I can still feel the warmth of her body, the softness of her skin. I smell the sweetness of love and passion. I close my eyes and want to keep that perfect moment inside me, for as long as I can. Our bodies and minds were so close… Something we don’t experience very often at the moment. Seven months ago our third child was born. If you’re a parent yourself you can just imagine how busy and challenging life is, when you parent three young children. Sleep deprivation, irritation, long days and little time to myself and to spend as a couple. What happens to intimacy, love, and closeness to my wife?
Once a baby has arrived (or even with older children who still wake up a couple of times each night), many new parents would confess that their sex life basically came to a full stop.
I think some of us accept the fact that it’s just a phase and are happy with having sex reside at the bottom of their priority list. However, others are not as content with how their love life is developing but are unsure or simply too drained to do something about it. After all, what can you do when you’re both too tired, feeling unconnected, merely functioning during the day and up all night?
I believe it is important to give yourselves time, and to not confuse a lot of sex with a great relationship. Sex does not mean love and vice versa. Acknowledge this and you will feel less pressure. Because that’s what you definitely don’t need–pressure.
That pressure is not always coming from inside us. On a daily basis we get flooded with images of half-naked women (and, yes, the industry works hard to get more naked men on their covers, too), transporting the very absurd message of ‘I want sex. I’m yours. Take me. Now’. Contrary if mothers breastfeed their child in public, an outcry goes through right-wing media tabloids and some social networks. How dare she show her nipples!
But here’s my point: breasts are made by nature to feed and comfort our children. Life-protecting and nurturing–not for grown-ups, but for babies. Yes, I love touching my wife and being close to her. At the same time I know that after all three births she felt her breasts as being very sensitive and sometimes even painful. Many mothers’ sensitivity around their breasts change after giving birth: now they are associating feeding and bonding with their baby with them, rather than a sexy or arousing part of their bodies.
When talking to other men and fathers I often hear them mentioning frustrations and irritations when it comes to love making. The so called ‘cold bed’ isn’t just a myth. While women go through bodily and hormonal changes galore, men though also going through some massive changes, still seek the physical closeness to their partners and many find it hard coping with being rejected. Sometimes these disappointments and frustrations end up in watching porn or looking outside of the partnership for a lover. Both will create more problems: many porn images transport the same unrealistic message of sex and may make you less susceptive to the erotic subtleties and, as you can imagine, starting an affair is not really helping the trust and bond in your relationship.
So how can you still feel close to each other without necessarily having sex?
I realised that sometimes my wife and I were so occupied with caring for our children that we forgot the simple gestures of closeness that are so important and that we all crave. Holding hands, sitting on each other’s lap, stroking, kissing, leaning against one another etc. are all little things that can have a great impact in feeling (physically) close and loved.
It helped me enormously to reflect on what it is I actually need. Often this is not sex, but appreciation, love, and acceptance. When you are aware of that and share your emotions with your partner, she is likely to be more welcoming and open to intimacy, and maybe new ways of having sex than when feeling pushed or faced with a frustrated lover.
Where to make a start?
What about taking time (and I know that’s an effort already) to write a love letter to your partner? Say what you really appreciate and love about her. Maybe you recall a moment where you both felt very close and intimate. Talk about your own emotions, feelings, and what you would wish for your love life. Don’t demand anything, just share your inner thoughts. This can help a great deal to feel more connected to her already. And that’s what we need. True closeness and trust.
I think it’s often true that men relax when having sex, while women need to be relaxed in the first place. Whether this is the case for you or not, creating islands of relaxation in our lives is very important. Our parenting days are full and busy. Even at night, with children next or close to us, breastfeeding, changing diapers (or, if you are practising elimination communication, holding the child over a potty,) we carry on. For our love life to stay alive or even flourish, we need to make sure we don’t forget to look after ourselves and each other.
For some couples that might mean to schedule in time for themselves. Once a week, more, less, it’s up to you. That doesn’t mean you have to have sex that night. You could cuddle up on the sofa, massage each other, read each other a story, dance together… do something for your partner that they will love and that nourishes them. Often you might find it hard to even start creating this atmosphere and time for each other, because you are tired and stressed–however, especially at those times when you don’t feel like it at all–that is exactly when you both need this connective exchange the most.
Going to bed early helps replenish your energy too. Well rested parents mean a more manageable day with the kids ahead as well as less irritated and snapping at each other parents.
If you start cleaning the house, watching TV or spend your time online after the children are in bed, you’ll be too exhausted to focus on your partner. So, prioritize time spent together with your love, as often as you can.
Feeling disturbed because you have a child (or children) sleeping in your bed? Well, there are many other locations around the house, just take the baby monitor and find a secret spot… get creative! Remember and recreate the early days of snatching those illicit tender moments.
