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How to fix intimacy issues after kids

  • 24-02-2021 12:30pm
    Registered Users Posts: 166,026 ✭✭✭✭

    What are the best ways to become intimate again after kids. We have a 1 year old. For some reason I cringe or feel uncomfortable even with a hug or a kiss let alone sex. Even sitting on the couch, I would much rather my own space and not have someone leaning up against me. I don't like being like this.

    We work really well as parents. I do all the shopping, cooking, majority of cleaning, and most of the feeding for the little one, and my wife does the night shift because I have always been a person who can sleep through from 11:30 to 7 but if I'm woken up at all I'm awake for hours, leaving me banjaxed the next day. So I'm in the spare room she's in our main room.

    We do almost everything together - watch tv, go for walks, do virtual exercise classes every day, talk quite a lot, but when it comes to intimacy I just really struggle.

    It might be worth noting that I don't have no interest in anyone else. I do feel fortunate that I'm not sitting around pining after someone else.

    Aside from staying away from adult internet sites and glossy Instagram lifestyles and photos, is there anything else I/we can do? Has anyone else gone through something like this? When I was young, early 20s, I was incredibly affectionate.

    Overly so, and could never understand the quiet "uninterested" demeanor a lot of lads had. I was big into rom coms and hugs and all the rest but now I've suddenly transported to the other side of the spectrum.



  • Closed Accounts Posts: 4,676 ✭✭✭strandroad

    When did it change for you? With the arrival of your child? With Covid and lockdown situations?

    Many people are so cooped up these days that trying to maintain a sense of some separation is a healthy coping strategy: you might be reacting to you being together so much, with your small child on top of you a lot too.

    People who live alone are now touch starved, but equally families might be overstimulated by enforced closeness.

  • Registered Users Posts: 166,026 ✭✭✭✭LegacyUser

    It's difficult to remember exactly when it started my side because there was the pregnancy before covid so there wasn't much intimacy at that stage either. I remember feeling close with my wife and having a connection but no desire to do anything in the bedroom. But I suppose that's normal for a lot of men during pregnancy.

    Before the pregnancy, I remember struggling slightly because she was very critical about a lot of things. Just small things day to day, a constant feed about wrinkles I'm developing, haircuts I needed, clothes that didn't fit me right. But she has stopped all that recently. I think I have stepped up in looking after myself and she has relaxed a bit.

    Are other parents not absolutely wrecked from raising a little one? I feel like at the end of the day, the little one goes to bed around 8 and sleeps and we collapse on the couch absolutely drained!

    And on a slightly related note, how do people keep it interesting? We're only 3 years into marriage. What happens after 10 or 15 years? Is it not a bit samey, even for those who mix it up in 5 or 6 different ways? Or is "samey" actually fine and my expectations are wrong? I mean a lot of us eat the same breakfast, go to the same pubs, wear the same kind of clothes for a long time, so why think intimacy has to be completely different all the time..

  • Registered Users Posts: 4,703 ✭✭✭Xterminator

    Hi OP

    I think the key here, is to set aside time when your not mum and dad but a couple 1st.

    It sounds a little 'american' but having a scheduled date night each week, where you dress up a little and do fun things together, as a couple not as parents is a very important step to reminding each other that there is an intimate connection as was as the overpowering mundane one. Simple things like having a meal with just the two of you, maybe him giving flowers, drinking wine, watching a movie or doing an activity that you used to enjoy before the madness. getting a baby sitter one evening a week is a good investment in your marriage/relationship.

    The act of making an effort, shaving, dressing in something nicer than your day to day clothes, putting on makeup etc. Its a powerful tool in preserving that part of your relationship; as it can be swamped by the day to day stuff.

    Now in current covid restrictions, you have to be practical and obviously restaurants and cinemas and bowling alleys etc are closed. Babysitter can be challenging if your bubble does not naturally include a responsible someone. But covid or not, making the effort shows your partner they are not just Dad & Mum, and to be honest as the kids get older, you don't want to find you have lost all connection with each other. Its far easier to rekindle the relationship when its not completely extinct - or when one side no longer wants to.

