some lipstick, or it might be something deeper. You owe it to yourself to find out and do something about it. And perhaps your partner might want to do the same.
Kids are taking up all the energy
This is an obvious one. You are shattered because of the constant demands of your kids. Add to this that more and more kids are facing challenges like bullying at school, or if you are parenting a kid with special needs or more than one kid, where is the time for you?
Learning to separate yourself from your kids and seeing your identity in a new way could be key to you being able to switch off. You might feel like you are a parent 100 percent of the time, but you are also a million other things. Get into that journal and start identifying the different parts of yourself that you are currently neglecting. Integrating all of your selves and making time for your wild eyed gypsy romantic side, or your Amazonian sex warrior is essential in bringing your sex life back from the dead.
Everyone and everything else is taking up all your energy
Friends, work and extended family. Who is taking up the time that you should be spending with your partner? Are you taking a whole load of other people into the bedroom with you? Time for Mother-in-law, Best Friend and Boss to take a hike.
We all know we should switch off our phones when we are with our kids, but do you switch off your phone when you are spending quality time with your partner? Time to start.
You need boundaries — ways to draw the line between your relationship and the outside world. Talking about your sex life with friends can corrode the trust your partner has for you, but so can obsessing about his family or constantly whining about your boss. If he’s doing this too, it’s time to unhook from the outside world and hook back in to each other. Suggest the bedroom is a private space — where neither of you are allowed to talk about other people.
There’s a new dynamic in the house
An attitude of “You always get things wrong” or “I feel like I’m looking after another kid” translates into lack of intimacy in the bedroom.
Sometimes there can be a parent-child dynamic to how a couple’s relationship operates, and that changes when an actual child is born — so men who “daddy” their wives and women who “mother” their men — can end up with the other partner feeling neglected and even having an affair once a child is born. Nagging, referring to each other as “Daddy” and “Mommy” and treating your partner like a child are all ways you undermine your own relationship. It’s too easy to fall into this sex-killing trap.
Just not in the mood
There’s never going to be a time when you are in the mood if you find yourself relying on this as an excuse to not get intimate. Temporary loss of libido is one thing. But either of you saying this all the time will quickly corrode the relationship for both of you. Are you feeling resentment? Are you feeling angry? Is he? Why are you not in the mood? Again, your journal is going to tell you a lot more about what’s going on than any article can. Pretty much all the advice is the same for this one, you’ve got to turn up for the event and attempt to trick yourself into getting into the mood, using fantasy, fetishes or by making him wear a Batman costume.
This is about mind over matter and if you start, you might find you get carried away in the moment. If watching porn isn’t your thing, if looking at perfect naked humans turns you off, which it probably might at this point, reading sexy stories together could be an answer. There are loads of erotic fantasies waiting for to be discovered on Amazon, definitely much more than 50 Shades of Grey!
Maybe try a bit of kink
Lets talk about sex toys. A well stocked drawer of fun extras could be just the boost your sex life needs, especially if you’ve been in a long term relationship and you’ve tried every position out there.
There are so many new types on the market the mind boggles. Time to ask an expert. UK Sex Writer Violet Fenn says:
“Sex toys are always worth investigating, and they don’t have to be intimidating. Try warming massage oils and vibrating ‘body massagers’ which can be used by both partners on sensitive spots and are also genuinely helpful for stiff and tired muscles. Learning what pleases your partner — without necessarily feeling under pressure to perform yourself — is a huge step towards sexual happiness for both of you.”
Violet suggests watching yourselves in a mirror as a way to improve your sex life. “Mirrors are great for expanding the sensuality of physical encounters by giving you something to watch as well as feel. Look at your partner’s expression and see how much they are enjoying being with you.”
Ways to be intimate that don’t involve sex
Sometimes sex isn’t going to happen. It just isn’t. You know instinctively that focusing on the problem will make it worse. So what can you do? Try taking turns massaging each other. This is the single most intimate thing you can do that will build connection and trust, but it has to come from both of you. The easiest way is to talk about it first, set it up like a date night (or date morning, whenever you can fit this in) If you aren’t getting naked you can even do massage in front of the kids, it does them no harm to see you caring for each other. Just massage each other’s backs and necks. That’s all it takes. A bit of warmth and a lot of de-stressing. Take all the emphasis off the sex side of things at this stage. You are looking for connection.
Is it time to split?
So what if nothing is working?
Sometimes the sex in a relationship isn’t going to recover — after an affair for instance if the problems can’t be worked through or because of years of neglect and abuse. Don’t suffer in silence expecting things to get better. Your journal will tell you what you already know. You either want to fight for the whole relationship or you don’t. It may have naturally come to its end without any destructive elements shaping it, beyond you both growing apart and it being time to move on.
Now is the time to call in outside help; look to relationship advocacy groups in your area for support and advice during this difficult time. Children thrive in loving happy relationships, but this doesn’t necessarily mean that parents should stay together if they are unhappy and there is no intimacy. If your path is that you will both be happier with other people, or if you’ve tried everything you can to save it, and nothing is working, then maybe it’s time to call it a day. It’s not wrong to want a fulfilling life and if your sex life is something you feel is worth fighting for, it’s time to get professional help.