The Real Reason You're Having Less Sex Post-Kids

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Feel like your sex life has taken a dive since you became a parent? You're not imagining things. According to a new report in the journal Archives of Sexual Behavior, married couples are having less sex now than even single people -- a measly 55 times a year. (Although depending on the age of your kids, that may genuinely seem like a lot.)

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Theories abound as to why sex falls way, way down parents' to-do list. Financial strain! Smartphones! Soccer schedules! Netflix!

But dig a little deeper and it seems that nature may simply WANT you to get less busy now that you've got a little one (or two) to care for.

Having a baby brings you closer to your partner. But it also drives you apart -- especially in regards to the "alone time" you two have.

"The reasons for this are evolutionary in nature," points out Paul Hokemeyer, JD, PhD, a licensed family and marriage therapist in New York City. "The physical toll of carrying a child, giving birth, and then attending to the absolute needs of an infant are physically and emotionally exhausting."

From a Darwinistic, "survival of the species" lens, he adds, "it makes perfect evolutionary sense that couples will want to avoid sex during the first six months to a year of the new child's life. Sex places the couple at risk of having another child, which would detract their attention and energies from caring for their infant."

Caring for one infant alone is hard enough, let alone two.

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Plus, a new baby leads to "fundamental changes in [your] identity," says Matthew D. Johnson, PhD, chair of psychology at Binghamton University, State University of New York, and author of Great Myths of Intimate Relationships: Dating, Sex, and Marriage. As a result, "romantic partners become co-parents."

"These identity changes," Johnson notes, "are accompanied by a reordering of priorities. Instead of thinking about the needs of a partner or one's self, the needs of a baby become urgent and paramount. This leads to changes in every aspect of the lives of the parents/partners."

Your conversations, for instance, are suddenly about your family -- what your baby spit up/ate/pooped. When your daughter has to get to Brownies and your son to a playdate and what's everyone having for dinner? Do you even remember what topics you and your partner used to love unpacking for hours, pre-kids?

"These changes, in combination with sleep deprivation, can lead to lower relationship satisfaction and less sex," Johnson says.

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And while you may think that monogamy also takes a toll -- at least for men, that's not the case. In fact, says Johnson, women have more difficulty than men when it comes to maintaining sexual desire with the same person -- "even when it's someone they love."

So what can you do to fight this downward spiral?

If you have a newborn, don't force it.

"The worst thing a couple can do is put additional pressure on itself by forcing sex during the six months immediately following childbirth," says Hokemeyer.

Instead, the focus should be on YOU and your emotional and physical health.

Cuddling, hugging, and massage, Hokemeyer says, can keep you two tight until those tumultuous first months -- or year -- have passed.

But if your kids are older and you're still going through a dry spell, the opposite advice is true.

"Just like you get back on a bike after you fall off, it's important to be intentional and diligent about getting your sex life back on track," says Hokemeyer.

To do this, set realistic goals.

"If you haven't had sex for years, and many couples haven't, aim for one sexual encounter a month," he explains. "Don't worry about it being mechanical. Assume that it will be. The point is to make it happen."

Once you start, Hokemeyer reassures, "you'll be pleasantly surprised by how easily and quickly you'll find a renewed sexual flow to your relationship." 

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