When My Sex Life Sucked – Part 2

In my last post, I started sharing lessons I learned from the time in my marriage when our sex life sucked. In the years surrounding my pregnancy and infant-caring, my sex drive was largely absent while my husband still wanted to go at it like soap opera characters.

Anyway, the first set of lessons involved what the wife could do herself to maintain a good sex life during those trying years. Now I’ll suggest a few things that couples can do.

Approach parenting as a WE thing. John Gottman, the well-known marriage researcher, has a fabulous section on this topic in his book, The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work. He reports that “in the year after the first baby arrives, 70 percent of wives experience a precipitous plummet in their marital satisfaction.” We might expect this is related to fatigue, stress, health issues with a baby, etc. However, the key is “whether the husband experiences the transformation to parenthood along with his wife or gets left behind.”

Parents with baby

Deutsche Fotothek via Wikimedia Commons

Having a baby is life-altering for most women, but not necessarily for some men. I was blessed to stay at home with my babies. However, that meant that my life was suddenly in a whole other place 24/7. Meanwhile, my husband kept going to work and living a lot of his life the same. He had added a baby to the mix, where the baby was everything in my daily life. I wish I had invited him into the parenting experience better, and frankly I wish he had jumped into it more assertively. We could have made our early parenting years more of a WE thing and thus lessened the burden on me. These days, we have a far more integrated approach to parenting our kids.

How would that have helped our intimacy? Well, that shared experience would have increased intimacy outside the bedroom and allowed us more time and desire to be inside the bedroom together.

Communicate openly about your sex life. My husband did not talk to me about how much he missed our intimacy. He was trying to be patient and understanding on that account and went without for longer periods than he should have. I in turn did not communicate what I was going through, or when I did, it was more like a pity party than an invitation to improve our sexual relationship. I don’t think I’m going out on a limb to say that other couples do this too. Instead, couples need to honestly discuss concerns and look for ways to pursue satisfying intimacy.

Block out time for intimacy. Pre-children, most couples can make love just about anytime they want. After our workdays, we could have sex in the afternoon, evening, nighttime, morning, whatever. We could also do it in our bed, on the living room rug, in the shower, on the kitchen table, whatever. The point here is that our sex lives were flexible and mostly spontaneous.

Yeah well, forget that. When you have babies in the house, you may need to actually schedule times for intimacy. Sure, there are opportunities for spontaneity as well — like your child unexpectedly falling asleep in his bouncy seat and you and hubby running to the bedroom for a quickie before baby wakes up crying. But if you wait for the time when lovemaking fits into the rest of your schedule, you may find yourself waiting too long. Intimacy needs to become part of the schedule.

Have date nights that include intimacy. If you have grandparents, relatives, or babysitters to care for your little ones, take advantage of that. If not, perhaps you could barter with another couple or start a babysitting co-op where several couples take turns watching the kids while the others get a date night. In fact, things got better with our sex life when we availed ourselves of such opportunities.

Be more creative with sexual activity. There were times during my hormonal changes that intercourse did not feel good. Sometimes, it even hurt. That should not have quelled all intimacy. There are other things you can do! Sensual massage, a hand job, oral sex, and other activities are sexually pleasing and intimate in nature. They shouldn’t replace a sex life that involves intercourse, but they can enhance your sex life and carry you through periods when penetration isn’t comfortable. Speaking of which, you may need to try different positions during pregnancy or after childbirth to find a comfortable one for the both of you.

That’s a lot of lessons, huh? Summed up, though, I have learned how important it is to take care of yourself, communicate with your husband, and prioritize marital intimacy. That’s true at any time in your marriage; however, with pregnancy or young children in the mix, there are special challenges that can easily become big obstacles to maintaining a healthy sex life in your marriage.

What challenges to your intimacy are you facing with pregnancy, babies, or young children in the home? If you have passed that phase, what did you learn? What do you wish you had done differently to keep the spark ignited?

16 thoughts on “When My Sex Life Sucked – Part 2

  1. Anonymous

    for a loooonnnngggg time anytime the baby or bigger kids (age 5 is my oldest)made any noise whatever me and hubby were doing i would stop and take care of them since starting to read more blogs and things about marriage though i’ve started paying more attention to my husbands needs as well as my own.. i learned that making them wait for a few minutes is not going to kill them and it’s not gonna hurt to wait til we’re done to go pick up the baby. as for discomfort oh yeah after the birth of my middle child i couldn’t do it comfortably for a long time but eventually everything went back to normal and we r doing alot better.. marriage and family takes time to learn how to balance and though i haven’t gotten it comepletely i try. i wish i would have learned this all sooner and do i wish i could keep it in my brain when i get pregnant b/c towards the end of pregnancy is always where the most trouble comes in to our marriage it seems

  2. Anonymous

    I have a 7 week old daughter and am struggling with getting my husband to help with her more. He was amazing when she first was born, but it quickly dwindled. I am on leave from work currently so I can understand why I do the majority with her now but I go back to work in 5 weeks and will definitely need more help from him. Have any tips to help me hand over some responsibility so I don’t get so burnt out that I won’t desire to be intimate with him? We’ve been doing well in that department so far and I don’t want it to stop.

