Developing Sexual Intimacy
Today more and more couples prepare themselves for parenthood but few are prepared to deal with the redefinition of roles and the reduction of time together that often results in the decreased frequency of sexual experiences.
What was once a honeymoon delight that could take as much time as desired is reduced to a “quickie,” if at all.
So what is the answer? Can there be a love-life after children? By God’s grace and a little bit of work the answer to these questions is, “Yes!”
Understand the Challenges:
The first step is to understand some of the challenges and opportunities of intimacy after the birth of a child.
1. Less time to spend together
Children are demanding and often their needs are immediate.
2. Decreased energy
Lack of time and lack of energy often leads to a lack of sexual desire. This is especially true for women.
3. Decreased emotional connection
Couples may enjoy parenting their children and meeting their children’s needs but may take the relationship for granted. It’s easy for couples to forget to cultivate closeness and friendship. Women often need to feel close before feeling sexual and men often need to be sexual to feel close.
4. Decreased sex drive
Although they are less likely to admit it many men experience lowered sexual desire in the marriage relationship. Feeling tired, weary and overwhelmed for long periods of time takes its toll on a man’s sexual drive. Medical studies tell us that excess stress can lead to lowered levels of testosterone in men.
5. Negative body image
During the childbearing years many women struggle with a negative body image.
6. Sleeping arrangements
One final barrier to sexual intimacy is the tendency of some parents to allow their children to sleep with them. Having children sleep with parents in any consistent way is unhealthy for the marriage relationship. Children need to learn that their beds and rooms are safe places to be. Parents need to have the bed be the place where they bond and are intimate.
Overcoming the Barriers to Sexual Intimacy
As in any stage or season of a marriage relationship, a couple must realize that their relationship takes first place to the children. Children will be most secure when they sense that their parents are passionate about each other. Deep levels of intimacy and a healthy sexual life require a marriage relationship in which a couple is making time for developing and growing a friendship. What does that look like?
Our first two boys arrived 19 months apart and we experienced the “Twilight Zone” of having more than one pre-schooler. One of several activities that helped us redefine our relationship and rediscover each other was to go back to some of the activities we already had in common and make time to do them. Notice we said, make time. Once you become a parent you will never find time to do anything. You will have to determine in advance what is important and then make time to pursue it.
We live in a fast-paced culture. All of us are busy. Every day we deal with external demands and internal expectations. When you add children it’s easy for the marriage bed to become a place we fall into at night and crawl out of in the morning. In our marriage we found it invaluable for us to stay aware of our schedule including church activities, work demands, children’s activities and work at carving out a well-balanced level of activity.
Dr. Gary Oliver has over 30 years experience in individual, premarital, marital and family counseling and for the past 20 years he has had an extensive nationwide teaching ministry.