Sex after Kids

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An interview with Ian Kerner by Laurel Moglen, Managing Web Editor, TMC

Every year, as Valentine’s Day approaches, I inevitably start thinking of ways to have a sexy and romantic evening with my husband. The truth is sex isn’t as much a part of our life as it was before we had kids and a manufactured holiday seems as good an excuse as any to get in some fooling around time. Most nights my husband and I are both exhausted and though we do our best to make “dates” to keep the sexual flame alive, sex has definitely taken a back seat to parenting. Here at The Mother Co we know this dilemma is one that plagues many couples with young children and that’s why we’ve turned to nationally recognized sexuality and relationship therapist Ian Kerner for some answers to our questions and some tips on how to balance parenthood and sex.

– Julia Storm, Director of Production, The Mother Company

How important is it for parents to keep sex alive and healthy?

I think it’s very important. Especially with a birth of a child or young children – it’s easy to put both sex and the relationship on hold. Lots of parents put their energy into their children, doting on them, and looking after their needs. It’s easy for one or both partners to detach. This can leave the relationship wanting. Sex is the glue that keeps a marriage together. More than anything as parents, we want happy children. Happy children need happy parents, and parents are happier when they make love, because it helps them stay connected and intimate.

How can couples know if they’re on sexual track?

It’s common in relationships for libidos to become mismatched. Sexual appetites change in the life cycle. I hate to put a number on it, but I tend to say at least once a week is good. If you miss a week, it’s pretty easy to catch up. But if you miss two weeks, that can easily turn into a month. Then, that month turns into not really remembering the last time you had sex. That said, once a week doesn’t make sense for everybody. You want sex to be mutually orgasmic, and you want both partners to feel intimate and connected. You want it to be mutually satisfying.

When a parent is exhausted, how best can a partner get close to her/him — sexually or emotionally?

Couples have to think about how to make each other feel sexy and connected. This can be achieved in many ways, like sending each other to a spa, taking up the slack at home, letting him know how attractive he is, or encouraging her to have a night out with friends.

If one partner is in the mood, and the other is not, what are the best ways to change the atmosphere?

Not everybody gets to have sex when they want to. We all have to take responsibility for our sexual needs. Mutual masturbation can work in a marriage. Though over-masturbating can turn into a pattern of only managing sexual needs on one’s own. Sexual rejection can be bruising, especially over the long term. So, there needs to be a balance in the relationship. But, both partners need to create opportunities for intimacy. If you haven’t had sex in over a month, you might have a problem. You start feeling disconnected, resentment builds and then you might start opening yourself up to other sexual attentions and energy. This is when dalliances can occur.

How is the woman’s sexual brain different than the man’s?

Feelings of stress and anxiety, for a woman, can shut-down her ability to settle into arousal. On the other hand, as women get more aroused, parts of the female brain deactivate. In a way, women have to get into a trance like state to achieve orgasm, whereas men do not. Men can be stressed and anxious and still orgasm. This has to do with the biological imperative for men to procreate in any circumstance.

What exactly deactivates in the female brain, when she is settling into arousal?

The experiment was done in Amsterdam with men and women. Men and women were asked to masturbate. As women were getting aroused, it appeared that the parts of the female brain where stress and anxiety occurred started to deactivate. Another way of looking at the reaction, is that stress and anxiety started to melt away as arousal kicked in.

What are a few things parents can do to create the optimal environment for some hanky-panky?

•Try to create an environment that is relaxed and secure.
•Stimulate each other’s mind and body. Share fantasies. Open that mental connection up.
•Make your partner feel sexy and loved.
•Try it, let your body go through the motions, and trust me your mind will follow.

Ian Kerner Ph.D, MFT is a nationally recognized therapist, specializing in sexuality, relationships and relational issues. He is also the New York Times best-selling author of numerous books, including the ever-popular She Comes First(Harper Collins). He writes a well known column for CNN and can often be seen on the TODAY Show and the Dr. Oz Show amongst others.

The Mother Company aims to support parents and their children, providing thought-provoking web content and products based in social and emotional learning for children ages 3-6. Check out episodes of our “Ruby’s Studio” children’s video series, along with our beautiful children’s booksappsmusichandmade dolls, and more.

Posted in: Communication, Expert Advice, Health & Wellness