We’ve all heard the warnings from friends and family – some well-meaning, some commiserating, and sometime bordering on perverse glee: “Your sex life will never be the same once you have kids!” After all, nothing kills the libido like finding yourself covered in poop after a diaper explosion or a sick kid puking in your bed in the middle of the night.
While it may be true that thing won’t be exactly the same after the kids come along, it doesn’t necessarily mean your sex life has to become a distant memory or cool down to a kid-safe temperature. With a little effort, you can keep that fire stoked so that even after the kids come along, sex is still on the table – or anywhere else you’d like to have it.
Get on the same page
Even if sex has always been a priority in your relationship, the time and energy it takes to care for children can throw even the most passionate couples for a loop. “There's just this incredible exhaustion that they're going through,” says couples therapist Dr. Lonnie Barbarch. “Making time for sex becomes difficult. It ends up happening late at night when you're tired and you don't have much energy. You kind of roll over on each other, and you wonder why sex isn't as good as it used to be.”
Whether you both work and co-parent or someone stays at home with the kids, it’s perfectly normal for one of you to want sex a lot more often than the other. Husbands and wives, husbands and husbands, or wives and wives aren’t always on the same page with the same interest level, but it doesn’t mean their relationships are doomed or that the thrill is gone.
There could be a hundred reasons why one partner is in the mood and the other isn’t – from stress about work to money worries (especially with a new baby) to simple sheer exhaustion. Talking about your different levels of desire and what’s behind them may help you find some level of satisfaction or compromise. The partner who wants sex less often can work to make it happen when they can, and the partner who wants it more can try not to project too much pressure or guilt when it doesn’t.
Talk about it
Talking is actually one of the keys to a stronger sex life – whether you’re discussing your different levels of desire, what turns each of you on or off, or how to get your groove on with kids in the house. Research shows that couples who openly discuss sex often have more satisfied and fulfilling relationships, regardless of gender, sexual orientation, relationship status, or age. That means even talking about the sex you’re not having can be beneficial.
As for what to say, Dr. Barbarch recommends diving in and getting specific. “Start with the things that are easiest to talk about. What parts of their body are most sensitive is usually easier, or the kind of touch – a firm touch or a light touch – and where you like a different touch. Then, move to things that might be more personal, like the kinds of fantasies you like or the physical acts that you find most arousing.”
This might feel a little uncomfortable if you and your partner have never hashed out the sexy, saucy details of your desire – but talking about it may help to keep those embers smoldering when you’re too tired or busy to have sex so the fire will be easier to flame when you’re ready. These conversations could even lead to a little more satisfaction between the sheets. “How is a partner going to know you like your coffee black or with cream and sugar? You ask, and you let your partner know what you like. In the area of sex, it's just as important,” urges Dr. Barbarch.
In an idea world, sex would happen organically and spontaneously, ignited by a passionate kiss or sultry look from across the room. In reality, it’s hard to get swept up in the moment when you’re constantly sweeping Cheerios off the floor (or out of your bed). That may mean that while you’re in these crazy, chaotic days of parenting young kids, you’ll have to schedule time for sex.
“If we don't plan sex, it gets relegated to last place,” stresses Dr. Barbarch. She suggests putting it right there on the calendar with all your appointments, play dates, and piano lessons. “The only solution I have found that works on a regular basis is for couples to actually make dates. If you plan it, you can take a nap during the day, not run some errands, order in for dinner, and get the kids to bed early. Then, you get to bed early so that you've really made this a date like you used to go on at the beginning of your relationship when things were terrific.”
Of course, when your sex date arrives, one or both of you may find you’re not in the mood – but it’s okay to go through the motions. This is one of those situations where “fake it til you make it” can actually get you going, and even if it doesn’t, sometimes you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do. Even if it’s not the best romp of your lives, talk about it – or laugh about it! Grab each other and grab that chance to connect.
Set the stage
If you and your partner aren’t having sex as often as you’d like, it doesn’t mean your relationship has to suffer. There are little things you can do every day that can help to keep the two of you in sync – and make sure your sex lives are amazing after you’ve had kids. Renowned author and psychologist John Gottman has compiled a list of things he’s learned in 40 years of studying couples and relationships and says that couples can keep things sizzling by:
Saying “I love you” every day and meaning it.
Having weekly dates.
Making sex a priority.
Kissing each other passionately for no reason.
Along with these ideas, Gottman says there are many other ways couples can connect and keep the passion alive to have great sex lives. You can learn more in HelloJoey’s “Chat, Yak, or Attack: The Art of Communication.”
Remember, when you’re taking stock of your relationship, open, honest, and clear communication is a better barometer than sex. A passionate romp under the covers starts with regular conversation every single day. “Each day, somewhere for five minutes, you need to sit down with each other and say, ‘How are you doing? How are we doing?’” urges author and psychologist Phil Cowan. “We're not talking about candlelight dinners or expensive date nights. We're talking about connecting sometime during a day.”
For most couples, what happens in the bedroom is closely related to the rest of the relationship. Sex is an amazing and wonderful way to connect with your partner – but it’s not the only way. Build and nurture your relationship with good communication. Then, you may wind up feeling less pressure – and more desire – when it comes to sex.
Want to learn more about connecting with your partner – physically and emotionally – in “Chat, Yak, or Attack: The Art of Communication?” Start your path to a solid parenting foundation in just 10 minutes a day. Check out the HelloJoey app.