How to Prioritize Intimacy After Having Kids

Valentin's Day Couple prioritizing sex after having children thrive therapy florida

Many couples find that passion and romance dissolve in their relationship after the arrival of little ones. So if this is your experience, the good news is…you are not alone. Dr. John Gottman addresses this concern in his book And Baby Makes Three and in Bringing Baby Home Workshops – which is now offered by Thrive Therapy in the Tampa Bay Area.

Why is this? Most couples say:intimacy after children thrive therapy tampa bringing baby home
*I’m waiting until I feel like it
*I prefer sex to be spontaneous
*There is no time
*We can’t find babysitters
*Babysitters are expensive
*We can’t afford dates
*We are too tired
*We aren’t romantic anymore
*My partner does not notice when I’m “in the mood”
*I don’t pick up on my partner’s cues which has lead my partner to feel rejected

Can you relate?

Intimacy after children, particularly for women, highlights the struggle of maintaining and navigating two identities in the same person.

The dichotomy between:

Parenting = strong sense of responsibility, caretaking, other-focused

Sensuality = letting go, pleasure

Research has shown that small bids for connection or “Turning Towards” are the secret to romance and intimacy. This is part of building an Emotional Bank Account.

83% of happy couples Turn Towards one another. In couples who divorce, only 30% Turn Towards one another.

“Bids” describe the way people express what they need in the moment. Bids are used to make a connection with another person and can be obvious or subtle. Saying something direct like “It would help me so much if you could fold the laundry for me tonight” can be much easier for your partner to receive versus something harsh like “Wouldn’t hurt you to fold the laundry every once in a while.” Making critical statements is likely to create a defensive response in your partner which ultimately means they won’t hear or appreciate the message you are sending. The key for making successful bids is to:

1) Check in with yourself to see what you’re needing in the moment

2) Clearly ask for what you need using “I Statements” instead of making “You Comments”

Having positive interactions like this often are the key to sustained passion and romance in a long term relationship.

To make sex a priority in your relationship, keep in mind:

Sex doesn’t have to be magical
Having sex after kids can, in some ways, feel like your relationship with the gym. The longer you go without exercising, the easier it is to not just skip it. The longer you go without sex, the easier it feels OK to not have sex. Once you start exercising and getting into a routine, the easier it is to fit it in and have drive and motivation to go. Long periods between sex can sometimes create added pressure, so remind yourself that sex does not have to be fireworks every time, but you have to start somewhere and that is OK.

Sex can be scheduled
Most couples initially shut down the idea of sex being scheduled. Take a moment to think back to the beginning of your relationship with your partner. Think about the times you had sex early on in your relationship. As you got yourself ready for a date or to see your partner, you likely knew the outcome of that experience, and sex most likely was “scheduled” even though it wasn’t overtly named. Scheduling sex can be exciting! Text your partner in anticipation throughout the day. Tease each other. And prep the way you used to in the beginning of your relationship. See if shifting your perspective makes a difference.

Every positive interaction in your relationship is foreplay
It’s the small things often in a relationship, that ultimately lead to great sex. Become an emotional millionaire by doing small things often. Work towards a great emotional connection and your enhanced sex life will likely follow.

Don’t make sex the last chore of the day
It’s so easy to wait and see if you will feel like it at the end of the day, but the reality is you will likely be too tired…just as you were the day before and the day before that. If you wait until you feel like it or for it to spontaneously happen, you may be waiting a long time. Sex in this life stage may need to be more intentional. Think about a time of day or particular day of the week that may work best for you and talk about that with your partner.

Periodically spend a night away together away from the kids
When our kids feel our love…they’re happier. So while time away from children can be difficult, it can be good for them too! Remind yourself that the greatest gift you can offer your children is a healthy relationship with your partner.

Find ways to communicate about sex without hurting each others feelings
Saying “no” and not feeling up for it is OK. Frequency of sex often decreases after the arrival of little ones. It is important to have a conversation with your partner ahead of time to discuss how each of you can say “no” in a way you can receive that does not feel rejecting. Many couples have not considered having such a straight forward conversation but really seem to benefit from being more open about that elephant in the room.

