Monday 24 July 2017

'I've stopped enjoying sex -- I do worry will I ever get it back'

These are the words of one 38-year-old mother of three, but they will resonate with thousands of other couples around the country

Library Image. Photo: Getty Image
Library Image. Photo: Getty Image

As a mother of two in her late 30s, I have come to cherish the occasions where I get together with female friends over a bottle of wine. Under the safe blanket of sisterhood, we honestly trade concerns over children, careers, relationships and, after the third glass of wine, even sex with our partners.

It is here we feel reassured that our sex lives are 'normal', and that the ebb and flow of our libido does not, in fact, mean that our relationships are in serious trouble. I have often heard myself telling friends that the very fact that they are concerned about their sex life is a good thing -- if they didn't care, then that would be seriously worrying.

According to GP and former psychosexual counsellor Dr Damian Jennings, "Sex is still a major frontier that hasn't been faced in this country. We are nowhere like as advanced in our thinking as we believe, compared to other societies such as the US. Sex just isn't on the agenda and that is a real shame."

For some women, sex is to be avoided and, when it does take place, it is not even particularly enjoyable. "They say that sex is like a picnic for women," says one 38-year-old mother of three. "The thought is not that appealing but, when you get there, it's great. That doesn't even apply to me any more. I've stopped enjoying sex and I do worry will I ever get it back."

She is right to take this hiatus seriously, as an unsatisfactory sex life can be detrimental to the relationship. As the well-known US sex commentator Dr Barry McCarthy maintains: "We know sex that doesn't work plays a major role in causing difficulties, even more than good sex in promoting the relationship."

Eithne Bacuzzi, a sex therapist with Relationships Ireland (formerly the Marriage and Relationship Counselling Service), says that communication is key.

"I'm absolutely amazed at how people have such difficulty even expressing where they are at with their sexual relationship. The women say: 'You don't care about how tired I am. Can't we just sometimes leave it at a hug?' The men say: 'I didn't realise that, I just thought she didn't want or desire me.'"

One stay-at-home mum of two admits she gets all the affection she needs from her children throughout the day so that, by the time her husband comes home from work and is looking for sex, it's the last thing she wants. "My need for closeness has been fulfilled by then," she says. "In some ways, I see him wanting sex as slightly selfish, as I've been giving all day and I simply have nothing left to give. It's yet another person pulling out of me."

This is a common scenario, particularly when children are young, but what would help enormously here is some honest communication between both partners. Sexual problems are known to increase when stress levels rise which, understandably, increase with the addition of children as life becomes busier.

"A lack of sex at this stage of a couple's relationship is, in fact, very common and quite normal. Women barely have five minutes in the day so it becomes a real challenge, but it can be done," adds Eithne Bacuzzi.

Some women have great difficulty getting back to seeing themselves as a sexual being, capable of giving and receiving pleasure, once they become a mother. But couples don't have to accept this -- there is something you can do and, yes, you are far too young to give up on one of life's greatest pleasures.

"A healthy sexual relationship is a choice," believes Eithne Bacuzzi. "You can say to yourself, 'Do I want this to go down the tubes? If not, I will try to extract half-an-hour or an hour a day to concentrate on it.' If you allow the sexual feelings in, they can come back."

For more information, contact Relationships Ireland -- or phone 1890 380 380 for an appointment

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