Parenting can be hard. There are good days and not-so-good days, however when the good days feel few and far between it can have a big impact on our mental health.
Kids chuck a frag grenade at many parts of your life, but it doesn’t have to ruin your sex life. A new baby too often causes a sexual dry spell for the parents that extends beyond the months it takes to recover from birth — in some cases, it can go years. This is the product of a new family struggling to find a new normal, focusing too much energy on the kid, and forgetting the couple who created the kid. Or, more to the point, the coupling that created the kid.
A family forces you to focus your resources that once went toward the couple — time, money, energy, hours in bed — toward the family’s newest member. Your supply of resources stays the same, but demand just increased by a factor of screaming human libido killer. “We now want a balance between me, us, and family,” says Esther Perel. “Those were not tensions that existed before.”
You probably remember Perel from her wildly popular TED talks on maintaining desire in long-term relationships or how a couple can survive an affair, so you already know she knows this topic better than most. Unless you’re one of those annoying couples whose sex life actually improved after having kids, read on …Redefine “Sex”
Contrary to popular opinion, the hokey pokey is not what it’s all about. “You can do the act in 5 minutes, done, and it has zero effect on you,” Perel says. She’s talking more about “the erotic presence — the feeling of connection, pleasure, aliveness, vibrancy.” Loss of erotic presence in a relationship is the reason sex stops, so focus on fixing the cause not its effect. “If people had a less narrow definition of what sex is, there would be an ability to feel much more sexually connected after having kids,” she says.
“If people had a less narrow definition of what sex is, there would be an ability to feel much more sexually connected after having kids,”
Learn The Erotic Ingredients And “Eros Redirected”
This may be the most important sentence you ever read: The erotic ingredients are playfulness, novelty, looks, curiosity, and touch. Perel points out that every one of these things are at risk of being entirely redirected toward your kid if you’re not careful. There’s even a fancy term for it: “eros redirected.”
For Perel, the core of the issue in any couple where the sex life has faltered post-kid is that all the energy that once went toward the erotic ingredients in your relationship go to the kid. Here’s how she puts it (and try not to wince if it sounds too familiar):
“Playfulness: You have loads of playfulness, but it’s all with the kids. Novelty: I see you constantly looking for new experiences with your children but you do the same old, same old [with your partner]. Looks: I see your kids walking around in the latest fashion, and I see you in your old schmattes. Curiosity: I see you being curious about anything your child is doing, but when was the last time you gazed at each other? Touch: I see you often living on a diet of quick pecks, and I see your children experience languid hugs and affectionate everything.”
Break Your Routine And Plan Together
Undoing eros redirected is in some ways as simple as behaving toward your partner the way you behaved before the kid was born. “When people meet and are in love, they live face to face. When people have children, they create this whole enterprise, and they live side by side. What they need are moments of turning their bodies back to each other in face to face situation.” That means date nights, complete with touching, playing, and all those other ingredients.
Among Perel’s clients, there are couples who hire a babysitter to attend Burning Man and couples who haven’t left the house in 4 years. Guess which ones have better sex lives. You don’t have to drop peyote in the desert to appreciate a novel couple’s activity, but you do need to occasionally break the schedule that parenting has forced you into by planning together. “The reason everybody talks about planning dates and all of that is because it’s not just about putting it in the calendar,” She says. “It’s about assigning value. It says it’s important.”
[tedexpand=1] Whether it’s a date night or an annual couple’s vacation separate from the child, which Perel also recommends, plan together. For many couples, she finds it helps if one person is responsible for the adult end of the planning (date nights, researching vacations, booking reservations, etc.), while the other focuses on the kid’s end (reserving babysitters, packing overnight bags for the grandparent’s house, etc.).
Divide, conquer, and turn “eros redirected” into “eros directed,” with the direction being straight to … well … use your imagination.