Motherhood presents an amazing opportunity to create a richer and more fully integrated self-image. Many women feel a new sense of wholeness. They are in awe of the spirituality inherent in birthing a baby. They have a renewed respect and awe for their body even as they dream of being back to their pre-baby weight.
Becoming a mother teaches a woman about true intimacy. A child requires intense closeness, offers trust and loves with abandon. They are totally vulnerable. Even though breast-feeding may diminish a mother’s sex drive, our new personal growth makes us radiantly attractive to our partners.
As we have learned both personally and as a result of working with couples in the counseling office, often the thing that turned a couple’s sex life around was an attitude shift and a willingness to challenge the status quo.
It happened when the low desire partner decided that…
The 2 0f us need and deserve a good sex life.
From that point on both partners made intelligent, compassionate and diligent attempts to resuscitate their sex life. That often involved personally challenging themselves and their thinking. In last week’s blog we wrote about 5 challenges that every couple needs to confront. This week we are suggesting 2 more.
We believe that your sexuality has the capacity to fill your life with great vitality and joy. Motherhood has the same capacity. Sexuality helps us free ourselves from a disproportionate focus on a child emotionally and practically.
If you long for a double whammy of joy, perhaps you will continue to challenge yourself in these two ways. In next week’s blog we will suggest three additional challenges.
Challenge # 6: Expand Your Definition of Foreplay
Good intimacy doesn’t guarantee great sex. Couples, who are determined to maintain a private and passionate sex life, take foreplay seriously.
Desire can’t be forced,
but it certainly can be encouraged.
Year ago there was a book written by Charlie Shedd titled, Sex Begins in the Kitchen. The premise was that the way we talk to each other, the way we treat each other, and the way we lighten each other’s load, could all be considered foreplay, prolonged foreplay.
Stop monitoring your partner’s desire,
instead entice his/her desire.
Do you know what your partner defines as foreplay? Have you ever had a conversation about this? Are you each just expecting the other to somehow know? Mary Sykes Wylie puts it well…
The great paradox and irony of our times is that for all of our
talk, talk, talk about sex, sex, sex, we have such a hard time talking about sex with those we love most, when it most matters.
A smart couple values talking and touching as much as intercourse. Both need to happen inside and outside of the bedroom.
Postpartum mothers benefit from daily massages according to research conducted by Dr. Tiffany Field from the University of Miami. The benefits are comparable to those of an anti-depressant. Husbands, this could be a generous gift for your wife. Might it be considered foreplay? Warning! Just don’t ever turn this gift into a demand.
Women seem to have a sensor that knows the difference between being pursued and being pawed. In the counseling office, we hear frustrated wives say, “If only he would touch my heart, before he touches my breasts or genitals, I’d feel more aroused.”
Husbands also want to feel desired. A husband put it this way, “I can take not having sex for awhile, as long as I know I am still wanted.” Gals, sometimes because we don’t desire sex after having a baby, we don’t let our husbands know that we still find them attractive and that we value them. Let’s change this.
All the research is confirming a truth that women always knew. Desire comes out of arousal. So what are you doing to encourage your own arousal? What do you do to encourage your mate’s arousal?
Touch must not always automatically lead to intercourse.
Barry McCarthy, a board-certified clinical psychologist and a certified- sex therapist has created a clever breakdown of the different ways that married couples can touch. He refers to it as the “Five Gears”. We think it is a clever way of encouraging couples to enjoy everything from the little touches to the big ones.
First Gear: is clothes on, affectionate touch including hugging, kissing, holding hands.
Second Gear: is sensual touching. Sensual touch includes non-genital body massage, cuddling on the couch, and touching while going to sleep or on awakening.
Third Gear: is playful touch which intermixes genital and non-genital touch while clothed or unclothed, romantic or erotic dancing, touching while in the bath and shower, whole body massage, playing strip poker or Twister.
Fourth Gear: is erotic touch (manual, oral, rubbing, or vibrator stimulation) to high arousal and orgasm for one or both partners.
Fifth Gear: integrates pleasurable and erotic touch that flows into intercourse. Intercourse is a natural continuation of the pleasuring eroticism process. Intercourse is not a pass-fail sex test.
Sex is not just intercourse.
