A few months after the birth of one of our sons, my midwife asked me, “So what type of contraception are you going to use now?” I glanced at my husband, Simon, and laughed, “Abstinence! It’s really effective!!!”
Let’s be honest: how many couples with small children lose sight of their sex life due to fatigue?
The answer is: most.
And let’s be brutally honest: how many couples, even though their children are older and sleeping through the night, are still waving the “too tired” banner?
As a modern parent, the demands of caring for the family, providing a double income and the pressure to succeed can cause you to race about frantically, pushing yourself until you drop. Typically the first victim of your haste will be your sex life, closely followed by your health. As a health practitioner I know firsthand that many women feel so physically and emotionally depleted from the task of rearing children that having sex is the furthest thing from their minds. I can remember being so tired that I used to joke with Simon as I crawled into bed, “Honey, help yourself if you like but I am going to sleep.”
Most of us thrive on a little stress, and in short bursts, pressure can be stimulating and exciting. But when pressure is ongoing you tend to lose sight of your values. Sure enough, writing your partner a love note, planning a date or simply daydreaming about mind-blowing sex all seems too hard—let alone prioritising a little horizontal tango at the end of the day!
At this point, you may start waving two banners: “Too tired” in one hand and “Not feeling appreciated” in the other.
These banners are not just for women either; both sexes are guilty of believing that little house elves come and clean the cars, put the garbage out, pay the bills, restock the fridge, fold clothes and pick up dog poo. Both sexes can overlook their partner’s contribution to the running of a household and forget to communicate and resolve issues when they arise.
When the issue of sex arises, it is well worth resolving because the quality of your life is reflected in the quality of your relationships. You might happily spend thousands of dollars and countless hours strengthening your health but how much time and money do you spend strengthening your relationship?
HEALTH BENEFITS OF SEX
The exciting news is that focusing on your sex life is an investment in both your relationship and your health. Not only does it make you feel incredibly connected to your partner and make for a happier household, a study in the Journal of the American Medical Association states that the more sex that you have, the more protected you are from sudden heart attack. Sex gets the blood pumping and releases a range of protective hormones including DHEA, endorphins, growth hormones and the ‘love hormone’, oxytocin. Oxytocin plays a role in bonding, sexual arousal and orgasm, and it also reduces stress, promotes relaxation and encourages restful sleep.
Sex gets even better for us as we age! The Journal of Cardiology found that men who had sex once a month or less had a 45 per cent increased risk of cardiovascular disease. According to the Heart Foundation, menopausal women are also at increased risk for heart disease because of lower oestrogen levels—and guess what? Sex releases oestrogen in the body.
Other studies show that sex reduces damaging stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline and those who have sex more than once or twice a week have higher levels of antibodies, protecting them from colds and flus. Furthermore, by releasing endorphins, sex has also been shown to reduce pain.
Who knew that something so much fun could blast kilojoules, keep us looking young and help us to live longer! As Woody Allen said, “Sex is the most fun we can have without laughing.”
So if you are feeling inspired, here are a few ideas on how to connect with your partner and get a little more of that fun in your life.
RESTORE YOUR ENERGY LEVELS
Women often underestimate just how hard their bodies work, particularly during pregnancy or when nursing infants and caring for children. It is easy to underestimate just how much energy is required to grow and sustain a baby. Yet as Mother Teresa says, “To keep a lamp burning you have to keep putting oil in it.”
Through clinical experience I have learnt that the type of “oil” that our bodies need to thrive in today’s world includes a well-adjusted nervous system, a diet of fresh, organic wholefoods rather than processed food, clean filtered water, lots of sweaty exercise, quality sleep and positive, happy thoughts.
Recruit a team that can help you—a registered wellness chiropractor, a nutritionist, a personal trainer, an organic grocer, to name a few. If you need a powerful energy boost, visit a Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioner. Every time I go on a dose of Chinese herbs, within days Simon looks at me and asks, “Are you on those herbs again?” He can tell because Chinese herbs literally have you firing on all cylinders—which can mean, in addition to restoring your energy levels, you also get that primal libido back. You move from “whenever sex” to “yes, please, sex!”
It also makes a lot of sense to ask family or friends to assist if you are very tired so that you are able to catch up on some rest.
START WITH SMALL ACTS
If moving straight back into regular sex feels too forced then start with small acts; rubbing your partner’s shoulders, doubling the number of hugs you give, kissing them on the neck or spontaneously holding their hand.
Even if you’re not ‘doing it’, ‘talking about it’ can help kick-start the process. Honest communication will invariably bring you closer to your loved one. Admit that you might not be as emotionally connected as you would like, and make sure that your partner knows that you are committed to the relationship, to discovering ways to make things work, and that you love him or her. These small loving acts and words, when said with heart-felt meaning, will help you both to feel safe within the changing dynamics of the relationship.
MAKE TIME FOR ROMANCE
Life is always going to be busy but finding time to connect with your partner is crucial and pays many dividends. You might like to think of setting aside time as a regular, special ‘date’. Plan ahead, organise a babysitter, or alternate babysitting with friends. If you feel like your schedule is just too overloaded to fit in such ‘luxuries’, then it can help ask your partner to assess your weekly plans and activities. Sometimes we get so immersed in the demands of our own life that we cannot see things objectively, so there is great benefit in having a loved one help us prioritise tasks.
Strong relationships are dynamic; people are constantly changing and evolving, and relationships need to be adjusted and nurtured accordingly. I remember before I had children, I met a woman who had separated from her husband after three decades of marriage. I asked her what had happened and she replied, “We just lost focus on each other. I decided my role was to focus on the kids, his was the business, and then when the kids had grown up I realised my best friend had gone too. Neither of us were more to blame than the other but we just took our friendship for granted and presumed that things would be okay.”
Some conversations change your life and for me, that was one of them. So Simon and I decided that each year we’d do something that would foster our relationship. While Simon was quick to suggest a tantric sex workshop (not quite what I was thinking!), we also added relationship and communication courses to the list, and the reading of specific books. One year we saw a Biame Psychotherapist to learn the technique of active listening—a highly useful tool we use every day and have taught to our children.
There are many communication courses, books and CDs available—some of my favourites are the Personal Effective Technique courses, the Dr John Demartini courses, Stephen Covey’s books and CDs, and the book Passionate Marriage by David Schnarch.
There is no denying that life as a parent is demanding. Time constraints and household chores are never-ending, as is the list of all the little things you could nag each other about, while the opportune moments to express love can be few and far between. However, getting frisky can put more than a twinkle in your eye and spring in your step; above and beyond the health benefits, sex is one ritual in which you can truly connect with your partner and nurture each other.
. . . .
From the desk of…
Bach. Chiropractic, Bach. App Clinical Science
Registered internationally, no longer practicing as a chiropractor in Australia.