A less than amazing sex life is a common complaint for couples with children. How can you find the energy or the time or the privacy? Maybe you’ve just had a baby and are sleep deprived, or maybe you’re exhausted from the constant demands of toddlers and older kids and sex seems like just another chore on your never-ending to-do list. Or possibly your kids are older, and for some reason you’re just not in the mood anymore.
Whatever the reason, it is common for many couples to struggle with their sexual relationship at some point. As a women’s counselor, I’m here to tell you that it’s never too late to put sex back on the agenda and make your sex life a priority. Not only will you and your spouse feel closer and more connected, your children will also benefit. Numerous studies have found that children who feel that their parents have a close relationship are more secure and happier overall. And sex is what keeps us feeling close.
Most therapists will agree that a couples’ sexual functioning is a good barometer of their overall functioning as a couple. Our emotional and sexual intimacy is inextricably related, and a relationship that loses its sexual passion and becomes merely platonic could lead to the eventual dissolution of the relationship.
You see, sex is a crucial ingredient for pair bonding. During the early stages of a relationship, new lovers experience an intense passion that is caused in part by a number of neurochemicals coursing through the couple’s bodies, which eventually taper off. However, the hormone oxytocin, also known as the “love hormone,” can be sustained through the repeated bonding behaviors of daily affectionate actions and frequent lovemaking. Interestingly, this is the same hormone that is first released during childbirth — and continues to be released during lactation — and contributes to a strong bond between the mother and child. In a couple’s relationship, oxytocin is released during intimate touch, skin-to-skin contact, kissing, gazing into each other’s eyes. Oxytocin contributes to both male and female sexual arousal and it is released in a big surge during orgasm. Therefore, the more oxytocin that is released through these bonding behaviors, the stronger the couple’s pair-bond and therefore, their attachment to each other.
This is why it’s essential for parents with kids of all ages to set aside regular times when they can be alone. While it might not seem romantic or be spontaneous to schedule intimate encounters, it is important to keep in mind that we plan and set aside time to do the things we value. So I encourage couples who have busy lives and hectic schedules to sit down with their partner, take out the calendar and choose a few nights when they can be alone together, whether it’s for a date night or even just for an hour. I can almost guarantee that your relationship will improve dramatically, which will benefit not only you and your spouse, but your entire family!