Accept that things have changed since the baby arrived
Things ARE different. There is a season to everything, and having challenges in intimacy after having children is so normal. Give yourself a break, be easy on yourself, and work towards a solution that feels reasonable considering the life space you are in. It is normal for your sex drive to drop, particularly for new moms who are breastfeeding. Remember you won’t feel this way for forever, it is a temporary season, but recognizing this can help to take the pressure off a bit.

Ask each other for sex
We are typically indirect in our communication about sex, but it may be helpful to try a more direct approach. Find fun ways you can give your partner clues you are “in the mood”, and give them a heads up on what those clues are. Talk with your partner about how they can know when you’re feeling feisty, and ask them about which clues they tend to give you that you may be missing. Come up with fun and unique ways that are specific to you both to communicate your interest. It can be fun to learn these cues and then convey your cues in ways your kids likely won’t recognize.  Have fun sharing in that secret together.

Talk about what feels good sexually…and how to make it better
In our attempt to be more direct with our partner, it can feel easy to criticize or name what you don’t like. Try to focus your energy on what is working/what you like in bed. By placing your energy and attention on the things you want more of your partner is more likely to be responsive to your needs.

Express nonsexual affection, especially with touch
Gottman recommends a 6 second kiss every day. He says, “A six-second kiss is a kiss with potential,” but it doesn’t have to lead to sex. Touch can add to your emotional connection. A pleasant hug with your partner as they come home or before they leave for the day, or reaching out to hold their hand can all help to enhance your emotional connection.

Realize in most cases he’s a microwave…and she’s a dutch oven
Particularly after having children, sex is more of a slow build up for women, and a quick release for men in heterosexual relationships. Traditionally for women, desire may not even come until after sex has started. Men may be more likely to turn toward their partner for sex once they are already aroused. In heterosexual relationships, the couple might benefit from the husband slowing way down, and also understanding their partner may still be thinking about all the chores that have not been done or feeling hypervigilant for when the baby might cry/wake up. Men – foreplay might mean helping your partner with some of the exhausting daily tasks, and/or by expressing appreciation. Women – don’t forget to see the positives your partner is doing and say what you see out loud. When feeling exhausted, it can be easy feel alone in all you are doing and completely miss opportunities to be appreciative for the ways in which your partner is contributing, as well.

Accept that quickies are just as important as gourmet sex
How do kids always seem to know when action is happening in the bedroom? They seem to knock or need a drink of water the minute things get going. Try not to get too frustrated and know that quickies can beneficial too.

Share your fantasies
Share the things that excite you. Anticipation of sex can be helpful and can possibly lead to great scheduled sex.

Discuss feelings and don’t avoid conflict
Healthy conflict and open discussion of feelings help to avoid the drift that can occur right before couples tend to divorce. Don’t be afraid of openness and vulnerability as a way to ultimately draw you closer together.

Prioritize gourmet sex and make time for it
Gourmet sex does not have to happen often, but it certainly can help to prioritize it sometimes. Reminisce with your partner about the good times you’ve had in bed, and make a plan for how you would like to include that gourmet sex in your relationship.

Set aside time with your partner to have an open discussion about sex:
– Discuss what is working in your sex life right now
– Are there areas that could be improved?
– What are the best times to initiate sex?
– What are the ways you/your partner tends to initiate sex?
– How can you say “no” without it feeling like a rejection?

Discuss a plan for what you determine is best for your relationship in terms of:

  • A date night
  • An overnight
  • Scheduled sex

For each item make a plan for how often you would like each to occur. Be realistic about what would be reasonable (weekly, every other week, monthly). The frequency is not as significant as both partners being in agreement, being on the same page, and sticking to what you agree to.

When in doubt….download the Gottman Relationship Card Deck App to have access to Love Maps and Open Ended Questions to enhance your friendship. And when you’re feeling spicy, check out the salsa cards!

One of the greatest giftsIntimacy after having children thrive therapy florida tampa
you can give your children
is a strong relationship
between the two of you.


Have you noticed a change in your relationship with the arrival of a new baby? Couples Therapy or Workshops at Thrive Therapy can help to address your concerns.

Want more tips and techniques for a healthy and satisfying relationship? Subscribe to the Thrive Therapy newsletter.

2 replies

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *