What happens to a couple's relationship after they have a baby? What are these couples doing right? And why do so many relationships seem to suffer after children?
Don’t wait for the most convenient time to rebuild intimacy. You’ll be waiting a long time.
First things first: This is not another article that simply tells you to “go on a date night.”
Nothing against date nights. The best ones can remind you why you fell in love with your spouse or partner in the first place.
Or they can involve staring at each other in a sleep-deprived haze over an expensive meal while intermittently glancing at your phone for updates from the babysitter.
If date nights aren’t working for you, or if you’ve been struggling to maintain intimacy for months — or even years — after having children, here are some different ways to stay close to your spouse or partner, despite the stresses and frustrations of parenthood.
Try not to become complacent.
Just as there was never a perfect time to have children, there will rarely be a perfect time to rekindle a connection with your partner.
It’s easy to push your romantic relationship to the side: “Let’s get through sleep training first.” Or: “As soon as I get back into shape.” Or: “Maybe when I’m less tired.”
But if you keep waiting, experts say, regaining intimacy can become increasingly difficult.
“It’s absolutely essential not to be complacent about what I call a ho-hum sex life. Touching is a very primal way of connecting and bonding,” Ms. Weiner-Davis said. “If those needs to connect physically are ignored over a period of time, or are downgraded so that it’s not satisfying, I can assure people there will be problems in the relationship moving forward.”
Slow down and start over.
If you had a vaginal birth, you and your partner may expect to begin having sex as early as six weeks after the baby is born, if you have been physically cleared to do so.
After any potential medical problems are ruled out, Dr. Nagoski advises couples to “start over” with one another by establishing a sexual connection in much in the same way they might have done when they were first getting to know each other: making out, holding each other and gradually moving in the direction of bare skin.
Put on your life preserver first.
Taking the time to nurture your individual physical and emotional needs will give you the bandwidth to nurture your relationship, too, so that it doesn’t feel like another task on the to-do list.
“When you experience your partner’s desire for intimacy as an intrusion, ask yourself, ‘How deprived am I in my own self-care? What do I need to do to take care of myself in order to feel connected to my own sexuality?’”
That might mean going to the gym or talking to your partner about decreasing the invisible mental load that is often carried by one parent.
Enlisting the support of your family (or your chosen family) to take some time for yourself or discuss some of the struggles that accompany parenting can help you recharge.
Think about what turns you on.
One way to nurture intimacy is to remind yourself of the context in which you had a great sexual connection together.
What characteristics did your partner have? What characteristics did your relationship have?
It’s also helpful to remember that not everyone experiences spontaneous desire — the kind of sexual desire that pops out of nowhere. For example, you’re walking down the street and suddenly can’t stop thinking about sex.
Millions of other people experience something different called responsive desire, which stems from erotic stimulation. In other words, arousal comes first and then desire.
Both types of desire are normal.
Create a magic circle in your bedroom.
Cordoning off an imaginative protected space in your mind where you can “bring forward the aspects of your identity that are relevant to your erotic connection and you close the door on the parts of yourself that are not important for an erotic connection.”
With enough focus, this strategy can work even if the physical space you’re using contains reminders of your role as a caregiver.
For couples who have spent years co-sleeping with their children, that can be somewhat difficult.
Don’t bank on spontaneity.
It’s easy to forget how much time and effort we put into our relationships in the early days: planning for dates, caring for our bodies, and (gasp) having long conversations with one another.
Think of building good sexual habits just like you would develop good eating or exercising habits.
“Sex begets more sex. Kind of like when you go to the gym. “It takes you a while to build that habit.”
Then, “You’ll notice little by little that it becomes more and more as opposed to less and less.”
A small 2018 study found that attending group therapy helped couples with low sexual desire as well as those who had discrepancies in their levels of sexual desire.
Individual or couples therapy can also be a good place to start.
For many parents, however, and especially those with young children, finding the time and money to go to a therapist can be challenging.
Regardless of what steps you take to rebuild a connection with your spouse, experts say it’s important to take action as soon as possible.
“The child is not going to take up less space over time, so the question is: How do you carve out space for your relationships around the child, as the child continues to develop with different but continually demanding needs.”
Credits: The New York Times