Intimacy, Sexuality, and Connection in Parenthood

 

 

Hey guys! We are here today for a very requested episode about how to connect with your partner and what intimacy really looks like after having kids. I hung out on this episode with Michaela Boehm, a psychologist with extensive training in the yogic arts. She is fascinated by the intersection of relationships, sexuality, and the body. Specifically, she is driven by the quest to give people information in the realm of relationships, how their bodies work, and how to connect with their own bodies. Michaela has done more than 40,000 one-on-one client sessions in her career. Both focused on the feeling domain and the sexual, sensual domain so that all of her clients are showing up in the world (and their relationships) with their best bodies. 

 

“We live in a time where very unrealistic expectations are placed on new parents.”

 

I put out a call to all of you villagers when I heard we were having Michaela on, and I was so jazzed by how deep we dove into answering your questions. The biggest concern I heard from folks was about the lack of libido that can set in once you become a mother. Michaela expressed that this is a bit of a balancing act- to give birth is a laborious task for the woman’s body, so to immediately be back to sexual intimacy postpartum is an unrealistic expectation. However, as human beings and beings outside of the parental realm, we do still want that physical excitement and engagement.

 

“If you step back for a moment and consider the enormity of growing an entire human in your body, and then popping that human out through an impossibly small opening, and then feeding that person through your body- to then immediately be back to sexy-time and great erotic enjoyment is an unrealistic expectation.”

 

Michaela makes it clear that when she is speaking of intimacy, she doesn’t mean sexual intercourse only. She is referring to any form of sensual connection or erotic enjoyment with your partner. “There is a health benefit to it, a relationship benefits to it, a self-esteem benefit from it,” Michaela says. “So on one end we are oversold the idea that we have to be back to having great sex the moment we birth a child, and on the other hand we do want certain things.”

 

Michaela goes on to explain that there are different components to why being immediately back to intimacy usually doesn’t happen. One component is the time spent in the relationship, the second is hormonal and bodily changes, the third is sleep deprivation, the fourth is the change in attitude towards oneself and their partner that a new parent can feel, and the fifth is simply the stress of regular life. 

 

“It’s very important for couples raising children to have intimacy.”

 

The obvious factors, the ones that are easy to understand about all of this, are the libido killers. “Pleasure and libido come from us feeling our bodies. If you can’t feel what is happening in your body, please or pain, then you are just numb,” Michaela says. Simply put: the less we feel our body, the less we feel alive and the less libido there is. The aftermath of birth- not sleeping and postpartum hormones are the classic libido killers. However, if it is now a year or two postpartum, the issue may no longer be these libido killers, but an issue within the partnership.

 

If one person is struggling with their libido and the other partner is not, that’s a problem in itself.

 

Other factors that play into a decreased libido is how much time partners have already been in their relationship- after the honeymoon period is over, the excitement of being in the partnership is diminished. The reason for that, which is important to understand in any moment of the relationship, is that long-term functional relationships are built on same-ness. Commonality is the top factor for successful relationships, when people have things in common (goals, ideas about raising a child, money) the better the relationship. However, sexual attraction, the erotic spark, between two people is based on them being opposites.

Here’s the good news- it is much harder to find somebody with who you want to establish a common ground than it is to find someone to have sexual compatibility with. Often when people no longer have great desire with someone, they feel their entire relationship is over but really it is a sign that they have good commonality with each other. When people decide to have children, it is usually at a moment in time when the relationship patterns are going really well so the introduction of a new massive responsibility is even more jarring.

 

“When two people enter a new segment of their life, the first step is knowing that things are not going to be like they were before and giving oneself permission to not expect the same things from their body.”

 

Michaela went on to answer some more of our villages’ questions about intimacy during parenthood. She dives into the possibilities of why a father. could seem more interested in sex after childbirth than the mother- “it is the only time the phone doesn’t ring, the only time the door isn’t locked, so they begin to connect sex with any form of private connection between adults,” she says. “It is not necessarily the sex itself for men, but the one time your attention is not diverted.” When you give one another undivided attention, your relationship rights itself again.

Finally, we arrived at the last question our village had for Michaela: Does your sex life ever go back to what it was like before kids? Her succinct answer:

 

 “No, and why should it?”

 

I loved chatting with Michaela and hearing her get real about our village’s questions with such care and honesty. I can’t wait to keep following her journey and learning more from her as I grow. To hear our complete conversation, listen to the Voices of Your Village episode 98 above!

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