Daddy Who's Getting Nothing

Friday, January 16, 2009

Question

We've been married five and a half years. We've got two kids, a three-year-old and a one-year-old. I realize that you can't keep the honeymoon going 24-7 when you've got a family. But I get a little depressed when I think about how passionate we used to be with each other. My wife is so distant now. I sometimes wonder if she's still in love with me, or if I am just a transportation system for diapers and formula. She had a pretty tough time emotionally after our first kid was born, and we almost didn't have another one, but so far there is no sign of post-partum depression. So why has our sex life evaporated? I'd like to know if there is any way to put the spark back into a relationship that's gone flat. Or is it just something I have to accept? I love my kids, I love my wife, I would never dream of backing out of my commitment to her and to them. But it's getting so that I'm wondering if a dad can have those post-partum blues.

Answer

If your wife is willing to talk to you about this and set some time aside to revive your relationship, it's absolutely possible to bring passion back into your marriage. The two of you fell in love once and had sex that was so crazy good you thought you could survive parenthood. You are still able to do that.

If your wife doesn't want to talk about this, denies it's a problem, or has some other excuse, you have a bigger problem, and it's time to insist on some couples counseling. Having a third party there who is impartial might help her to let her guard down and tell you what's wrong. Maybe she only looks like she's not depressed. Maybe she's resentful and feels that she's doing more than her share of work around the house. Very few men know that a mother of small children can find a man who does laundry, buys groceries, feeds and bathes and diapers the kids, and then rubs her feet the sexiest thing on two legs.

But if the disconnect is still at the self-help stage, I'd suggest starting with a trip down memory lane. Tell each other how it felt to fall in love and why the other person was special enough to marry. Remembering romance is a very good way to get back in touch with those feelings. Then share a story about the way that sex used to be. What does she remember that she misses the most? How about you? Getting to a place where you are both able to say you have felt lonely, missed each other, and were perhaps afraid of losing each other is hard. But you need to be able to become vulnerable with each other once more. This conversation can re-create some of the intimacy you need to become physically intimate again.

I know that you are both probably exhausted. If you ever do get somebody else to look after the kids, you probably want a nap more than you want sex. Being sleep-deprived is probably the biggest reason why new parents don't have much sex. But if you can manage to stay awake, change the bed linens, get her some flowers if she likes them, and take the time to shower together. A little fantasy might help you to get reacquainted. Maybe you could pretend you have both been separated for a year, and this is your first night back together again.

Take a solemn vow to pay more attention to each other's bodies. This doesn't necessarily mean you have to have sex five times a day. But do lean into each other, rub each other's shoulders, kiss, hug, look into each other's eyes. Verbally express love and appreciation and gratitude. Decide how to divide the work up so that each of you will have some energy left over for the marriage. No matter how strong your commitment is, don't let yourself become alienated from one another, or you will eventually break up.

My last suggestion is to allow yourselves to enjoy quickies. Sometimes all you're going to have is a half an hour or less to get it on. Remember, and remind each other, that sex feels good and is good for you. It relieves tension, makes you feel better about being alive, and burns off calories. Throw yourselves at each other whenever you are able. A quickie is more important than doing the damn dishes, all right?