    1. J

      I don’t know what might work best with your hubby. I have learned that, with most men, asking generally for help or pointing out what he hasn’t done don’t get results. Giving him a task or two at a time works better. For instance, “Could you change him while I get dressed? His diapers are in the bag.” Direct request, single task, letting him know why you need that break.

      I’ll be honest. I find it irritating at times to have to dole out a task at a time rather than my husband seeing everything that needs doing like I do. However, my better self knows that God simply made us differently. I can take in a lot of stimuli, and he is designed to rock at a single task at a time. So be it.

      You can also sit down, away from baby and home, and explain your desire to be intimate and how constant baby-caring is making that difficult for you. Some hubbies will be motivated with that in mind.

      Finally, I ran this question by my own hubby, and he suggested having someone else talk to your husband instead of you. He thought that might keep you from nagging or him from hearing it that way. I don’t know who that would be. His mom? Your mom? A great friend? I don’t know. But it might be worth thinking about.

      Best wishes! While raising kids, the days are long, but the years are short. It’s been a while since I held a precious baby in my arms. I’d take your daughter off your hands for an hour or two if I was nearby! 😉

    2. Paul Byerly

      Anonymous – I agree with J – lay it out for hubby. Let him know cause and effect, with part of the effect being a lost of interest in sex. I’m not suggesting blackmail, just letting him know the reality of the situation.

  3. Anonymous

    I am so glad that I have a husband who believes that sex that doesn’t create oneness in a marriage creates divisions and shouldn’t be a part of a marriage. I am nEVER pressured to have sex when I don’t feel like it. And it’s during those “drought” periods that he becomes closer to God and focuses on that relationship – which is more necessary than his sexual needs being taken care of.

    I am about 5 months pregnant and have dealt with hyperemesis and pubic symphosis dysfunction since day one. 9 out of 10 times sex just isn’t an option (and believe me, when you throw up during a hand job, you can guarantee your husband will believe you when you don’t feel up for sex).

    If my husband had been reading these blogs he would say that it is the husband that has to lay aside his needs for his wife not the other way around. He would say that Christ laid down His life for us in the same way men have to be willing to sacrifice their body in order to create oneness with their wife. You know what? It works! I no longer resent my husband for asking me to do something that requires leaves me sick or in pain. I no longer resent my husband because he experience pleasure when I was just left even more exhausted than ever.

    He lays down his life nightly for me by doing dishes, taking care of the kids, and doing everything he can to numb the pain in my pelvis so that I can fall asleep easier. He gets up early in the morning to take care of the kids because he knows that I don’t sleep well enough at night to get through the day with the kids.

    My husband has become so much more attractive to me that I can’t wait till the pregnancy is over with. I actually have a desire to have sex with my husband. I look forward to that 1 time out of 10 when I’m not sick to my stomach and my pelvis isn’t doesn’t feel like I’m in labor 24/7.

    Just a note though – things didn’t always used to be this way. When I was put on strict bed rest and strict instructions not to have sex during my first pregnancy, my husband felt wronged and took his sexuality into his own hands. He developed a porn addiction that earlier last year during counseling we found was just part of a sex addiction he had since before he met me. We grew distant and any time he asked for sex It just created resentment between the two of us. Things went like this for several years. He got better as my first born got older. Then my second pregnancy happened that created it’s own set of problems and he was back into his addiction again. That’s when he started counseling. He became a changed man. He went through “Every Man’t battle”. The porn stopped, he can’t even watch a sex scene in a movie now. I got pregnant again at the end of last month and even though there were changes in my husband I still wasn’t sure. I even asked God for a miscarriage because I couldn’t stand the thought of going through what I went through with the first two pregnancies. Then in Nov. he started going through “Every Man’s Marriage” (a great book! I’m reading along too and can’t wait to get every woman’s marriage!). He had become a changed man but this time he became a changed husband and it has been amazing.

    Yes, there are things that you can do to change yourself or what not, but you really shouldn’t have to. The change comes in the husband. When he learns to lay down his life for his wife, he becomes unbelievably irresistible to his wife. This is the way God designed it to begin with.

    1. J

      I think it’s wonderful what your husband has done. I also agree that one spouse taking a loving attitude and actions may create a loving response in the other. However, I take issue with your statement that “the change comes in the husband.” Both husbands and wives have biblical obligations in marriage. Marriage can work beautifully when both commit to God and to one another. Thanks so much for telling your story.

