Making time for intimacy may feel like a last priority, but ignore it at your peril, says sex and relationships expert and author Isabel Losada.
Does the mere idea of sex mortify you now that you and your partner are parents of small people? If so, you are not alone. There are so many new factors that come into play once children are on the scene.
Not in the mood at all, too tired, you’re not sure you even fancy each other any more? What’s that you say? Two children under five?!
What’s clear, however, is that finding the time and energy to have sex when you’re having to get up several times in the night can be one of the most challenging periods for a relationship.
The best place to start from is one of honesty. It’s ok to not get excited about anything apart from wine or chocolate when you are a sleep-deprived six months in. Your bed is full of children anyway and if you’re like countless other new mums, your greatest fantasy is eight hours’ uninterrupted sleep.
But the good news is there are ways to find a new level of connection. Here are a few steps to help you achieve the (sex) life that you want.
TOP TIPS FOR INTIMACY
REDEFINE YOUR CONCEPT OF ‘RED-HOT SEX’
The reason that sex after kids is such a loaded subject is because we have such a narrow definition of ‘sex’. ‘Good sex’ is often portrayed as ‘red-hot sex’ and has very little to do with what happens in most bedrooms. There exists an idea of sex where the woman is somehow supposed to respond in an Oscar-winning performance of a porn star and the man is supposed be ‘longer, harder, stronger’. Put these two pressurised performances together and you have a recipe for failure. No wonder so few people are having sex any more. Who can manage this after a day looking after two under-fives? So the first step is to throw out that model of sex. Instead, we need to enjoy the fact that our bodies are covered in nerve endings, and start to explore ways to give and receive pleasure to each others’ bodies. In the months after childbirth, penetrative sex may be the last thing that a woman wants. And that’s ok.
HONESTY, FOR SEX TO LAST A LIFETIME
You need to be completely honest if you are to build a sex life with your partner that is going to last the rest of your life. I’m not just talking about faking orgasms – but exaggerating pleasure in any way to ‘reassure’ your partner. Don’t do this – be true to yourself and only say “Mmmmmm” if you really want to. For the duration of your sex life when you have young children, introduce a new authenticity to your intimacy which, ultimately, is far more sexy because it’s profoundly real. You both have an opportunity to learn a whole new way of touching and loving each other that, hopefully, will still be giving you both pleasure when you’re in your 80s.
THE NO-GOAL FINISHING LINE
Remove all pressure on yourself and on your lover to chase the orgasm. You don’t want to have any definition of sex that can ‘fail’. If you both feel loved and cherished, nothing can fail.
Your lover needs to know and understand that sometimes what you may want is no more than to have your shoulders massaged or your face stroked. And stroking your face is making love too. Do you know how erogenous the ears are? Like the soles of your feet, each point on the ears relates to a different part of your body. This can be felt as a new sensation in the body after a tiring day with a crying child. Sometimes orgasms may happen and sometimes not, but don’t make them a goal.
You may be thinking: “And what about his pleasure?” Well, there are lots of ways to explore giving him pleasure too. Remember you are not responsible for a man’s pleasure. The man is responsible for his own pleasure. He can ask you to pleasure him in various ways and you can say: “No” or “Yes, please” or “Wait”. Be gentle on yourself and appreciative of him.
LET YOURSELF SAY: “NO, THANKS”
It’s very healthy in a relationship to be able to say an authentic “No, thanks” to sex sometimes, and trust your partner to be able to deal with this. But don’t throw out the baby with the bath water. In my book, Sensation, I spent a year exploring everything that could make post-childbirth sex into better sex in the context of a long-term and monogamous relationship. No one wants to have sex with someone who is just going through the motions out of politeness. So be honest with your “No” and enthusiastic and appreciative when you feel ready for a “Yes”.
Mornings can be a pressurised time for parents with young children – you often wake exhausted if you’ve had a broken night. By the time you go to bed in the evening, you are likely to be exhausted. So if you want to make time to be loved, touched and cherished, make it a real priority and find a way to have time alone in the afternoons. See if you can get a babysitter, relative or friend to take the children out for a couple of hours, and instead of doing chores or jobs, dedicate that time to each other, even if it is just lying together and enjoying intimacy with no pressure to ‘perform’ in any way.
BE IN THE PRESENT
With so many distractions these days, we are often very bad at not ‘being present’. Our partner may be providing a wonderful back massage and instead of putting our focus on every nano-second of this experience, we let ourselves start thinking: “I really must do my tax return”, “We’ve run out of nappies!” or even “Is my stomach looking flabby?” You may as well be on the phone while you’re making love! Try to train yourself to switch off from everything but the sensations. If you find it hard to communicate in bed, ask him to ask questions to which you can reply: “Yes” or “No”, for example: “Would you like more pressure here?” Answer: “Yes” or “No”.
MAKE YOUR INTIMATE LIFE A PRIORITY – ALWAYS
I would also encourage you to prioritise intimate time together when you have more energy. If you are lucky enough to have anyone to care for your children, use this time for intimacy. Be bad – skip work one day if the kids are at nursery, and stay in bed sleeping and celebrating touch and love. Making your intimate life a priority is the best thing you can do for yourself, for your partner and for your children. What better investment could there be in a relationship?
Sensation: Adventures in Sex, Love and Laughter, (Watkins) £10.99