Another approach my wife and I have tried is tantric sex.
Tantra originates in India. It means ‘woven together’ or ‘connecting with inner self.’ Relaxation, deep conscious breathing and focusing on the here and now are part of the central theme. Not a goal-orientated sex (where you feel that you must come), but closeness to your partner and slowing down when making love.
One of the first practices you might try, for example, is ‘soul gazing’: you find a comfy space, when all is quiet in the house and sit face to face with your partner and look into each other’s eyes. It is such a simple, yet beautiful way to connect with another person. From here, once you made that deep connection it is so much easier to feel what the other likes. You might want to caress your partner and see where it takes you.
Tantric sex is also used as a form of sexual healing. It can release emotional wounds from past traumatic experiences that are stored in the muscle tissue of the body and that manifest themselves as different symptoms; some are vaginal pain during intercourse, inability to orgasm, premature ejaculation, dry vagina and loss of libido.
If you feel like it, engage in slow sex that is geared towards relaxing together. Don’t expect an orgasm or think you “have to” provide one. Tell your partner what you like and ask him/her directly which way she/he wants to be touched. Let their hand guide yours. Try to totally focus on your breathing, on the touch you are feeling and stop your mind from wandering off (if it does, just come back to be present in the moment.)
Intimacy thrives when we feel closely connected to our partner. Due to work and other commitments that can be difficult for some couples to achieve. If you find yourself in such a situation, make small steps towards intimacy, it might take a little longer to feel closely connected again, but if you take time, if you start relaxing together rather than in front of something digital you are on a good way.
Spending time in nature as well as doing sports, can bring us closer in touch with our bodies, release stress and help us “feel ourselves”–all beneficial for creating intimacy.
Wherever you are at the moment you can still work at these ideas. It’s good to talk to your partner about how you want intimacy to look like, especially if you have different needs and wishes.
Two little exercises to share with you:
You need some clay, paper, your partner and time. First get the clay out. You each need about a tennis ball amount. Get shaping, just anything that comes into your mind, get a feel for the element and just play. You can talk while you are making or just be silent and with your own thoughts.
Now, that you have a better feel for clay and it’s nice and warm, start thinking about your body, about your sex life at the moment and see what your hands come up with. Just keep those thoughts in your head, imagine your own naked body in your mind; let your hands do the forming, without too much thinking.
When you both feel at a natural end to forming the clay, stop and put your creation in front of you. One of you begins to talk through what they see in their clay creation and any thoughts you would like to share that came into your mind while creating.
If you formed bodies, what does your body look like? Are you at peace with it?
How does your partner’s body (or other representation of your partner’s side) look?
If there are two parts to your creation, is one part bigger/smaller than the other?
What are the characteristics of each?
What does each part focus on? The other partner just listens. Try to listen without any judgments, but with forgiveness in your heart. Then swap and the other talks about their creation.
- What have you found out, that you didn’t know before?
- How does it affect you/your emotional and physical closeness to your partner?
- Your partner might not want to engage in sex, but is happy to be physically close in other ways.
- Once you both know what it is the other needs, it is a lot easier to give it.
- What emotions have come up for you?
- Are you able to see what it is you need and want?
- What is it you would like to change?
- Are you becoming close and true to yourself when talking about intimacy with your partner?
Now, get paper and pen out…
On a piece of paper write the endings to these sentence beginnings:
- I love sex that is…
- I don’t like sex that is…
- I want our intimacy to look like…
- I want to share with you…
- I am afraid to tell you that…
Share your answers and thoughts with your partner, using empathy.
Also think about whether you use sex sometimes to vend feelings of anger, fear, frustration or insecurity.
From claying and talking, can you see a path in front of you that would fulfil both your needs and wishes? It might be that they cannot be fulfilled right at this moment –not yet. It might be that they have just been spoken and are out there in the others consciousness to be looked at again in a few weeks or few months’ time.
It is good to think about what is achievable and realistic for the moment. Get to your aim in small steps rather than be overwhelmed by what you want to change.
Write one sentence that contains a short term aim. Make it present tense and without negations (don’t, won’t, can’t).
“I take my time when making love, caressing my partner’s body and enjoy the moment.”
Author: Palmira Lon
Palmira Long is an Author, Parenting Coach and father to three children. Torsten was a stay-at-home dad for 18 months. He believes strongly in equal parenting, runs the internet platform www.dadstalkcommunity.org, and writes regularly for The GoodMenProject and The Huffington Post. You can connect with him on www.facebook.com/DadsTalk or www.twitter.com/EmpathicFathers His amazon bestseller ”The Empathic Father” is available as print and ebook.