When I first started writing this article I named it “Sex after kids – keeping the flames alive”. But after reflecting on both my professional and personal experience I feel that the main obstacle to a gratifying sexual life has more to do with the overall emotional disconnection between the couple that can often happen after children come along.
Having a baby can create enormous challenges for the couple and the adjustment can be bumpy and painful for many. The tiredness following a disrupted night’s sleep; the relentless nature of parenting with less time for rest and relaxation with time being taken up with playdates, birthday parties and after school activities; the greatly reduced levels of patience and tolerance after a long demanding day with the kids – all can take a toll on the couple’s relationship.
The attention that used to be lavished on the other, attending to his or her needs, gets diverted into looking after baby.
Both men and women describe feeling left out after this transition. I’ve often heard men saying, “I’m not important anymore”, or from the women “he gets home and goes straight to pick up the baby without even looking at me”.
Whoever arrives home, kiss the other on the mouth and say “Hello, I missed you today” or “I love coming home to you” followed by “How are you, can I do anything to help?”.
Asking your wife who spent the whole day in a daze of nappy changing, feeding and bathing “what did you do today?” will NOT set a loving atmosphere for the evening.
Have fun! When was the last time you did something fun just for the sake of it? Not just fun as a family but for the two of you as a couple. What did you use to enjoy doing together pre-kids? Swap babysitting duties with a friend and plan something you will both enjoy.
Pregnancy and delivery can transform a woman’s body with weight gain, stretch marks, engorged breasts, pelvic floor issues and so on. For some women, this is a very difficult aspect of becoming a mother and if she has been very critical of her body in the past, that can resurface at this stage.
The body may not feel sexy for quite a while; I remember a client once saying that “I feel like a giant leaking breast” referring to her relentless breastfeeding and pumping routine.
Notice your partner, take her in as though you have never seen her before and make it a habit to genuinely compliment her. It doesn’t have to be fake or gushing. Notice her hair, her outfit, her smile and let her know that you can see the beauty in her.
Intimacy and Attention
There can be a great reduction in physical intimacy once the couple have children. Both partners are often just too exhausted after a long day of work and end up on the sofa watching TV or browsing the web on their gadgets.
Now, there is nothing wrong with “zoning out” and relaxing in front of the telly. And yet, if that becomes the main habit, the couple can become disconnected and each partner left feeling unloved and craving attention.
Physical intimacy doesn’t have to be about sex necessarily: hugging, kissing, stroking, spooning are wonderful ways to show your affection. You do not need to be “in the mood” to caress your partner’s hair when you’re talking or to rest your hand on her lower-back as she’s getting dinner ready.
One of the simplest forms of creating more connection with your partner is pillow talk: after the kids are in bed, lie together in bed facing each other and chat about whatever is on your mind without phone distractions.
Sometimes women talk about how they withhold physical affection in the bedroom because the partner might push for sex and they are just too tired. Although this is a generalisation, it’s mostly men who initiate sex and can be left feeling rejected if they often get turned down. And yet sex is a great predictor of marital happiness and couples of regularly have sex have lower chances for getting divorced. So, the importance of sex cannot be ignored. Men sometimes forget that women often need to feel emotionally connected to their partners for them to be more receptive to their advances.
Take sex off the menu: funny how strictly banning sex for a couple of weeks and just exploring each other’s body can build up desire. And it doesn’t matter how excited you get when fooling around, do not have intercourse. Once the two-week ban is lifted – have fun! You can search for “sensate focus exercises’ for similar tips.
Most of all, enjoy the little things, the touch, the smile. And when the mood strikes go for it! Sometimes that first ‘ice breaker’ is tough but once you get started, there will be a roaring fire, any many more!
What do you do to keep the spark alive? Share in the comments below!
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About the Writer
Silvia Wetherell, Co-Founder of MumRadar, works as a counsellor and psychotherapist in an obstetric setting and has a special interest in maternal mental health. Originally from Portugal, she spent ten years in England and is now based in Singapore with her husband and two young children. Silvia is also a Postpartum Support International Coordinator and Co-founder of the support group Mindful Mums.
Silvia has the loudest laugh, loves swimming in the ocean and snuggling on the sofa with her two cats, Jaffa and Freddie.