Are kids getting in the way of your sexuality?

by Elizabeth Davis

CoupleFor those with children, let's look at how family life can influence sexuality. We will begin with an overview of the key developmental phases in children's lives, and how these might affect a woman's inclination for and enjoyment of sex.

T. Berry Brazelton, authority on child rearing and development, says that when a child reaches the age of two, the parents may begin to compete for his or her affections. If competition or poor communication exists in other areas of their lives -- which is quite likely, considering how little time parents of a toddler have for themselves and each other -- they may become sexually estranged. For want of privacy and intimacy, parents may inadvertently transfer their needs onto their child and vie bitterly for his or her attention.

If this situation is left unaddressed, studies show that the likelihood of extramarital affairs is high, reaching a peak when the child is three or four. Once the couple is past this critical point, the survival issues of the first few years have been surmounted -- and parents have an opportunity to view the wreckage. If there is ever a time when parents need and deserve a vacation for themselves, it is now.

Take private time

This is not optional! It is the only way to find the energy to relate intimately to your partner. Try to squeeze a bit of time out of you usual routine. Simplify meals so you have free time before dinner. Do household chores in chunks, running several tasks simultaneously to save time and steps. Lower you standards for neatness and cleanliness, to save not only time, but also your nerves.

A more lasting approach is to change your routines so that time for yourself is built in. Right from the start, teach your children ways to take care of themselves. Those of us whose parents tried to give us the best of everything may need to unlearn certain self-sacrificing behaviors. If you are in a position to hire additional help, do it. Save your relationship by taking care of yourself first and foremost.

Keep up with your dreams

Don't let your dreams fade so that you no longer remember them. Take time to review your goals in life and your fantasies of what could be, giving yourself the freedom to be visionary. Where do you want to be a year from now, or five, or ten years hence? What must you absolutely do in life to feel you have really lived? Some say that whatever you loved to do most when age seen or eight hold a key to your future. Think back, dream forward, and keep track of what you see.

Make time for the relationship

When you are very busy, intimacy must be made a priority. This means setting aside "couple time," literally scheduling it in. Maintain a regular weekly date night. And set aside another time, preferably in the morning when you are both fresh, to talk about what is going on in your lives and how you are feeling.

Never underestimate the power of an entire night alone together. There is a dramatic difference between sex when you know you might be interrupted and sex with total privacy. Plus, it's nice to have the freedom to resume later in the evening if you feel like it. At least twice a year, make plans to get away to some romantic location. When you are busy with family life, you must work to re-create your love.

Surprise yourself and your lover

Do the unexpected once in a while. When your love was young, it was exciting to try new things together, share adventures, and discover your commonalities in a variety of situations. Let this element of excitement back into your life and don't worry about appearing foolish.

Get help if you need it

Marriage or couple counseling doesn't have to be a long-term proposition. People often end up in counseling because it is the only way they seem able to make the time to talk to one another. The main benefit of counseling is that it provides an opportunity to be witnessed. Someone who is objective about your problems can reframe them in ways that make it easier for you to handle them on your own. Almost every intimate partnership needs a boost like this once in a while.

Elizabeth Davis holds a degree in Holistic Maternity Care from Antioch University, and is certified by the North American Registry of Midwives. She has been a midwife, women's health care specialist, educator and consultant for over 20 years. She is the author of many successful books, including "Heart and Hands: A Midwife's Guide to Pregnancy and Birth," and "Women's Sexual Passages." Excerpted by with permission of the publisher.