  • Registered Users Posts: 166,026 ✭✭✭✭LegacyUser

    Thanks Xterminator. That's good advice. Actually I'm the husband in this scenario but that doesn't take away from any of your points. My wife is the one who is trying to re-light that side of our connection. I think date night is a good idea. We've also said that we should sleep in the same bed 2 or 3 times per week because I can definitely survive on 4 nights of good sleep a week.

    I really like the idea of dressing up and switching off the phones and sticking on a date night movie. I think I could get into that more than trying something every night, because it's a bit exhausting to me right now. Unfortunately we don't have any family/connections who can babysit. They all live abroad now. After Covid we will need to think of some kind of babysitter solution.

  • Registered Users Posts: 423 ✭✭Goodigal

    In these days, when hugs are at a premium, I felt sad reading your post. How sad that you don't want to be hugged or touched by your wife. And that you're both sleeping in separate rooms within a year of your child being born (and I know what that's like so I get it, but don't leave it this way). What I would suggest is talking to each other, putting the time aside to say how you are truly feeling and seeing what you can do to change things going forward. Let yourself be held, and if it's so awful for you, well you might need to seek a professional opinion on how to change things. But I would guess your wife is also missing intimacy and affection too, and maybe if you start a conversation about it, it will be the start of change. I really hope you work it out because it's not a great way to live when you only have one shot at life. Right now, as a separated parent to two boys who don't offer much affection, I would love to have someone there at the other end of the sofa to hug!! Good luck

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  • Closed Accounts Posts: 4,676 ✭✭✭strandroad

    OP you might want to read up on the phenomenon of feeling "touched out" among young parents to see if it applies to you. This is just an example but it covers the basics:

  • Moderators, Recreation & Hobbies Moderators, Social & Fun Moderators, Society & Culture Moderators Posts: 6,887 Mod ✭✭✭✭shesty

    I am going to come down on the other side of the fence here OP and ask do you do anything by yourself?

    A scheduled date night is a go-to suggestion, but the problem at the moment is that when you do nothing but spend all your time with that person, a little time apart might be more beneficial. Absence makes the heart grow fonder and all that....

    I am the mum in your situation, 3 kids, all small. This has been the most trying, testing year for us I think and we have been together a long time. We are always tired, but the last year or so - we are just past exhaustion. There is never enough sleep. And I don't know what it is to be honest, as best I can tell on my side, I have nothing left for me, if that makes sense. Where we both used to go to our own jobs and a couple of our own hobbies, they are all gone. We both work from home, the kids are here, we watch TV together every evening - I mean he said it himself a few months ago, no offense, but I need to talk to somebody else. And he's right! We have done to death the walks with the kids, even the kids are sick of them. I feel like I need about 4 days in a hotel room somewhere totally on my own to find myself again, before I might feel normal again - and then maybe 4 days with him in a hotel room! I am a bit of an introvert, we both like our own space a bit - not all the time - and this has been a really tough situation for us.

    We will power on here....I suppose we do have an awareness that it is something we need to work on and we will. As your baby gets bigger then it does get a little easier. I would say move back to your bedroom. We have always shared a bed, our room is ours in our house. I get that you don't sleep well, but I would certainly move back for a few nights of the week to start with. And talk to your wife. Please. We had a frank conversation a few weeks ago on a version of this topic, and it helped. There were things to be addressed on both sides. We are both making efforts to get out for walks by ourselves, or with one other friend, trying to give each other some space and work it into our day, for each other. I just feel that this is something that needs work for us and it will take time. You seem to feel the same, marriage does take work and throw in kids and it is extra work, but you do find the rhythm. Don't underestimate the awfulness of the current situation we find ourselves in though and the effect it is having on everybody. It is extremely hard, and do find help if you feel you need it.

  • Registered Users Posts: 166,026 ✭✭✭✭LegacyUser

    I have a 16 month old OP and it is my first child also.

    We put baby into his own room when he was 9 months if you haven't already done this I suggest you do it now so you can both sleep in your own room again.

    Is he waking for a bottle at night? My baby doesn't wake for a bottle at night but if yours is waking for 1 bottle during the night try to get baby to hold bottle on their own. Soon your baby will be on normal milk so you might be able to just leave the bottle in the cot for the baby and if they wake they can drink it themselves.

