Is the secret to a happy marriage not having kids?
One of the biggest studies of relationships ever done in Britain has turned up this conclusion: couples without children have happier marriages.
The Open University project called ‘Enduring Love?’ surveyed 5000 people to also find fathers were twice as likely as mothers to list ‘lack of sex’ as what they disliked most about their relationship.
This isn’t exactly startling news for parents or mothers – especially those with babies or young children and eyeballs hanging down their cheeks after their 250th sleepless night in row.
But given you can’t exactly flog off your five-month-old twins on ebay to save your marriage (and wouldn’t want to – the survey found while kids might not enhance your love life, they send your personal happiness rating skyward) what exactly are parents to do as damage control?
Happily, there’s lots you can do to stay both sane and sexy – even better, most of it is relatively easy to implement!
Don’t stop cuddling even if you don’t fancy sex. Hold hands, hug, swap air kisses for real ones. Have a bath together.
Use a vibrator when you’re too exhausted to have sex. Use it solo to keep your sex drive high (three minutes is possible to find when the baby’s six months or older). Use it with him to guarantee you an orgasm during quickies.
Just do it. Seriously, by the time you’ve dodged your partner’s advances, lay there pretending to be asleep, worried that you’ve hurt them by saying no, you could have had a quickie and both be sleeping with a smile on your face.
It’s fine to bargain in those early days: they get sex if they get up to do the early morning feed. It’s totally acceptable to say ‘You’ve got five minutes’ when they want sex but you’d cut your right arm off for sleep.
Grab any sex you can, don’t be fussy. OK sex is better for your relationship than no sex.
Don’t worry if you don’t ‘finish’ having sex. When was the last time you made a hot meal and managed to actually eat it while it was even slightly warm? Get used to it. It’s how it is for a while.
Count ‘sexy’ things as having had sex so it feels like you’re doing it more: long snogs, sexy massages or baths.
If you’re really finding sex a pressure, agree to a sex detox.Take it off the table completely for an agreed amount of time (one month or two – no more). Up the affection and promise each other sex is only gone temporarily and it can give you the mental break needed to get through one of life’s most stressful times.
Don’t compete for the ‘I’m worse off’ award: It’s hard for both so don’t play martyr or try to score points. Instead work together as a team, help each other.
Don’t feel guilty about taking time out for sex and/or cuddles. The kids get your full attention all the rest of the time, you deserve private time too.
Go out for dinner, no friends, no kids at least once every two months. Drink lots. Get so drunk, you can’t help but have sex. Don’t be the couple who only ever go out and have sex on birthdays and anniversaries.
Try to go to bed at the same time and sleep naked. Skin to skin contact is crucial for keeping the connection going.
One weekend away every so often, minus kids, will rescue and rejuvenate more than you could ever imagine. If you can possibly, possibly swing it, do it. It’s what every parent I spoke to said kept them remotely normal.
Don’t waste what spare time you have. Turn off the telly, stop texting, ban laptops. Ditch the bedroom TV: those who don’t have one in there have sex an average of eight times a month, twice the average of those who do.
Don’t talk about the kids all the time. Remember what you used to talk about pre-kids? Stay current and curious about life.
Don’t replace your partner with your children. If you’re not getting something you need, ask for it. Don’t turn to the kids to provide it. Often they will and you’ll be even further estranged.
Get and use babysitters. Bribe parents, siblings, your neighbours, friends…Cultivate a tribe of people you trust to look after your children.
Accept that things won’t be perfect. You will be tired and irritable for a while. It doesn’t mean you’ve fallen out of love, just that having children can be stressful. This too shall pass!