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Make It Fit

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Click here to read an original op-ed from the TED speaker who inspired this post and watch the TEDTalk below.

I recently watched Esther Perel's talk "The Secret To Desire In A Long-Term Relationship", and it got me thinking. When you begin a relationship, there's a period in which you can't get enough of each other. For me, this stems from the fact that this person is mysterious, and that you can be who you want to be. As a relationship grows, we begin to focus on the other person, rather than our own SELF. It's about what turns THEM on, when it should be about what turns ME on.

Not surprisingly, having children (which are the product of one of intimate moments... the irony is not lost on me) compounds the problem of worrying about others above our SELF. It's difficult to create any type of mystery when you're running on three hours sleep, arguing about bedtime, and trying to pay the bills.

I think in many cases we simply stop doing anything outside of obligations, and get stuck in a cycle of work, kids, house, bed, until the weekend, and then repeat it next week. We give up the things we enjoy (hobbies, time alone, going out with friends) to focus on our kids. While our children are incredibly important, if we're not careful, we can lose our SELF.

Once we become parents, we tend to stop doing anything apart from our children, and we lose our radiance and SELF confidence. In turn, these are the very things that draw our partners to us, so it's no wonder that desire is often snuffed out when a new baby arrives; often, sex is just another need that you have to fulfill for someone else.

Some clients had incredibly controlling parents, only to realize that they had run so far from that idea that their child had no limits or boundaries, which are part of a healthy child and a healthy family. -- Kim West

Being wanted is one thing, but being needed can be frustrating and smothering (and it is a huge turn-off). In fact, I've spoken with clients who were so consumed by their need to not turn into their parents that their own unresolved issues with their parents were getting in the way of relationships with both their partner and children.

Some clients had incredibly controlling parents, only to realize that they had run so far from that idea that their child had no limits or boundaries, which are part of a healthy child and a healthy family. Others worried about the fact that their mom wasn't there for them, so they spend their days hovering to make sure they are not anything like their mom.

What ends up happening when we are baby-consumed is that we forget about the original relationship that we had with our partner, and end up becoming even more needy and dependent of the relationships that we can control, risking our relationships for the sake of a short-term fear that seems all consuming at the time.

Parenting is a difficult balancing act, and with societal pressures surrounding child-focused parenting there isn't much room for an adult relationship. We're so worried about being either great parents or nothing like our parents that we're losing our ability to hold onto our SELF. Of course we don't want to emotionally damage our children, but at what cost?

Esther Perel shared that just the mention of parenting decreases desire in some couples. But when it's a part of life, you have to find a way to make it all fit together.

I think that to be truly intimate, to truly desire your partner you have to find that balance. I know that it's really difficult to take care of our children, work all day, cook, clean, and then poof switch to sexy goddess or even just a passionate partner.

Perhaps this is because few of us have excellent role models for sustaining loving, passionate relationships and being a great parent. I love how Esther Perel pointed out that many of us blame our partner for losing the desire in our relationships when we really need to look inside ourselves and ask what is causing the turn off (and while you're at it, ask yourself what turns YOU on).

When I think about the few couples I know who are truly happy (and have a sex life and passion for each other) and are raising kids I have noticed a common theme:

-- They genuinely like and respect each other as people
-- They are a united front when it comes to their kids
-- They don't expect that their partner will be everything to or for them, yet they talk and share with each other frequently
-- They have friends OUTSIDE their relationship and their children

Perhaps most importantly, these couples maintain a relationship separate from their parenting role. No relationship is perfect, but the truly happy couples that I know seem to have figured out their roles and are content.

More than anything, these couples are playful with each other and laugh, and they find ways to have spontaneous, unexpected sex (maybe not as often as they did before kids). They have created a safe haven in their relationship that seems as Esther Perel referenced, to hold a space that they can enter to have sex where they can surrender and be completely focused on their own SELF.

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