Through every stage of parenthood, whether your kids are newborns or teens, different sets of challenges and stresses can put the brakes on your intimate relationship with your partner. Of course, some challenges span the stages of childhood, and multiple children compound the intimacy hurdles. Whatever the size of your family, staying romantic as partners and avoiding the slide toward roommate territory is tough – but it’s not impossible and it’s worth the effort.
Ah, those sweet little bundles of joy… aren’t exactly “joy” all the time. Let’s face it: You aren’t sleeping and the host of new challenges that come with having a baby (the crying, the lack of time to yourself, and the endless laundry, to name a few) can leave you ridiculously worn out and stressed. And when your day finds you struggling just to change your spit-up-stained shirt or make yourself a sandwich, it may be hard to fathom anything other than grabbing a shower or a catnap during the small windows of time when baby doesn’t need you.
How to deal:
Moms, remember that lovin’ feeling you had pre-baby? Your partner probably does, and misses it. A lot. Physical touch often falls by the wayside during this stage because mom gives so much of her physical self to her baby, leaving dad out in the cold. And though mom may have zero desire to have sex, staying connected is critical. “If you don’t set the precedent now, to make time for each other—even if the sex is crap—your relationship may disintegrate,” says Trina Read, a sexologist and owner of sex advice site vivaxo.com.
Important? Yes. A struggle? Check. Vancouver mom Olivia Smith* has a two-year-old and a six-month-old, and she says that it is really tough to have any kind of sex life. “I feel like I’m doing it because I have to keep my husband happy, not because I want to, though afterwards I always feel relieved that we did it. It is brutal, but that’s what it is like right now,” she says. “We know it’s not always going to be pretty, but we do it anyway because we’re scared of losing touch.”
Make the effort. Sex is about so much more than just the physical act and the pleasure it brings, says Read. It keeps you connected as a couple, so you can withstand the good and bad times. And it may be the only time you are completely in tune with and concentrated on your adult relationship in the swirling chaos of family life in those early days. Read stresses it’s important not to just walk into the bedroom and get it over with to please your partner.
“If that’s your foreplay for sex and you do that over and over again, you’re just going to dread sex,” she says. “Consciously make the decision: This morning I’m getting up and I’m going to put on some nice underwear, and I’m doing this intentionally because I want to get myself in the mood.”