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No Romance After Baby!


my boyfriend and i have been together for 11 years , since high school, we have a 9 year old son and a 3month old baby girl. Since i gave birth my boyfriend treats me like his sister. He stop hugging me, kissing is none existence its like we are roommates. i don’t know what to do it hurts so bad because before the baby he use to be all over me now he laughs when i ask for a hug or a kiss because i know sex is out of the picture if he won’t even hug me anymore unless i beg him to. i shouldn’t have to!

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With the arrival of children, changes typically occur in the quality of a couple’s relationship. Two changes in particular seem to be very important, the first being a change in the way that the new parents think of themselves and each other, and the other having to do with where they invest their energy and attention. Wonderful though they are, children (particularly babies) are very demanding creatures who require tremendous amounts of their parents attention. It is very normal for new parents to pretty much focus all of their attention and energy towards their babies. It is also normal for the new parents to start thinking of themselves as "mommy" or "daddy", and defined in relationship to their children rather than to each other such as was likely the case prior to the arrival of children. These two changes can, in some cases, be deadly to a couple’s romance. If they are not understood and addressed the couple’s lovemaking and affectionate behavior can be negatively impacted.

Once babies have arrived in a couple’s life, they are suddenly worn out by the demands of taking care of those babies. They may also start to see themselves as primarily a responsible caregiver, which is a decidedly un-sexy role to occupy, being largely characterized by duty rather than spontaneity. Thus, the mother and the father may feel less sexy, be more tired, be thinking less sexy thoughts, feel less sexy, etc. Because in traditional relationships, the largest part of the burden of parenting is placed on the woman, she may end up feeling the most tired, responsible and un-sexy.

Cultural roles and teachings can contribute to the problem as well. Some men are raised to think of sex and motherhood as being incompatible roles. In Catholicism, for instance, the key female figure is a mother who has never had sex (the Virgin Mary). There are similar examples to be found in other religious teachings as well. This sort of thing can contribute to the development of what some have called the "Madonna/Whore" complex, where mothers are given high social status, but are not seen as sexy, and young non-mothers are given low social status and seen as potential sex partners.

Once the problem of reduced intimacy in the couples relationship gets started, it may remain in place even though some of the factors that got it started fall away over time. For instance, children may grow up and require less attention, but the loss of intimacy and the pattern of not having sex may continue.

The "cure" for this problem, if there can be said to be a cure, is for the partners to recognize what has happened to them, and to mutually decide to do something about it to repair their relationship. One way to think about it, drawn from the family systems psychotherapy approach is to view the problem as one of boundaries that have gotten out of alignment. In a healthy family, there should be a healthy boundary or line drawn around the parents representing that they have communication and relations amongst themselves which remain private from the other members of the family (such as the children). In your own case, however, the boundary around you and your boyfriend has been stretched out of recognition and does not provide you with a private identity and private interchanges between you and him. The repair is to start working on building up that boundary around yourselves. This has to be done in part by excluding your children; finding ways that you and your boyfriend can spend time with one another when children are not around and when you can focus on each other, as you once did.

Some couples benefit from the concept of "date night". Once a week or so, they get a baby sitter to come and watch their children, and they go out on a date. This does not have to be an expensive proposition. You can just go out for a walk with one another, or to a movie or out for an inexpensive dinner. What is important is that you get to spend time with one another just the two of you without the intrusion of children or other responsibilities.

Date night and similar concepts work best when children are young and the loss of intimacy is new and disturbing. In your case, your children are older and this pattern of lost intimacy between you and your boyfriend is well established. I think in such circumstances, the need to do things like date night is still there but the motivation on your boyfriend’s part to participate may be a harder sell. Talk to him about what has happened between the two of you, how this has hurt you and how the two of you might begin to rebuild some intimacy using tools like date night. Hopefully he will be responsive.

It is important to recognize that some degree of "marital" dissatisfaction is normal among parents who are actively parenting. A couple’s happiness with one another usually is highest at the very beginning of their relationship, dipping sharply when children come into the picture, and then recovering as children leave the nest. I’m sure that things between you and your boyfriend can be improved, but I also think it is important for you to recognize that some degree of relationship tension is a pretty normal occurrence when parenting.

Good luck!

More "Ask Anne" View Columnists

  • Rhonda

    The woman said she just had a baby, and that since giving birth, the boyfriend's not a pattern that's been going on for a long time. Try date night thing, dress a little sexy and flirt and play, that may bring him around,show him that you are still his lover and not just a Mom. Don't beg for affection and get all crazy about it. Scoot closer to him on the couch, lay your head on his chest, kiss his neck. Little touches and kisses and sighs might get his attention. Hope he comes around...

  • Been there

    Fifteen months into our marriage I had a baby girl. My husband pulled the same stunt - no physical contact at all. The he was gone all the time, working on a car or learning new computer stuff. He always blamed me for his lack of sex drive. It drove me into a terrible depression because I could not understand what I was doing wrong. He gave me a lot of lame excuses and it was always my fault. One day I realized that perhaps HE had a problem. When I confronted him, confidently this time, he denied it adamently but finally admitted it was a problem that had helped break up his first marriage and other relationships. He later admitted he looked at pronography but "not very much" and "no, it hasn't affected me." He has refused counseling and we are now apart. I couldn't take the continual rejection that went with the lack of intimacy. He still blames me but now I know better. It took a lot of counseling for me and three years of hard work, but now I see and understand this issue and have made the difficult decision to leave him. He doesn't want me and does not want to change. As long as I support this behavior by putting up with it I am complicit and I get nothing out of it except a bad roommate who doesn't care about his family.

    I think your advice is good but you may want to consider if this type of problelm exists, it's not your fault. He may have a porno addiction and there are telltale signs: too much time away, unaccounted for, detachment, etc.

    Good luck and I hope your story has a happier ending than mine.


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