The Sex Calendar That Keeps Our Relationship Happy and Healthy
When in doubt, this couple schedules it out.
Flow and Andrew Belinsky’s pregnancy came as a surprise. At the time, the San Diego couple weren’t married or even living together. Their transition into parenthood, therefore, required a lot of change. They moved in with Flow’s parents, got married, and prepared for the baby. A few months after giving birth, they moved into their own home, which was another major adjustment. change. So, how did they get through all of this while keeping their sanity in-tact and marriage healthy? It required a lot of tough conversations and the decision to keep their roles as mom and dad separate from their roles as individuals, professionals, and lovers. Here, Flow and Andrew discuss all their adjustments and how they kept their sex life and marriage in good shape throughout.
Flow: My pregnancy was unexpected. We were not married when I got pregnant. It definitely was a wild ride — finding out I was pregnant, and then we got married and moved in together. It was challenging, but I would say there was so much change and newness that the hardships of it didn’t quite settle in all the way until after our baby was born.
Andrew: I think we were just in shock for the majority of our pregnancy. This was something that Flow never imagined herself going through in her entire life, although it was something that I wanted. So there was a whole reorganization of our identities that was taking place during the pregnancy. We had no idea what was going to happen.
A: It took a lot of really hard conversations, like, every day to work through it. Every day there was a lot of journaling together, as well as calling in support and wisdom from our support structures. We actually moved in with Flow’s parents before our daughter was born because we knew that there was a lot of pressure on the situation, and that was one way we could release a little bit of the stress. We lived with them temporarily while we brought the baby into the world.
A: Honestly, it’s almost hard to remember bringing our baby home.
F: Yeah, it’s hard for me too. But it was extremely challenging. Andrew was working a lot, but he had almost a month off after I gave birth. He helped a lot, a lot, at night. But we had a unique situation. My parents, and especially my mom, were just really, really helpful. They would take the baby in the later evening so we could go to bed early before the first round of wake-ups and feedings, or they’d take her in the morning so I could sleep in a little bit.
Having that help made it doable. But there was just a lot of adrenaline and just trying to “make it through.” There was not a lot of time for us to connect. It was almost like we were going through the motions.
Welcome to ‘Sex After Kids,’ a column where parents talk frankly about how their sex lives shifted after they had children and what steps they took to recalibrate their relationship.
A: The shift to feeling better happened, actually, pretty recently.
F: Probably once we started taking her to daycare.
A: That was only a few months ago. I think because of the unique situation of how unprepared we were, first of all, to cohabitate, and second of all, to become monogamous partners, and third of all, to raise a child to, on top of that, we were both essentially starting our businesses, that was tough. The whole experience has been a great lesson for me in learning how to really surrender and ask for so much more help than I’ve ever asked for in my life. Whether that’s calling in grandmas, grandpas, or friends and community members who had mentioned that they’d be willing to cook for us or asking each other, really, for time and space to go for a walk or to go somewhere by ourselves for a night.
It’s really been a humbling experience. All of the favors I’ve ever saved up in my life from any person — I cashed them over this last year and a half. It’s been the hardest time and biggest challenge and the most unstable time in our lives. So, it’s been a great lesson in calling in all the troops.
F: Daycare helped a lot. She’s there part time. She goes in for four hours in the morning at this point. but even that was a big shift. I think part of the hardship has been, up until that point, we’ve really had to fall into the gender norms for men and women in relationships, which is not natural for either of us. Andrew had to really just, all of the sudden, learn how to be a total provider and I had to learn how to put my work on the back burner and just be a mom and just be home. Now that we have this time each day, it gives me time to work on what’s important to me. Since I have that time, I’m not as unhappy, really. I find way more happiness being able to work. I
A: Having daycare, I mean, on a practical level it allows me to put in the time to build my business, but then on an emotional and psychosocial level, I feel good knowing that my daughter is being socialized, and has other children to be around. We moved out to the suburbs, and we’re pretty isolated from the lives that we knew, so it’s just the three of us in this home. I think that practically, and just socially, having her in school has been a huge benefit for us.
F: It also gives you time to do your morning practice and take care of yourself and things like that. Sometimes you do the dishes in the morning.
F: It’s really important that we schedule time for ourselves to do other things, too. One of the things that has been the most challenging was the reality that most couples face, whether or not they have kids, is the waning of desire. When you are cohabitating, when you’re together all the time, when you’re playing all these different roles for each other, there’s a real thing that happens — there’s not enough sexual desire, or even an intimate and emotional desire. We’ve had to really learn how to intentionally cultivate that desire, so we can have a fulfilling relationship inside of marriage, inside of all the domesticity and responsibility of child-raising and stress.
A: We’ve worked to get sex and emotional intimacy back into our marriage. One, which we were very resistant to do at first, was to create a weekly schedule and block out our intimacy time.
F: Which, at first, was awkward. Being stressed out and spread thin and then all of a sudden it’s like, “Alright, now, turn on!” I found a lot of resistance and challenge in that. But as we’ve stuck with that, we’ve been able to really use that time. One of the most important things that we’ve learned is to not have expectations during that time. It’s not necessarily that we have sex during this time. But we create space for intimacy, in whatever way that shows up.
A: We just connect.
F: We just connect. And sometimes, it’ll be sexual, and sometimes it’ll be emotional. Sometimes it’s something else.
A: Honestly, the thing for me that has really maintained and cultivated the desire is, you know, I make sure that I get out of the house as much as possible [alone]. And then Flow gets out of the house at least once a week. At least once a week, Flow has her night and I have my night. It’s like we almost have our own personal date nights more often than we have together date nights out at this point. But that makes it so we have our saucy, adult time, it’s like a date night in our own home.
F: Yeah. It’s really important for each of us to spend time connecting to ourselves and to have reflections from other people — other friends, or strangers, or new acquaintances, or new environments so that we can remember who we are outside of the relationship and outside of our roles as parents. It helps us connect to the core of ourselves, and then we can bring that into our intimacy.
F: My number one thing that I do is go dancing. There’s a lot of sober dance parties that happen around here. Sometimes, if there’s really good music, I’ll go to a venue, too. Or I just catch up with a friend. But most often, I try to do those at the same time.
A: I try to get into nature as much as possible. I have to remember that I’m connected to something bigger than this little world that we have here in our home, and really recharge so that I can show up for my family and for my work, grounded and just remembering that I’m part of something much bigger.
F: I love seeing how nurturing Andrew is. It’s so inspiring to witness his relationship with our daughter, and how willing he is and how much joy he gets from being in that nurturer role. He’s very much hands-on and emotionally connected to our daughter. It’s really helpful, but it’s also very inspiring and really healing from an ancestral perspective, as well.
A: I’m super grateful to Flow for her patience. I’ve really become a mature adult male and like, I can see that it’s taken a little bit of self-reflection and self-control to allow me to fully show up in my power and for me to step into myself. She supports me to make mistakes, and to learn what it means to be the man of the house. She lets me be the man of the house. That’s incredibly healing for me.