The Not So Sexy Valentine's Day
What’s a parent of a young kiddo to do, when Valentine’s Day is approaching, and you couldn’t be less interested in sex… but you know your partner will be.
Maybe you’re breastfeeding, touched-out, and can’t possibly think of a way you’d be in the mood on Valentine's Day? Maybe your boobs are huge and you’ve given up reminding your partner not to touch them during sex, so you just stopped having sex. Maybe you gave birth 6 weeks ago (left the hospital with 4 hemorrhoids that you still have) and just got cleared to have sex by your doctor… just in time for the 14th? Or maybe you’ve just not quite gotten those sexy feels back again since you had your kids 3 years ago, and you don’t know how to communicate this to your newest partner.
The hardest part about low desire when “sex is the last thing on your mind” is when it’s met with your partner’s higher desire – among all the things you’re juggling this can feel like a recipe for inadequacy, insecurity, resentment, guilt.
So this Valentine’s Day, I offer some alternative perspectives and approaches to help recenter pleasure in your life in a way that is sustainable and realistic. Don’t worry, this isn’t the “put on heels, tickle here, tickle there… oh that didn’t work? Sorry” sort of sex advice.
First knowledge is pleasure! When you can understand the changes that happen in your body after childbirth, you can also enlighten your partner. You can also see that your body is freaking amazing and a national treasure! Let’s start with the pelvic floor. The pelvic floor is a three layer system of muscles that have many roles. It provides stability, holds the bladder and uterus in place, and carries the weight of the baby during pregnancy. No matter how the baby is delivered, the pelvic floor muscles have been impacted. And just like any other muscle in your body these muscles can be too weak or too tight as a response to trauma. This can make sex uncomfortable or change the way you feel pleasure in your vagina, vulva, and clitoris. In addition, estrogen is the hormone responsible for keeping the skin of the vulva, vagina and perineum lubricated and robust. Estrogen plummets after giving birth, the skin of those areas often becomes dry and tender which can make sex painful. Why does the estrogen plummet? Many reasons, but one is to reduce the likelihood of another pregnancy during the time the breastfeeding parent is using all of their resources and energy to nourish the newborn. So it’s a biological response that literally discourages you from having penetrative sex, because the body doesn’t want you to get pregnant!!! Intelligent design? *eye roll* I beg to differ.
So here’s how you can communicate this to your partner:
Did you know there are hormonal changes that make the vagina less responsive to pleasure and makes penetrative sex uncomfortable? I’m definitely experiencing some of this. Next time we have sex, let’s take it really gently and slow and use lubrication.
Next, know you can say no. Repeat after me, “I cannot say yes to sex, if I cannot say no to sex”- now repeat that three times. Far too often I hear people tell me they go through with having sex to please their partners and then they tell me they don’t enjoy the sex they’re having or they feel check out during it. I completely understand how you would not want to have sex in the future. The first step in getting the sex that fills you up and gets you excited is saying no. Saying no to the sex you don’t want or saying no to all of it. Here’s how you can say no to sex,
“No thank you. I appreciate your advances, which make me feel good, but I can’t see myself having sex tonight.”
This might sound completely counter intuitive to the overall goal of increasing sexual desire. When you say no to sex, you reinforce for yourself that sex is an optional activity not obligatory or another chore you check off the list. Ok, so now that we’re reinforcing sex as a choice, we can start to consider what we want!
Thinking about, asking for, and saying yes to what you want. I always recommend exercising wants as integral to pleasure practices and routines. When we can consider our wants, it reinforces to us that pleasure matters in our lives and deserves equal footing next to the obligations, surviving, and caregiving new parents often find themselves in. Wants can be completely non-sexual. It’s normal to desire a clean house, 5 minutes of alone time, or a hot shower in order to help you transition into a sexy headspace. Or maybe you don’t want to have sex, but you want to cuddle or give/receive massages – ask for just exactly that. Here’s a way you can communicate this to your partner,
“I really like when you kiss my neck and earlobe before you go down on me, it helps me get in the mood. But please don’t touch my boobs during sex, it snaps me right out of it. Instead put your hands on my shoulders and arms – I love this.”
This begs the question, what do you want? Many times, it can feel hard to think about what you want and then communicate that to partners. If this or any other part of these suggestions feel like they’d be hard to implement, perhaps you’d be interested in sexual wellness counseling to work through these suggestions specific & authentic to you! Send me an email (email@example.com) for a 15 minute consultation to chat more about sexual wellness counseling.
Happy Valentine's Day, Darling!
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Dr. Kathryn Ellis
Occupational Therapist & Sexuality Counselor
Realistic sex advice for grown folks