  4. Anonymous

    I am in a similar spot as anonymous, pregnant and dealing with pelvc and pubic pain as well as all day “morning sickness”. However instead of being helpful, understanding or patient, my husband “helps” by getting up with the kids grudgingly, let’s them run around the house noisily, and they are in and out of the room where I am trying to rest. Then later at night when I have finally got both boys to sleep, which if I’m lucky is around 9 or 10 he politely reminds me of how helpful he was that morning and starts telling me how much he needs sex that night.when I try to patiently explain to him what’s going on with me, he gets angry with me and says I don’t appreciate him and I only ever notice the negative things he does. I don’t mean to diminish his efforts or his needs, I just need some help here! I am so exhausted and I can’t seem to get through to him that sex just is not an option right now, but that we must be able to spend quality intimate time together without causing me pain. Help or suggestions anyone? Is this to much to expect of my husband, to give up sex temporarily and just BE together?

    1. J

      How frustrating. He probably does think he’s doing a lot and wants to be close to you. Meanwhile, you don’t want to be intimate when you feel like you’ve been through the blender.

      I am not a therapist. But I’m going to give you some steps that I think might help. First, give each other the benefit of the doubt. Second, talk about it outside of the bedroom and away from when the requests or activity usually occurs. Choose a safe place and time. Third, find something appreciative to say. Acknowledge how hard he works or his efforts (even if they fall short) or whatever. Then, tell him what you envision, what you would like to see your relationship with him be. Don’t bring in the household and kids just yet. Let him tell you want he wants your marital relationship, including intimacy, to be. Next, talk about what you both need to get there. Explain that you need more alone time in the evening before he makes a request, or more sleep, or maybe mornings would work better for intimacy. Be prepared that he might want a few things too–e.g., talking about him sometimes and not the kids. Start working on the plan to get from where you are (Point A) to where you want your marriage to be (Point B). Remember to stay on the same side. Look for that win-win. Be creative about sex. Many men become tense, emotionally cranky, and feel relationally neglected when their intimacy needs are not met–like it or not. I don’t know how you feel about this one, but he might be content with kissing and fondling you and taking care of his own release. Consider the options that you feel comfortable with. (By the way, my husband and I went for MONTHS without intercourse due to a pregnancy issue, but we did not stop all intimate activities for that whole time.)

      As to the household, write your expectations down! I have found that the male species tends to respond better to a checklist with specific to-do’s. You may think he sees everything you see, but he probably doesn’t. Also consider having a friend or family member come by the house to help you, if someone is available.

      Will this help? I don’t know. I certainly hope so. What I do know is that if you continue to do the same thing, you will get the same results. Pray about your situation and then approach the issue with your husband in the best way you know how. Best wishes! You’re in my prayers as well.

  5. Meg

    I really appreciate these two posts! I’m in my fourth pregancy, and because we worked together between pregnancies, by the fourth time, I’ve learned when I really can and cannot be intimate beyond a snuggle. He’s learning it, too. But by trying to take advantage of those spare moments, and by my preparation throughout the day sometimes (such as leaving myself some energy so I’m not as tired), and a willingness to touch in little ways and big ways at just about anytime appropriate, our sexual intimacy has never been better. We, too have worked through porn addiction, stiffness in the bedroom, low self image, etc, but by the grace of God we have worked through that and come out stronger and more loving than ever! I am learning to give and enjoy the giving in the bedroom without waiting for a return.

  6. Anonymous

    So what about when you’ve never had much of a care for sex? My husband is a gorgeous man and very good at what we do. I’ve never wanted sex much, never craved it. It makes him feel inadequate and that I don’t love him. I shudder to think what it would be like after our first (if ever) child…

    1. J

      Do you dislike sex, or just not have an independent drive?

      Because plenty of wives don’t desire sex. They get aroused AFTER they make the decision to participate. In those times when I did not feel like having sex but still had a good sex life with my hubby, I engaged because I remembered enjoying it, not because I had a drive to have sex. And that’s okay. If that’s your situation, I highly recommend this article by fellow marriage blogger, Sheila Wray Gregoire: When You Don’t Want to Make Love.

  7. Anonymous

    Both of these posts really hit home with me. After my first child was born my libido just went away. Nothing my husband did made any difference whatsoever. It was heartbreaking for me, and frustrating for both of us. Looking back, I can say I should have visited my doctor and had some blood work, since this went on for over 2 years, but of course I didn’t do that then.

    What I did do was communicate everything with my husband. I made absolutely sure that he knew he wasn’t to blame, that my body was failing me. I also did NOT stop intimacy. Even if I got nothing out of it except frustration, I knew it was important to him. His needs were my responsibility, both because of our marriage vows and because I loved him and wanted to care for him.

    My libido eventually returned (resulting in our second child), and blessedly never went away like that again. Following God’s principles, praying lots, and loving my husband helped strengthen our marriage in ways I never expected and couldn’t live without.

  8. Pingback: Young Kids Can Kill Your Sex Life…If You Let Them | Hot, Holy & Humorous

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