I hear it time and time again and even went through it in my own marriage; where does the sex go once the kids are on the scene? Not only does it seem like they steal our sleep but our sex drives too!
Post children many women need to reconcile that their bodies are no longer just for pleasure but have a functional purpose that can make us feel more clinical about our bodies rather than connecting to our bodies on a sensual level. Many women report that their changing body image can make them feel less desirable throughout the natural aging process. Yet we are constantly bombarded with images of taunt youthful bodies throughout social media which only leave us feeling ‘not good enough’ in our own skin.
Sleep deprivation has been proven to lower testosterone levels in both males and females which reduces their libido. In interviews with many women, a high percentage report ‘tiredness’ as a major reason for their lack of interest in sex, with some women even admitting to feigning sleep in order to avoid sex.
Resentment over changing roles when children come along can cause huge issues in the bedroom too. Sex has historically been used as a weapon against both genders. Having dated a range of men post-divorce, I heard many men complaining how sex was withheld in the bedroom as a form of punishment. On the other hand, I clearly remember my body being the last thing I wanted to surrender to my then husband. I was exhausted, I brought in almost the same income as he did, yet managed all the finances, the household chores and the parenting single handedly. My body felt like it was the last part of me that was mine, and I sure as hell wasn’t about to hand it over when I felt so deeply unappreciated and neglected.
There also seems to be a current trend in parenting styles these past decades. In the 1950’s the parents were the nucleus of the family. Today it’s the children that family life revolves around. I hear many families basing meal choices, family holiday preferences, restaurant preferences, tv preferences, and even lifestyles purely around their children’s likes / dislikes and their children’s sporting commitments. It’s not uncommon to hear fathers expressing that they feel like the 3rd wheel in the family unit, or mothers complaining of feeling like the family slave.
When exploring the reasons why sex gets booted out of the bedroom there seems like a whole variety of issues that need to be taken into consideration;
- Sleep quality and sleep hygiene.
- Body image.
- Clear communication and boundaries in order to ensure both the couples emotional and physical needs are met outside the bedroom.
- Protecting the relationship from outside influences, especially children.
- Taking self-responsibility for your own needs and emotions, including working through anger, guilt, shame and resentment.
- Challenging society’s notions and attitudes around sex.
- Educating both couples how to utilise sex to strengthen the intimacy and sacred love within the relationship.
As a dating single parent, I think this last point is one of the most important. Time and time again I’ve dated men and spoken with other women about the lack of ‘intimacy’ in the bedroom. Sex really isn’t just about “penis in -penis out” kind of action. No wonder so many women feel bored in the bedroom and aren’t even prioritising sex on their insanely massive and overwhelming ‘to-do’ lists.
It’s not often you come across a man who can simply send a river of shivers down your entire body just by running a finger down your back in the most deliciously seductive way that lights you up with pure electricity. Men need to be re-educated how to interact at a more deeply intimate level that requires effort, thoughtfulness, sensitivity and selflessness.
As a married woman, the then husband labelled me frigid. Yep, it’s true. I’d make every excuse to avoid sex. I honestly didn’t think I was interested. I used every excuse above; tired, exhausted, children, periods, anger, resentment, body image…. I honestly had no idea where my sex drive was and I really don’t think I cared.
Dating post-divorce however proved this concept to be completely wrong. The problem wasn’t me. The problem was in the relationship. Post-divorce I was a live wire and experienced some amazing sensual relationships with men, exploring things I hadn’t explored before, and also reconciling my idea of the ‘mother’ archetype with the archetypes of the ‘seductress’ and the ‘lover’. I really had to learn how to step out of one role and totally embrace another. Sex took on an entirely different meaning.
Breaking down the notions that sex is something shameful, dirty, male dominated, and crass has also been important. I’m a huge advocate of ‘Breaking The Good Girl Rules’, which funnily enough isn’t about promoting a ‘bad girl image’, despite the number of men who seem desperate to join the #BreakingTheGoodGirlRules Facebook group. In fact, I had to change the name from the original #FuckTheGoodGirlRules as it was attracting porn stars and men hoping to find a meat market. But this is also a really valid point, society needs to stop demoralising sex. ‘Breaking the Good Girl Rules’ is about dropping al judgement of good and bad, and just owning 100% of who we are unconditionally. Women should be able to freely express themselves sexually without being demonised as sluts, whores or suffering from low self-esteem.
