Are You Too Tired for Romance?
Keep your love alive, even if you're a busy parent working 9-to-5 and juggling a mile-long to-do list.
Nothing prepares you for the experience of parenthood, from the deep, incomparable love you feel for your child to the equally deep, bone-sucking fatigue. When your to-do list includes projects and deadlines, as well as diaper changes and day care, the last thing you may have on your mind is romance.
As common as this feeling is, you can fight through it. Psychologist and founder of My Best Relationship, Jenev Caddell, relationship counselor, Stephanie Manes, LCSW, and life coach and author, Dr. Sherrie Campbell, offer tips for keeping love and libido alive during your children's early years.
Plan, Plan, Plan
“The No. 1 reason parents give me for why they aren't having sex is fatigue,” says Manes. “The only window of opportunity they see for romance is after the kids are finally in bed. And by that time, sex is the last thing on their minds." Rather than trying to force romance, she advises couples to carve out other times during the week. "Some couples I know take advantage of long weekend mornings and let the kids watch a video, while they sneak back to bed. Other couples actually plan an in-house date after the kids are asleep. Planning and anticipating gets them in the right frame of mind and seems to temporarily fight off the usual libido-killing fatigue.”
Use Your Time Wisely
Caddell suggests making peace with the fact that, as a parent, you're going to be tired for a long time. But the answer isn't always getting more sleep. “An hour you could spend sleeping can be revitalizing in a different way, if you make time to connect with your partner.”
Set the Stage
You may be too exhausted to turn your bedroom into a boudoir, but soft lighting and a relaxing atmosphere takes little effort. Consider splurging on hiring a housekeeper, so your couple's hideaway is free of mood-sapping toys and dust.
Make a Date
You might not want to list it in your Outlook calendar, but Caddell strongly suggests scheduling sex. “It doesn't sound like the most romantic thing, but setting up time to be with each other can help you get back into the groove. Believe it or not, you won't use the schedule for long, but at least in the beginning, you need to make sure it happens so that you can get back into a rhythm of intimacy.”
Hire a babysitter and plan a date night. Spend time together doing activities outside of the home, without the children. “Weekly date nights may be unrealistic, but make sure you make it happen sometimes. Taking care of your relationship is one of the most important things you can do for your child,” Caddell stresses.
Be a Flirt
“Flirting opens a marriage up to fun,” says Campbell, who suggests sending your partner sweet and sexy text messages during the work day. “Flirting is a great way to make things feel new and fresh again.” Try tucking a photo of yourself into your honey's briefcase, with an invitation to enjoy each other's company or send a love poem via email, reminding your partner of your feelings for each other. (Use a personal email address rather than a work one, to avoid it being read by the wrong person).
Know the Benefits
Keep in mind, intimacy is not a luxury -- it's a necessity. "We all know we need sleep to be healthy,” says Caddell. “What many people don't know is that a healthy relationship is also associated with all kinds of health benefits." For example, loneliness has been shown to be as dangerous to your health as obesity or smoking.
Sex can help to support intimacy between partners, but it can also pull you apart, particularly if each partner has different expectations. If you've been in a dry spell, you don't have to start by reenacting every page of the Kama Sutra. Intimacy can be fostered in many ways, including just talking. Speak to each other about what’s going on in your lives, and don't forget about the joy of cuddling. Remember you’re in this thing together.
It may be hard to remember, but you won’t always crave sleep as if your life depends on it. Children grow up and time marches on amazingly fast. The challenges of sleepless nights will fade, losing their intensity and leaving you with memories of your baby’s first laugh or food-smeared, chubby cheeks. By maintaining intimacy with your partner, you'll be able to hold on to these good recollections and laugh at the exhaustion you shared.
Corey Whelan is a freelance journalist based in Brooklyn, New York.
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