What happens to sex when little kids come along? When you find yourselves busy and run off your feet?
Every Wednesday in October we’re looking at the stages of sex in marriage. Last week we looked at the “figuring things out” stage, when sex is relatively new (and I talked about it on my podcast as well!). Today I want to turn to the next stage: when kids start arriving and you find yourself exhausted.
Now, for some people this stage comes along much earlier in marriage than others, and some start marriage with kids, so they jump right in here. But let’s look at what sex is like during this stage, and what we can do to make it better!
What Can Be Great About Sex During the Busy Years
When you are run off your feet, when other people are always needing you, sex can actually be a welcome distraction–a time when it’s all about what you experience, and not what you have to do. For women in this season of sex especially, everything I said in my post on theology of the clitoris is even more important. You need to learn how to be served, how to be the centre of attention, how to be present in the moment, and not worried about all the multitude of responsibilities you have.
Sex can be the gift of being in the moment that you so desperately need right now!
How Sex Can Go Wrong in the Busy Years Stage of Sex
While that’s the potential for sex in these years, that’s often not what happens.
Especially for couples who never really figured out how to make sex great for her during the “figuring things out” stage, things can go steadily downhill. If sex doesn’t feel that great for her, she may still be willing to have sex quite frequently in the figuring things out stage, because she wants to be a good wife, she wants to be loving, and she knows she should. But once she’s absolutely exhausted, and she feels as if she never gets any time for herself, that’s likely to fall off quickly by the wayside if there really is very little in it for her. “Obligation sex” becomes very onerous when she feels as if she isn’t being cared for, at the same time as she’s caring so much for so many.
And if you combine these years with toxic messages around sex, like how men will watch porn if wives don’t have sex, or will be tempted to have affairs, she may abandon sex altogether out of resentment (seriously, pastors, we have to get a better way of talking about sex, because saying stuff like that is the absolute biggest libido killer in the world for women).
Even if sex DID feel good for her beforehand, hormonal changes and body changes after childbirth can kill her libido, and she may not be that interested in trying to rediscover it because the children demand so much attention. As she becomes preoccupied with the kids, he may also withdraw out of rejection, and then sex goes on a downward spiral. Any underlying issues that were not dealt with earlier, like porn use, or a negative view of sex, or past trauma, will often resurface now and become even bigger problems.
It’s not just bad relationship patterns that can start during these years, though. It’s also bad physical habits. Bad eating habits and exercise habits can take hold, setting you up for decades of problems later on, which will also affect your sex life. When we’re so busy, it’s all too easy to let the important stuff fall by the wayside.
How to Make Sex Great in These Busy Years
Because most of the problems with sex during these years relates less to sex and more to the pressures of life, I’m going to focus first on those pressures:
Get real about the pressures of life and make a plan to reduce them
It’s not just babies that cause stress during this stage of life; it’s also often jobs that are untenable in the long run; schooling or training that shoves great demands on you or your spouse; intense financial pressure as you try to buy a house, buy cars, or simply get established. All of this stress combines to kill everyone’s libido, but especially hers. My philosophy with life has two quite simple rules that act in conjunction with one another:
- If something can’t go on like this forever, then it’s better to put an end to it sooner rather than later;
- You can put up with just about anything as long as there’s a firm end date in sight
In other words, if you’re at a job that is killing you, make a plan now for how to get out of that job and transition to something else that can support the family, so that you have an end date in sight. If your current financial situation is completely untenable, and will leave you drowning in debt soon, make a radical budget plan with target dates, so that you can know that life will be better one day. Don’t delay; do it now. If you have a plan, even if your daily life doesn’t change, your stress level does.
Give her some downtime during the day
If she’s going to feel frisky at night she needs some downtime to herself–some time to work on hobbies, to have a bath by herself, to feel productive. When my kids were young, I took the time during naps to start writing. I didn’t need to relax as much as I needed to use my brain. Whatever it is she needs to feel rejuvenated, make sure she has time for that.
(He needs it as well, of course, but the 24 hour demands of childcare more commonly fall on the woman, so I’m directing this one at her. If, in your case, he’s the primary caregiver, then give him some downtime!)
Cook real stuff
Seriously, just cook.
Last week, as Rebecca was getting ready to deliver, I made a big meal plan and shopping list for freezer slow cooker meals. Katie and I bought the food, and the three of us together put all the slow cooker freezer meals together for them to use after we’re gone and Connor and Becca are alone with the baby. That way they can still have healthy food! We ended up making about 70 meals (Katie and I are taking some home, too), which necessitated cutting up about 30 onions, as you can see here:
But we ended up with 6 of 12 different meals!