    I will add there is no way my baby could do the above but I know it has worked for other families. It may be worth a go and would give you your life back.

    We also collapse on the couch each evening when baby goes to bed. Perfectly normal I think.

  • Closed Accounts Posts: 12,449 ✭✭✭✭pwurple

    I'm going to say the same as shesty, it sounds like you might do too much together. Exercise, walks, tv etc. I would find that a bit much to be honest. My husband and I are together more than 20 years. After work we have dinner with the family, tidy up, and then, we usually do separate things for an hour or so these days. I put on some music or read , he watches a bit of telly or whatever. Different rooms. Then we'll drift back together later on, once we've had that bit of time. We exercise separately. Talk to different friends. That works for us. But all couples are different, it's just my experience.

    Specifically on the intimacy, you've said you don't look at adult sites, you're not attracted to anyone else... I am a bit of a believer that you can get out of the habit. A bit of practice on your own might help get your mindset back.

    And all of the above said, you could also be experiencing a medical issue. A drop in libido can be a hormone imbalance, as well of signs of stress or other problems. A chat with a GP might be able to get some tests to rule that out.

    ** And just to add to above, please don't take advice on leaving a bottle in a cot with a baby overnight. Whole host of issues there, from risk of choking to dental problems (tooth decay from milk sitting in mouth), middle ear problems (milk flowing into ear lying flat), food poisoning (milk going bad left out of fridge) arise from that. A baby over 1 could start to wean off night feeds, leaving a bottle will discourage that.

  • Registered Users Posts: 1,272 ✭✭✭qwerty13

    My reading of it seems to be a bit different - the first thing I wondered was if you’re both working full time, because it seems like an unequal division of chores.

    You also said that pre COVID (pre pregnancy?) your wife was very critical. Has she moved from critical to ignoring you, or are you ignoring each other?

    Sleeping in separate beds is further eroding any remaining intimacy that you have. You need to sort that out. I get that you love your child, but your relationship is in very rocky territory, and you need to pay attention to that and start fixing the issues. Separate bedrooms is not going to help that.

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  • Closed Accounts Posts: 3,292 ✭✭✭TheBoyConor

    Maybe you could do a bit more around the house, housework etc, take the child out for a few hours so she can unwind and maybe chat with her friends and that, give her some time to relax and be herself, maybe then she will be more inclined to allow attempts at intimacy from you.

  • Registered Users Posts: 7,316 ✭✭✭YellowLead

    Maybe you could do a bit more around the house, housework etc, take the child out for a few hours so she can unwind and maybe chat with her friends and that, give her some time to relax and be herself, maybe then she will be more inclined to allow attempts at intimacy from you.

    OP has said he does a lot of the housework and the issue is that he has lost the desire/inclination for intimacy - not the other way around.

  • Registered Users Posts: 166,026 ✭✭✭✭LegacyUser

    Thanks Yellowlead, that's right. She's definitely content with the amount of stuff I do around the house. It's between 80-90% depending on how many bad nights she has with the little one she has. Last night for example, she was up 3 times. We're trying to wean but it's difficult, especially when tired. The little one has been in her own room since she was 6 months. I sleep on the other side of the house so with ear plugs I don't wake unless it's a really bad night.

    I think it's true what people say about being together too much. A true city girl, my wife doesn't drive yet (she has her learner licence but with the pandemic it has taken a back seat). So we're not even apart when she has a dentist appointment, or wants to go shopping. We do all that together. Now we both work from home full time too which means we lunch together.

    She has a couple of people in the vicinity she might go for a walk with now and then, but unfortunately all my friends live outside the 5km rule so I haven't seen anyone else really since Christmas.

    So what I'm thinking is that maybe we need a few more outlets away from each other, and when we're together, try to have a special night once a week to focus solely on us as much as we can.

