Many couples seek sex and relationship therapy as new parents struggling to meet the sexual needs of their relationship. Moving into parenthood is a changing time as couples have to adapt to new responsibilities of life and the changing dynamics of their relationship. Sex and intimacy often gets placed on the side lines and as energy and time is devoted to attending to the practical needs of the family and the emotional needs of our children. Sexual engagement with our partner can just feel like another demand on our limited energy supply.
There is nothing wrong with abstaining from sex for awhile and most relationships can mange a period without intimacy. However if the dynamic continues, it can create tension. Couples may begin to loose their sense of connection and compatibility. As the gap becomes wider, the lack of sex and intimacy can also erode the sexual confidence of the relationship and the self-esteem of the individual.
Here are six ideas that may support couples to reclaim a mutually pleasurable sex life
1. Valuing the importance of sex and intimacy in the relationship
Sometimes life becomes so full we can forget to value the importance of sex and intimacy in our relationship. Devoting time and energy to creating a mutually satisfying and fulfilling relationship builds a good foundation for the whole family. If our relationship is not solid or in conflict, it impacts the whole family. Sexual engagement for pleasure may feel like a luxury but it is an essential part of cultivating connection with our partners.
Both persons need to value their relationship and explore the importance of sexuality and intimacy for themselves and their partner. If only one person values sex and the other person does not, it can create tension. Learning to engage in open conversations about sexuality is essential. Open conversations allow couples to explore ways we can meet the sexual needs and desires of each person, and creates an opportunity for connection and bonding.
2. Creating space for your relationship
Once a couple agree to value their relationship and its need for intimacy, they can find creative ways of making space. This can be the greatest challenge as we often have such limited time and energy. However, creating space for the relationship is so important. It temporarily frees us from the distraction of our busy life so we can focus on our partner and build our sense of connection.
When we create space for the relationship we also give our partner the message that they are important, which builds trust and connection. When we feel safe and connected to our partners, we gain the confidence to be authentic and express our deep desires and fears, knowing we are acceptable even in our vulnerability. When we can be in our vulnerability with our partner, we have the opportunity to explore our sexuality without overwhelming fears of rejection or shame.
3. Transitioning between roles – from carer to passionate lover.
Sometimes it can be hard to switch between the role of care/giver or parent to feeling like a sexual and desirous being. I find that it is a good to create some alone time between going from carer to lover. Have an indulgent shower or bath, listen to some music, go for walk, or meditate – something to help you let go of your day. Even if time is limited, it is a good idea to take a moment for yourself so you can switch off from your day. This transitions also gives you the opportunity to mentally prepared yourself in anticipation of time with your lover. The brain is the largest sex organ so bring you thoughts to include the erotic.
4. Focus on your sensual experiences, not just the sexual.
Sex is so much more then just intercourse. It is any sensuous and erotic expression that enhances intimacy, love and connection between couples, whilst providing an outlet for pent up tension. It involves the whole body, our breathe, and all our senses.
Heightening our senses and learning to become more aware of our bodies can enhance our enjoyment of sexuality and intimacy. We are often distracted by our busy lives and ‘forget to smell the roses’. Remembering to be aware that we are more then our thoughts and focus on our whole bodies can bring us to the present moment and enhance enjoyment of life. Sensual experiences do not have to be sexual yet they can be intimate and increase a sense of connection.
When we have a pleasurable sensory experiences we are present to the moment. Senses include sounds, sights, smells, taste and touch, and there are many sensual experiences to be enjoyed. Walking in nature, swimming in rivers or pools, massage, lounging picnics on a beautiful day, enjoying a delicious meal in a cosy atmosphere, listening to music or enjoying art. Any experience that enhances our enjoyment of life and deepens our connection to our partner.
5. Be kind to yourself – developing self compassion.
Struggling to meet the demands and expectations of modern society is incredibly challenging. We often place unrealistic demands ourselves and strive for an ideal rather then a healthy reality. We take on too much responsibility and self blame if anything goes wrong. Self-compassion is learning to lighten our load and share the responsibilities of life with others.
Self-compassion is about not punishing ourselves when we ‘fail’ or ‘fall short’. It aims to cultivate self kindness. Knowing we are doing the best we can. Mistakes are perceived as something to learn from and be punished for. It is about treating yourself as you would a wounded child. Not with anger but with care, kindness and understanding. Learning to be kind and self-compassionate alleviates a great deal of suffering and make life a gentler place to be.
6. Adapting to change: the fluidity and creativity of sexuality
Sexuality is a fluid concept that ebbs and flows, and constantly adapts and changes with our environment. When we become parents, life changes and we need to be able to adapt to the change. Rather then clinging to what was, we can look forward and find new ways to express our sexuality and fulfil our need for intimacy. Nothing stays the same and our needs are in a constant state of flux.
Once we reject our limited perceptions or beliefs about sexuality, and acknowledge the creative potential of sex, we come to realise that how we choose to express our sexuality is only limited by our imagination.