How do my wife and I start having sex again?

I'm not sure what to do at this point to get back to at least baseline. At this point it seems like a big hurdle that is intimidating and difficult to fathom attempting.

A PERFECT ANGEL:

My wife and I are preparing to celebrate our third anniversary, and have been together for about six years in total. Last year, we welcomed our first child. While my wife was pregnant, she did not want to have sex. Almost a year after our daughter was born, we now have not had sex or any sexual contact in over a year. I think we both are interested in trying to be intimate, but inertia, sleep deprivation, or apathy seem to be getting in the way. Our relationship has never been a strong physical one (i.e., sex has never been an important element of our relationship - we maybe had sex once a week), but we still care for each other. I usually had a stronger sexual appetite with past relationships, but it has never seemed that important to my wife. I'm not sure what to do at this point to get back to at least baseline. At this point it seems like a big hurdle that is intimidating and difficult to fathom attempting.

I also think we both feel unattractive (i.e., mutual weight gain from stress, baby, etc.), tired, and intimated by the thought of trying. Any advice?

✨SUBMIT A QUESTION✨

SOPHIA:

You used one word in your letter that I think is absolutely the correct word to latch onto: inertia. Most things in life right now, with the world The Way It Is get done either because they HAVE to (feeding the baby, taking a big shit, responding to your boss) or because they bring you joy (playing with the baby, eating an entire sleeve of Oreos, having a date night with your wife). Of course there are in between type things, or things that you do because you’d like to be the kind of person who does said thing (think learning French, reading to the baby every night, working out). But that last group of things is the HARDEST to actually get done, I’ve found. Especially when you’re out of practice.

I’ll get into inertia talk soon, but I strongly strongly urge you to be careful to not make Having Sex fall into the first category of things you must do and instead try to make it something you both actually like doing. I know Sex Is Important in relationships but what that is actually shorthand for is Having Physically Intimate and Arousing Experiences Together Which You Both Enjoy is Important. Putting a penis in a vagina is not imperative to a relationship (OBVIOUSLY!!!! since a lot of relationships do not have a penis and a vagina in them). There is nothing NOTHING nothing NOTHING !!!! nothing magical about penetrative sex that will make your relationship stronger, especially if the very act of having that sex is stressful or unfulfilling or even painful for one or both of you.

So let’s not make that the goal, eh?

[Caveat: if you two are trying to have sex to have another baby, you will likely need to have penetrative sex—unless you’re going for the health class scare tactic methods of getting pregnant from a toilet seat or a hot tub—and if you want to work up to that with what I describe below, lovely! Otherwise, I urge you guys to let go of the idea of dick-inside-vagina sex as the end all be all for a bit.]

Instead, make the goal having a nice physical time together where you get turned on. I’m not saying that either of you will or won’t come. Lovely if you do, lovely if you don’t! Orgasms aren’t the sine qua non of sex, ok?

This is actually where inertia comes into play. I cannot physically run a marathon right now. (I probably never will be able to because I will never train for one because I strongly loathe endurance activities which is why I played hockey and didn’t run cross country). Anyway, just as I cannot run a marathon without training, you cannot jump back into weekly sex without building up to it. That way lies failure.

When I want to get back into working out after not doing it for a while, I have this deal I make with myself where I have to work out for one minute every day. ONE MINUTE. That is all. I set a timer and everything. I put on gym clothes. I (used to before the pandemic) drive to the gym. I bring a water bottle and headphones. I get ready for a full workout, however, after one minute, I’m allowed to leave if I want to. Sometimes I stay for half an hour. Sometimes I leave after one minute. I do that for a couple weeks and usually by then I’m back into the swing of going to the gym. Why? Because the hard part of working out or having sex again after years off is not just the physical aspect of it—which is there, too—but the mental frustration with having to try at something.

Starting anything back up after years off (other than like eating cake or drinking or getting a $400,000/year salary) is going to be hard. Give yourselves a break and a chance!

The first thing I think you must do is have a talk with your wife. I recommend having a talk like this over a nice dinner or with a bottle of wine if you’re drinkers. This talk should be done when the baby is asleep or being watched by someone.

Here is something like how the talk could go, “Honey, you are an angel on earth for all that you do for our baby and this kid. I am so grateful we’re in this together. One thing I am missing however, is sex with you. Or making out with you. Or going down on you. (You fill in the blank with what you actually miss). I’m not bringing this up to try to add this to your plate like a to-do list item, but because I genuinely would like to try to get back to the point where we both want to bang/make out/69 til the sun comes up. I know that it’s been a while and I know we probably aren’t ready to jump right back into it full steam ahead. I don’t expect that and I don’t think it would be pleasurable for either of us. I just want to start thinking about what would feel nice for us to do together. Do you have any ideas or things you miss?”