  • Registered Users Posts: 59 ✭✭FionMc

    Do you still fancy your wife? Sounds like it might be depression. I think you should speak to a professional . There's absolutely no shame in it and at the end of the day, you need to do what it takes to bring your self back to your self, and keep you marriage strong

  • Registered Users Posts: 166,026 ✭✭✭✭LegacyUser

    Hi OP,

    I could have written your post myself. We have an 18 month old and are married 3 years. We have gone from a healthy sex life before the pregnancy to really struggling with any form of intimacy. Collapsing onto the couch every evening is exactly where we are at. I think part of this is somewhat normal. Caring for a new baby (as you know) is incredibly demanding and adjusting to the parent role and the change of lifestyle equally so. When you throw in lockdown and removing all the release valves normally there it is a perfect storm. Everyday feels like groundhog day and is just a slog to get to the end. Don't get my wrong I love being a parent and seeing our boy grow, and I still very much love my wife but we simply can not find the headspace to be anything other than parents / cleaners / chefs/ workers / etc.

    I don't have any real advice for you but just want to share and let you know you are not alone in what you are experiencing. I tell myself it is ok to be exhausted at the moment. You are giving so much of yourself to care for your wife and your child that there is barely anything left for you. The borders of our normal life have been dramatically redrawn thanks to lockdown. The most important thing I think is to keep talking to your wife and share how you are feeling and your worries. There is a real intimacy in that, and all it takes is a few minutes on the couch or before bed. Hopefully in a few months things will get a bit easier

  • Closed Accounts Posts: 3,292 ✭✭✭TheBoyConor

    Sounds to me like the spark is gone.
    When the spark is gone there's not usually much you can do to bring it back.
    By all means try everything you can but we can't rule out the possibility that the writing may be on the wall in the future.
    I wonder if she wanted another child would things improve briefly?

  • Registered Users Posts: 477 ✭✭jelly&icecream

    Do you still have the desire to masturbate, watch porn etc? Basically is your sex drive totally gone or is it just specific to your partner. Might be no harm to get checked out by a doctor if that's the case. Some thing might have gone a bit off hormone wise or physiologically.

    Then there's depression as others have mentioned also.

    Having a small child is definitely one of the biggest stress tests a relationship can go through and I can't imagine how much worse that is with covid in play also.

  • Registered Users Posts: 2,321 ✭✭✭Loveinapril

    Sounds to me like the spark is gone.
    When the spark is gone there's not usually much you can do to bring it back.
    By all means try everything you can but we can't rule out the possibility that the writing may be on the wall in the future.
    I wonder if she wanted another child would things improve briefly?

    You really are a glass half empty kinda guy, aren't you?! The OP is experiencing something completely normal when a relationship moves from two lovers to two people trying to parent as a team. Kids tend to take most of the focus in a day so the relationship gets left on the side while the children are the priority.

    OP, I am a firm believer in the "touched out" theory, where you can just have too much skin stimulation every day. I have a three year old and a one and a half year old and definitely experienced it in the past (and sometimes present, depending on their moods!). Some days I feel nearly claustrophobic if my husband also wants physical contact when I have had two kids hanging out of me all day! I do find that we have to carve out time to just be an intimate couple when we can, which can be tough. I also agree with posters who suggest having free time apart. You need to be fulfilled as you before you can give to others so do take time to just recharge yourself, as you are doing a lot. The last year has also been completely nuts, on top of becoming new parents so do give yourself credit for that. It wouldn't be any harm to have a chat with your GP either, in case there is something hormonal at play, but I get the sense you might just be verbalising what a lot of new parents experience but don't talk about.

  • Registered Users Posts: 2,342 ✭✭✭tara73

    OP, you didn't tell anything about what you both are doing for a living. Do you work? From your OP it somehow sounds like you're both not working or working from home at the moment?
    It all sounds in general a bit unbalanced and not like a loving, close relationship at all.
    this seperation of jobs, you are doing all the house work, shoppig, cooking. then you sleep at the other side of the house with ear plugs and her job is to look for the baby every night.
    I agree with one poster above there seems to be issues in your relationship. she was critisizing you, now she stopped. what does that mean, is she not interested in you at all anymore either?

    sorry, but it all sounds not very healthy, maybe try couples counceling to get to the root of your issues?

  • Posts: 0 [Deleted User]

    [Mod snip]
    It is not acceptable to take potshots at other posters, nor is it acceptable to misrepreent what they posted to get a dig in. This is an advice forum, if you can't be civil and constructive towards the OP and other posters then this forum isn't for you.

