The Celibate Parent

February 13, 2006

Maybe it’s because my toddler got me sick (again), but I am in a despondent, melancholic mood. It was further exacerbated when I realized that Valentine’s Day is tomorrow and, once again, my husband and I will do nothing for it and probably won’t ever until our son becomes a teenager. (We have no parents nearby to leave him and our closest friends have children of their own.)

Coincidentally, Berkeley Parents Network ran a couple of threads aptly named “Celibate Parents” and “Not attracted to spouse anymore.” While I am still attracted to my husband, like this letter writer, I find myself going through very LONG stretches of time with no lovemaking (Weeks? Months?).  As for dates with my hubbie: Fuggedaboutit. Here’s the celibate parent’s letter and one response that resonated with me:

I really enjoyed reading the discussion about passion and marriage. I would love to hear more about what sort of relationships people are really having.

I would also like advice about how to re-connect after serial monogamy gone astray…husband to baby who is growing into a fine youngster but how do you get back to husband after several years of celibacy? It seems similar to being single a long time only we still live together? I cannot imagine ever letting him see me naked again! No problem with kid seeing me because that has evolved….but the husband wife thing pretty much died in childbirth. Lots of mistrust and irritation. Not fundamental, we are both nice people. But the kind of trust that lets you take a bath with someone is kaput.

I read this column and it keeps me off the therapist’s couch, finally can admit I need some ideas.


Response to celibate parent:

I think you’ve touched on a much-hidden, yet very common issue.

My own situation is this: 15 mo daughter, and my husband and I haven’t had sex since two weeks before I gave birth. In short, we’re celibate.

Part of it is that we’ve just been so tired. Getting the house organized feels like a major accomplishment. Between our two jobs and our finances, daily life feels Sisyphusian enough. And sex? Huh huh. It’s enough for us to snuggle, give a peck on the cheek, and then sack out. I feel like I’ve scored if he gives me a playful grab. Oh, we talk about It. We say we’re not Doing It enough. We know we need to Do It. But we don’t. I don’t know why.

There are probably some psychology PhD candidates who’ve done research on marital sex lives post baby, but I’ll tell you what I think. I think twenty first century American life forces a set of unrealistic expectations on couples with kids: Be happy! Buy lots of stuff! Have great sex! Live an effortlessly clean, fart-free life! Raise a perfect child! Yeah. Right. We are, all of us, on the treadmill, and most of us are too pooped to pork.

I wish I had an answer for you. I’m still friends with my husband, and we laugh a lot, but sex is about as far away as the cry of a lone gull on some foggy shore.

Life is Bird Song and Droppings

Many of the respondents to “Celibate parent” and “Not attracted to spouse anymore” recommended therapy, marriage counseling, and often bandied about a book called Getting the Love You Want’ by Harville Hendrix. (I will check it out!)  But I am wondering how other parents resolved the celibacy issue outside of the therapist’s office?  How about dating tips for exhausted parents??