Q I have a loving relationship with my partner, but since the birth of our second child, two years ago, I have lost interest in sex. It’s now a chore. My partner is patient and understanding, but I know he finds it difficult. I can’t talk about it, as I feel so guilty. What do you advise?
A I am sure your two children are a wonderful addition to your lives. But, oh, the hard, ongoing demands on your time as a mother. Bringing up, and caring for, children requires learning a whole new skill set. It can be great, but also tiring.
Before children arrive the focus of a relationship is simple: man and woman. And in the early stages there is often a dizzy euphoria. But children force a couple to radically change their focus.
You say your relationship is loving but the passion for you has waned, with sex becoming a chore. You feel guilty and your partner is probably feeling rejected.
Let us look at the dynamic. You are tired and when you get to bed the last thing on your mind is sex. You want sleep. He then feels excluded. You two need to really talk about how life has changed.
Look at your hopes and fears for your relationship, now that you are a family unit. You are a normal couple dealing with children who are at a very demanding age.
Before discussing sex, I would encourage you to think about yourselves and how you can find some space for each other. Have dates away from the children. Get support from extended family to allow you to get out. Sometimes, just having a meal at home together, after the children are in bed, can be fun and with a little effort can be romantic. This is about you.
Men and women are different in how they become aroused. It is sometimes said that for women sex begins at breakfast. It takes longer for a woman to be physiologically aroused, and if there is pressure she may unconsciously shut down. He is wired differently and becomes aroused more quickly. Women need to connect and feel loved to have sex. For men, sex is the way to connect and feel loved. So, how can you get back to having sex that will be normal for you both?
Sex therapists Crowe and Ridely (1986) came up with a solution. First, ditch the idea of spontaneity. Spontaneous sex is wonderful, but because couples are waiting for it, sex is often not happening. Organise a sexual date. Plan it, and stick to the plan. Think about pleasurable touch and take time. Think about what you both like, talk about it. Keep to this plan each week and outside this time only affectionate touch is allowed.
Once the pressure for sex is taken away, there is more space for kissing and cuddling. Gradually, sex will become part of your lives again.
* Marie Daly is a sex therapist with Relationships Ireland. Please send your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org
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