Starting a family is one of the biggest milestones in a relationship and it is impossible to overestimate the total joy of your baby arriving.
It’s therefore understandable that when your little bundle of gorgeousness is here, that they demand all your attention and that leaves precious little time for anything else.
Most parents complain about their lack of sleep, messy homes, and a total inability to have a shower some days. However, we don’t always discuss the impact that parenting can have on your relationship, and especially on your sex life. If it does get raised, it’s often laughed off – “how can I even think about sex when I’m covered in baby vomit!” – but maintaining intimacy can be a real challenge for some couples and can lead to relationship difficulties further down the line if not addressed.
In support of HiPP Organic’s new campaign, ‘The Parenting Connection’, I, as a psychosexual and relationship therapist, want to encourage open dialogues among new parents – helping them address the balance between parenthood and maintaining a strong relationship as a couple.
- Don’t panic! It’s never too late to start addressing intimacy difficulties even if it’s been a while since you did the deed. Pressure, anxiety and shame are total libido killers, so try to step more into a compassionate mindset. That’s especially important near Valentine’s Day when there can be huge pressure to have the perfect relationship! Remind yourself that it’s understandable that your mind hasn’t been on your sex life, but that it doesn’t have to be like this forever. Why not start by talking to your partner about how you feel and how you would like to improve the intimate side of your relationship.
- Seize the small moments. It doesn’t have to be about waiting until you have the energy to jump into bed together. You might be waiting a long time! Instead, small touches and moments of affection can make a big difference. Try giving your partner a hug and a kiss when you see them after work. Give them your eye contact when you talk. Touch them gently on the arm or back when you’re discussing your days. These small acts can mean so much when you’re both in need of some physical attention.
- Create a sexual menu. This takes the pressure off you having to have full sex, which might be tricky if the birth partner is still healing. A sexual menu can be a fun exercise for you both to share some different ideas for intimacy, such as bathing together, sensual massage or slow dancing. It also helps you to think about what you do want, rather than focusing on what you don’t. Ticking things off your new menu can add a much needed injection of novelty which is key for healthy relationships, so have fun!
- Try the 3 Minute Game. It’s so simple! Just ask each other 2 questions: “where would you like me to touch you for three minutes?” and “where would you like to touch me for three minutes?”. Breaking intimacy down into three minute chunks is a fantastic way to help you think about touch positively and willingly, as well as helping to improve your communication around intimacy.
It’s hard to prioritise your relationship when life is so exhausting, but we know that life satisfaction increases with relationship satisfaction so it’s worth the effort if you can. Remember that little and often is much more sustainable than trying to do grand gestures, and those small acts of intimacy can really build up to a much closer and more connected relationship. Good luck!
Elinor Harvey is a psychosexual and relationship therapist.