Becoming a parent challenges a couple’s sex life. We are busier than we’ve ever been and the house fills up with diapers, toys, school books and soccer cleats faster than we could have imagined. Tired spouses are often not filled with lust. But something else happens when two become three that impacts our sex lives psychologically — our priorities change.
During dating and in early marriage, sexual desire, new adventures and time alone together are high priorities. Parenthood brings pressure to become more financially and emotionally secure. Couples enter this phase with the best of intentions to get on with the serious business of family. Sometimes they even think that they can defer their needs for excitement until the children are grown. This is a big mistake.
The true gift we give our children is a model of how two people live in an intimate relationship. While children don't know what goes on in the master bedroom (and if they do, time to invest in a better lock), they instinctively know whether their parents share chemistry. In relationships with abundant love, the parents are filled up and the surplus spills over to nurture the little ones. Sex is the glue that binds couples together.
As a sex therapist, I’ve heard many complaints from young parents who struggle to maintain heat in the bedroom. Here are some solutions.
“I’m exhausted and don’t have anything left at the end of the day for sex.” Sex does take energy. If it isn’t erotic enough, both parties can wind up asking, “What’s the point?” While scheduling sex may feel like it will squash the spontaneity that makes it great, make a plan in your own head once a week. A better sex time is before TV or computer time, instead of the last minute before sleep.
“My partner doesn’t share the load with me, and I’m too angry to have sex.” Child care, full-time work, and household management are three separate jobs. If not shared equitably, resentment becomes a monster under the bed sabotaging sex. Write down all the chore and child-care responsibilities and negotiate for fairness. Hire out every possible piece of non-essential work that you can afford.
“Sex is boring now.” I’ve talked to parents who spend more time planning their child’s birthday party than their sex lives. Make a date and tell each other over dinner how you like to build up to sex and what your favorite things are to do in bed. This takes courage and vulnerability – two qualities that truly keep sex spicy.
“We barely have time to talk and I can’t have sex unless I feel connected.” Some people need time together to talk in order to feel sexual. Others need sex before they are ready to talk. Unfortunately, this often becomes a power struggle, where one partner chases and the other backs up harder. Unhook the problems. Set time aside to talk and to have sex. Every once in a while, offer to do it in the order your partner likes it, with no strings attached.
Laurie Watson is a certified sex therapist and author of Wanting Sex Again – How to Rediscover Desire and Heal a Sexless Marriage. She blogs for Psychology Today at Married and Still Doing It. You can follow her on Facebook and Twitter.