Confession: I can’t remember the last time my husband and I had sex. Did we do it on our past date night? Nope. On our recent vacation to Cancun? Not even then. The reason for this drought is our two-year-old daughter, who’s drained our libidos like a tiny vampire in pigtails. And a new survey reveals we’re hardly the only parents whose love life is on life support.
Parenting recently teamed up with HLN’s Raising America with Kyra Phillips to poll moms and dads about what their lives are really like, and more than 1,000 men and women spilled some startlingly frank details about what they’re doing (or, rather, not doing) in bed. While 45 perncent of respondents said they have sex with their partner once or twice a week, 30 percent only get it on once or twice a month. 10 percent do the deed less than once a month, while 15 percent said, “Sex? What’s that?”
Couples may claim they’re “too busy” or “too tired” to make the bedsprings sing, but if you delve beneath this too-few-hours-in-a-day excuse, it’s a more complicated story. “What these stats say to me is that couples don’t prioritize sex, or aren’t sure how to prioritize sex, in the onslaught of new responsibilities and roles as parents,” says Ian Kerner, Ph.D., author of Sex Recharge: A Rejuvenation Plan for Couples and Singles. “They fall into the category of ‘wanting to want sex’ but not wanting it.”
Part of the problem may be simmering resentment: In our survey, 30 percent of respondents complained their partners don’t pull their weight at home, with the majority wishing for more help with housework. “Women especially like to feel like they are part of a team sharing the household chores with their partner,” says Terri Orbuch, Ph.D., author of 5 Simple Steps to Take Your Marriage from Good to Great. “When husbands or boyfriends don’t share in the household tasks—no matter what they do outside the home—many women report this isn’t fair, and they become unhappy in the marriage.”
Another 66% of respondents flat-out say that their relationship with their kids is “more important” than their relationship with their partner. But experts warn that parents who put romance on hold for their children’s sakes aren’t doing them any favors. “We all want happy children, but happy children need happy parents, and happy parents are loving and connected and still make the most of their relationship,” points out Kerner. “Parents who want the best for their kids need to be a little selfish, and the benefits trickle down from there.”
While sex might seem like one of the more dispensable tasks on parents’ to-do lists, not having it can eventually drive couples apart. According to our poll, 6 percent of respondents have admitted to an affair, and an additional 18 percent have thought about straying. “I think it’s natural to have these thoughts,” says Kerner. “Especially when you’re a new parent, it’s easy to feel neglected and taken for granted. Just because you’re a parent doesn’t mean you still don’t need love, attention and affection. But it can be a slippery slope.”
So if your love life is limping along, there are a few things you can do to step it up. For starters, place sex higher up on the pecking order, and one way to make this goal attainable is to lower the bar on quality control. “Don’t feel like you need to plan a date night and set aside two hours,” says Elizabeth Lombardo, Ph.D., relationship therapist and author of A Happy You: Your Ultimate Prescription for Happiness. “If all you have time for is a quickie, even that can bring you closer.”
Another tactic is to see sex as akin to going to the gym: Getting started is the hardest part. “There’s often a need to take a ‘try it, you’ll like it’ approach to sex—putting your body through the motions and trusting that the mind will follow,” says Kerner.
It’s so true: the last time my husband and I stripped down (whenever it was), I remember thinking, “Man, I’m glad I did that!” And not just in a thank-god-it’s-over way. In spite of the fact that it put me a bit behind schedule, I actually felt calmer and less stressed. My husband came home and cooked dinner with a smile, rather than harrumph off to the bar with his buddies. So the next time I’m tempted to say, “Not tonight, honey,” I will instead try to warm up to the idea. Sex may take some effort, but I’ll gain far more in return.
We'll explore a new topic--from breastfeeding to spanking to money and sex--everyday this week here on Parenting.com, but be sure to tune into Raising America (check local TV listings) daily for even more juicy revelations from our survey! Click here for the full results of the survey. Click here to make your own confession!