Q& A with Rallie McAllister

Dr. McAllister is the author of The Busy Couples Guide to Great Sex.

How do my husband and I make more time for each other?

Q. With three children (ages nine, three, and eight months) my husband and I never spend time together. Passing each other in the hallway is as close as we get. I just think if we don't do something we are headed for trouble! Please help.

A. Finding time for each other is a huge problem for couples with young kids (you already know this, of course), but somehow you have to make it happen. I know you must feel absolutely overwhelmed at times. Try spending 15 minutes a day talking. It can open up a lot of doors, which will put you in a position to continue to build intimacy and to find your old feelings for each other. And if there is any way at all, making one night a week (or even one night a month) a "date night" for just the two of you would be very beneficial. When you're with your partner -- without the kids -- you can stop seeing him as just a roommate or fellow parent. It helps you see him as the person you fell in love with in the first place, and vice-versa.

How long will it take to get my sex drive back after having a baby?

Q. Ever since our daughter was born this year, I really haven't gotten my sex drive back. This has hurt my husband. He thinks I'm not attracted to him, which I tell him isn't true. Any advice?

A. Underlying resentment can easily douse the flames of sexual desire, and this might be a part of the problem. Still, you're only five months post-partum! Your body probably isn't back to its pre-pregnancy state, and you're probably having interruptions in your sleep from time to time. Most women with new babies are far more concerned about attending to the needs of their newborns than to the sexual needs of their partners. It's part of the maternal instinct, and it's very difficult to suppress. The fact that you find yourself attracted to your partner is a very good thing. Your brain is heading in the right direction, and it may take just a little more time for your body to catch up.

    How do I make my wife feel beautiful?

    Q. My wife doesn't feel good about how she looks and we are rarely intimate as a result. How can I reassure her that she is the beauty I fell in love with?

    A. If she doesn't believe that she's beautiful, she still won't believe it when you tell her that she is, no matter how often or how sincerely you tell her. Unfortunately, in our fat-phobic society, many women who feel as if they're overweight have a very hard time feeling good about themselves. Try asking her what it would take for her to feel really good about herself and her body. Maybe she'd like to have 30 minutes a day by herself (or with you) to walk or take an exercise class. The good news is that most women get more comfortable and more self-confident about themselves and their bodies as they mature, so this may be only a temporary phase. Don't give up, and keep on encouraging her and supporting her.

      How long should I wait to have sex after giving birth?

      Q. We just had our second baby two weeks ago, and now we are terrified to touch each other because I'm off birth control and we are worried about getting pregnant again. Any advice?

      A. Your doctor probably wants you to take a break from sex for more than two weeks after the delivery -- but you already know this. If you're breastfeeding, that makes a difference in the kind of contraception she'll prescribe. It's good that you are planning. If you think that you might end up having sex before your six-week check up, it might be a good idea to keep some condoms on hand -- just in case.

        How do we reach a compromise when we have different sex drives?

        Q. My wife and I have totally different sex drives. In her words, "It's just not important!" She sees me as selfish and says I only care about sex. We have discussed the issue to the point of me suggesting counseling, but we can't reach a compromise. Any suggestions?

        A. Most men and women in relationships do have different sex drives, what I call a "desire discrepancy." In many marriages, one person may have sex less often than desired, while the other may end up having sex more often. But some type of agreement is important. It sounds as if you've done all the right things. You've tried to discuss the problem with your wife; and you've expressed your willingness to get some outside help. Many women don't realize how very important sexual intimacy is to men -- it's not just a luxury, it's often the way they best express and experience feelings of romantic love. You might ask her again if she'll go to counseling with you. If she won't, consider going alone. I really think that at this point, it's your best bet.

          I'm breastfeeding, where is my sex drive?

          Q. I've been breastfeeding our 11-month old, and since about four weeks after his birth, have had little to no desire for sex. When he's finally weaned (we're working on this currently), can I expect my drive to return?

          A. Breastfeeding consumes a great deal of your time, energy, and attention, which can be bad for your sex life. Also, it has hormonal implications and you may not get the mid-month surge in estrogen and testosterone that stimulate sexual desire. So in answer to your question, I think it's safe to say that once you stop nursing your baby, you can expect to regain your old sex drive. Hopefully, you and your husband can make up for lost time (and lovemaking) as soon as you wean your baby.

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