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The therapeutic sofa, part 5

Bucket #3. Have sex with your partner. This is something I brought up, because I knew the situation was not good. It’s not so much that I miss sex and want to have more of it. It’s that when we’re not having sex, we don’t touch at all aside from a couple of chaste kisses per day. There’s a decrease in emotional intimacy with a decrease in physical intimacy.

As you guys and the therapist both confirm, this is typical for hetero married couples with young kids. (Which doesn’t mean it’s universal, by any means, but just keep your fucking trap shut if you’re in that category and have tons and tons of blissful sex.) Regardless of the normalcy, it still makes me feel bad. So I wanted to change it. But just telling myself to have sex with my husband more often did not work. Mysteriously. Here’s what she told me that helped.

1.Buckets 1 and 2. Time for self, time to reconnect with partner.

2. Accept that getting in The Mood takes time and work. It’s not that I’m never in the mood. It’s that I’m never in the mood at 7pm, after a long day, the only time when there’s really an opportunity. So don’t expect The Mood to just magically appear, find some ways of bringing The Mood on. Find the things that make me feel sexy (at which point I laughed like a hyena. You think there are things that make me feel SEXY? I shrieked. YOU HAVE GOT TO BE KIDDING ME!!!) and do them. For me, it’s a fairly simple combo that takes about an hour. Because I am all about the details: After the babies are down, I do a 15 minute workout. Exercise is one of those things that’s supposed to make you feel better about yourself or some shit? Seems to work. Then I take a shower. Then I look at/read some light porn. I found a couple of websites with free erotica that doesn’t have too many spelling errors and can be quickly brought up on a phone. This usually brings enough of The Mood on that when we actually start making out, I find I’m into it.

4. Tell your partner that you care, that are making the effort. She pointed out that all he sees is me not having sex with him, he doesn’t know I feel bad, or that I do sometimes want to. I was like, Won’t he feel bad when I tell him that it takes me so much effort to want to sleep with him? She was like, He already knows that. So I told him. And as embarrassing as it was, I told him that I have a process that requires time. He was very positive about the whole thing. I think he probably heard blah blah blah more sex blah blah.

3. This was my OWN brain wave, and I’ve very proud. If I commit to sex ahead of time, it will be vastly more likely to happen. Because my normal approach is to be all Yes, I will totally do it tonight! And then tonight comes and, uh, NO THANKS. So now I email my husband to tell him he’s getting laid, unless he has some objection. So far, no objection. And since he knows I have a Process, he gives me some time and space to prepare.

Are we having a great deal of passionate sex now? ABSOLUTELY NOT. But we’re getting closer to a reasonable place.

Bucket #4. Deal with some of your long-standing bullshit problems. We have a few perennial sources of stress in our marriage. While I think we are pretty good at talking things out, somehow these issues never get all the way resolved. We agreed that it’s effective to communicate about some contentious shit via email rather than in person, because then we can have our angry reactions offline and a more reasonable conversation later. As long as the email communication is respectful and diplomatic, of course. This decision has allowed us to have faster, more productive conversations about some of the shit we just go round and round about, and I think, to make some real progress. We’ll see.

And them’s the marriage buckets! And I’d say that things are considerably better.

Next up…well, a request for parenting wisdom. And then Career = hard.

18 Comments Post a comment
  1. Bucket #3 is so true, and so often neglected by my people. Sex is relationship glue. And if my child starts falling asleep before 10 (10!) someday, maybe we can have some again.

    July 25, 2013
  2. Ugh, I so needed to read this today. Time for me to figure out my process…

    July 25, 2013
  3. bahhaa. Dude he just heard “blah blah blah blah sex blah blah blah”. That’s all it took for him.

    Well it is awesome that you have this new system…and I don’t just mean the sex system, but the bucket system as a whole. I have been sucking at just about everything recently besides mothering. But caring for myself and my partner is definitely not where it needs to be either.

    So I am stealing your buckets and making them my own.

    BTW it makes me smile to know you are looking for erotica with few spelling errors. You are hilarious!

    July 25, 2013
  4. I definitely agree that committing to sex ahead of time is more effective than deciding later. I feel guilty about the lack of spontaneity, but I suppose that will have to wait until after the children have left home. I tell my husband to ask me in the morning too… occasionally, we have even scheduled in which evening of the weekend will be the one.

    I also strongly identify with the guilt of confessing to my husband that the mere sight of him is not enough to overwhelm me with with a surge of hormones. But your therapist is right… they already know.

    July 25, 2013
  5. Nicky #

    What a great Process! Try fleshbot.com, it’s free and brings together a lot of different things. Some good, some terrible, but all easy to scroll through and choose what you like.

    I think the emailing “you’re getting laid” is a great idea as well.

    Perhaps in the “time to reconnect with partner” bucket you could do light back rubs or hand massages, perhaps while watching a show together. My DH feels loved through physical attention. It helps that I’m not breastfeeding, and aren’t touched-out anymore.

    July 25, 2013
    • Thanks for the suggestions (fleshbot! Gotta love a URL like that!)–we don’t have childcare this weekend, so it’ll have to be a date at home, and that man loves a neckrub.

      July 25, 2013
      • Nicky #

        Also, consider vibrators. It helps if I do not have an hour for my Process and yet still want to put out. (Sorry if its TMI.)

