By Sally and Zach Maxwell
As parents of a three-year-old and four-month-old, we know the feeling of overwhelm and straight up exhaustion that becoming new parents brings with it. We also know that becoming parents together as a couple simultaneously brings you closer together and forms a true crucible for any marriage. It brings you closer together because the love you feel for your children is a greater love than either of you you have ever experienced before, and that love was born out of your union. It’s a crucible because the physical, emotional and spiritual energy that is required of you to care for your young children is also unlike anything you have ever experienced, and the nature of it is that it pulls you away from your intimacy. It’s the great paradox of parenting actually.
You are no longer just husband and wife anymore. You are parents. And the nature of being parents is that your sexual intimacy, let alone even just time spent alone just the two of you can become the first thing that goes out the window.
So how do we navigate this without becoming relegated to the “sexless marriage” category that so many relationships unfortunately end up in? Our children grow up inside of the ecosystem of our relationship and therefore can only be as happy as our relationship is. A sexless relationship is rarely a happy one so we relate to this area with the utmost importance. To answer this question we need to separate parents into two categories. Pregnancy through having children under the age of one, and parents with children over the age of one. This post will focus on pregnancy through having kids under the age of one.
For parents who are pregnant or with new babies under the age of one, you need to understand that you are in a very short, (though it can seem like it goes on forever) phase of your life and intimate relationship where sex naturally takes a back seat to the other necessities of your life. Currently, our second child is four months old, and still not sleeping much, so we are right smack in the middle of this phase ourselves and regularly remind ourselves that “this is a phase!” Sometimes we have a twinkle in our eye about it like “we got this,” and other times, whoever is the least exhausted of the two of us, reminds the other that “hey…this is just a phase.”
For all parents of babies out there…we know it’s not an easy phase. It’s also not always a fun phase. It’s a truly exhausting, but also beautiful, and at time’s makes-you-wanna-lose-your-mind, cry- from-joy-or-despair, sometimes-both-in-the-same-day, or-same-hour…phase!
Now, that doesn’t mean that sex can’t happen in this phase. It just means that you must manage your expectations about it. This is not a phase of your relationship where you will be having long stretches of time just the two of you to be intimate. Nor is it a phase where either of you will necessarily have much of a sexual appetite. Especially pregnant women or breastfeeding mothers! So we like to relate to this phase as a “get it when and where you can” phase. If that means that it’s during a five-minute window where the kid is napping and you are both not too exhausted to have a quickie, then great. If that means saving a tiny bit of gas in the tank at the end of the day just to have five minutes of intimacy, that’s okay too. But manage your expectations about this phase. And make sure that if you can get it, that you do. Prioritize it in that way.
Be a “yes” to getting it when you can. Know that during this phase, a “no” is always on the table, but for the sake of your relationship, err towards a yes whenever you can. Care about being a yes, even if it feels like it’s utilitarian or not a sexy period of your life. Your future relationship will thank you.
We joke with each other that our sex life is stuck in a 15-month traffic jam because that’s about how long it takes from the beginning of pregnancy to a new baby starting to sleep through the night and life starting to have some sense of normalcy. You can still have fun in a traffic jam. But you can’t drive fast and you can’t get to where you want to go until the traffic is cleared. That’s this phase. Do your best to have fun in the traffic jam and both strive to initiate and be a yes in the rare offset moments that become available to you during this phase and you will move through this just fine and in moments, beautifully.
The original version of this post, as well as a follow-up, can be found on the authors’ website.
About The Authors:
Sally and Zach Maxwell, owners of Max-Well Coaching, are personal and relationship coaches and love experts. They shared their first kiss when they were 18. Now, two decades later, they’ve successfully navigated many common relationship milestones together, and each day really does get better and better. They’re called to teach their clients how to do this in their lives. With nearly a combined 30 years of coaching individuals and couples, they synthesize the tools that we have learned to create a customized experience based on our clients needs.
You can follow Sally and Zach on LinkedIn and Instagram.