Jenna and her husband have always had a healthy sex life -- until Jenna became pregnant with their first child. Now, her life is full of breast pumps, spittle and the interruptions of the baby monitor.
For Dean and his wife, Sarah, the sex stopped four years ago, barring an occasional quickie. He says he just doesn't see his wife that way anymore because she's now the mother of his children.
Tammy Gold MSW, LCSW, CEC, Licensed Therapist & Certified Coach and author of Secrets of The Nanny Whisperer, says she often works with couples on balancing parenting and relationship needs. "Couples go into the hospital as two people and come out as four. Juggling four different personalities is hard. Miscommunication and loss occur when one is focused on the child and the other is focused on the partner and that presents problems," she shares.
The husband may now see his partner in a different light. The therapist explains, "Because of his feelings about his own mother, intimacy may become complicated and enmeshed with other emotions that weren't there prior to the baby's birth."
Does parenthood have to mean the end of sexual intimacy? Not necessarily. Try these tips to reconnect.
1. See the situation through your partner's perspective.
This helps people see the issue with a less angry light," Gold shares.
2. Express the issue clearly without getting angry or snippy.
Lots of times, people just don't know how to communicate. Couples therapy may involve translating what the other really means. "Sometimes when a partner is rebuffed in the bedroom, he or she will take it out in other areas, about the house or something else, to engage in an argument. The fight isn't about the central issue," Gold says.
3. Learn to identify feelings.
Communication may help the partner see the other's side. A therapist or coach can give you the tools, but you can try these tips at home:
- Write down the last three incidents between you. What happened? What did you feel? Why?
- Find a common ground.
- Fight clean. When couples fight dirty, it's sometimes hard to go back.
- Communicate what happened and learn to validate the partner's feelings, even if you don't understand.
- Learn to say 'I'm sorry.'
4. Book a sitter for a weekly date night -- or morning.
Gold prescribes a weekly date and childcare for her clients. "Parents are pushed to the brink and so burnt out. "Spending $60 for a weekly sitter is like a $6,000 a week investment if it allows couples to reconnect, which is essential," Gold adds. "Some couples haven't had a date in two years and drift farther and farther apart. People are living under the same roof, but are living parallel lives, only connecting on the parenting piece. Nothing is going on in the marriage piece."
Setting aside adult time also models partnership and flexibility, as well as resolving conflict. Parents can say, "We love you, but this is a special time for mommy and daddy." For couples who are too exhausted at night, Gold suggests flipping around to get a daytime sitter on a Saturday so they can the read the paper or play tennis.
5. Have an affair -- with your husband or wife.
Every six weeks, plan an overnight date. Barter with friends to watch the kids, suggests Gold. "Meet at a hotel bar for a few drinks. Connect without distraction and verbalize what you loved about each other in the beginning. Reclaim the glue that held you together at some point in time. No kid talk for 24 hours!" advises Gold. "Include some role play. Pretend you're meeting a stranger at the bar. Get out of sweats and do your hair and makeup. Reclaim who you were before."
Post-kids, many parents take their marriage and partner for granted. Remember, your partnership is the foundation with the children on top. If the cement crumbles, everything falls down.