It’s sometimes referred to as the “baby quake”.
That life stage where kids start to arrive and turn life-as-you-know-it upside down, including your relationship – and including the bedroom.
“How do I help my wife feel sexy again?”
“I know that sex is important for a marriage. But I’m just so tired. I feel like I’m being a bad wife.”
“Between the kids, work and everything else, we’re both exhausted by the end of the day. We still have it. But it’s lost its spark.”
“The doctor says it’s okay to have sex now. But why are we not having it?”
We pay so much attention to the birth and child development process when we enter this life stage and adjusting our life accordingly, but often overlook how to manage the impact that change has on our romantic relationships.
It’s like an unspoken truth that our sex lives will be disrupted but it still comes a shock when it does.
Research by the Gottman Institute, one of the most respected and leading thought leaders in the scientific research of marriage life span, found that “the transition to parenthood brings a 67% decrease in relationship satisfaction for both men and women.”
So how does sex factor into relationship satisfaction, and why does it matter?
First, I want to emphasise that how important sex is to a relationship varies drastically for individuals and each relationship. There are people for whom sexual activities are just not that important (ever, or for that period).
Secondly, there are those for whom it is very important. One thing I hear very often from women and sometimes men is how guilty they feel that they aren’t having enough sex. So we need to be careful of creating this vicious pitfall that sex is a must have for every relationship and that lots of sex should be the norm.
How important sex is for a marriage and relationship is really up for the couple to define together. And that will look different throughout life.
Many times, when we dig a little deeper, it is not the frequency of sex that is distressing the couple, but the quality and also the mismatched expectations around sex.
“I feel rejected and resentful that I have to initiate all the time. It feels like they don’t care.”
“Doesn’t he understand that I am so tired? My body doesn’t feel like my own. He is not listening to me.”
“He’s a man – shouldn’t he want it all the time? Does this mean he’s not attracted to me anymore?”
Often, it is what sex represents for the individuals in the relationship that manifests in the feeling of a loss of spark.
So, where to start to relight that fire? Here are tips to consider.
1. Give yourself and your partner a break
Most couples aren’t set up to cope with the transition to parenthood – after all, we hardly talk about sex as it is! It is completely normal that you have come up against this struggle.
So take a breath and recollect yourselves – it is surmountable.
2. Take some time to reflect on the following:
- Your body and self identity went through a big change
Have you and/or your partner processed the physical, emotional and existential changes and experiences?
- Where are you spending your time on a daily basis?
What kind of rituals do you have in place where the two of you can connect? It could be the 10 mins you spend after the kids are put to bed where you sit and listen to each other’s days.
Or it could be the ritual of a kiss on the forehead every morning when you wake up. A ritual is something that is regular, consistent and reliable as a way to connect.
- If you are anxious or worried about the state of your sex, ask yourself:
If a miracle happened tomorrow and everything magically got better – what would your sex life look like? The more concrete you can create that with your partner, the more focused that goal can be for the two of you.
3. Share and communicate with your reflections with your partner
If you’re not sure how to start this conversation, try sharing this piece of information with them. Articles and stories are a great way to introduce topics for discussion. Remember to listen without judgment.
4. Prioritise, trial and error
The reality is, life is not the same as our early 20s when we were free to give more energy to this area of life. At the same time, this phase will also pass.
In the meantime, do your best to carve out time to connect, not just sexually but as a couple. Even if you start with a weekly lunch date, or a scheduled 30 mins call during the day to catch up every other day. Be creative and do something to demonstrate that this relationship is important.
On the sex side, trial and error is key. Be prepared to throw everything you thought you knew about sex and your sex life out the window and start fresh! Have fun with this!
Lunch time dates might be the spice that you’re looking for. Or it might be in the shower quickies. For some fun ways to get started, download a sexual bucket list to do together, or if you’re more high tech – download an app like Desire to gamify your journey!
Don’t shy away from getting professional support
If you’re finding that things are not really progressing and you feeling stuck, seek the right help. I often compare having kids to a major sports injury.
How realistic is it to expect the athlete to return to their A-game without any external support to rehabilitate and reintegrate back into the sport? Don’t hesitate to get in a third party if necessary.
There is no one way or right way to do sex in a marriage. You are the experts of your sex life, your bodies and your life!
This article was contributed by Ms Erin Chen, Founder of SPARK Fest Asia and Sex & Relationship Counsellor.
Happening on 19 May, SPARK Fest is Asia’s first sexual wellness festival. SPARK, which stands for Sexual Pleasure and Relationship Konversations, was founded by sex and relationship counsellor and TEDx speaker Erin Chen and Yoga Instructor Sinnead Ali to encourage people to #lovemoreconsciously. The duo aims to #BreakTheWall and provide a curated space to bring conversations about sex, pleasure and relationships into the open.