How to Keep Your Relationship Alive Post-Kids
Feel like your relationship needs a bit of a jump-start since baby came along? Perhaps it needs more of a rocket launch. Don’t worry — you’re not alone. According to a Family Lives survey, 86 percent of parents have sex less often after having children, and 73 percent said their sex life had definitely taken a turn for the worse since the kids came along.
There’s no denying that a having a baby turns your life upside down, whatever your circumstances. Everything else has to go on the back burner — work, socializing, sex, having a shower that lasts longer than three minutes — for a short time at least. And often a short time becomes a long time, during which time more kids may come along and your relationship becomes even less of a priority.
“For most people, the wonder and joy of a child can easily sideline all the effort they would normally put into maintaining their intimate and open relationship with their partner,” relationship coach Carmel Jones told SheKnows. “And it's more than the sleepless nights and the record-keeping over who changed more diapers. It's the lack of focus you put on one another when there is a child who undeniably needs so much attention and love and energy.”
If it’s been a long time since you were intimate with your partner, the thought of sexy lingerie and working your way through the Kama Sutra might fill you with horror. Don’t worry: there’s no need to go from 0 to sexpot. According to certified counselor and relationship coach Jonathan Bennett, every little helps. “Squeeze in couple time anywhere you can,” he told SheKnows. “Raising a kid is a lot of work. You might only have ten minutes to spend alone with your partner at times. Take advantage of whatever you get, even if it’s just to have coffee or a quick cuddle, and be creative.”
Jones agrees that it’s not all about sex. “Take time to be together,” she says. “Movies in bed when the kid is sleeping. Waking up early and having a cup of coffee and beside each other (even if you’re exhausted). Being alone together allows you to look at each other, hopefully without distraction, and let any and all conversations, issues, jokes, and feelings arise between the two of you, alone.”
Bennett suggests scheduling romance and sex. “It isn’t terribly romantic, but with kids around you might need to schedule time for cuddling or sex. This forces you to make it a priority.”
And if you’re really struggling to find even a few moments alone, you need to find a babysitter. “Find a flexible, reliable sitter and you can still have a life outside of your children,” says Bennett. “If you don’t have to rely on relatives or scramble at the last minute whenever you want some free time, you’ll want to pursue ‘couple time’ more often.” Regular date nights will remind you that you had a relationship before kids came along and help you to enjoy the things you used to do (going for dinner, to a gig or the movies) before you became parents.
Communication is key. Show your partner that you appreciate them, even if you don’t have as much alone time as you once did. “’I love you’ doesn't get old,” says Jones. “Those things that meant so much early in your relationship, before there were kids and other distractions, need to be keep alive. Make sure your partner knows you love them, are attracted to them, and enjoy being around them. This is what makes people feel loved, respected and admired, and creates a positive feeling in the home. It’s also good for raising a kid to have them see their parents in love.”
Okay, time to tackle sex — literally. It might not have been a priority — or even an event — for months, but it's "one of the fabulous ways partners can connect and enjoy each other."
That's according to family and relationship psychotherapist Dr. Fran Walfish, who helps many couples get their sex lives back on track after having a baby. "The entry of each new baby into the family, especially the birth of the first child, brings added stress to a couple," she told SheKnows. "Many new parents become preoccupied with their infant, direct all of their energy and attention toward the baby and their partners often feel a bit lost in the equation, wondering, 'Where do I fit in?' When each of the partners is unaware and inattentive to this shift in their relationship, it can cause a crack in its foundation of the marriage. A decrease in sex is often symptomatic of poor communication and can drive a wedge between the couple."
It's natural to worry about having sex when your children are at home and awake. If a babysitter isn't available — seriously, get onto that asap — Walfish suggests letting kids over the age of 7 watch a video or play by themselves in their room while you're in your own (locked) bedroom.
And while opportunities to actually have sex may be few and far between, you can build anticipation and spice things up by sending romantic/sexy texts and emails to each other during the day. Enjoy being more intimate in lots of different ways, like taking a shower or bath together in candlelight.
Walfish's final piece of advice is simple: "Put all of your worries in a box, lock the box, and leave it outside of the bedroom!" Mountains of laundry, untidy bedrooms and homework assignments will still be there when you come out — but you might find them a lot easier to deal with if you've taken off your parenting hats for a while and given your relationship some TLC.