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Erica's New Book Releasing the Mother Load is officially out! Order your copy today!
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July 3, 2024

February 14, 2024

Rekindling Your Sex Life After Baby: Communication Is Key

E:
212
with
Vanessa & Xander Marin
bestselling authors & hosts of the podcast Pillow Talks

What You'll Learn

  • How the Sexual Taboo Impacts Our Sex Lives After Baby
  • The Role of Gender Norms and Sexual Expectations
  • Why Emotional Intimacy is Vital for Your Sex Life After Having a Baby
  • How the Invisible Load Affects Desire and Intimacy
  • The First Steps to Rekindling Your Sex Life After Baby
  • Why Scheduled Sex Can Be a Great Thing
  • How (and Why) to Try New Things in the Bedroom After Having a Baby
  • Why We Shouldn’t Feel Ashamed About Our Sex Life After Baby

I often hear from moms who are worried about their sex life after baby. They’re worried that intimacy doesn’t come as easy as it once did. They’re worried they’re not having “a normal” amount of sex. They’re worried about changes in their desire, or their partner’s desire, and what that means for the future of their relationship. 

Most of us didn’t grow up talking about sex. We were often conditioned to think of sex as shameful. So even after we become adults, communicating about sex can be hard. 

We often don’t feel comfortable opening up with our partner and discussing our sex life. But without open communication, we’re left to guess what the other person is thinking and feeling. 

The truth is that our sex life usually changes after baby—even beyond the initial postpartum phase which often comes with physical barriers, hormonal changes, and sleep deprivation

Many factors play a role, from resentment and conflict to the invisible load to a lack of time for emotional intimacy. But when we learn how to talk openly about sex we can overcome those factors and rekindle our sex life after baby in a way that feels good for both partners. 

This week on The Momwell Podcast, I’m joined by Vanessa and Xander Marin, hosts of the podcast Pillow Talks and NYT bestselling authors of Sex Talks to discuss why our sex lives change so much after baby and how we can work through barriers to create intimacy and connection. 

How the Sexual Taboo Impacts Our Sex Lives After Baby

Vanessa’s interest in sex therapy started when her parents tried to give her “the talk.” Like so many of us, she could tell how embarrassed her parents were—and she was left with more questions than answers. This fascinated Vanessa and set her down her career path as a sex therapist and eventually as a content creator dedicated to normalizing sex and helping couples speak openly about it. 

But Xander never pictured himself discussing sex on a public platform. He pointed out that he had always believed that sex was something that only happened in the bedroom—something you’re supposed to be good at without ever talking about. 

So when Vanessa first suggested they talk about their relationship and sex together on Instagram, he wasn’t sure. As he started to see how much of an impact she was having on people, though, he began to embrace the idea. And the feedback they received from their audience showed them both how important the work they do is. 

When we grow up with rigid beliefs or expectations about sex, we might not want to talk about it. It can feel vulnerable to discuss sex. 

But Vanessa pointed out that so many people experience the same struggles with sex—difficulty achieving orgasm, low desire, mismatched desire, and performance issues. And because sex isn’t openly discussed, we tend to feel alone when we struggle with it—as if we’re broken or something is wrong with us. 

She said that in many ways we’re set up for failure when it comes to maintaining intimacy and connection. The lack of communication is what keeps us struggling. 

Xander said that talking about the issues takes the power away. It lets everyone know that they aren’t alone. 

The Role of Gender Norms and Sexual Expectations

One of the biggest factors when it comes to talking about sex and intimacy is gender norms. Women are often raised with impossible sexual expectations. We’re conditioned to believe we should be pure but not prudish and sexy but not too sexy. 

Men receive sexual messaging about desiring sex more and always knowing what they’re doing, often making them feel inadequate. 

Vanessa pointed out that the media doesn’t help—movies make sex look effortless, spontaneous, natural, and easy. But we’re never given accurate information about how to talk about sex openly. 

Between gender norms, unrealistic expectations about what sex “should” be like, and the taboo around talking about it, it’s no wonder that many of us don’t develop a healthy relationship with sex. It can take unlearning and challenging those expectations and norms to learn how to talk openly about sex and navigate barriers or struggles as they arise. 

Why Emotional Intimacy is Vital for Your Sex Life After Having a Baby

Xander said that because of all those dynamics, we tend to compartmentalize sex—as if it only happens in the bedroom and it’s independent of anything going on in our lives, like our work lives, our health, our happiness, or our family dynamics. 

The movies might show instant, spontaneous sex that just happens. But that instant spontaneous sex life isn’t always reality—especially after having a baby. 

Xander pointed out that the reality is that we can’t expect sex to just happen. Instead, we need to reframe our thinking to “how can we maintain connection throughout the day?” This becomes difficult if we feel far apart because of other things going on in our lives. But baby steps to rekindle connection go a long way. 

Vanessa said that many long-term couples describe feeling wildly disconnected from each other. They might feel like ships passing in the night, or like roommates rather than romantic partners. But often these couples aren’t thinking about how big of a role emotional intimacy plays in physical connection. 

