I remember reading a chapter title in the book Intimate Issues that I now completely relate to: “How do I make love with children wrapped around my knees?”
When I was in one of my four post-maternity stupors of no sleep, someone else wanting my body (chest included) around the clock, and hoping I could shower sometime soon — alone — I also remember reading some statistic in Parents that something like 78% of new moms, when choosing between sex and sleep, chose sleep. I was like, uh, duh. I can hardly put two sentences together from my need of a REM cycle. Probably shouldn’t even be driving. I love you, Honey! You are sexy to me, especially when my brain is firing on all eight — okay, four — cylinders. But as soon as I get horizontal, wild horses can’t stop my eyes from closing, as long as they aren’t crying or wanting breakfast. What I want to know is what the other 22% of women know about, and how can I get it?!
There ain’t nothin’ like the exhaustion from little kids. I thought I was exhausted in high school, definitely in college, and certainly when I was working forty hours a week, working with the youth group, and taking care of a home. But for me personally, motherhood takes the prize. It also takes the prize for the amount of incessant demands from other (shorter) people I face. I’m sure it’s hard to believe, but I can even start to see loving my man as someone else who wants something from me. And wants it “after hours,” when I see a glimmer of sitting down, doing something effortless I enjoy, or sleeping.
But here’s something I’ve been thinking about lately. Why did God make my husband different from me? As I started to put myself in the shoes of the men in our culture, I was surprised to feel a great level of compassion, especially for Christian men. Not only are they confronting sexual images at any time of day (in the workplace, on a billboard) — and sitcoms that continually mock and belittle their sexual appetite — God’s actually given them a desire and a physiological need for sexual release within a few days. Why did God do that? If God knew sex would be so utterly skewed by sin throughout the ages, and how much young children would make women want to run the other way from the Look of Love, why’d He put such a need in men?
Here’s my very limited understanding. Aside from our need to procreate — the whole “bear fruit and multiply” thing — I think our marriages need it.
Unquestionably, in marriage we’ve gotta work together and sacrifice our needs for the other’s needs and interests. But I think our married relationships genuinely — deeply — need sex. We need that continued restatement of “naked and unashamed,” of our private kingdom, of the intimate garden that Song of Solomon talks about. Author Gary Thomas calls it “a completely free act of pleasure, reserved for marriage, that physiologically renews each partner’s affection” (Pure Pleasure, Zondervan, 2010). And get this footnote:
“A man’s levels of oxytocin—the brain chemical that leads to bonding and feelings of closeness—are highest immediately following a sexual encounter. In fact, this is the only time that a male’s oxytocin levels approach those of his wife.”
Trust me. Statistically speaking, your husband wants your energy here even more than he wants it invested in folded laundry or an empty dishwasher. So here’s a few practical ideas toward being a better lover for all of you who are too tired to remember what libido felt like.
1. Flirt. Remember what that was like?! For me, I looked in the mirror a lot before I saw him, listened with rapt interest, did what he thought was fun, laughed a little loudly at his jokes, touched his arm at weird times, watched his body when he wasn’t looking, reached for his hand at the grocery store. One couple I read about even arrived at a restaurant separately, then pretended they didn’t know each other and were meeting for the first time. Brilliant!
2. Think Sex. The brain is our largest sex organ. If I don’t engage it throughout the day, for me it’s a lot more difficult to tune in at night. Think about your husband. Maybe without (his) clothes on.
3. Cut out the “emotional pornography.” I read this term recently, which was applied to the romantic fiction we read or watch that gives us a really false idea of reality, where guys say all the right things, don’t pass any form of gas, and leave no socks next to the hamper. We don’t want guys putting unrealistic, airbrushed ideas of femininity on us, and I think this can be our version of fake, scripted masculinity.
4. Use a food item for something other than its intended purpose. Whipped cream, for example. ‘Nuff said.
5. Set your alarm a few minutes early. Your libido just may feel a little more awake in the morning, and in my oh-so-expert opinion, I don’t think your husband will mind you waking him up a few minutes early in this particular instance.
6. Take a shower together. Gives you both time to talk, get clean (multitasking!), and then … who knows?
7. Make just a sliver of time to work out. I only say this because I finally did it recently, and now that I’m in the routine and I see and feel the results in my post-baby body, my emotions, and my husband’s reactions (who completely accepted me before) to my slightly altered physique, I feel more confidence in initiating with and responding to my husband. I feel sexy again. Please do not tell my coworkers. (If you want to know what worked for me, you have to leave a comment.)
8. Make, and keep, a date night. See if you can swap childcare with a friend; do whatever it takes to feel connected emotionally with your man. Once you feel embraced in your mind and heart, you’ll naturally want to respond sexually.
9. Go to bed in your birthday suit. You can put PJ’s on … later.
10. Give a massage. From personal experience, I know how much work this is. But one time when I knew this would really speak love to my husband and I didn’t really have it in me to give, I just prayed about it. And what came to mind was the story of the widow’s mite — that widow in the Bible who gave two pennies to the offering, compared to all the rich people who were giving only a fraction of what they had, and pleased God with her offering — because it was all she had. (Bonus: You just might get a massage back.)
11. Baby steps. Make a reachable goal of creative romance, like one fun or different idea a month. At the very least, it gets you thinking on that topic. At the most, it communicates a powerful truth to your man: I want you. I love you. And I’m gonna love you in a way that you can’t miss it.