Here at Fatherly we like to talk about sex — specifically the importance of talking about sex. Because, as we’ve mentioned time and again, good communication and honesty are large parts of a healthy sex life, especially after kids enter the picture. That’s because good communication leads to good sex and good sex is great for parents.
Without regularly touching base about life behind the bedroom door (or behind the shower curtain, or in the car, or wherever) any relationship can run aground. During early parenthood, a time in your life when the only constant is inconsistency, this is even more of a worry. Here, then, is some advice from therapists, relationship counsellors, sex experts and more, to help make sure this doesn’t happen. So long as you prioritize moments of intimacy and affection and get a bit creative, everything will be just fine.
Manage Your Expectations
Life changes when you have kids. Priorities shift. Schedules fill up. Time is a luxury. One of the best ways to lean into this skid is to simply accept that the only constant will likely be inconsistency. Every couple we’ve spoken to about post-kid relationship maintenance stresses this over and over again: both partners need to be patient and accept that parenthood will change their dynamic. An understanding of this is essential to making sure that happiness remains in and out of the bedroom.
Sexualize One Another Every Single Day
In the barren sexual wasteland that some call parenthood, it can be easy to see your partner as, well, just a partner. Sure, you split duties and support one another. But it can easily turn into a working relationship. The way to defeat that funk is simple: flirt. “I tell couples to sexualize each other every single day,” Dr. Chris Donaghue, the author of Sex Outside The Lines, co-host of CBS’ Loveline with Amber Rose, and a spokesperson for Tenga, told Fatherly. That doesn’t necessarily mean having sex. Rather, per Donaghue, it means general affection, romantic notes, handholding, squeezing some tush — whatever. “Anything that creates a romantic moment,” he says. “The goal is not sex, but eroticism and romance, which sometimes means sex.”
Put it on the Calendar
Skeptics will say scheduling sex puts undue pressure on individuals to perform, that it turns intimacy into a chore and so on and so forth. But sex is not an obligation. And those who choose to organize their sex schedule do so because they like sex, and they want to keep having it. And the arrangement carries certain perks spontaneous sex does not — namely anticipation. Couples can also use it as an opportunity to incorporate something new and interesting into their sex lives like (Oh boy! Tuesday the 24th is costumed hero night!) “Planned sex gives you an opportunity to prolong the emotional foreplay,” Sarah E. Clark a licensed therapist and relationship expert told Fatherly. “Let your partner know throughout the day how much you are looking forward to it.”
Talk About the Good Old Days
Sometimes couples fall out of sync sexually. “There are so, so, so many things that have an impact on our level of desire, and it’s not always as easy to pinpoint as some may think,” mental health councilor Erin C. Parisi told Fatherly “Many relationships have people who do not have the same level of sexual desire.” A good way to re-sync: Try talking about what sex was like before, when things changed, and what was going on around that time. “Ask your partner if they’re happy with how things are. If they could change something, what would it be?” These conversations can bring back formative memories (“Remember that time we did it at Shoneys!?”) and help you get back on the same page.
Act Like You’re Dating
“For whatever reason, when we’re married we don’t think we have to or need to do the things we did when we were dating,” Fran Greene, a couples counselor and author of The Flirting Bible, told Fatherly. “Somehow when the commitment is there we feel like we can say ‘Thank God, I don’t have to do that anymore.’ But it’s the opposite.” It sure is. Keep in mind: flirting is about taking the focus of yourself and onto your partner. One of the easiest ways to knock this down: Practice the posture of interest, says Francis. Maintain eye contact, smile, let her talk without interrupting, lean in, and listen to what she says. Emotional intimacy, here we come.
Stop Worrying About the Sex Lives of Others
It’s easy to want to compare your sex life to what you see on TV, in porn, or to what your friends tell you. “Way too often, people are misled into believing that everyone except them is having great sex,” Eliza Boquin, a relationship and sexuality expert, told Fatherly. It’s about what works for your relationship; the sex lives of others shouldn’t be a concern — unless you’re getting intel about some fun new position they tried. We hear that sex move #33554 is a real doozy.
Embrace the Quickie
Quickies have a weird rap. Sneaking away for ten minutes to bang in a closet or bathroom is considered the exclusive territory of horny coeds, entirely too obvious couples at office holiday parties, and thinly-drawn rom-com characters. They’re also believed to be notoriously unsexy. But, executed correctly, the quickie is great for busy parents, as it creates a much-needed opportunity to relieve stress, strengthen a relationship, and get off at a time when intimacy, connection, and, well, time, are luxuries. And sometimes that’s exactly what busy parents need. Just remember: a good quickie is not unplanned. “Quickies are not a substitute for a gourmet meal,” Dr. Patti Britton, clinical sexologist and co-founder of Sex Coach University told Fatherly. “However, they can be exactly the appetizer you need. They serve on a deep level to maintain the connectivity of the relationship. That’s the glue that binds couples when they’re parents.”