In fact, sex was no longer boring but a creative and fun way to express myself. Some nights I wanted to play sweet and innocent and be seduced, and other times the dark goddess would come out in all her glory and dominate the bedroom with candles, ice cubes, ties and dripping champagne over naked flesh. Dirty weekend, passionate date nights and romantic holidays dotted my calendar as much as the children’s sports and birthday parties. I learnt to own all of me; mother, partner, lover, seductress, teacher, healer and best friend.
The Single Mother journey has taught me a lot about sex and what I want from a relationship. Single mothers are often marginalised and treated as outcasts. Married women treat us like we’ll steal their husbands and men treat us a vulnerable fragile female that are ready to be taken advantage of. But single mothers are probably the most fucking fierce women I know. They’re resourceful, feisty, independent, earning their own money, raising children and enjoying the freedom of rediscovering who they are on their own damn terms. Perhaps the empowered single mother had more to teach society than meets the eye. She’s already had one marriage behind her and is often setting her standards higher. She’s free to explore her boundaries and refuses to sacrifice herself in a relationship compared to her married girlfriends.
As my journey progressed sex stopped looking like a chore or an obligation and instead became something that boosted me. Sex became an intimate and crazy sensual way to give to my partners and to receive from them. It became a powerful way to express myself and increase my own vitality, once I knew how to meet my own needs properly and how to communicate them clearly.
More than ever post-children I understand how powerful sexual intimacy really is. Of course, in the media it’s mis-represented and manipulated to just being about ‘getting your rocks off’. The porn industry has totally destroyed the innocence and beautiful sacred exchange of energy that sexual intercourse can bring into a relationship. It’s no wonder most house-wives are on their backs wondering whether to repaint their ceilings or thinking of tomorrow night’s dinner options, instead of grasping their partners backs and tilting their pelvis’ in pure pleasure.
Somewhere along the way we lost sight of the truth about sex. Even the some of the most enlightened spiritual traditions like Buddhists, Hinduism, Taoism or even the ancient Egyptian beliefs support sex as a form of alchemy between a couple that increases their ka or chi (life force energy), increases their spiritual awareness and improves their physical wellbeing. The idea behind tantric sex is about allowing the man to worship his female partner as a goddess, and in a way that the female can embrace her own beautiful and powerful sacredness.
Why would anyone want to opt out of that?
In changing the way we view sex and how we operate within sexual practices, surely any couple would greatly benefit by bringing their focus back into the bedroom. From years of coaching it’s an acceptable assumption that all excuses of time, resource and energy are just excuses or misaligned priorities. But a healthy, passionate sex life has benefitted my life immensely. I have more energy and passion outside the bedroom, I’m more creative in my life, I’m more present and focused with those around me, my sense of self is stronger, my relationship with my body is healthier and my daughters are learning healthy attitudes around body image, self-love, boundaries and self-respect.
One day the children are going to leave home. Couples with children are going to suddenly be left with only each other to face and will have to renegotiate their relationship all over again as the family dynamics shift. I’ve seen many marriages break down by this point as the glue holding the family together at the nucleus (commonly known as ‘children’) disappear to create their own futures. Couples that don’t create time and space for their own intimate relationship throughout those early parenting years often struggle to keep a relationship together when the chicks leave the nest.
There is nothing more powerful within a relationship than to find the time, space and energy to really be present with your partner. To understand their needs and desires and to support each other’s journeys in creating a life that is rich and abundant in love, health and happiness on every level. If there is one thing I have learnt after having children, is to never live without sex again!
Verity Mansfield is a Women’s Empowerment Coach and Mentor. She is the founder of A Beautiful Truth, which supports women to break those “Good Girl Rules” so they can really acknowledge the true magnificent beauty within, to realise they are more powerful then what society dictates, and that they can determine their own self-worth and embrace the power within to live life on their own terms.
Dip Counselling. Dip Life Coaching (ICF), Cert Matrix Therapies, Cert NLP and Reiki II. www.veritymansfield.com https://www.facebook.com/abeautifultruth/