Dear Life Matters,
I don’t know what is happening to my marriage. All seemed great before the pregnancy, but now not only is everything about the kid, but we never, and I mean never, have sex anymore. My son is 19 months old now, so you see, it’s been awhile.
We use to have so much fun together, we partied, always has a good time and the sex was fantastic. I just cannot believe we are the same two people.
It is not just my wife either. She did have post-partum depression and during that time I played mom and dad while she had some treatment. But after that, when she was much better, she did not have any interest. But the thing that bothers me the most is that I can’t imagine even touching her in a sexual way anymore. Once she was obviously pregnant, I just was turned off. Our obligatory attempts at making love have been futile and downright embarrassing.
I don’t want to leave her, I love her, but I can’t bear this sexual situation much longer. Can you shed some light and give my any recommendations?
This is not uncommon when a baby has just been born. Hormones are all over the place, sleep deprivation and then a post-partum depression that required treatment — that is a lot. Have you ever discussed your feelings about having the baby and about your wife’s depression? Did she feel supported during that time? Did you resent her condition because she couldn’t come through for you and your son?
You said you didn’t want to touch her once she was pregnant. I have counseled men who just couldn’t have sex during the pregnancy. Even though medical science has proved otherwise, and with doctors’ assurance, they just felt superstitious about it, like it was somehow wrong. Some men have talked to me about having a hard time with it after the baby is born because they feel like it’s no longer clean, or quite frankly, many of them can’t put it into words. If a mother is breast feeding, many men do not want to go anywhere near her breasts.
The other thing is that some men have what is called a “Madonna/Whore” complex. Once married or after pregnancy and childbirth, a wife is viewed as the Madonna and therefore, untouchable. The roots of this are generally pretty deep and beyond the scope of this article, but if you suspect you have this, you should seek therapy.
All of these things need to be worked out. I would guess that you and your wife have many unspoken thoughts and feelings and while it may be difficult, your best hope is to talk it out. If you can’t do it alone, see a marriage and family therapist.
You also mentioned that you had great fun and partied a lot before the pregnancy. I wonder what did you mean by this exactly?
If you were using lots of alcohol and other drugs, but then had to stop because of the pregnancy, you may have a problem with sober sex. This is not unusual. Alcohol is very disinhibiting and makes sex a lot easier and freer unless you go too far and then can’t have it at all. But it sounds like you had a very satisfying sex life before giving up partying, as you call it. I am not saying that this is the entire problem, but it is definitely something to consider.
It is most likely a combination of all of those things and I am not sure that you can work this out alone. You might want to see a certified sex therapist who is also a licensed psychotherapist. This is probably your best bet.
Start talking with you wife now and see if you get far enough along in the conversation that you both agree to see a sex therapist.
Avoid attacking or blaming. Blame your problem on adjustment to pregnancy and a child, or to possibly not knowing how to have sober sex. Remind her of how much you love her and how important this is.
Our “selves” are deeply connected to our sexuality so it is important that you do not ignore this. It is bad not only for the marriage but for each of you individually. It will, if it hasn’t already, affect how alive you feel, and your general self-esteem.
I say don’t wait any longer; 19 months, plus the duration of a pregnancy, is a long time.
Dr. JoAnne Barge is a licensed psychologist and licensed marriage and family therapist with offices in Brentwood. Visit her at www.drbarge.com or e-mail your confidential questions to firstname.lastname@example.org. Got something on your mind? Let me help you with your life matters, because it does!