The little interactions throughout the day, the way we talk to each other, and the way we treat each other all affect whether or not we want to be intimate with each other. 

When you focus on little moments to create connection, it rebuilds emotional intimacy. 

Vanessa pointed out that there are many little things you and your partner can do for each other to build that emotional intimacy, even if you’re exhausted and overwhelmed in the throes of parenting. 

It can be hard to even envision a sex life after having a baby—for many new parents the thought of being excited to have sex feels like an enormous leap. But when you start small and focus on little moments to create connection, it rebuilds the emotional intimacy that can ultimately lead to more desire and sexuality. 

How the Invisible Load Affects Desire and Intimacy

One of the most common barriers couples face with their sex life after having a baby is the invisible load. 

Moms often bear the brunt of the mental and emotional work in the house—remembering things, tracking inventory, maintaining schedules, and juggling all of the to-do lists. This invisible load even pervades free time, occupying our mental space and keeping us from relaxing and resetting. 

When one partner carries this load and feels resentful, it can impact emotional and physical intimacy. Research also shows that when moms are responsible for an amount of household labor that feels unfair, they are more likely to perceive their partner as a dependent and less likely to sexually desire them. 

Vanessa shared that one of her favorite tips for this is gratitude—one of the greatest predictors of marital success. Whether you are the partner carrying more of the load or not, expressing gratitude can be beneficial. It creates a culture of consideration and offers positive encouragement for partners to step in and take more ownership in the home. 

We often underestimate how much power there is in feeling seen.

Gratitude is free, it’s simple to express, and it goes a long way to helping the other person feel seen and valued—something that can reduce resentment around household labor.  We often underestimate how much power there is in feeling seen and how much of a factor it plays in our relationships and intimacy. 

Vanessa pointed out that gratitude also brings the invisible load into the light, helping us see and appreciate labor that might otherwise go unnoticed. The more that both partners express gratitude for simple things, the more they can see the load and work together as a team to balance it. 

It’s also important to verbalize and communicate the load we are carrying. If we continue to build up resentment without expressing our feelings or talking about the invisible load, it becomes much harder to have productive conversations around it. We need to talk about the invisible load, discuss the mental work involved, and shine a light on hidden labor without blaming our partner or becoming accusatory. 

That becomes much easier to do if we are already creating and fostering connection, security, and emotional intimacy in our relationship. 

The First Steps to Rekindling Your Sex Life After Baby

Another common barrier to rekindling a sex life after baby is not knowing how to just get out of the rut. We might find ourselves falling into a pattern after years of pregnancy and handling newborns and toddlers, feeling touched out and sleep-deprived. Many new moms and dads find themselves not having the capacity for sex during the early years for a variety of reasons. 

But often once we regain some space and want to rekindle physical intimacy again, it can be hard to figure out where to start. 

Vanessa pointed out that for women, becoming comfortable with initiating sex can help. We’re often socialized to feel self-conscious about initiating, largely due to those unhealthy sexual messages we receive about sex growing up. 

This can be compounded after having a baby, when they might feel conscious about their postpartum body or fear that their partner isn’t attracted to them anymore. 

Learning how to initiate with clarity and confidence is a great first step to rekindling your sex life.

But Vanessa said that learning how to initiate with clarity and confidence is a great first step to rekindling your sex life after baby. 

She shared that initiation should feel like an invitation. When we feel self-conscious or uncomfortable, we might try to initiate in roundabout ways that aren’t clear or enticing.

But when we are more clear with the invitation, showing our excitement, it creates connection and that “spark” we might desire. 

Vanessa recommends thinking about three times when your partner initiated sex in a way that excited and enticed you to see if you can find any common thread that appeals to you. Then, ask your partner to tell you three ways they would like for you to initiate sex. 

You could say “Hey, I want to initiate sex more. I'm feeling a little bit shy. I don't have a lot of confidence yet. But I want to get there. And I'm curious to know from you, what are two to three ways that I could initiate with you that you would really like?”

This can give you a great, practical place to start with initiation, even if you feel uncomfortable or inexperienced doing so. You might find that you and your partner have very different initiation styles or desires—and that’s okay. The more that you talk about it, the more you can try to find what works for you and what appeals to your partner. 

Why Scheduled Sex Can Be a Great Thing

Schedules and a lack of time is another challenge for many couples in rekindling their sex life after a baby. We’re often kept very busy between work and school and activities—it can feel like every moment of every day is accounted for, leaving many parents wondering if they should schedule sex. 

There is often an idea that scheduling sex is…unsexy, removing fun and spontaneity. But Vanessa and Xander are big supporters of it. They pointed out that the reality is that most of us our living very scheduled lives—and we put things in our calendars that are important to us, and that we want to make sure we follow through on. 

We do this with family events, outings with friends, and our hobbies. So why wouldn’t we treat our relationship with that same level of importance? 

