Raising kids is a lot of work – not just the physical everyday stuff of laundry, cooking, and helping them learn their multiplication tables. As a mom, having children challenges your definition of yourself, and as a couple, you’re not who you once were to one another.
Take sex, for example. Children often have an effect on a couple’s sexual relationship. You may feel so immersed in your babies and children that it’s difficult to switch your mind and body out of mommy mode. The physical, emotional, and psychological demands of motherhood frequently make it difficult to re-discover the sexual part of yourself.
Instead of desiring intimacy with your partner you withdraw from it. “I don’t want to be touched. I don’t want anyone near me at the end of the day. Once the kids are asleep, I just want to be left alone.”
Your partner may want to be understanding but, eventually, he begins to worry. “Will we ever have sex again?” When you aren’t available, he feels rejected, hurt, and frustrated. “She has plenty of affection for the kids but nothing left over for me.”
Sex is complicated and affected by many factors. Believe it or not, your parents’ relationship with each other actually has an effect on your attitude about sex. Your feelings about being touched, losing yourself, body image, and your own unique physiology, all contribute to your willingness to intimately engage your partner.
The routines of daily life also put pressure on your relationship. What time you woke up that morning and what you did all day easily become rationales for becoming more distant. “I’m just too tired.”
When there are babies to feed or children to tend to avoiding risky conversations about complex personal issues becomes second nature. Left to simmer, however, unspoken feelings and complaints contribute to tensions that seemingly erupt out of nowhere. One minute you’re talking about what to have for dinner and the next second you find yourselves in a full-blown argument.
Men and women often have different temperaments when it comes to sex. Typically, (but not always) men get close through the sexual experience and women need to feel close to be in the mood. Men like sex to help them relax; women need to be relaxed before they feel interested. Sex helps men feel good, loved, warm, and cozy, while women need to feel good, loved, warm, and cozy first.
Neither demanding sex nor avoiding it is productive. Both positions are more focused on the self than on the other. And since intimacy is a two-person experience, self-centeredness isn’t going to turn out very well.
Regardless of the topic – whether it’s sex or who cooks dinner – figuring out who feels what and why, and then knowing what to do about it requires sensitivity on both your parts. Rather than believing that your partner should know how you feel and then fighting about the fact that he doesn’t:
• Challenge yourself to talk about your feelings.
• Listen to and care about what your partner has to say and ask him to do the same.
• Then, put your heads together and think about what you need to do next.
Remember to discuss your problems when you’re not angry. Rather than becoming defensive, be more open and curious about each other. These conversations won’t always go smoothly, so don’t get discouraged. Wait a few days and try again. Sharing yourselves in this intimate way takes practice and patience. But the effort is well worth it.