My biggest fear about getting married was that my husband and I would become a couple in one of those couples — a couple in a sexless marriage. A Ricky and Lucy separate beds couple, or — gasp — even a separate room couple.
How do people become those couples, I wondered? After all, when I got married, I liked having sex. It was enjoyable and fun; it made me feel good.
Sex wasn’t something to get stressed out about, but it seemed like every movie, TV show, or comedy routine about a couple who had been married for any length of time referenced the inevitable fact that sex petered out during marriage, or dried up entirely.
That won’t happen to us, I vowed. And then we had a baby.
He was a beautiful, happy baby. Unfortunately, he didn’t sleep. He was up every 45 minutes at night and awake for the day at 4am. I became distraught, depressed, anxious.
My husband was angry and frustrated. We were both exhausted and fought daily. Even after I had the green light from my OB to begin having sex again after my C-section, it was nowhere on my “to do” list.
Why would I want to have sex with someone I fought with? With someone I, frankly, didn’t even like?
In addition to my mental state being less-than-conducive to, well, anything, I had a lot of physical changes, as well. It must be nice for those women who lose weight from breastfeeding, but I wasn’t one of them.
It wasn’t that I felt fat (although I did); it was more that I felt uncomfortable in my new, postnatal body. I had rolls and lumps where they didn’t belong. I had to double up on nursing pads so as to not leak through my shirts. My breasts weren’t sexy or desirable; they were utilitarian.
I felt like my body was no longer my own.
Not sleeping took a toll on me — physically and mentally. I didn’t have the energy to do things I needed to do (like laundry), let alone engage in something extra (like sex). My mind was tired; my body was tired. I was so f*cking tired all the time.
And if the choice was between having sex with my husband or getting ten extra minutes of sleep, I was always going to choose sleep.
Less than two years into our marriage, my worst fear had come true: we were a sexless couple.
I don’t know exactly how many times we had sex during the first year of my son’s life, but a non-sexual marriage is one in which a couple is sexually intimate less than ten times a year.
Even when my son finally started sleeping through the night, I shed the baby-weight, and started taking the antidepressants I so desperately needed, I still didn’t want to have sex.
By that point, I was used to not having sex very often. It wasn’t a priority — sleep, cleaning dishes, and grocery shopping were priorities. Sex was so far down the list of things to do that I was often surprised and even uncomfortable when my husband initiated anything or was even just physically affectionate.
It was hard to think about incorporating something that seemed so impractical back into my life.
So, that second year of my son’s life? Yup, we qualified as a sexless marriage that year, too.
How did we get out of the sexless rut in our marriage?
It’s a rather surprising way: We started trying for baby #2. While I got pregnant quickly with my first son, it took a year for me to get pregnant with my second son.
So, that’s what we did for a year. We tried; we practiced. OK, we had sex a lot.
We finally had scheduled sex, which, as a single person, sounded like the most depressing thing in the world but as a married and trying-to-get-pregnant person, it seemed like the only thing that made any sense.
Once we started adding sex back into our marriage on a regular basis, I realised how much I had missed it.
Sex is fun; it feels good. My husband and I started feeling like we were a couple again instead of just parents. As a stay-at-home mother, I often felt like my identity was being usurped by my child. Having sex was a reminder that I was still me — a sexual person with wants and desires.
After I had our second son, we made a point to try and not lose sight of ourselves again.
It’s not easy. After all, the day-to-day work of keeping up with children and a household can be overwhelming. I can see a dirty pot or a pile of laundry, but I can’t see if my husband feels like he hasn’t connected with me in a while.
When you’re exhausted and focused on other things, sex can absolutely feel like a chore. And it’s an easy one to neglect. But it’s much more important than an extra few minutes of sleep, even if doesn’t feel like it at the time.
Sex is essential to connect with your partner, keep your marriage strong, and to feel like you — the person, instead of just a parent.
Our marriage is much stronger now than it was during those first, difficult years. I’ve learned that even if you fall into a sexless phase in your marriage, it doesn’t have to define your marriage permanently.
We’re no longer a sexless couple. But, if my husband keeps snoring, I may just start sleeping on the couch.
More from Your Tango