    B]mod snip - uncivil towards OP[/B
    You say you don't like being like this/cold/not wanting to touch her. These healthy, youthful, years aren't coming back. You are fully in charge of your response. If, heaven forbid, that lady were diagnosed with a terminal illness you'd hold her, and show her love. We know not the day nor the hour. This is the real thing so don't take that one person for granted. Get your space elsewhere in the day - get up for a run at 6am and enjoy every minute. But cherish love while it's still there, because the little hurts add up and flourish if you start taking people, and this precious time, for granted.

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  • Registered Users Posts: 166,026 ✭✭✭✭LegacyUser

    Thank you everyone for your ideas and comments.

    @FionMc.. I don't know if this answers your question but when I go shopping or hang out with friends there is no one more beautiful/attractive than my wife as far as I can see. So from that perspective yes, I still fancy her. And her personality is wrapped up in that answer too. What I don't understand is what has stopped my brain from running with that attraction.

    @same_boat_here123.. Thank you very much for that. It is a big relief to know we're not the only ones who are in this position.

    @Jelly&Icecream.. The short answer is yes I do that sometimes by myself yes. It's not completely gone. Depression is not something I know a lot about. I'm definitely not sitting around all sad or have any kind of negative thoughts in my head really. I mean obviously I have days where I'm wrecked but generally it's fine. Except for this elephant in the room. It's a bit annoying to me really. I have this wonderful wife, kid, home, job. We're both physically fit and healthy with no family issues right now. But if we can't figure this out, all of that could be sunk.

    @LoveinApril.. I hadn't heard of 'touched out' theory. My wife is an incredibly physically affectionate person so maybe you're right. I hope it doesn't come across like I'm annoyed at her for being so touchy or whatever. I know I'm the one that needs to change.

    @Tara73.. We both work in office jobs and have been working from home for the past year. Well my wife was on maternity for some of it. So we're 100% at home. The separation of tasks I feel is normal in a lot of relationships. Maybe we're different to others because I'm such a terrible sleeper, and I am useless without sleep. I can't describe myself as an insomniac really because I will get 7 hours sleep no problem as long as it's 11:30ish to 6:30ish and I'm not disturbed. I have tried everything to be better at this and can't. Unfortunately it's just the way I am. In terms of criticism, I think my wife is a perfectionist really. Or was before we had the kid. She was just always nagging me to change little things which got on my nerves. Then she had the baby, obviously went through a physical change herself and I think her perspective changed.

    @Anamcheasta - I'm not understanding the tone you've decided to go with there. I'm here actively looking for help and others have been very helpful. No one is in need of a whipping...

  • Registered Users Posts: 591 ✭✭✭dubstepper

    Could part of it be a change in how you view your wife? From being your pre baby 'wife' to a post baby 'mother'? Perhaps that could have had a psychological change in your desire for her. As others have said making the effort to rekindle what it was that attracted you originally.

  • Administrators, Politics Moderators, Society & Culture Moderators Posts: 25,947 Admin ✭✭✭✭✭Neyite


    Reminding everyone to offer constructive, civil and ffs, would it kill some of you to be kinder to people who post about an issue that's affecting them in their lives?

    I'm getting really tired of people being sh!tty to OPs on this forum and then adding a one-liner of 'advice' to cover their arses. So from now on, expect to get a warning or a ban from the forum if you do that.

  • Registered Users Posts: 210 ✭✭turnfan

    OP, I think most people are feeling this right now, I know I was before for sure.

    It's difficult to get started with intimacy again but it will happen, I found I had built it up so much, I was nearly afraid to try and be intimate - almost like a regression into virginity :D while also going overboard with giving my wife "time"

    You may need you inhibitions lowered a little bit, I found that worked for me as part of date night to have a few drinks as part of the "special occasion"...nice wine in the nice glasses, I made some cocktails etc etc it just helped with the mood after a week of nappies etc

    Now since having 2 children, we have actually had some of the hottest sex ever, maybe thats nature trying to make us have a third :eek:

  • Closed Accounts Posts: 3,292 ✭✭✭TheBoyConor

    I don't think bringing alcohol into the equation is a wise idea. While it might loosen inhibitions, it has a tendency to cause more problems than it solves.
    Performance being one, but my main concern, in this instance, is that it could, considering the long intermission on intimacy, raise questions about consent and/or capacity to consent.
    I know, in a marriage it is a very unlikely issue to arise, but all the same it cannot be entirely ruled out either.

