Do you have any idea what the best predictor of a man’s relationship with his children is? Take a guess! It has little to do with how he feels about his kids. It has everything to do with the quality of his relationship with his spouse. (Tara Parker Pope)
Yet a husband’s relationship with his wife, the relationship that seemed so natural and mutually satisfying before baby, hits a huge bump after a baby is born. Dr. John and Julie Gottman in their book, And Baby Makes Three, describe it this way.
“It looked like the stork in the sky had dropped it’s bundle, but crushed their sex lives. Having a baby was no aphrodisiac, at least to women.”
After a baby enters your family, many couples are disconnected. Yet if any woman asked her husband, “What do I do that makes you as happy as having sex? Most of the husbands would say “Nothing.”
So how do husbands and wives find their way back to an intimate life with each other? As marriage and family therapists, we believe that if each partner is willing to challenge themselves in ten specific ways, a couple can begin to enjoy their sexual connection again. This week we are going to consider five of the ways that each of us must challenge ourselves.
Challenge #1: Challenge Your Perfectionistic Expectations
The pressure on young parents today, to be it all, to do it all, and to have it all, is intense. Esther Perel describes it brilliantly,
“Child centrality is unfolding against the backdrop of romanticism that underscores modern marriage. Not only do we want to be perfect parents, to give our child everything, we also want our marital relationships to be happy, fulfilled, sexually exciting, and emotionally intimate.”
When we are in the trenches, after having a baby, we need to confront our perfectionistic fantasies. It isn’t even healthy to make your child the center of your life and to give them everything. That is unless you want to raise a spoiled, entitled child who can’t deal with delay, disappointment or hearing a “no”.
Just because you have kids with needs doesn’t give you permission to ignore your own needs or your spouse’s needs.
Women, we need to free ourselves from the ridiculous pressure we impose on ourselves to run a perfectly ordered home. In the same way, that your value is not determined by your employment, an exquisitely kept home doesn’t have a thing to do with your personal worth. Often a woman’s domestic gene gets activated after the birth of a baby. Perhaps creating order externally helps with all the internal chaos most new mothers feel. Often the shift from being employed to being a full time mother is seismic. I remember my personal struggle with thinking I had to prove my value because I was no longer bringing in a paycheck.
That said, I also noticed something interesting.
“Laid back women had more sex. They have more energy for it.”
If your husband complains about the lack of order in your home, tell him you’re saving some energy for sex. Then ask him to help you do a thirty- minute sweep of the lived in areas of your house. We have yet to run into a man who would choose an immaculate home over sex.
As far as perfectionistic expectations for yourself or your mate, it is a total time waster. In this stage of “new normal” you will disappoint each other. Now develop a sense of humor. You are each just trying to keep your head above water.
Grace needs to be the name of the game.
Extend undeserved favor to each other. Let go of perfectionism. This is not the time for negative forecasting about your future and assuming that you will never love each other the same way again.
Challenge #2: Challenge Your Idea of Beauty
News Flash: Most women gain weight during pregnancy and it doesn’t just disappear immediately after having a baby.
Guys, this is not the time to mention that your wife needs to work out, eat differently, or dress more attractively. Instead enjoy the beauty of the woman who just birthed your child.
Gals, stop comparing yourself to the trainer at your gym. Why are women so obsessed with making themselves smaller? Live in gratitude, not comparison. Thank God for a body that was strong enough to go through childbirth and for arms that can cradle your precious little one.
Numerous husbands have told us that regardless of how their wife sees her body, they find her as attractive as ever and maybe even more so.
Challenge #3: Challenge the Lie That Sex is a Man’s Need and Not Yours.
Kristen Mark, the director of The Sexual Health Promotion Lab at the University of Kentucky, informs us that in long-term relationships, men and women are both likely to experience periods of low sexual desire. Your greatest sex organ is your brain, so don’t fill it with lies.
God created sex and declared it, “very good.” Breast-feeding may temporarily wipe out your libido, but an intimate, connected sexual relationship with your partner…
- Stimulates your heart and increases blood flow
- Makes you feel alive
- Produces endorphins (the feel good chemicals)
- Reduces tension
- Makes both of you feel attractive and desired
- Relaxes you
- Makes you feel connected to your partner
- Boosts your self-esteem
- Opens your husband up to his emotional vulnerability
- Helps you feel like a woman, not just a mother.
- Helps you burn calories.
Don’t let sexual intimacy be only one person’s need. That thinking will only lead down the dark, lonely path to mutual estrangement. Sex is not an act. It is a place that you find inside yourself and with another. Why would you withhold these benefits from yourself?
Challenge #4: Challenge Your Belief That If You’re Not Feeling It, It Won’t Happen.
Research is suggesting that we wade into sex, even if we’re not yet in the mood. Desire comes from arousal. Arousal often emerges as couples are involved in foreplay, rather than having desire before they start. (Nicole Praus, founder of the Liberos Research Institute). So be willing to be willing to be aroused. Leave some space to try to light your fire and pause if one of you doesn’t want to go further.
Challenge #5: Challenge the Belief That Scheduling Sex is a Negative Thing!
Intentionality conveys value. When we plan for sex, when we make intimate time an important commitment on our calendars, we are saying that we want to create a space for erotic intimacy in our marriage. It is what we did prior to children. It is what couples do who choose to have affairs. Setting aside time for sex indicates a willingness, an anticipation, and a valuing of our connection. This could be our favorite appointment of the week.
Desire can’t be forced, yet it can be encouraged.
After baby arrives, each partner must be willing to challenge any personal tendency to minimize the importance of sexuality in a relationship.
Next week’s blog will address five more ways that we need to challenge ourselves to get our groove back. For this week, ponder these words,
Sex without love is as hollow and ridiculous as love without sex.
Hunter S. Thompson
Until our next Conscious Lover’s Blog…