It’s common for couples at ANY life stage to have different libidos, let alone when that particular stage involves intense fatigue, extra stresses and little listening ears. Knowing how to manage this can make this phase more passing than permanent for you and your partner.
1. Accept that different desires are normal.
Expecially during early parenthood! Parenthood can create a mismatch in a couple’s sex life, even before babies are born. For example, an expectant father might feel uncomfortable about ‘hurting the baby’ at the same time pregnancy hormones may leave momma raring to go. In later pregnancy, mothers may feel uncomfortable at the same time her partner finds her body beautifily ripe.
2. Recognise that much of it is hormonal.
While there is a lull in libido for the majority of mothers due to a cocktail or hormones, surprisingly 50% of fathers also desire less sex in the postpartum period, but their sex drive usually returns to normal much earlier than mothers’ does. It’s common for mothers’ desire to remain reduced for a year or so after birth, especially if she’s breastfeeding. Hormones aside, fatigue affects sex drive, as does stress. There are other factors too: if momma’s already getting plenty of skin on skin, covered in body fluids all day and sleep deprived, it’s understandable that a “tap on the shoulder” might be unwelcome after dark when she desperately needs rest and sleep.
2. Realise when it’s not personal.
It’s not uncommon for fathers to feel excluded from early bonding between mother and bub and so one way they may seek to become re-connectected is through sex. Sometimes men can seek sex to compensate for (ofen unconscious) feelings of being “replaced” by the baby. Our sexuality, for both men and women, is also closely tied to our self-esteem so any hints of disinterest or outright rejection can be taken personally. It’s important to share these feelings openly and find other ways to stay connected and feel appreciated. Men can cover up their feelings of rejection by withdrawing emotionally from their partner - which can then make sexual advances feel even more unwelcome. This can be a slippery slope so it’s important to be aware of it.
3. Realise when it is personal.
It can take some time for mothers to grow into their new mother bodies and reconcile their maternal and sexual selves, especially if they’re breastfeeding. Using breasts for feeding a baby and as a source of sexual pleasure that can take some head-getting-around. Sharing thoughts and feelings about changing bodies and self-image with other mothers can help. Altering sexual practices with a partner while you’re adjusting can too. Mothers can also feel like they exist to meet everyone else’s needs, to give more than they have and end up feeling both used and resentful. This can affect other areas of a couple’s relationship, so it’s important to address this too.
3. Adjust your expectations.
Your love after baby is going to be different to your love life before, but not necessarily not as good. Quality becomes more important than quantity and many parents say sex becomes more meaningful as a way of nurturing each other and celebrating the relationship that created bub in the first place. Sex is also great stress relief, and most parents don’t realise how stressful parenthood can be until they get there!
4. Know how to manage the situation so it’s temporary.
Sex is all about connection – with yourself and with your partner. Mothers can carry too much information in our heads and responsibilities on our shoulders, making it hard to relax. Forget the laundry list of to-dos and focus on your body instead.
Let your partner know you still think they’re hot, and if they can give you a hand with the laundry, you’ll be keener to show them!
Ways to manage a mismatch in libidos:
Accept it’s a joint responsibility to make your sex life what you want it to be post baby.
Open the lines of communication to talking about sex. It will be an important topic for the rest of your lives together.
Talk about how you would like your sex life to be. What do you enjoy? What would you like to do differently? Other options?
Stay connected in other ways: keep talking, be affectionate, share a laugh and spend time together. Sex life will return more naturally as an extension of other ways of being close.