  • Registered Users Posts: 166,026 ✭✭✭✭LegacyUser

    Hi Turnfan, great, that's something I'm happy to hear! I know you mention a regression into virginity in a jokey way, but honestly it does feel slightly like that. Like I'm more uncomfortable with it rather than unattracted to it. Some nights it's sheer exhaustion, and some nights I feel I'd have the energy but we just don't follow through for some reason. Like it's easier not to do it, than to do it..

    @TheBoyConor Yes I know that's a big issue in the world at the moment, but it has been years and years since we got anywhere close to consuming the amount of alcohol which might raise such questions for others! We're a "couple of glasses of wine" type couple so no issues there.

    @dubstepper, Yes, it could be. It's certainly not in my conscious. I'd have to speak to a professional to tease that out because it probably goes deeper than my ability to diagnose. That could be opening a pandora's box to mother issues and all sorts which I'm not qualified to know about. To begin with, I'm going to try fix this without therapy but I'm not ruling it out.

    Speaking of which.. I'm not sure if anyone spotted this on RTÉ's lifestyle page this morning, it certainly caught my eye.

    It's such a relief to know we're not the only ones anyways.

  • Moderators, Recreation & Hobbies Moderators, Social & Fun Moderators, Society & Culture Moderators Posts: 6,887 Mod ✭✭✭✭shesty

    You're not OP. I have my suspicions men don't really talk about this stuff much, but I can tell you from the many women (lots of whom are mothers) that I know, the topic is constant at the moment - how to get some alone time. Just alone time, away from kids, partners, in or out of the house. My neighbour (female) only said to me the other day she went to her mother's house for the entire day 2 weeks ago just to get away from her partner and the 2 kids. That was her whole reason. It's a topic I have discussed many times with friends, especially in the last few months. And it has nothing to do with how happy or bad their relationships are, or how they feel about their husband, it has just been a really, really long year with no end in sight and we all are (frankly) all at the absolute end of our tethers.

    Many mothers would also be more than aware of the "touched out" concept. It is a very, very real thing, especially when the kids are little and spend so much time on you, with you and right beside you. I have experienced it myself - still do some days, although mine are a little bigger. Mothers are regularly told self-care is important, "me" time and the same applies to fathers. I just don't think many fathers read about this stuff, so it comes as a shock, or something new, to them.

    Every couple has it's different dynamics, and there may be problems to iron out but you are absolutely not alone in this.

  • Registered Users Posts: 564 ✭✭✭Yellow pack crisps

    Intimacy will come back when a routine of sorts becomes prevalent. Obviously when kids get older and develop sleep routines, you’ll redevelop your own. It won’t come back as normal and will require reintroducing physical and emotional practices. Nobody wants sex when you’re exhausted! Which is basically the first three years of a child’s rearing.

  • Registered Users Posts: 210 ✭✭turnfan

    I don't think bringing alcohol into the equation is a wise idea. While it might loosen inhibitions, it has a tendency to cause more problems than it solves.
    Performance being one, but my main concern, in this instance, is that it could, considering the long intermission on intimacy, raise questions about consent and/or capacity to consent.
    I know, in a marriage it is a very unlikely issue to arise, but all the same it cannot be entirely ruled out either.

    I understand your point, and I am in no way suggesting to misuse alcohol. I just found making the effort of a few nice drinks helped on multiple levels. You might not be a good cook but it's easy to put some prosecco on ice, make a cocktail etc etc

    Good luck to the OP, you'll be fine once the routine is established and ye regain some alone time, together.

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  • Closed Accounts Posts: 3,292 ✭✭✭TheBoyConor

    I know what you mean, but to be honest I think the suggesting of using alcohol as a tool to induce someone to have sex or incline them towards it, where they otherwise might not, is very much an abuse of alcohol. It makes no difference if it is garnished Prosecco in Waterford Crystal, or a naggin of Huzzar in a bottle of coke. The purpose and mechanism of the scheme is the same.

    I think this would be better addressed by discussing the subject and maybe getting relationship counselling so they can find common ground.