Touch is to be enjoyed whether it leads to intercourse of not.
Foreplay could also be considered kindness.
Dr. John and Dr. Julie Gottman put it well,
When your partner looks tired, and you do the dishes, even when it’s not your turn, that’s foreplay…when you take care of the baby so your partner can have some alone time, that’s foreplay. When you listen to one another after a stressful day, that’s foreplay. When you take a walk together in the morning and talk to each other, when you say, ‘thank you’ even when you don’t have to, and when you sincerely tell your spouse how beautiful or handsome he or she looks, that all foreplay. So are you enjoying foreplay or are you expecting fireworks without a fuse?
- And Baby Makes Three, Page 161)
Women need time to switch identities from mommy to woman. Mommy mode involves being tired, always being on guard, always being touched and an awareness that your body is not your own. One mother said, “I feel like a jungle gym. Someone is always climbing on me.”
Frankly guys, hours of vomit, drool, poop, breast milk, snot and pee don’t make a woman feel attractive. Facilitate your wife’s need to clean up, to pamper herself, to do something that makes her feel renewed and distances hers from needy little ones. That is considered foreplay in our books. Foster a regular date time. Get away together every few months.
Challenge # 7: Fight this Pattern
When a woman fails to see that her husband’s desire for sex is a wish to be intimate with her, not just her body, but her, she is inclined to minimize the importance of sex to her husband. Sex is the prelude to a man finding his emotional vulnerability. His wife is the only woman he can find that with.
Validating your husband’s needs
does not mean denying your own.
When a wife makes her husband feel like a needy child who she has to placate, she is completely denying the importance of sexuality for herself too.
Her husband feels displaced. He is a sensitive and generous guy. He helps with chores, he is an active and involved father, he tells his wife she is beautiful regularly and he initiates dates. We are not describing a distant, passive and procrastinating husband. Unfortunately he is beginning to see her lack of interest as lack of attraction.
We often confront this toxic pattern in the counseling office. He initiates, and she turns him down. He feels rejected and withdraws. She feels disconnected and becomes distrustful of his motives. They blame each other, feel estranged from each other and think it is the other person’s job to make their relationship better.
When the absence of sexual desire is mutual, a couple can have a satisfying relationship. However, danger enters when one spouse, male or female, really desires a sexual connection and they can’t engage the other.
Certainly we would be setting ourselves up for disappointment if we expected our partner to be in the mood, just because we are.
Instead of telling a story of rejection, the higher desire partner
must see their role as one of encouraging anticipation.
They can listen, invite, tease, kiss, tempt, romance, compliment and seduce. Take the lead and help your spouse anticipate the journey. Do not withdraw, bully, nag, or get aggressive. No one wants to buy a ticket on that train.
The lower desire partner needs to reclaim
his/her need for pleasure.
We can feel selfish when we start to make our desire for pleasure a priority. That is not selfish. It is human.
Maybe the lower desire partner needs to get away with a relative and or friend for a weekend and leave their spouse with the children. Just opening up to pleasure may be a necessary shift in their emotional world.
There is power in refusal, yet it isn’t the power of love.
It keeps us stuck rather than open. Perhaps sex is off limits, but then the question is, “What is in limits?” Are you open to kissing, dancing, touching…Are you open to being talked into it? Can one ask, “Want to?” and the other say, “Convince me.” If your answer is “no” consistently, we strongly encourage you get into therapy. Your libido needs to be rescued from forced retirement.
Esther Perel describes the big picture.
Consumed by motherhood, the wife was too quick to dismiss the inherent value of her husband’s persistence. With him, and through him, she potentially can begin to disentangle from the symbiotic bond with her children and transfer some of her energy back to herself and her relationships. When the father reaches out to the mother, and the mother acknowledges, redirecting her attention, it proves to rebalance the entire family. Boundaries get drawn and new zoning regulations get put in place delineating areas that are adult only. Time, resourcefulness, playfulness and fun are redistributed, and the libido is rescued.
(Psychotherapy Networker, February 17, 2015)
When the boundaries are redistributed in a marriage, everyone benefits.
The mother feels like a woman. The man feels like a man. The children feel loved and assured of their parent’s love for each other.
Until our next Conscious Lover’s Blog…