Been a while since you felt a spark between you and your partner? Time to bring back that loving feeling
That feeling in your stomach when you know you’re going to see him… wondering if he’s booked your favourite restaurant… sharing a secret only both of you know. When you first get together with someone, he’s all you can think about. But a few years down the line, and baby’s made three. Suddenly, hoping he’ll surprise you with flowers is at the bottom of your wish list. You’d just like him home in time to change a few nappies.
“It’s a momentous event for a couple when a baby arrives – all the dynamics between you change,” explains Susanna Abse, Director of the Tavistock Centre for Couple Relationships (www.tccr.org.uk). “Your priorities go from each other to the baby instead. That’s normal and natural in the first weeks and months, but the problem is that it’s then hard to revert back to being a couple. Moving back to that place feels like a withdrawal of energy from the baby, which doesn’t seem fair.”
For Niki Shepheard, 39, having her son Sebastian, now 3, was a big social change. “My husband has always been the grand passion of my life and I his. We were very much in love, and led a quite selfish life, I guess, as we didn’t have our son until I was 36. When we first met, we would socialise a lot and loved going away together. Having Sebastian totally changed our relationship in a way neither of us could have anticipated in a million years – there was also added stress as I was suffering from PND. I was too tired to do anything other than look after him, and having to go back to work full time when he was just 8 months old didn’t help matters.”
Sounds familiar? It’s a pattern many couples get into when they don’t even have a baby, as life gets in the way of romance.The answer is about seeing the relationship as something that needs to be worked on as much as everything else in life – just like you did when you were dating.
“See the whole scenario like a cake,” advises Susanna Abse. “Each person is a ‘slice’ – you, your partner and the baby. The relationship needs to be a ‘slice’ too. In fact, your children need you to do that. Because at the end of the day, if you and your partner have a relationship that is solid and you feel comfortable, it’s like putting the icing onto the cake of your family.”
So, you’ve really set your mind to being couply again. Feels good already, doesn’t it? There’s just one problem – the kids are still around. “Children can protest against seeing their mum and dad together as a two,” says Susanna Abse. And that can put you off spending time as a couple – or even having a kiss in front of them. The result is you stop having kisses on a daily basis.
Eileen Teo, 30, mum to Keiran, 2, and Caitlin, 6 months, says: “When Keiran was born, we barely had physical contact for six months! Keiran had reflux and was crying until midnight every night. By the time he went to sleep, it’s all we wanted to do too.”
Eileen’s answer was to get away from the ‘day to day’. “We decided to book a holiday and my mum looked after Keiran while we went away. We got to do things like have a meal together and even hold hands! Now we have kids, we definitely have a better understanding of each other.”
We know that among the baby wipes, toys and a suspect baby dribble stain on your new leggings that it’s hard to think about romance and dating. So the key is to keep things simple. Yes, it’s time to think like a partner not just a mum. But one step at a time!
Kate Taylor, relationships expert with www.match.com and author of Domestic Sex Goddess, says, “Even if you’re one of the lucky mums who loses her baby weight within weeks of the birth, your body is still very different to how it was before. Your hips are wider, your tummy is softer, and your boobs are either brimming with milk, or slightly ‘dejected’ looking.
“Plus, it seems practical to wear mumsy clothes every day (whether that’s jeans and a jumper, or a dressing gown), as looking after a baby can be a mucky business. With a bad self-image, you won’t see yourself as a desirable woman, and this lack of confidence will cause you to reject any advances your partner makes.”
Once you’ve got that womanly rather than mumsy feeling again, the next step is finding time for you and your man. The answer to being together without the children is simple. Leave them at home! Hang on, no need to call social services, we don’t mean alone!
“But don’t be afraid to book a babysitter,” says relationships expert and dating coach Jo Hemmings (www.datingcoaches.co.uk). Or to ask friends to look after your children. “If this is your first baby, you won’t feel comfortable leaving her with anyone except your own mother or a consultant paediatrician, at least for the first 15 years!” adds Kate Taylor.
Being in a long-term relationship, you shouldn’t have to worry about whether he’s going to plant a smacker on your lips on the doorstep. But somehow this is worse – you know you should have sex, but really it’s a free night without the kids! “When you have a little one, spare time and bed time becomes about the ZZZZs, not sex,” says Susanna Abse. But it’s important to make the effort. It’s a bit like the gym. You feel too tired, but once you’re there you’re glad you went. And the great feeling afterwards – well, you must vaguely remember?
Stop seeing it as a full-on event, says Jo Hemmings. “Get back to foreplay rather than thinking about just penetrative sex,” she says. “Remember how sex was between you, when you couldn’t wait to get each other’s clothes off. Remember that first chemistry.”
For Niki Shepheard, it was about ‘insisting’ on some ‘we’ time. “Thankfully, my mum regularly looks after Sebastian and from a very early age he’s stayed at hers once a week. As often as possible, we make this date night and I swear, saving this time for ourselves has got us through. We’ll cook something nice, open a bottle of wine, watch some good comedy, and just be on our own. We also try when we can to go away for a night on our own – we have always had such a good time when we do this. I miss Sebastian when we are away, as does my husband, but we both recognise this time is essential. He says I am ‘me’ again.” Well, if that’s not an incentive to try and do the same, we don’t know what is.
If you want to feel like you did when you were dating, you need to remember how you did it. Where was your first date? Where was your first kiss? Arranging a visit can rekindle those ‘flippy tummy’ feelings.
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