Honey, I Have A Headache
Depleted Sex Drive is Common but not Permanent
At some point or another the topic of sex—or lack there of – often comes up in my coaching with women. Depleted sexual drive is a common hazard of motherhood, and hard to avoid. The good news: it does not have to be a permanent condition.
About 14 years ago – sometime after the birth of my first child and before the birth of my second – I addressed the problem, myself. I reclaimed my sexuality.
Years of pregnancy, nursing, sleep deprivation and post-delivery issues had taken their toll. Our sex life was limited. We had fallen into a stereotypical pattern that I was too exhausted to see. You know the scenario: he wants it, she doesn’t (or doesn’t care), he requests (or begs), she submits, he retreats for a while, she feels she’s bought some time. And the cycle begins again.
There is a sitcom nature to the situation that would be hysterical if it weren’t so horrifying. But there we were. Our sex life was reduced to a dance not unlike a third date in high school – ‘Can he get some?’ ‘Will she let him?’
I’m not really sure what flipped the switch for me, but I do remember a conversation with a girlfriend that turned my stomach. Was she really setting up sex as a bargaining chip with her spouse? Seriously, trading out for laundry support? Is this what partnership in a marriage is really about?
When I turned my attention to myself, I was none too pleased with what I saw. My body, once an instrument of desire and pleasure, had transitioned to a growth and feeding zone. And it seemed to have gotten stuck. I had lost connection with my own sexuality.
How had our hot-steamy-early-marriage ended up like this? More importantly, what was I going to do about it?
Sex Is Important – Even for Moms!
One thing was clear: it wasn’t okay with me that I had retired my sexual drive in my early thirties. That had to change! With a background as a sexual health educator, I understood the importance of human sexuality. Frankly, sex had always been an important factor in my life and relationships. And it wasn’t just a gift for my darling husband – it was something that I loved for myself.
So I openly declared that the time had come to recapture my desire for sex. I can’t say I was motivated for all the right reasons. Rather, there was a principle involved. I had given up so much of myself in the transition to motherhood (a topic for another blog) that I confess to some resentment. My husband’s life didn’t seem to have changed all that much. Why should parenthood preclude sexual desire for me, on top of everything else?
Admittedly, bitterness and resentment are not the most powerful of aphrodisiacs. My initial declaration needed a little more depth to create the change I wanted. After all, humans only change when the pain of the status quo becomes greater than the perceived pain of changing.
So I started talking to friends. I talked with my darling husband (who, you can imagine, was not terribly upset with my decision). And I started talking to myself. A lot. Awareness, I discovered, was a powerful motivator for change. Once I saw what was happening, it was a lot harder to continue my traditional “Not now, I’m too exhausted,” role. It’s not that I wanted leather, but I could stand a little lace.
There were many little steps along the road to reclaiming my sexuality. The most effective was a modern, married version of the “sock on the door” message to a college roommate (you know, the room is occupied, come back in an hour).
Tinker Bell Means Sex
Here’s what we did. While at the Disney store with our daughter one day (don’t get horrified, just go with me), we bought a Tinker-Bell candle. Tink is playful, and a little naughty, and was a perfect messenger for us.
We put the candle on top of the dresser in the bedroom. Whenever one of us was interested in sexual play, we’d light the candle. The other of us could then decide: do I blow the candle out, signaling a clear decision for sleep? Or do I let the candle burn, knowing that tomorrow morning might be harder than usual, but probably well worth the sleep deprivation.
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