I’ve always been a big fan of physical touch.
From hugging to kissing, to leaning and holding hands, to cuddling and snuggling and looping arms…I love touching and being touched by other humans. For me, being touched means I’m loved, cared for and valued by others. So, it was much to my surprise when, 18 months after giving birth to my son, I found myself in a place where I did not want to be touched by anyone. I had just quit my job to become a stay-at-home-mom to my amazing (and rowdy) 18 month old son, who happened to still be breastfeeding on a regular basis (a situation I now know was a huge catalyst for my feelings. Check out this article that explains the affect breastfeeding has on your libido). I had always loved breastfeeding my son. What could have possibly changed to make me want to push him away every time he latched on? I would literally feel anger swelling inside of me as I took deep breaths to keep myself calm while he nursed. I often times envisioned myself sitting on the beach of a deserted island…all by myself, just staring out into the sea. Unfortunately, my son, my cats and my wonderful, amazing husband had become the little beach crabs that I was constantly dodging to stay away from.
I remember the day when I finally had enough of the constant touching. I was down on all fours scrubbing our kitchen floor. My husband walked up from behind and gave my bum a little squeeze. Without skipping a beat, my son slid on his back and landed directly under my chest, where he proceeded to pull down my shirt and attempt to nurse through my bra. To add to the action, my wonderfully affectionate Manx cat jumped on my back and tried to lay down. Something inside me just snapped. I quickly stood up while brushing everyone away, crossed my arms across my chest and curtly told my 3 “boys” to stop touching me. I saw the hurt and confusion flare up in their eyes, which made me feel like a horrible jerk. These were my favorite people in the whole wide world! They had done nothing wrong, so why did I feel so angry, so….violated? I felt like everyone wanted a piece of my body, and at the end of the day I had nothing left for myself.
My husband, who is always on point, picked up our son and walked towards the nursery. He looked back over his shoulder and said “why don’t you take a break?” I did need a break, some time to be by myself. I went into my room and sat down on my bed. Regret over my sharp words instantly swept over me, while guilt over my inability and unwillingness to give affection flooded my heart. I knew that my husband, who had always been so great at showing me affection, was missing the physically intimate relationship we had before getting pregnant. And I missed it too, I just felt like my inner “affection bank” was in the red, and in desperate need of a “kindness deposit.” I was also aware that my overwhelming desire for personal space was typical for moms, maybe even the result of a very normal hormonal change that happens while weaning. Click here to read about more moms who feel overwhelmed by nursing.
I decided it was time to have a “get down and dirty” talk with my husband. I needed to pour out my heart and be completely honest with him about my need for kindness over sexual touch. I was nervous about hurting his feelings and wanted to make sure he knew that his needs were just as important. So, that night we sat down and hashed it out. I told him everything I was feeling, including all of my fears about how this phase would affect our relationship. I also let him know that I needed his help, I asked for his advice and told him he was a necessary piece to this whole parenting puzzle. In the end, I was reminded why our marriage was worth fighting for.
If you’re in a similar situation, here are 3 things to keep in mind while you have “the talk” with your partner.
1. Be Honest
It’s hard being the mama. Period. But it’s also incredibly challenging being the partner who is also going through a life change and is having to constantly suck up and swallow their emotions and needs, while they watch the woman they love turn herself inside out to give everything she has to her children. It takes a lot of sacrifice, understanding and patience. There is no “I have it worse than you do” here. Bottom line, you have to find a way to work together, to be on the same team and to look out for the needs of the other in order to keep your relationship rockin’ and strong. This requires HONESTY, which should manifest in the form of a good heart-to-heart conversation. Moms, tell your partner exactly how you’re feeling. Don’t skimp on words or sugar coat them. Let them know that at the end of a rough day full of hitting, hair pulling, temper tantrums and constant nursing, the last thing you want is a random boob grab or surprise crotch snatch. Keep in mind that they mean the best, and are making attempts to keep the sexual chemistry alive. Make sure you bookend your honesty by….
2. Reinforcing Your Love
This is the really important part. After laying it out to your partner as to why you might be pushing them away physically, look them in the eye, take their hand and tell them how much you love them, how attractive they are to you and how desperately you want to experience intimacy with them. Remind them that you are undergoing physical, emotional and mental changes that are profound, yet have nothing to do with how you feel about them. Your body is raging with new hormones, you’re sleep deprived and you’re learning to tread on the new terrain of motherhood. Let them know you recognize all the ways they are trying to help you.
3. Ask For Help and Offer Solutions
Most men love to be asked for help. It’s in their nature to solve problems, especially those that involve the woman they love. Let your man know that you really need his help in order to succeed as a mom, and that his role as partner and dad are essential to you being the best you can be. Ask him to show you kindness when he first walks through the door, whether that be a massage or hug, or making dinner or taking the baby so you can have a break. Let him know that the way to sexy time is often times through nonsexual touch. I don’t know about the rest of you but a good foot massage at the end of a day has more than once ended up in a wild shenanigan. 😉
Listen mama, you’re going to pull through this very short phase of your life with flying colors. If you have the talk with your partner and still feel like he’s having a difficult time understanding, have him read this article. It’s full of all sorts of good info!