Between careers, children and the pressures of being a grown up, maintaining a healthy sex life can end up pretty low on the "to do" list of many couples. Sexual desire is at an all time low for many couples in the years when their children are youngest. But a good sex life is not only pleasurable, it also adds valuable emotional connection to relationships. Unfortunately, many couples already know this, but view it as just more pressure and that they are somehow not up to scratch. So instead of telling you to go and buy some toys, some lingerie and scented candles in order to "spice up" your love life, this article gives some more honest if slightly less glamorous suggestions. Here are some 'hot tips' for a lifelong and satisfying sexual relationship in the real world.
1. Be realistic
Know that every other couple is not having more or better sex than you. The average couple (and that includes those without kids) are having sex six times per month. With the added stress and busyness of parenting, be kind to yourselves and don’t add any extra pressure to your lives by worrying about how much sex you’re having. Regardless of what many magazines or the guys at the pub say, most people are having very irregular, vanilla sex with their partners. Why worry about everyone else anyway? All that matters is that you and your partner are happy.
This is the big one. Nothing can ever change if you don’t talk to each other about your needs. My PhD research has found that the couples who are doing well between the sheets talk regularly and honestly about the sexual aspects of their relationships. They talk about what isn’t going well and how they can improve things. Most of all, it is less painful to experience rejection when you know that your partner cares about you and has genuine reasons for not feeling desire.
3. Find alternatives
If you are not feeling like having sex and you know that your partner misses this, try to meet some of their needs in other ways. I will let you in on a big secret – sex is often not about sex. Most of the time it is about closeness, connection and feeling desired. Often you can meet these needs for each other through hugs, kisses and just giving them your time and love. When it is actually about the sex, maybe you can meet these needs through foreplay without the actual intercourse?
Make your relationship a priority. Healthy and happy couples make better parents. You are modeling how to have strong relationships for your kids, so taking time for yourselves is not selfish. It is good for everyone. Find time for date nights, do things that you enjoy together (with or without the kids) and don’t forget to sometimes make sex a priority. Go to bed early rather than doing one more load of laundry. It doesn’t matter whether you end up having sex or not, the point is that you are making the time for each other. Generally, if you work on being a happy and connected couple, the sex will follow.
5. Be responsive
As already said, the expectation that you will have regular, spontaneous sexual desire at all times in your life is probably unrealistic. Why not see if the responsive desire is there? Tell your partner that you are not feeling like it but you’re happy to get started and see how you feel. Most likely your desire will arrive. If not, make sure that the two of you make it safe for you to say that on this occasion it didn’t work but you’re going to try again next time. Find another way to find closeness in the meantime.
We hope that these steps help you to find the close, connected and sexually satisfying relationship that we are all seeking. However, if you need more assistance then you can see a couples therapist who has experience in sexual issues. Here at Benchmark Psychology we have two psychologists who have a passion for working with couples - Dr Jennifer Wilson and Rebecca Frost.