Couples who actively invest in their sexual connection fare better than those who don’t, says Suzi Godson.
Q. My wife used to initiate sex but rarely does now that we have two children. I have forgotten how to take the lead because I am so out of the habit and it makes me feel awkward.
A. Decades of research confirm the link between the arrival of children and a decline in satisfaction in the relationship.
Babies do make us happy. Really happy. Yet they can also get in the way of our sex lives.
It always makes me laugh when doctors advise new mothers not to have sex for at least six weeks because many couples take six months to reconnect, some much longer.
Sexual intimacy is an important marker of relationship satisfaction, and couples who actively invest in their sexual connection fare better than those who don’t.
However, there is no shame in admitting that you feel awkward about it.
When you get out of the habit of doing something that used to be second nature — riding a bike, for example — starting again is intimidating.
You worry that you won’t remember how to do it, or that you will wobble and fall off halfway through.
Apprehension is justified because it does take time to regain your former proficiency.
Sex, however, is less like riding a bike and more like sharing a tandem; you split the effort and the responsibility — and that makes it a lot easier.
You are both a bit rusty, but that is not a big deal as long as you can talk about it. Get a babysitter and take your wife out to dinner.
Pour some wine, get conversations about the kids out of the way and then talk about how things used to be before they arrived. Steer the conversation towards sex, but beware of obvious pitfalls.
The word “you” is likely to get you into trouble, so avoid it.
Do not, for example, say “you never initiate sex any more”, because it will make her feel that the sexual lull is her problem.
Instead, concentrate on yourself and your feelings. Acknowledge you feel nervous. Confirm that you are aroused by her, but confess that your confidence is so shaky that you feel you need an invitation.
If you admit your vulnerabilities, she will share hers and the ice that has immobilised both of you will begin to melt.
Spending an evening talking about sex is likely to be the trigger that you need to have sex that night, but beyond that, you may have to be the one who takes the lead.
Building anticipation by sending her a suggestive text message, or leaving a note with a time and a question mark stuck to the fridge, will put the idea of sex into her head.
Bring home a bottle of wine or flowers.
However, desire and arousal are not spontaneous for a lot of women.
The process of being seduced, of being touched or kissed, is the spark that lights the fire. This is particularly true when women are preoccupied with motherhood.
Rosemary Basson, the director of sexual medicine at the University of British Columbia, believes sexual desire is not a ‘drive’ for women.
Rather it is a ‘response’ that has to be ‘triggered’ before a woman can make the decision to have sex.
Your wife may need you to make sexual overtures to her, but it’s important that she recognises the importance of reciprocity. Men rarely demand the kind of endorsement that women need before they can connect emotionally and sexually, but they still need it.
When women become mothers they can get so absorbed by their maternal role that they neglect their partner’s needs, but every man wants to know that his wife desires him and this becomes more important as a relationship matures.
When a couple is in the first flush of a new romance, the words “I love you” mean everything. When you have been together for 20 years, the words “I want to make love to you” mean a lot more.
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