Moms and sex: Get passion back in your life
Being a mom is a tough job, and sex is probably the last thing on your mind. But have no fear, you can have passion back in your life! Dr Valerie Davis Raskin tells you how.The blahs
If you're a mom, chances are you've been a victim of the sexual blahs. I know this as a mom, as a girlfriend and as a psychiatrist who specializes in treating mothers. I confess: I used to think it came with the territory, some sort of vague abnormality that the episiotomy repair didn't fix.
But the good news is that you can bring passion back into your sex life, and you don't need surgery, hormones or a year's sabbatical on a private tropical island.
But first you have to take an honest look at the problem. As a student and teacher of motherhood, I've learned the following about sex and moms:
- You aren't the only one. Low sex drive is the single most common sexual problem among mothers. About 80 percent of women experience a loss of libido in the first year after childbirth; few experience that miraculous recovery your obstetrician seems to think is on the horizon.
- Ignoring it doesn't make the problem go away. It's tempting to put your sex life on the back burner. But waiting for passion to return after kids is like waiting for the pounds to disappear: wishful thinking. You're simply going to have to take charge. Besides, isn't 18 years an awfully long time to wait?
- It probably isn't your hormones. As medical sensitivity to the impact of perimenopause and menopause on women's minds and bodies has increased, so too has the appeal of blaming our hormones. But you aren't perimenopausal at 32, and even if you are menopausal, low sex drive isn't an inevitable consequence. Sure, a male-sized jolt of testosterone would do wonders for the libido, but the reality is that the mind is the biggest human sex organ. Confidence, body self-knowledge, curiosity, courage and playfulness are but a few of the gifts of maturity that can rejuvenate your sexual spirit.
- You might be the problem. The culture of motherhood creates impossible expectations. If you believe that being a good mother means you have to give until you've depleted every spare ounce of energy, no wonder you're too tired for sex. Maternal perfectionism and excessive self-sacrifice is a treadmill with no off switch. Only you can decide that you matter, too.
- The kids might be the problem. Many families unknowingly slide into a child-run sovereignty. Babies need attention the minute they let you know there is a problem. But older children can wait, respect parental privacy and honor your boundaries. Remind yourself that even though they don't know it, a good parental sex life is in the best interest of the kids. A weekend away alone, a lock on the bedroom door and a firm bedtime are as good for parental lust as they are for family stability.
- He might be the problem. For every four or five women who wish their husbands would forget about sex indefinitely, there's a woman who wishes her husband would remember the old days. Approximately one in three adult men will experience sexual dysfunction at some point in their lives. Sex is what makes marriage a unique relationship, and you have a right to start the conversation, "Honey, I think we have a problem we need to talk about."
- The relationship might be the problem. Marriage problems commonly masquerade as sexual problems. Sexual blahs may be entirely due to neglect and the competing demands of parenthood, but sometimes they indicate a problem in the infrastructure. A campaign to resuscitate passion is most effective when the foundation of the marriage is intact.
- For many moms, talking about sex with the man they make love with is worse than gum surgery without anesthesia. It is perfectly understandable to find it difficult to talk about sexuality, but hopeful silence hasn't worked. You would have found an indirect way already if you could have. The first attempts at improved sexual communication may be extremely awkward, but fortunately, embarrassment is not terminal. Getting through the discomfort is worth the tremendous benefit that follows. Communication in the bedroom is a skill any woman can master.
- It's up to us to turn off the cultural censor. Movies, novels, television shows almost never depict loving, responsible, devoted mothers as sexually active and assertive. One doesn't associate "sexy" with "soccer mom." Who makes out in the back seat of a mini-van? Unfortunately, it's up to us to find the accurate and supportive resources that let us turn off the internalized critic keeping us from exploring our own curiosity. Fortunately, it's our choice to reject these myths of motherhood.
- Passionate parents have passionate values. Values shared by passionate parents include attentiveness, appreciation, a sense of humor, communication, courage, flexibility, imagination, receptivity, trust, vulnerability. Batteries are not required.