Sex and Parenthood

New fathers often feel excluded by their wife's attention to their newborn. This can lead to feelings of anger, sadness, and depression. Often times these feelings are expressed by either emotional or physical withdrawal. Many men (and women, too) aren't consciously aware of these feelings. It can be difficult to talk about these feelings even if they are aware of them. Especially in the early years, when most fathers are trying to find their place in their family, they may feel it would be a burden on the relationship to discuss the way they feel. They may even feel guilty for having them. Some men feel uncomfortable about having sex during pregnancy. They have fears they will be hurting the baby or their partner. Many men need to look at how they view their own bodies in relationship to the pregnancy. If during the pregnancy (this can also be true throughout the marriage), his partner agrees to accommodate his physical needs but isn't interested herself in love making, how should he feel? If he is enjoying himself and she isn't, should he feel guilty about this? Is this kind of sexuality ok?

Is sex necessary? For some couples, it is critical to have an active sex life. It serves as both a physical and emotional outlet for tension. For other couples, the fun and excitement they experience through sex is very important. While many couples need to have sexual intercourse to feel satisfied, other couples find cuddling and holding to suffice. At various times in a relationship, couples feel the need to put their sexuality on "hold" while they are working through other issues in their relationship or life.

There are many legitimate forms of lovemaking that we overlook. Stress and tension in life are often relieved by feelings of closeness and by holding and touching another human being (most often our partners). Kissing, massage, and mutual masturbation are all ways to fulfill physical desires we all normally need to express.

Through working with the sexuality in our marriages we learn about so many things: our needs for closeness and intimacy, our own desires, and our own bodies. By discussing these feelings with our partners we gain perspective and develop emotional maturity. We learn that our sexual desires and needs can be a doorway to a deeper understanding of our partners and ourselves.

For Further self-reflection and discussion:
  1. How has the sexuality in your relationship changed from before you had a child?
  2. Do you know other dads or men with whom you can talk about your sexual feelings in your marriage?
  3. How important is the sexual relationship in your marriage to you?

Bruce Linton, Ph.D. is founder and director of the Fathers' Forum programs for expectant and new fathers. He is a former contributing editor to "Full-Time-Dads" magazines, and columnist for Parents' News in San Francisco, California. He is the author of Finding Time for Fatherhood (Berkeley Hills Books, 2000). Bruce is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapists and received his doctorate for his research on men's development as fathers.

Copyright © Bruce Linton. Permission to republish granted to, LLC.