You might notice that what I wrote sounds kind of corny and relationship-talk-y. IT IS!!!!!! It virtually will have to sound very…silly… coming out of your mouth. Good relationship conversations almost always sound RIDICULOUS and embarrassing. It sucks!! But so does not having a physical relationship with your wife. So buck up!!!

Ask questions!!! Be curious about what your wife misses—I’m sure there are things she misses. I’m SURE OF IT. Perhaps it’s making out; perhaps it’s taking a bath together; perhaps it’s massages. I don’t know! She might not even know yet because her body and mind have changed a lot. This is a little adventure you two are embarking on! This is the very essence of partnership which you two signed up for!!! You wanted to tackle the for better and worse shit? WELL, IT’S HERE! You get to be partners together against a problem and the problem is that you guys lack desire or motivation for physical touch right now. I don’t have all the answers for what the specific road blocks you two are facing are, but I don’t think you guys are anywhere NEAR helpless or hopeless. You have to talk about it. You have to see what each other is into and against. Don’t be afraid to try things and don’t be afraid to find out that something doesn’t work. You’re different people than you were six years ago!

I’m not going to say that you’re going to fall back in love with your body or anything; asking people to love their bodies is a HUGE ASK in my humble opinion. But doing things that make you both feel good can often go a long way towards being and getting each other turned on. Ultimately, it’s much less about how you look to your partner than you think.

A huge note I have—especially because I’m assuming that the pandemic has made people coming over to help with the baby a bit…wonky—is that there is a very very real phenomenon that occurs with new parents and especially breastfeeding mothers (I have no idea if your wife is breastfeeding; I’m just saying that in case she does!) called being “touched out.” Maybe you know this already! I don’t know! Being “touched out” means that a person literally experiences too much physical contact throughout the day from their baby that by the time their partner (or whoever) wants to make out with them, they feel turned off by touch—even if it’s nice and lovely. Imagine getting a massage for 17 hours a day; eventually, you’d be like “Ok, I am… ready to do ANYTHING other than get a massage right now.” Talk to your partner about this. See if she’s experiencing this! Ask questions!!! Be curious! Maybe a solution in the short-term is to sext one another (from inside your own home) rather than to have sex at first. Maybe it’s masturbating next to each other. I don’t know! You’ll have to figure it out.

As parents you’re going to have a different sex life than non-parents and not just because of the baby or body changes. Being parents can kill the sexy voice inside your head. There’s a whole lot of messaging in the US towards women especially that mothers aren’t sexy. We also tend to feel repulsion when we think about parents and sex in the same sentence. It can be hard to switch out of Parent Mode into Adult Who Might Like Some Sex Mode. Give yourselves both a break and a chance. It’s going to take practice. There are lots of blogs and books out there about how to have a good sex life as a parent. If you get really really stuck, and it’s an option for you, consider couples therapy. This is a SUPER SUPER SUPER common problem.

As a potential note—you sound like a great dad and husband so this is NOT to suggest you’re anything but!!!—most men in straight relationships do a lot less housework and childcare than their partner does. Even if they did an equal amount of work before kids, once a kid arrives, that balance usually shifts in favor of women picking up the slack. You should check in with your wife (and not just one time) and see if there is more you could be helping out with and more initiative that you could be taking. I’m not saying that she’s in charge and that you are there to help her. That’s bullshit. You’re both adults and both parents equally. I’m just saying that no one wants to be intimate with a person they’re doing chores for, so if your wife is doing laundry for three people and breastfeeding and waking up in the middle of the night, and walking the dog and cooking and grocery shopping and and and and and … she’s not going to want to fuck you ever. If you think there is any chance you might be doing unequal amounts of work in any direction, I strongly encourage you guys to read the book Fair Play by Eve Rodsky. Having a more equitable division of labor has been shown to help women want to have more sex/sexual encounters. I’m serious. Do not overlook this.

You’re already doing amazing by reaching out here to ask for help! I’m 100% sure that this is not a hopeless issue. I’m sure that your relationship will continue to change and evolve even if you do nothing right now (although I hope you don’t pick that option). You’e got this!!

✨SUBMIT A QUESTION✨