Six tips to help parents improve their love lives


If you're not happy with the quantity or quality-or both-of your sex life, don't despair. Even the busiest parent can take steps to improve their love life, which will improve their relationship as well. It's win/win.

By Kelly James-Enger


According to a recent survey, 75 percent of married women say a good sex life is "important or very important" to them. Good to know. So why aren't we having more of it?

An informal poll of my fellow mom friends revealed that most are like me-struggling to carve out time to "get busy" with our husbands. And even if we manage to find the time, it's not that easy to get in the mood.

"After a long day of running around, taking care of the kids, and finally getting them into bed, the last thing I want to do is have to think about my husband's needs, too," admits one of my girlfriends, who insists on remaining anonymous. "Now that we have two kids, we have sex maybe once a month."

She shrugs.

"But it's not high on my priority list right now."

My friend should rethink those priorities, says Debra Herbenick, Ph.D., a research scientist at Indiana University.

"Sex is important as it helps people feel connected," says Herbenick, author of Sex Made Easy: Your Awkward Questions Answered-For Better, Smarter, Amazing Sex (Running Press, 2012). "It's a way to have fun with your partner, to see a side of them that no one else gets to see."

If you're not happy with the quantity or quality-or both-of your sex life, don't despair. Even the busiest parent can take steps to improve their love life, which will improve their relationship as well. It's win/win.


Ditch the guilt

First step: Forget about feeling guilty.

"Sex is important, but at the same time, I hate when people beat themselves up over it and have such high expectations," says Herbenick. "Completely forget about what everyone else is doing. There's always that one friend who talks about how much great sex they have or how they sneak into bathrooms at parties to do it. Let go of the idea that that has to be you."

By letting go of the guilt, you're less likely to have sex only to please your partner, which doesn't necessarily address the problem. "Focusing on the quality is much more important," explains Herbenick. "When people focus on the frequency, they try to fit it in and try to do it so they can check it off the list and think, `now my partner's not going to nag me.'"

It's intimate sex-where the two of you feel truly connected-that really helps strengthen your bond.


Share your feelings

A better sex life may not start between the sheets, but at your kitchen table. "If you're feeling bad about a low sex drive or low sex frequency, talk to your partner," says Herbenick. "If you're worried about it or disappointed, they probably wish they were having more sex or better sex, too."

Simply bringing it up can help-maybe the two of you can brainstorm some ways to have more time alone, or agree to make it a bigger priority.

"Most couples don't talk about sex when they're not having it and that's not good for the relationship or their sex life," she explains. "If you're not having sex, let your partner know it's on your mind and that it's important to you, too. Your partner may think you're not in love or attracted to him anymore, or that you're having an affair."

That level of honesty can help get through the rough patches when sex may be the last thing you crave.


Share your desires

If you've been together for years, you may just take the state of your sex life for granted. Maybe it's time you probed a little deeper, pardon the pun.

"Start by having an open conversation with your partner. Talk about what turns you on. Share your secret fantasies with each other. Discuss the things you've always been curious about trying," says Steph Auteri, co-author of The Good in Bed Guide to 52 Weeks of Amazing Sex (Good in Bed Guides, 2010). "Use this conversation as a jumping-off point for a new, sexy to-do list of things you'd both like to try."


Make a date

Auteri also suggests couples schedule sex. "Just as you'd schedule a date night to maintain your sanity and your relationship, schedule sex in order to maintain your intimate relationship. Schedule it in just as you'd schedule in a yoga class or that Mommy & Me music class. Otherwise, it will continue to fall to the bottom of your to-do list."

That's what happened to a local mom we'll call Melissa.

"My husband told me, `My favorite thing in the world is to have sex with you and it makes me sad that we're not doing that as much as I want to,'" she says. Her husband had a solution. "He said, `My idea is that on Friday nights it will be a bring-your-A-game-110-percent-full-blown sex night. And then I'll watch the kids in the morning the next day so you can sleep in.'"

Melissa wasn't sure how the standing sex date would work at first, but months later says she looks forward to every Friday night. "I know it's coming, I know it's going to happen, and it's kind of exciting," she says. "The expectation is fun, and it makes it more special-We know that at least once a week we're going to have this connection."


Involve your senses

One simple yet amazing way to improve your sex life is to focus on it in a way you probably don't. Pay attention to all five senses-smell, touch, sight, sound and taste-and really notice what's happening. "Being more mindful and aware contributes to better sex and better arousal," says Herbenick. "We're seeing new data from a new study on sex, and in America a lot of people aren't reporting a lot of intimacy in sex-staying present and in the moment makes sex much more intimate."


Try something new

One simple reason you may not be that interested in sex may not have anything to do with being tired. You may just be a little too used to each other. "It can be tough to keep things spicy when you've been together forever," says Auteri. "Trying new things-even nonsexual things-can raise your endorphin levels, which in turn can raise your libido."

As for what you do beneath the sheets, use your imagination. Maybe Fifty Shades of Grey has given you some great role-playing ideas. Ask your partner what he'd like to try. And, "embrace the quickie!" suggests Auteri. "Parents can oftentimes only steal several minutes away from their kids. This makes long, languorous lovemaking sessions near impossible. So become the masters of quickie sex. Allow the urgency of the situation to turn you on."

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