Adapted from a recent online discussion.
New parents must make extra effort to maintain intimacy
Fake a headache?: What is wrong with me? My husband wants to have sex this afternoon, and I just don't feel like it. We're parents of a 6-month-old (who's in day care); I'm working from home, and he's looking for work — hence the midday opportunity.
We've both been too tired and busy, but the past few days he's been making little overtures . . . which I've rebuffed. I want to be responsive, but internally I recoil and think, "Ugh, not now." What with being a mommy, our money stress and his coming to bed after I'm asleep, I just don't feel sexual at all.
Any practical suggestions for waking myself up and getting into the mood? How about some reassurance that my libido's just on sabbatical?
Carolyn: I think it's really important for you to get past the "Ugh, not now" thinking. Your life is legitimately packed with libido-killers, and that's exactly why you need to make the effort, even though it's romantic taboo to put "effort" and "sex" into the same sentence.
You need to keep the sexual part of you, and of your marriage, alive — that's more important to your family right now than the work you'd set aside. So set work aside, and give your husband undivided attention. His unemployment in itself is a reason to rally; he needs to feel good about himself, to be wanted.
Oh, and nothing is wrong with you. It's completely normal for people in the small-kid phase to become so immersed in drudgery that they forget pleasure — and for new mothers to need some time to get their libidos back. It's why scheduling time for you and your husband to enjoy each other is so important.
It's also why it's so important that couples share the heavy household lifting fairly. I hope and assume it isn't an issue here, but in couples who have this problem, the overburdened partner will have physical and emotional reasons to shut down. Nothing kills affection faster than anger.
Anonymous: Re: Headache: Listen, I have a 3-year-old and a job, and I understand not feeling sexual at all . . . and my husband does, too, but we both agree that if we "force" ourselves to be intimate when we really don't feel like it, we don't regret it. We feel so much closer to one another, and we know it's important for our marriage and thus for our son. Just do it.
Carolyn: So many people have written in over the years to say this — that it's hard to switch gears but they never regret it when they do.
Important because we're talking about sex somewhat against one's will, which is so heavy with baggage that all fine distinctions are best spelled out.
In general, I think that people in functioning marriages should go out of their way to make their mates happy — and that people in broken marriages should undertake the most honest efforts possible to create something that works, be it a repaired marriage, a mutually acceptable and agreed-upon arrangement, or an ex-marriage.
I do have a problem with spouses who cut off the sex supply from a loved partner, and do so without a real effort to make that part of their marriage work.