Motherhood is a great blessing, but it can be a passion-buster for mom and dad. The list of obstacles to romance is long.
If you have a newborn, your life revolves around breastfeeding and cleaning poop. The doctor’s orders of no sexual intercourse for four weeks is another crimp.
It’s no wonder 67% of couples report a decline in relationship satisfaction after the arrival of the first baby, according to a study by marriage expert Dr. John Gottman.
For moms of tweens and teens, your mental dexterity pushes boundaries as you deal with grades, homework, teen drama, moodiness and outbursts.
Besides your role as a mother, many of you are also work outside the home. Each day is a struggle to staying afloat.
This mental and physical exhaustion often leads to low sexual desire and emotional withdrawal for both moms and dads.
Is Intimacy Even Possible?
Dr. Gottman – founder of Gottman Method Couples Therapy, one of the leading approaches for marriage counseling in the United States – analyzed more than 3,000 couples and tracked many of them for more than 20 years to find out what behaviors were key for a long and happy relationship.
According to the research, yes, intimacy is possible for busy moms. Successful couples knew the secret to maintaining intimacy. From the study, Dr. Gottman developed a concept called “Turning Towards” to help struggling couples foster intimacy, as well as to replace harmful habits with better ones.
Other relationship experts offer approaches similar to the “Turning Towards” concept. Emotion-Focused Therapy encourages “Emotional Awareness” of oneself and others. The Seleni Institute, which addresses mental health issues relating to childbirth and parenting, recommends a “recognition, check-in, compassion” method of staying connected.
5 Ways To Keep Passion Burning
I’ve gathered five research-based ways for busy moms to keep the romance alive.
- Sync Your Bedtime Routine
Conversations that happen as you are bedding down – brushing your teeth, changing clothes – can yield surprisingly intimate moments. This is a private environment in which partners let go of their egos, give way to vulnerability and freely express themselves.
These conversations segue into pillow talk, where deeper feelings are shared – a type of emotional foreplay – and often one thing leads to another.
Even if no sex occurs, the act of falling asleep together strengthens your bond and keeps your daily cycle in sync.
Understandably, children may get in the way of your bedtime togetherness. Nevertheless, adjust and develop a new routine. Perhaps dad can get the children ready to bed while mom has some “me time” before getting her game on.
Is shift work getting in the way? Find creative ways to keep the romance alive. Perhaps your routine can be a phone call to the partner who is working the night shift. This sends the message: “I value you and our relationship. I’m going to bed now and I missed you. But I appreciate what you do for our family. I’m here for you.”
Don’t be afraid to spice it up once in a while. Along with a phone call, send a sex-text with an invitation for an early-morning tryst.
This leads to the next point.
- Don’t Be Shy To Initiate Sex.
Many times, you may feel awkward initiating sex. Asking for sex makes you feel too vulnerable and the fear of rejection is too much to bear. Too often, couples are stuck in gender stereotypes of the male as the pursuers and females as the pursued.
An Illinois State University study should give you more confidence. Researchers asked couples who initiated sex more – the man or the woman.
For about 60% of the couples, the men initiated more often than the women. In 10% of couples, the women were usually the initiators. For the remaining 30%, initiation was equally divided.
The responses were compared to how couples rated their sexual satisfaction.
Couples who were balanced as initiators reported greater sexual satisfaction than the less balanced couples.
The takeaway is this: If your desire sex, initiate it. For most people, there is a deeply satisfying feeling of knowing you are desirable and your partner wants to be intimate with you.
- Discover New Things Together
Broadening your horizons together increases libido. Researchers call the idea of trying new things together “self-expansion” and say it increases sexual desire and improves sexual satisfaction.
A study at Stony Brook University, as reported by The New York Times, divided 53 married couples into three groups. The first group engaged in new activities for 90 minutes a week such as dancing or seeing a play. The second group spent 90 minutes with routine activities like going to a movie. The third group, the control, did nothing.
After 10 weeks, the first group reported greater marital satisfaction than the other groups.
A study published in an American Psychological Association journal examined how self-expansion affects sexual desire and sexual satisfaction.
Self-expansion yields an “increased likelihood that couples will engage in sex, and when they do engage in sex, they feel more satisfied with their sexual experiences,” according to the journal article.
Discovering new hobbies and interests develops a team-like feeling and rekindles the spark.
Because you are a busy mom, start small. Cook a new cultural recipe together, find a new routine exercise you can do together, or listen to a podcast series together.
- Take Time For Self-Care
Becoming a mother is a time of intense physical and psychological change. Have a heart-to-heart with your spouse about how you can both protect each other’s well-being. This means finding ways to get uninterrupted sleep, exercise and eat healthily.
Discuss how you can adapt to the new realities together, and how you can maintain and even increase your emotional and mental intimacy.
As you both commit to taking care of each other, the physical intimacy will follow, say marriage therapists.
Get fancied up once in a while and greet your husband at the end of the day. “Fancy” could simply mean changing out of your t-shirt that your child spat on to a clean, low-cleavage blouse. Again, do what you can.
If your partner does not notice your “fancy” self, do not fault him. Self-care is really about being good to yourself and feeling confidence.
Enjoy the sunshine, sleep, get your hair done, sleep, meditate and sleep. Don’t feel guilty about making time for yourself.
- Schedule Time For Romance
Many couples believe in the myth that passion should be spontaneous and not scripted. This falsehood hurts relationships because partners end up waiting a long time for that unconstrained, impulsive dance in the sheets.
Just as you put important appointments – dentist, doctor and oil change – in your calendar, schedule time for your relationship. A weekly date should be a fixture in your calendar. The date should be held sacred and, as much as possible, unmovable.
If you must, reschedule it for another time during the week.
The date should be a pre-planned time where you and your partner focus on each other, with time to talk and listen.
Dates are always doable, even if it means getting a little creative in carving your time out together. It can be a date afternoon or date morning. It can be a Netflix binge, a weekend getaway, tea-time on your patio, or a make-out session in your car.
The duration and type of dates should be appropriate for your situation and budget. Take turns planning the date. Consistency is key.
The Impact Of Intimacy On A Marriage
The commonality of the above five recommendations is that they build friendships. Friendship is the foundation of a happy, healthy, passion-fueled marriage, according to Gottman Method Couples Therapy research,
It’s simple really. Without friendship:
- Couples struggle to maintain an awareness of each other’s world and begin drifting apart.
- Positive feelings towards each other suffer.
- Managing conflict in a healthy way becomes impossible.
- Individual and family life goals are unachievable.
Remember, your time as a mother of minor children is but a blip on the timeline of your life. The exhaustion of motherhood will pass. You got this.
Your efforts to refresh your romance need not be large. They should be manageable and doable. The happiest couples make a consistent effort to positively connect.