Vanessa said that the way we schedule sex does matter. It shouldn’t be rigid or feel like a cold, clinical time commitment that we are forcing ourselves to do. But adding sex into the calendar because it’s something we want to prioritze and follow through on isn’t a bad thing. 

We fall into a trap of thinking we don’t have time for each other—but we often have time for little moments.

She also pointed out that scheduled time can also be for quality time, building emotional intimacy, or just being present together—from getting up ten minutes early to have a cup of coffee together or spending time cuddling or talking. 

Vanessa said that we fall into a trap of thinking we don’t have time for each other—but we often do have time for little moments or scheduled quality time. It doesn’t always have to be a formal date night or a big event. 

When we prioritize quality time with our partner and work on rebuilding emotional intimacy, it creates a bridge toward more physical intimacy as well. 

Xander also pointed out that we only have so much time in the day and so many tasks we can get done in that time. It can be tempting to put sex off until all of the other tasks are done. But if we add sex into the priority list for the day and allow ourselves to embrace being together, we often create a more positive state of mind to get through other tasks more efficiently. 

How (and Why) to Try New Things in the Bedroom After Having a Baby

Another way that couples can help rekindle their sex life is to try new things. Vanessa shared that research shows when we do new things with our partner (in and out of the bedroom), it’s a secret to lasting connection in a relationship. 

It helps us see our partner in a different way, and helps us appreciate them more. But we often shy away from exploring new things in the bedroom because we don’t know where to begin. It can feel exhausting, as if we have to be creative or come up with something way outside of our comfort zone. 

Vanessa and Xander created a sexual bucket list to help create a list of potential ideas to explore with your partner, ranging from mild things you might have already tried to kinkier options. 

Vanessa said that it’s fun for you and your partner to each go through the list on your own, marking things as “maybe,” “no,” or “yes,” then come together to create your bucket list to try. 

She said that the list is helpful not just because it’s fun and takes the pressure out of having to be creative, but also because it encourages communication.

Once you have kids, what feels good for you sexually can change. 

Talking about sex and exploring things together can bring an element of playfulness to your relationship and allow you to learn new things about each other. Vanessa and Xander said that most couples don’t talk openly about sex, and the consequence is misunderstanding about what our partner likes and desires. 

Once you have kids, what feels good for you sexually can change. The bucket list opens up the conversation to talk about those changes, try new things, and figure out what the new normal is for your sex life. 

Why We Shouldn’t Feel Ashamed About Our Sex Life After Baby

Vanessa said that this advice shouldn’t be taken from a place of shame. If you are still in the throes of parenthood or struggling with your sex life after baby, or even if the pattern has persisted, it doesn’t mean that you’re doing anything wrong. 

Rekindling your sex life isn’t easy—and it doesn’t have to be done overnight. We’re often sifting through a lifetime of sexual messages and gender norms, along with potentially years of disconnection. It takes time and communication. 

Rekindling your sex life isn’t easy—and it doesn’t have to be done overnight.

Vanessa never wants her advice to be taken as a way for moms to beat themselves up for not doing enough. She simply wants to help couples remind themselves that they deserve to feel connected to the person they love—and that life is easier when you’re on each other’s side. 

She also pointed out that there are seasons of life where your relationship simply has to take a backseat, such as the postpartum period. But communicating through those times helps. If we don’t communicate, we might end up wondering what our partner is thinking, whether they notice the rut we’re in, or whether they care.

A simple statement such as “I know that we are in a really busy season of life, we've got XYZ on our plate. And I know that right now you and I have to take a back seat, I just want you to know that I miss you. And I love you. And I can't wait for us to get through of this season of life,” can help remind our partner that we are there for them, even when life feels hectic. 

If you need help communicating with your partner or rebuilding intimacy, working with a therapist can help! We offer virtual relationship support to individuals and partners. Book a FREE 15 minute virtual consult today.

‍This post includes links to outside resources we endorse–if you make a purchase we might receive a commission at no extra cost to you. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

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Tags:

Sex, Intimacy

Stage:

Postpartum, Motherhood

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OUR GUEST

Vanessa & Xander Marin
bestselling authors & hosts of the podcast Pillow Talks

Meet New York Times Best Selling authors Vanessa and Xander Marin. She’s a sex therapist with 20 years of experience, he’s a regular dude, and together they wrote Sex Talks: The Five Conversations That Will Transform Your Love Life. They are hosts of the podcast, Pillow Talks, for totally do-able sex tips, practical relationship advice, hilarious and honest stories of what really goes on behind closed bedroom doors, and so much more. It’s the sex education you WISH you’d had! They’re the shockingly open, slightly nerdy, and seriously funny couple you’ll be calling your new besties in no time. They share the ups and downs in their relationship while giving you step-by-step techniques for improving yours.

Erica Djossa
Erica Djossa
PMH-C | Founder of Momwell
Erica is the founder of Momwell, providing educational resources and virtual therapy for moms. She is a mom of three boys and a registered psychotherapist. Erica’s work has been featured in the Toronto Star, Breakfast Television, Scary Mommy, Medium, Pop Sugar, and Romper. how they want it.
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