        July 26, 2013
      • Oh yes. Essential.

        July 26, 2013
  6. “…I found a couple of websites with free erotica that doesn’t have too many spelling errors…” Hilarious.

    As a therapist who has worked with couples (and as part of a couple that has done therapy) I knoooooow the importance of The Sex. We have a general “minimum” rule established which probably saved us when the girls were infants. We still “schedule” dates and ya know, it works. People always shy away from making a plan for it, but it’s all too easy to let it slide (especially during these years of early child rearing) and then BOOM. The relationship is in trouble land. Anyhoooooo, mad props for addressing this in your relationship. Mad…props…

    July 25, 2013
  7. So “blah blah blah more sex blah blah” was not the main message of your post? 😉
    Yay for you for taking care of this. I should, too — and the kids are barely on the way. I think the ttc-on-our-own phase did not exactly improve our sex life. And being in the mood, yeah, we’re like from different planets.

    July 26, 2013
  8. so, so many comments on so, so many posts that i haven’t commented on. i haven’t commented because… because i feel like i’m on the outside looking in, or something. i have all these buckets, too, and i’m envious and proud of how you’re facing and managing your buckets and i’m drowning in mine. my husband and i have the same “not a lot of good will” problem, but the opposite sex problem. actually, for a while after the boys came along, it was nice that for once we were matched in libido: neither of us had one. then it started creeping back up to normal which, for us, means i’m the one who just wants to hear “blah blah blah more sex.” unfortunately, it’s a long-standing issue with much resentment and anger that has only been compounded by the parenting issues and, uh, yeah. it’s led to what i’ve recently realized is truly a Not Good situation. and so i’m reading your posts and wishing you were my therapist or best friend or something, because i could talk your fucking ear off about this shit. that reminds me, i have to re-read your therapy posts, because i need to break up with mine. i’m sorry – was this about ME!? Again!? 😀 What i meant to say was: a heartfelt congratulations on doing the hard work. Because it is hard, and it is work, but i sincerely believe there’s a fat fucking paycheck at the end of it. I hope you see that deposit soon.

    July 26, 2013
  9. It took about 16 months after Monkey was born for sex to start feeling halfway good fir me. We would still do it because you know, important or whatever, but eh. We totally have to schedule still. Only problem is when we do, 70% of the time Monkey just refuses to go to sleep that night, and so it gets further delayed. And since I am in charge of putting him to sleep, I feel like that is my fault too. Although clearly it is not. Brains are stupid sometimes.

    July 26, 2013
  10. ALSO. I love your process. I need one. Because I find that going straight from nursing Monkey to sleep to sex with Hubs is… Kinda weird. But Monkey is known to wake up again and Hubs thinks after about 8pm is too late to start, so immediately following is pretty much our only time.

    July 26, 2013
  11. Even though my husband is the sweetest darling ever, and he still finds me sexy and tells me so to the point that I feel guilty that I am not putting it out more, I still need to make an effort. Dude, these times of small children minding are tough. And exhausting. We need to make an effort to get some time for us. It helps that once I made it a chore, on the weekly to-do lists, with the odd occasional bonus, it kind of stopped being such a chore. It is even, dare I say, ENJOYABLE. The human mind is surely strange. Good luck with getting your groove back on. Things are surely easier when there is intimacy. All things.

    July 26, 2013
  12. We’ve been dealing with the problematic situation that I like it best at night, but I’m going to bed earlier than him, he likes it best in the morning, but he’s waking up later than me. Things got a lot better (not necessarily in terms of actually increasing the number of times, but in terms of our moods towards said number) when we started actually talking about it — sometimes it’s nice to hear “I really really really want to take you off to the bedroom right now but I’m just too tired/worn out/busy”. Even if nothing comes of it, it’s been a nice perk to know that the one person is thinking about the other in that way.

    This semester I was sitting in on a class that was closer to home than to my office and which ended around lunchtime on Wednesday, so afterwards I’d go home rather than back to the office. I had grand dreams of taking advantage of that child-free mid-afternoon time (Joel works from home), but alas, it never happened. Guess I need to find another similar class next semester…

    July 26, 2013
  13. ‘It’s that when we’re not having sex, we don’t touch at all aside from a couple of chaste kisses per day. There’s a decrease in emotional intimacy with a decrease in physical intimacy.’ Ugh, YES. But, like homebrewedbaby, we’re in the opposite situation from you. And again, I’m blaming the PhD of Doom. I swear to god, when that thing is handed in, life-with-husband has some pretty dazzling dreams to live up to. (Dreams that may now feature fleshbot cameos.)

    July 29, 2013
    • Ana #

      We are in the same situation (i.e. the “opposite” problem) but there isn’t even a PhD to blame it on. Just regular old stress that seems to affect him differently than me. And a general disconnect in how we think about sex—to him, just physical, to me, the whole “emotional intimacy” thing. Not sure how to bridge that chasm…

      July 29, 2013
  14. I feel like I’m getting free therapy through you. Thanks! And also, I’m glad it’s working for you. Yes, all of these things are hard! I remember from a lifespan development class that marital satisfaction plummets after the birth of a second child and then starts s l o w l y creeping its way back up. Hang in there!

    September 19, 2013

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