Whatever it takes for you to eat well, try it. If you use as few cans as possible so that you avoid preservatives and additives, stick to real food (the outer aisles of the grocery store), and don’t order out too much, you’ll put yourself on the road to good health. And then use my son-in-law’s rule of thumb: Don’t drink your calories. Stick to water or unsweetened iced tea, and you’ll save a ton of calories a day.
Make sleep a priority
Few things will have as positive a benefit on your sex life–and the rest of your life–as actually getting enough sleep. When the baby is old enough to sleep through the night (say by 6 months), help that baby learn to sleep. You need to reclaim your nights if you want to feel human again! If you’re not sure how, ask some parents at your church for advice. It may even be worth hiring a sleep consultant. Even if it costs several hundred dollars, if it saves you two or three years of not sleeping, I can’t put a price tag on that! Especially if you have toddlers who don’t sleep, consider hiring an expert that can coach you. It can be done! Ask for it as a Christmas present from your parents if money is tight. It’s important. (I understand that parents with special needs have special challenges in this area; but even here, sleep coaches can often help).
Here in Ottawa, The Happy Sleep Company offers consultations to help parents of infants and toddlers finally get some sleep. They have consultations for those with newborns; for those with babies who are ready to sleep through the night; for toddlers who won’t sleep; even for multiples! The consultations can be done in person, but can also be done via Skype for those of you who don’t live near Ottawa. They take all your information, learn what you’ve been doing, and then personalize recommendations and coach you through it. If you’re just beside yourself with exhaustion and frustration, and you want to get your nights back, or get your kids out of your bed, it really is worth the investment if you can find it in your budget.
They also offer a 20-minute free consultation, so I’d suggest checking them out!
Spend time as a couple outside the bedroom–even if it’s with the kids, too
I’m not going to tell you that you have to have a date night every week, or that you have to leave the kids with Grandma one a month so that you get a night to yourselves. Those things are nice, sure, but I don’t think they’re absolutely necessary.
What is necessary is that you have time to connect and talk everyday. We used to take the kids on walks in the stroller so that we could talk. We took them with us to restaurants, armed with colouring books and toys. We did activities together so the kids were happy and we’d have time to debrief. I don’t mind if you don’t have time, just the two of you, as long as you have time that you feel as if you’re really talking.
Make sex a priority
Okay, let’s switch to the sex elements now! Put simply, you have to make sex a priority. It isn’t going to happen unless you do. And waiting to feel “in the mood” could mean you’re waiting for a long time.
(If you’re a wife with the higher drive, these posts may also be useful for you:
Many women don’t understand how our libidos work, and so we essentially put ourselves into hibernation. When we do that, we miss out on the passion that God intended us for, and the deep intimacy we’re supposed to have in marriage. I know these years are very difficult and very busy. But passion and intimacy can be the fuel that help you handle these years so much better! They help you still feel like a woman, and not just a mom. They help you feel confident, and like you can take on the world. If you feel as if your libido has gone into hibernation, please check out my Boost Your Libido course. It has lots for women at exactly this stage of marriage–and stage of sex!
Are you TIRED of always being too tired for sex?
Make her pleasure a priority
Finally, it’s not just about “having intercourse”. If you want that passion, that intimacy, that confidence, she also needs to feel pleasure. Not necessarily each and every time you connect sexually, of course. Sometimes, despite our best intentions, we’re just too preoccupied to get there. But in general, she needs to be experiencing real pleasure during these days as well. If she’s never experienced orgasm, read my post from yesterday! But if things just need to feel special, and not just so routine, day-in-day-out kind of thing, my sexy dares can help. They’re only $6.99, and they’ll provide you with a year’s worth of fun! There are 8 dares that he does, 8 dares that she does, and 8 that you do together (plus one bonus dare!). And for her dares, too, she can be thinking about it ahead of time, and that can help bring her out of that rut as well.
Does your marriage need some spicing up–and some fun?
These years matter. You’re raising your kids. You’ve got a ton of responsibilities. The habits that you form in these years will set you on a good trajectory for the rest of your life. Don’t ignore your marriage or your sex life when kids arrive. What kids really need is for you to have an awesome marriage. So make sex great. Take care of yourself. And don’t give in to the idea that these have to be years when you lose yourself. They don’t. It’s a choice. And it’s okay to choose to still feel like a couple!
What do you think? Do you have any great tips for couples in this stage of marriage and stage of sex? Let’s talk in the comments!
What do you think? Any tips for how to keep your marriage and your sex life strong when kids come (or when life gets busy)? Let’s talk in the comments!