After marriage, for many women sex becomes an obligation rather than an expression of desire, love and affection.
They lose track of their own desire and pleasure, and feel like sex has become “just another thing that I have to do to take care of someone else.” Women with young children are stressed by care-giving responsibilities sex becomes just another resentment. Many women cannot even think about having sex until the chores are done. The list never ends – dishes, laundry, bills, and the dog. The chores win and couple time gets lost in the shuffle. Frequently when asked ‘What would you rather do, fold the laundry, or make love to your husband?’ most would pick sex. But in real life husbands get pushed away. With children needing 24/7 attention, women want time for themselves – if there is any left! The husband seems like just one more person wanting something when it feels like there is nothing left to give – one more child who needs something.
When I work with women in this situation I address feelings of resentment, help them learn to ask for help and how to stop and notice how they are over-functioning. They feel like they have no choice when in fact they do – to some degree. Learning to stop and take care of themselves is key. The image of a family sitting down for breakfast and a mother running around serving everyone like a chicken without a head is the standard of good mothering that must change. Mothers can start by giving themselves permission to sit down for just a few minutes to drink their coffee.
We look at their lost sense of ownership over their sexuality and sensuality, and try to help them reconnect with who THEY are sensually, what THEY like sexually, and with their own sense of pleasure. I help them understand that their husband’s (usually) are “using” sex as a path to feeling emotionally connected — not just “using” their wives bodies to get their own pleasure. But here’s the snag. In the course of reclaiming themselves, they often have to learn to take care of themselves by saying, “no.” They have to learn that they really can be their own separate person and that they won’t WANT to say yes until they allow themselves to say no.
I like the idea of the “sex date” to help couples’ break the habit of avoiding or simply not making time and space for intimacy, and to help them bring intentionality to connecting emotionally and physically.
“Sex dates” with the woman in charge, can give her a sense of control over the situation. It puts a break to the repeated dance where he wants sex and her only sexual independence is to say no. Of course, this will only work as long as it gives her a real sense of control and doesn’t trigger the feeling of duty and responsibility, and again block contact with her own sexual drive. In this experiment, only the woman can initiate and there should be a mutual agreement as to how long it can go before sex happens. Then on the sex date, she needs to ask for exactly what she wants- cuddling, sharing a glass of wine, a foot massage, kissing. His task is to step back, appreciate her gestures and not put pressure to go further. This is important because she will often resist any contact for fear that this will lead to unwanted sex.
As for the husband, he needs to step up his game helping with the home and kids, monitor his frustrations and be kind. He can show he cares in multiple ways, that don’t need to be rewarded with sex. This doesn’t directly connect his wife to her erotic self, nor make her interested in sex, but it goes a long way to reduce the resentment and the avoidance that is so very common in couples with small children.