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How to Talk About Sex

Ten years ago, before kids and mortgages and All That, my husband and I were experts in the language of love. If sex is a form of communication, well, back then we were on the unlimited calling plan. We may not have always verbally expressed ourselves, but we always conveyed what we meant, physically or emotionally.

Then we had a baby.

Suddenly, I was not only uninterested in sex, I was also strangely confused about how to tell my husband. So while in some ways our daughter's birth brought us closer than ever, in other ways we started to grow apart.

I just didn't know how to explain to J.B. how tired I was, how my body hurt from being pinched and pulled by our baby, and how by the end of the day I couldn't imagine sharing it with anyone else. We both became prickly and defensive: I was sure that when J.B. wrapped his leg over mine at night it meant he was coming on to me (again); when I turned my back and pretended to be asleep, he assumed I no longer found him attractive.

Bye-bye, language of love.

Whether it's right after the birth of a baby or a few years down the line, it seems like lots of happily married couples hit the sexual skids when they become parents. And most of them have heard sex therapists on TV and read articles and books, and know they should talk it out.

But there's the rub. Sex is a socially charged and highly personal issue that remains a bit taboo despite our seeming openness. And talking about not having sex? Chances are, the subject comes up when one of you wants it and the other doesn't. Bad time to talk. And who wants to crack open that can of worms later on when it's over? Besides, isn't sex supposed to be fun and spontaneous  -- like it used to be? Won't talking about it spoil the magic?

"Where's the magic if you're not having sex?" says Valerie Raskin, M.D., author of Great Sex for Moms: Ten Steps to Nurturing Passion While Raising Kids. But how do you start talking? What do you say? And how do you say it so you don't end up bruising egos or booting one of you to the couch? My husband and I started by paying attention to the distinction between how we talked about sex and the details of what we were talking about. To begin:

Heidi Raykeil's book about her and her husband's romantic life as parents, Confessions of a Naughty Mommy: How I Found My Lost Libido, was just published by Seal Press.