The former Erotic Review magazine editor answers your sex questions…
QUESTION: I have been married for six years and I have two small children aged five and two. We look like a happy family from the outside, but the truth is I haven’t had sex with my husband since our second child was born.
Most nights my husband ends up sleeping with the older child, while I sleep in our big bed with the younger one.
My husband keeps begging me to resume our sex life. The problem is that although I love him, I have no desire for him any more – I haven’t really since our eldest was born – and find his constant requests for sex an imposition.
ROWAN SAYS… This is a desperately sad and all-too-familiar story. Giving birth and raising small children can undoubtedly wreak havoc on the libido. Up and down the country, couples with young children find their sex lives have been torpedoed.
If I had a tenner for every friend or acquaintance who has outlined a similar situation, I would be able to set up a small trust fund for my sons. And generally (though by no means always) it’s the woman who loses enthusiasm for sex, while her husband is as pent-up as Vesuvius before it erupted.
It is tempting at such moments for women to play the domestic martyr card and, indeed, we often have significant justification for feeling hard done by. Our bodies undergo debilitating wear and tear in childbirth, and breastfeeding also takes its toll. And females are still more likely to be the primary nurturer and to do most of the housework.
In short, women tend to be exhausted during the child-raising years and sleep often becomes a higher priority than sex. Furthermore, children often seem to be in competition with their father over ownership of the mother’s body.
This, I am sure, is why you describe your husband’s requests for sex as an ‘imposition’. An angry, drained part of you is thinking: ‘How dare he burden me with one more demand?’ Once you have reached this mindset, sex becomes yet another unpalatable domestic duty.
But it’s incredibly perilous to ignore the gravity of the situation, or to dismiss your husband’s pleas as if he were your third insistent child – something that women are inclined to do in these situations. Put yourself in your husband’s shoes. He is doubtless exhausted, too – sleeping alongside a five-year-old is no picnic.
He’s probably treading on eggshells around you, and your constant rejection must feel emasculating.
The very lifeblood of your marriage is at stake here, and if you find yourself in a divorce court two or ten years from now, you will look back at this moment as the one when you could, or should, have taken decisive action.
This is why when exactly the same situation unfolded in a friend’s house, her mother descended and kidnapped the children for the weekend, telling her daughter in no uncertain terms that it was time to don a sexy slip and invite her beleaguered husband back to her bed.
The daughter was furious at this ‘bullying’, but admitted later that it was the best advice her mum had ever given her.
Women often feel ambivalent or negative about sex with their spouse until they find themselves in the throes of lovemaking; afterwards, they almost always declare themselves happier for having re-established that intimacy.
And they benefit hugely from having a cheerful, equable man around the house again. Most men will tell you they are pretty simple beasts: they need food, work and love to keep their lives ticking over. And by ‘love’ they generally mean sex. The two things tend to be synonymous in the male brain.
If you continue to reject your husband, one of two things is likely to happen: he will become increasingly frustrated and quick to anger (bad for you and your children), or he will simply seek comfort elsewhere.
I am afraid it is simply not realistic for one partner in a relationship to expect their more libidinous other half endlessly to acquiesce to a no-sex pact.
I am not suggesting you become a domestic geisha, but is it really such a burden to try to initiate sex once a month or so? It doesn’t sound as if your husband needs complex seduction. Any reciprocation will clearly be fallen upon like manna from heaven.
Don’t neglect your own sexual preferences. My guess is that he’ll be happy to perform endless foreplay if you show willingness to make him feel desired. If this really feels an impossible feat for you to contemplate, you would be well advised to see a qualified relationship counsellor.
It seems to me that women’s struggles with their capricious libido are a lot like their struggles with their weight: let it slip a little and it won’t be too much effort to restore; but let it slip a lot and the task of regaining your youthful mojo becomes Herculean.