How to Keep Intimacy Alive After the Children Arrive

Family of threeOne of the primary obstacles couples attempt to overcome in therapy is feeling emotionally disconnected. Life tends to get in the way, with careers, kids, home upkeep, and family activities leaving little left over for intimacy. When couples express a lack of connection, I often ask, “Can you tell me about a time when you did feel emotionally connected?” Almost inevitably, the time they describe is before they had children.

One of the most complex challenges that many couples will face is having a child. Having children emotionally revolutionizes a relationship—not just temporarily, but for a lifetime. Not only does the couple need to adjust to the transition from two to three (or more), priorities shift, roles are redefined, and there is a profound change to the level of responsibility and freedom within the relationship and in life itself.

While most couples adjust accordingly, many find that their level of intimacy starts to wane. I am not referring to sexual intimacy per se; I’m referring to emotional intimacy, which of course includes sexual intimacy. Couples who become parents may begin to feel estranged and disconnected.

Reclaiming emotional intimacy after the birth of a child is not always easy. Many people in our culture feel overwhelmed and are overworked. What is it that allows the need for the dishes to be done to take priority over emotional intimacy? The answer may lie in the pursuit of “having it all.” We want to perfect parents, to give our children everything, and for our marriages to be happy, sexually exciting, fulfilled, and emotionally intimate.

For couples to become reconnected emotionally, they need to free themselves from the disproportionate focus on the child. They must accept that they need to schedule time alone for themselves, be it in the form of a date night or getting away every so often for a weekend. While some couples resist the idea of scheduling their time together as opposed to being spontaneous, as they probably once were, it’s a fact that once a couple become parents, they need to be more practical in order to sustain the level of emotional intimacy and connection that keeps a marriage healthy. Sometimes couples need to become industrious, intentional, and creative in their attempts to rekindle the intimacy and passion they once had.

Couples need to recognize how important the component of friendship is to their relationship. We treat our friends with kindness, consideration, and empathy. In order to sustain a happy marriage, couples must not forget the significance of being friends with each other. Unfortunately, couples sometimes treat strangers with more consideration than they treat each other; they take each other for granted.

It’s also worth noting that the small things are significant in sustaining emotional intimacy and connection—things such as a post-it note that says, “I love you,” or sending a text that says, “I’m thinking about you.” Also, I recommend that couples take a small amount of time, even five minutes if that is all they can muster, to be COMPLETELY PRESENT for each other. No technology! They must have eye contact and be genuine in wanting to know how the other is doing. Integrating these small things on a daily basis can help maintain or even boost emotional intimacy and connection. And, of course, it will benefit their sex life as well.

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  • Meredith

    March 26th, 2015 at 8:51 AM

    You just have to commit to working on it, you know,? I mean, the kids, when they have the chance they are going to spend all of your time with you… and that’s great… until you recognize that that means that you no longer get any time alone with your spouse! So you have to make sure that you keep that time for one another and have little date times. It’s so important for you to keep that intimacy, and only you can make that happen!

  • elaine

    March 26th, 2015 at 11:30 AM

    This sounds terrible but I do believe that our children or having our children led to us getting a divorce. I know that this is something that we allowed to happen but it literally drove a wedge between us. We both had a whole lot of love to give but I don’t think that either of us had the skills that we needed to know how to love both at the same time. It was like with both of us that it was all or nothing, spouse or parent and we ultimately both chose that parent role as being superlative to the role as a good spouse. I don’t think that our kids suffered because they always got everything that they wanted or needed it’s just that it came from a broken family home.

  • Peri

    March 26th, 2015 at 3:55 PM

    I never remember my own parents being too lovey dovey- I guess that they just didn’t have time for all of that once we all came along. But I like to think that now that all of us have grown up and gotten out of the house they have been able to reclaim some of that. Is that wishful thinking?

  • peg

    March 27th, 2015 at 10:31 AM

    Kids are going to be kids. If you give an inch they will take a mile.
    I very much believe that they can do this to your relationship too. They want to be the ones to get all of the attention. But if you allow them to do that and you neglect your life partner then pretty soon all you will find that you have will be the kids, no partner, because everyone needs to be nurtured.

  • Jeremy

    March 27th, 2015 at 2:35 PM

    I really do not believe that my wife has any interest in the two of us as a couple since we had kids. She is never interested in spending any time with me, just me, and not the kids, so I kind of feel like I have been edged out in order of importance by my own children.
    It’s hard not to resent that at times because I know what we used to have that feels like we can never be that again.
    I thought that having children would make our little family complete but it has done the exact opposite.

  • Delia S.

    March 28th, 2015 at 4:49 AM

    My hubs and I put the date on the book
    Get a babysitter
    And make that time together sacred
    Even if we just go get a burger
    That is time that the two of us spend alone with no one else
    It is our time to catch up and talk about something other than the children
    We value that time together every few weeks

  • daphne

    March 28th, 2015 at 1:30 PM

    There will come a time when you will have to make a decision; do I wish to hold onto my marriage or not? Because of you do, then that is going to take some work from everyone. The kids need to know that yes, they are important, but I am still a form believer that even after you have children, your husband or wife has to be the person in your life who comes first. That’s just how it has to be. The kids? They will manage with being number 2 especially if they see that mom and dad are together and love each other a lot. I think that this will make them feel even safer and more secure than they do when they are your first priority.

  • Hamp

    March 29th, 2015 at 5:19 AM

    send them to the grandparents- alot!!

  • Violet

    March 30th, 2015 at 11:34 AM

    No matter how much someone can try to prepare you for the gulf that can develop after you have kids, it is hard to understand that until they come along.

    It’s like you don’t want to miss anything in that child’ s life, but you forget about all of the wonderful things that you could be missing out on with your husband.

  • bennie

    March 30th, 2015 at 3:53 PM

    Just keep trying and don’t give up

  • Tye

    March 31st, 2015 at 10:52 AM

    I have always been so attracted to my wife on so many different levels that it has never even occurred to me that this is something that could end when we have children. I guess that it obviously happens or there wouldn’t be so much information out there about it, but the thought of the two of us not being as intimate and close as we are right now seems so foreign to me. We already have pretty stressful jobs and manage to keep date nights through all of that so I am not sure why I should expect that things would be any different with kids. I don’t know, call me clueless, but I think that we would continue being as close as we are right now even once we do have a family.

  • Tz

    July 4th, 2017 at 7:47 PM

    Sorry to burst your bubble but having even know me child is 10x a life changer/more demanding on your relationship in so many ways than pressured jobs or marriage etc. The lucky ones have a close relative they can lean on a bit but without that it’s tough. You’re life becomes filled with their needs, their problems and practical aspects of parenting. Add to that the huge amount of time and money. To can get on top of the best of people in good relationships. There is true happiness and fulfillment but that is not every moment and doesn’t mean it’s easy. It’s lifelong. Especially for us women, you always feel responsible and worry and feel you have to provide support when, like one of my sons, they have health or mental health problems. You feel guilt and sadness for them even though it’s not your fault. You feel immense attachment beyond that to your spouse and that can make intimacy tough. Also over time you can both feel like your own personal dreams and needs aren’t being met or don’t match up. Family life can be a rollercoaster….but with determination there is love and bonding, fun too.

  • Tz

    July 4th, 2017 at 7:48 PM

    Sorry, typing errors on my phone!

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