Sex & Marriage After Baby: Good Marriage, Bad Sex

Sound familiar? Don't despair. Take action instead— and get the love life you deserve.

Fix Your Less-Than-Thrilling Lovemaking

Sex After Baby: Tips for an Active Sex Life
Sex After Baby: Tips for an Active Sex Life

Hope's husband, Tom, puts in 60 long hours a week at the office. So when the couple meet between the sheets on the weekends, he just doesn't want to work that hard.

"Tom's a lazy lover," confides the Hickory, North Carolina, mom of two. But, she adds, he's a wonderful friend, father, and provider -- so bad sex is hardly a deal-breaker.

Colleen, a Dayton, Ohio, mother of a 2-year-old son, isn't exactly seeing fireworks either. In fact, she once stopped midway through making love with her husband, David, to answer a ringing phone. "It's not that I'm not attracted to him," Colleen says. "I am. But it's hard to enjoy sex knowing we're going to argue about some aspect of it -- like why I don't want to do certain things to him." Colleen says her marriage's good qualities far outweigh the bad vibes in the bedroom, and that she and David are in it for the long haul.

Certainly, less-than-thrilling lovemaking is no reason to give up on a good marriage. But neither is so-so sex something you should just accept with a shrug and a sigh. It's simply too important to the health of your relationship, says Barry McCarthy, Ph.D., co-author of Rekindling Desire: A Step-By-Step Program to Help Low-Sex and No-Sex Marriages. That's because sex serves several vital roles besides physical pleasure. It's what separates your marriage from your other close relationships, Dr. McCarthy explains. It's the salve that soothes the day-to-day irritations that come from living and sharing responsibilities with another person. It deepens your level of intimacy. And it's adult playtime -- that rare chance to completely let your guard down.

Too often, couples just avoid the issue of sexual dissatisfaction -- especially if they're parents, coping with the daily demands of raising kids. "It's easy to be in denial about it," says Valerie Davis Raskin, M.D., author of Great Sex for Moms. "But boring sex doesn't get better on its own -- not even 21 years later, when the children move out."

If you and your spouse are already working in harmony as partners and parents, you could -- and should! -- be totally in sync as lovers too. You just need to pay some extra attention to that part of your relationship. Here's a four-step love-life makeover to help you move toward more pleasure, passion, and just plain fun.

Change Your Mind

Most of us think of sex as something that's supposed to come naturally. And that's a major mistake, says Diane Sollee, director of Smart Marriages, a counseling program and Website. In fact, Sollee says, "sex isn't supposed to make you hot. Instead, it's your job to make sex hot."

You can't abdicate responsibility for your sex life and leave it up to your partner to turn you on in exactly the right way, at exactly the right time. And don't assume that boring sex means you've chosen the wrong man. More likely, it means he's not clued in to your desires.

So what would you like to see your spouse do differently? You may be able to dream up a long wish list -- or you may find it tricky to pinpoint just what you want from your love life. If the latter is true, think back to the best sexual experience the two of you had together. What made it so amazing? What inspiration can you take from that peak encounter to energize your bedroom sessions now? Jot notes, if only to clarify your thoughts.

Talk It Over

Even couples who can communicate easily about everything else can find it difficult to talk about sex. It may help to know that once you do bring it up, your spouse probably won't be surprised -- in fact, he may be relieved. If you're not thrilled with the sex, chances are he isn't either.

Choose the right time and place for the discussion. Don't give feedback about sex right after making love, when you're still in bed, Dr. McCarthy says. Your lovemaking sessions aren't Olympic competitions, where you get to hold up a scorecard after each performance. Instead, wait for a relaxed moment -- over coffee, while sitting on the porch, when the kids are in bed, or when it's just the two of you in the car.

The best way to start is with praise. Dr. McCarthy advises couples to take turns revealing a few things they admire about each other -- both sexually and otherwise. Then take turns making a specific request that would make your mate more sexually inviting or boost the fun quotient in your lovemaking. Just remember that your desire for change has to come across as a request, not a demand, Dr. McCarthy says. You want your mate to hear your input as an affirmation of your marriage, not a criticism.

If you're still feeling tongue-tied, consider a humorous opener: "Is it just me, or are you also finding it tough to choose between sex and Seinfeld reruns?" A good laugh can set the stage for a relaxed exchange of ideas and intimacies.

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