You met, you fell in love, had sex – all the time. You put a ring on her finger and started a family (not necessarily in that order). By most standards, you’re living the American dream—except that your sex life seems to have gone the way of the rotary phone.
Instead of breathlessly ripping off each other’s clothes once your baby finally falls asleep, you’re nodding off in front of the TV, shirt stained with pureed carrots. Why didn’t anyone warn you? As a sex therapist and father of two, I’m here to tell you what your married friends won’t about being a husband and father. And if you want to talk more, just visit me at Good in Bed, where I’ll be talking about these issues all week.
3 Things They Don’t Tell You About Marriage
1. You will often feel like you’re in prison. This is only natural when you go to sleep and wake up next to the same person day after day. Some people get married and feel like they have to do everything together—they merge completely. And then they wake up one day, and it’s like they’re living that Talking Heads song: "This is not my beautiful house...this is not my beautiful wife...how did I get here?"
Quick fix: Great couples are great individuals. Don’t be afraid to go your own way sometimes. From guys’ and girls’ nights out to the occasional separate vacation, maintain individual identity.
2. You will often wonder "what if?" It’s normal to look over your shoulder and think about what might have been. But when you hug your partner the way you hug your children—with true feeling—you will know that it’s all worth it.
Quick fix: Studies show that a 30-second hug releases hormones that make you feel loving and connected. So forget about taking the time to smell the roses. Just take some time to hug your spouse.
3. You will buy a book written by Suze Orman. You thought you worried about money before? Just wait until you’re married with children. My credit card bills are, like, five pages long! I can’t even read them without getting dizzy! When you’re single, you save for the future—in theory. But once you get married, your financial needs change. And it leads to so much stress: You go to your kid’s first grade art show and start thinking about the little Picasso who’s going to want to get his Master’s in studio art and then loaf around Europe and be a starving artist—all financed by Mom and Dad.
Quick fix: It’s too easy to get hijacked by financial anxiety. So don’t take your stress out on your spouse—build a financial plan together.
3 Things They Don’t Tell Dads About Pregnancy
1. Your wife wants sex more than you do. As women get closer and closer to delivery, they tend to want more and more sex. This has a lot to do with increased blood flow to pelvic area, and it’s why the "big O" gets bigger and lasts exponentially longer. But for many guys, sex just gets, well, a little freakier. It doesn’t matter that we’ve heard a million times there’s no way we’re going to hurt the baby by doing it. And yes, to be totally honest, the changes to the female body may be "natural" and "beautiful," but they’re not necessarily a turn-on.
Quick fix: Turn off the lights and share a sexy story. The mind is the biggest sex organ, and if you’re not looking at the bump, you’re less likely to worry about it.
2. Pregnancy lasts forever. From the time it takes to get pregnant, through all the trimesters, it’s like "Groundhog Day" — Every day you wake up and your wife is still pregnant, and just when you finally have the baby and the waiting is over — guess what, she’s pregnant again!
Quick fix: Enjoy it. Once the baby comes, your life will become grounded in routine. Stay in the habit of doing things as a couple and find ways to be spontaneous and unpredictable. Don’t start nesting yet—you’ll have plenty of time for that later!
3. Suddenly, you go from being center-stage to having a supporting role. There was a time not so long ago when your wife would pick out your shirt and not let you go out "wearing that tie." Once she’s pregnant, you can walk out the door wearing only boxer shorts and she might not notice. Your baby becomes the star, the center of conversation, the person your wife thinks about 24/7. Her mommy-brain has kicked in and is in overdrive.
Quick fix: Get used to the idea of two becoming three, but also don’t lose the focus of the relationship. One of the roles guys play throughout pregnancy and children is to bring things back to the relationship. Ultimately, a happy family needs a happy couple at its center, and it’s OK to be a little selfish about your relationship and to remind your wife.
3 Things They Don’t Tell You About Having Kids
1. You really do end up choosing sleep over sex. The problem is that your days and nights are so full, and there are so many insidious distractions like e-mail and the Internet, that by the time you get into bed, you really just want to go to sleep. And very often, there’s a kid in your bed who’s afraid of monsters.
Quick fix: Having a healthy sex life is vital to having a healthy relationship. You have to make it a priority. I advise couples to make an effort to have sex at least once a week. And I try to live by that rule in my own relationship.
2. Your social life becomes one long, never-ending play date. Once you have kids, you really will lose touch with all of your old friends; you really will stop going out. You will never be able to kick back and relax again. You will make best friends with other parents, and all you’ll ever do is talk about kids. Terms like "playful parenting" will roll off the tip of your tongue.
Quick fix: In my case, my wife wanted a third kid and I was adamant about not having another. So we ended up adopting a puppy. And guess what? I have another new term in my vocabulary: "puppy playdate."
3. You tell yourself you’re one big loving family, but your kids want to kill each other. I was an only child. Now I have two boys, and I can’t leave the room for 30 seconds without World War III breaking out! We just naturally assume that kids benefit from having siblings, but some of the happiest families I know are ones with only one child. Not that I don’t love both my boys, but my wife is always talking about how much our boys love each other, and I'm like, "Really?!" They seem more like Harry Potter and Voldemort, engaged in an epic battle to smite each other.
Quick fix: Take some time for yourself. Put on your iPod and walk around the block for 15 minutes. A few minutes of quiet time helps you manage the noise.
Need more tips for kid-proofing your sex life? Head over to Good in Bed, where I’ll be answering your questions about sex, marriage, and family all week.
Ian Kerner is a sex therapist and New York Times best-selling author of numerous books including "She Comes First" and "Love in the Time of Colic." He is the founder of Good in Bed, and lives with his wife and two sons in New York City.