'Can we re-ignite our sex life?'Comment on this story
QUESTION: My husband and I went through an awful period after our third child arrived. The birth was nightmarish and I suffered post-natal depression. I moved to the spare bedroom and didn’t want to make love for 18 months. When I did finally feel ready to attempt sex, my spouse said he wasn’t in the mood. Now another sexless year has passed and I feel desperate. I feel we still love each other, but we’ve lost the ability to reach out. Help.
ANSWER: This is a tragic story and not an unfamiliar one. One study found that about 50 percent of men and women in the UK described their sex life as “not very good” six months after the birth of a child, while one tenth of the UK’s new parents won’t be having sex at all at that stage.
However, two-and-half years is a long time to go without resuming some form of sex life.
It’s easy to see what happened here: neither you nor your husband received adequate support to deal with the trauma of a difficult birth. You were left in a vulnerable state, where you tried to remove yourself from further demands on your body.
However, it sounds like you shut your husband out of your mental and emotional space too and cast him in the role of “problem” — when you needed to make him part of the solution.
Some might blame your husband for turning you down when you reached out to him 18 months after giving birth, but his reaction was not atypical. When you have been rejected, you feel crushed, then angry and resentful.
I wonder, too, if you don’t resent your husband more than you have admitted. Perhaps you feel he didn’t give you enough sympathy when you were suffering after the birth. It is essential that you break this crippling impasse before further months pass.
The optimistic fact is you feel you still love one another. Yet it’s clear communication between you is dire. You’ve both buried your heads in the sand, rather than discuss your problems. But it’s only by expressing your pain and resentment that you can move beyond it.
That’s why many people find it easier to have these kinds of conversations in the presence of a trained counsellor. You are likely to benefit from finding a therapist who has experience counselling women who have suffered birth trauma.
It’s only too apparent that neither of you want to remain in your current state. One of you has to take the brave step of instigating talks and I nominate you. Women tend to be marriage’s emotional gatekeepers.
I can’t be the only wife who finds the best way to move matters beyond a stalemate is to start with a grovelling apology, followed by an explanation.
If you can both only summon the willpower to admit you want to resume your sex life, then you’ll be two thirds of the way back to it. What’s needed after that are a series of clear days (park the children with relatives), some wine and kindness.
Remember that you took a long time to drift apart and you need to allocate equal space if you’re to mend that rift. - Daily Mail