So, after having children it’s not unusual for your sex life to take a severe nosedive. Our recent #BackintheSack survey (where we questioned 750 people), revealed that 77% of new parents are unhappy with their sex lives. They feel they’re less adventurous than before and they also feel like they can’t really talk about it.
It makes for sad reading but perhaps isn’t surprising.
The key contributing factors to a crappy sex life are things like feeling exhausted, poor body image and a sex drive that seems to slide into a watery pool and disappear. And anyway, why would you want to have sex when you have a small person draining your life juice each day? Why would you want to do anything, aside from sit down with a nice TV programme and a large gin? Sex can often feel like ‘another thing on the to-do list’ but also the ONE thing that is probably okay to put off for another time.
No one is going to die if you don’t have sex.
But the sad thing is that going for a long time without sex results in something dying. Your relationship, your self-esteem, your identity- all these things are tied up in the same, big, fat, sexy caboodle. All too soon you’re referring to one another as ‘Mummy’ and ‘Daddy’ (and not in sexy way) and you get into the habit of avoiding it if you can and then that habit becomes the norm.
In the early days of looking after a new-born this is understandable (and you may be coping with post-birth trauma and the tiredness associated with total sleep deprivation) but what happens if things don’t pick up?
Hilda Burke, a psychotherapist, couple’s counsellor and life coach says yes expect sex to be further down the agenda in those early months:
‘Obviously, in the first weeks and months a certain amount of this (i.e. lack of intimacy) is expected but if your partner is still vanquished to the couch 6 months or more after the birth, this can become a serious issue.’
So there comes a time when things start to feel awkward and it’s the thing you can’t speak about but feel you should speak about. It becomes an issue rather than a thing you used to do without thinking about it. So, what do you do?
And here’s the rub. It’s not easy. Women’s magazines might suggest whipping on some red, saucy lingerie and engaging in role play. Or going on a ‘date night’ and seducing your partner after you’ve stuffed yourself with curry (not advisable perhaps). Or sex-texting. Or watching porno. Or dressing up as a rubber teddy bear. And sure, many of these things CAN work. But they can also sound a bit scary if your current idea of intimacy is a pat on the back at the end of the day just before you slide into sleepy-time bliss.
Are there instead small steps you can take to get well on your way to getting your end away?
The truth is there isn’t going to be ‘ONE ANSWER’ that works for everyone. Perhaps you feel crap about your body after kids and hate the way your stomach looks like a discarded crisp packet. Perhaps you feel angry at your partner because he never empties the dishwasher. And what if it’s been a year? What if you can’t remember when you last did anything intimate together? (aside from giving birth and that was mainly you and possibly wasn’t very erotic either).
According to Hilda Burke, there are some things you can try which perhaps feel a little less frightening:
‘I think it’s important to schedule some time together when the kids have gone to bed. The most flattering thing is to have your partner’s undivided attention for a while so switch off your phone, tablet, laptop too.’
So just giving your other half some attention and recognition can help (and him returning the favour too). It can be hard to drop those negative ‘dishwasher vibes’ but give it a go. And don’t set the bar too high. Role play, dressing up, sex toys…these are all well and good but sometimes a sleepy, fumbling shag is just fine thank you.
Or if you want to try something wilder, more imaginative then grit your teeth and GO FOR IT. Recently a good friend of mine told me about an occasion that changed her sex life dramatically… in one BOLD move.
‘We were sitting in a restaurant and I leant over and said- ‘Put your hand up my skirt. I’m not wearing any knickers.’ He was so shocked that he stopped eating and stared at me like I’d dropped out of the sky. Then he suggested we have sex in the toilet of the restaurant.’
The thing is becoming parents forces us to see our partners in a new light. Some of that is a lovely, cosy light and some of it is a bit weird. For men that can mean seeing you as a giant Mummy, poo-cleaner,-baby-fanny, dishwasher nag-head. This isn’t your fault but changing the role you play may help. Remind him that there isn’t a child’s poo or a wet wipe in sight. Remind him that you are not Mummy (unless that becomes another kind of game you want to explore together).
Also don’t expect it to be like ‘Game of Thrones’ sex. Don’t expect to be orgasming all over the electric blanket like a crazed Bonobo. High expectations are one of the key reasons we find fault with so much in our lives. Set that sex- bar a little lower.
You might just be pleasantly surprised.
More details on Hilda Burke here: http://hildaburke.co.uk
integrative psychotherapist, couples counsellor and life coach..