Would you rather have sex or sleep?
For a long time, I would pick sleep. I considered our marriage to be satisfying when one day my husband, with a big smile, handed me a hard-cover copy of the book WHAT MAKES LOVE LAST? How to Build Trust and Avoid Betrayal by Gottman & Silver. I grinned weakly thinking, who the hell does he think he is giving me, a psychotherapist, a book about relationships? Well, it turns out he was pretty wise. We were doing okay, but not great.
The thought of working on my marriage while managing raging tantrums (my three-year-old, not me), a loud boy who asks four-hundred questions a day, a medical clinic and my parenting education gig, made me roll my eyes. My relationship needs felt pretty low on my to-do list. BUT I realized my mistake. After both reading this book, we started really opening up, talking about all the things that felt challenging, the things we loved and didn't really love about each other, and yes, how satisfied we were with our sex lives. My husband and I made a plan to grow in our love for each other while our busy life ticks along.
After polling other couples, asking sexologist Dr. Carlen Costa, and harassing parents at the local indoor play hang-out, these are things people have found really increased their love for their partners:
1) Do what it takes to be rested.
In order to get more rested time for myself, I spent a ton of time making a schedule that fit time for work, house jobs (we don't have a house-cleaner/nanny lawn-care), hanging out with friends, doing something I really LOVE, exercise, regular time with my husband and REST. I also let a lot go, realizing I would have time to work more or play more once the boys get older.
2) Make connection time together a priority.
Most couples I asked said they schedule one night a week as date night. Some suggestions for that night are: chatting, doing a hobby you both enjoy, playing a game, having a glass of your favourite drink, and sex for those who feel into it.
3) Flirt like you did in the beginning.
Sending sexy texts, planting notes in your partner's coat or lunch bag, throwing all granny underwear out, and replacing grey sweat-pants with those that fit nicely all help. I mentioned using "attachment bridges" with children in a previous post, these bridges are important with partners too.
4) Learn how to talk about the tough stuff.
I recommend reading the book I mentioned above. It does a great job of explaining the different ways people react to challenges and how that affects their ability to communicate. After reading this book, my husband and I are using the time we do have way more efficiently because we are clearing any crap that stops us from liking the other much faster. We aren't letting things fester (well, most of the time).
5) Be open with your partner about your sex life.
How satisfied you are with your sexual life? If you would like to improve it but aren't sure how to, read the above book or enlist the help of a sexologist. Try not to always leave sex time for night when everyone is exhausted. Morning showers are great when the kids are old enough to be unsupervised for even just ten minutes. I've heard of couples stealing away during the afternoon while unknowing children are watching a show.
*It is important to consider co-sleeping here. Make sure both partners are okay with sharing the bed with children. An important boundary around co-sleeping is: parents may not have sex in the same bed as sleeping children. Co-sleeping parents have reported creating intimate time in other areas such as a spare bedroom or sofa.
Photo: Flickr CC: Lizard10979