Friends, it’s time for me to get real with you.
I admit it: I’ve been holding back. When readers have asked how my husband and I have kept our marriage strong through 17 years, divorce, remarriage, and five children, I’ve mostly talked about the emotional stuff: respect, partnership, friendship, forgiveness, support, trust; and the practical stuff, like strategies for making time for each other in the hustle of parenting.
And yes, all of that is important.
But, due to my shyness when it comes to talking publicly about certain private things, I haven’t shared a big, crucial part of the puzzle.
And I’ve done you all a disservice, because while friendship, partnership, respect, and trust are critical to a great marriage, there’s another reason my marriage is solid, close, and fun even with how chaotic our lives can be and how much we’ve been through:
We have sex.
Not only that, but – oh golly, I can’t believe I’m writing this on my blog –
We have a lot of sex.
This didn’t happen by accident, or because we are just two nympho fiends who can’t keep our clothes on.
Yes, like most young couples we went through a period where we barely left the bedroom. But then life happened, and children happened, and hormone shifts from carrying and nursing babies happened, and exhaustion happened.
And at some point, all that early-on intensity waned.
Like many couples, we went through several periods where I wasn’t interested, which made him feel needy, which made me feel annoyed, which made him feel rejected, and so on and so forth: the predictable downward no-sex spiral I know many of you understand so well.
At some point it became clear that, if we were going to continue to have a strong sex life, we were going to have to actively work to make that happen.
And we needed to do that. Because let’s be clear, here: sex matters. You may have forgotten that if you’re in the middle of a hormone-induced dry spell, but as a friend of mine often says, “sex makes everything better.”
In addition to the obvious physical benefits, it’s an opportunity to connect. To work through tensions and hit the reset button. It’s good for you.
And while your definition of “enough” and your partner’s definition of “enough” may never fully jive, it’s worth putting in the effort to find a compromise. Because satisfying, regular sex is something couples really need.
So here are my tips for getting your groove back…in the sack:
1) Do the sex. Even if you don’t want to. Just do. the. sex.
They say absence makes the heart grow fonder, but in my experience, lack of sex just makes the sex grow staler (and ever-less frequent.) Sometimes, jump-starting after a hiatus will require you to do it even though you really, really don’t want to.
So take one for the team this time around and just do it. And do it again tomorrow and the next day until you suddenly realize that you actually want to. And that the more you do the sex, the more sex you want. It’s crazy how that works, but it really, really works.
In fact, once you get in the habit of getting horizontal regularly, you may find that your previous definition of “enough” wasn’t even close to enough.
If you’re in a place where your desire is so low you just can’t imagine doing it even once, let alone several times each week, try this: allow yourself to be convinced.
Be honest with your spouse and say you aren’t sure you’re up for it tonight, but maybe you could get started and see where it gets you. Often a little making out (I just can’t bring myself to use the word “foreplay” seriously, sorry guys) will remind you that you do have sexual urges, after all. And the intimacy will be good for you either way.
2) Dress (or undress?) the part.
I never used to really make the connection between what I wore to bed and the likelihood that I’d be taking it off again any time soon, but after a while I realized that wearing a ratty, oversized t-shirt or big, floppy sweats to bed did nothing for my libido.
It makes sense, right? Desire starts in the brain, and what you wear to bed definitely influences what you’re thinking about what might happen there. Plus, having a little skin touching the sheets just puts you in a more sensual frame of mind.
Since I’ve started putting more effort into my sleepwear, it’s been so much easier to make the mental shift from “tired mom” to “sexy lady.”
To me it’s not about dressing in something hot so your man gets turned on, though that’s a nice byproduct. It’s more the psychological effects of wearing an outfit that seems to scream, “NEVER MIIIND” as opposed to one that says, “SURE, SOUNDS FUN!”
There’s a time and place for everything, but I’m not suggesting you deck yourself out in a lace teddy every night if that’s not your thing. Just put a little thought into what you wear to bed. Anything comfy and flattering and maybe a teeny bit racy will work.
My favorite nightwear is actually just a tank top and undies – it’s a good look for me and reveals enough skin to remind myself that I’m in the game.
Sleeping in the buff or just a nice pair of hipsters never seems to go unnoticed (or unappreciated) either.
And this is a good time to remind you that, if you are still wearing old maternity underwear from two pregnancies ago, you can go drop $20 for 5 pair of cute, well-fitted undies at Target right now. IT’S WORTH IT.
3) Look outside your bedroom for inspiration.
When you’re so far from being in the mood that you can’t even remember what it feels like to be in the mood, consuming some explicit media can often jump-start desire. Reading erotica or a romance novel might do the trick (or you could just read that one scene in Outlander a few times) but movies are even easier and you can watch them together. Don’t believe what you’ve always heard about how men are more visual creatures – women definitely respond to sexy images, and watching a smutty flick together might just set things in motion.
4) Rethink the pre-bedtime sex sched.
When do most couples naturally think about having sex? Right before they go to sleep. When do moms tend to be the most tired, cranky, and touched-out? Yep, right before we go to sleep. Exhaustion is not much of an aphrodisiac, so it’s no wonder many parents can’t seem to work up the energy to get busy at 10 PM.
The good news is that we’ve got 24 hours a day, and chances are good that there are opportunities in there that you aren’t even considering. Like early morning. Or lunchtime, if you can make your schedules jive. Or after dinner.
Here’s the thing: if you have multiple children and you’re waiting for them all to be fully asleep for the night before you ever have sex, you aren’t going to have much sex.
So do what parents of large families have already figured out – put on a movie, tell them you need to “have a grown-up talk,” lock the bedroom or bathroom door, and take your pants off.
5) Be kind to your body.
I know, this one’s easier said than done. But if you feel badly about the way you look naked, you are not going to be eager to get out of your clothes.
Body image, especially the post-pregnancy mom-body image, is a complex issue and not one that I can really do justice to in this post; but exercise, focusing on what I like about myself, and regarding my body as a healthy, sexy whole (rather than just a collection of imperfect parts) have helped me.
You know what else helps? Having more sex. Because it’s really hard not to see yourself as desirable when looking at yourself through the eyes of someone who desires you.
6) If you have a baby or toddler, just do what you can and hang in there.
You’re in the thick of it. Your hormones are flipping out, you probably aren’t sleeping well, and you’ve got a little person climbing all over your body and possibly using you for sustenance all day and night. A lack of desire so complete that you wonder if you will ever want to have sex again is totally normal right now, and no, it’s not a death sentence for your future sex life.
It won’t last forever.
For now, do all of the above and see where it gets you. Even if you aren’t exactly insatiable any time soon, putting all the pieces into place now will allow you to jump back into a sexy place when you’re ready.
Because take it from this mom of five: no matter how you feel now, one day, you’ll be ready again.