Photo from Sandor GardosWe have an unusual question this week, but one that might affect a lot of CafeMoms. What happens when you can't have sex? Sure, it's easy for someone to blithely say, "If your guy can't go three months, your relationship isn't what it should be," but in reality, this is a tough situation that can't be so easily dismissed. Here's the question, from an anonymous CafeMom member.
I've been put on "pelvic rest" for the remainder of my pregnancy -- I'm not supposed to even orgasm. It's been four weeks and we have at least 10 to go. Then, of course, the baby will be here, which isn't the most romantic time. How can I deal with my frustration and maintain our connection?
For this, I went to Sandor Gardos, PhD, a sex therapist and founder of MyPleasure.com. Though it's almost the opposite of the usual questions I bring him, he had a lot to say and some great advice.
Sandor Gardos, PhD, says: "First of all, I want to commend you for tackling this now and acknowledging that it's a problem for both you and your husband. Too many couples say, 'Okay' and then find themselves struggling to re-create that intimate bond later, which is a lot harder.
"The first thing you can do is maintain a sense of humor about the situation. It's easy to get angry, but the more you can laugh at it and admit that it's ridiculous, the more you'll foster a 'we're-in-this-together' team spirit.
"You may not realize this, but often the first thing a sex therapist does is tell a couple to stop having sex and start enjoying all the other things about their relationship. Our society is so orgasm-focused that it's difficult to learn how to savor and enjoy the rest of the experience. So what you're getting is sort of a sex-therapy boot camp.
"Here's what I'd advise:
- Look for alternatives to sexual touch -- think 'sensual' instead. Explore differences in temperature (ice cubes, warm wax) or in texture (feathers, fur).
- Expand on this by getting a couples massage or learning to massage each other -- his can have a 'happy ending.' It won't fix your frustration, but it'll keep you two touching, caressing, and feeling physically connected.
- If you're feeling adventurous, explore tantric sex. This Indian approach to spiritual lovemaking helps you use erotic energy to hit high, ecstatic states without orgasm, circulating sexual energy throughout your body rather than releasing it.
"Try to see this as an adventure more than a challenge -- a way to explore other ways to be together that feel good without orgasm. With luck, you'll find stuff you like so much, you'll add it to your sexual repertoire even after your pelvic rest (and childbirth, and those first eight weeks … ) are over."
Gardos has the right idea, though tantric sex seems like something I'd want to explore when I'm not carrying 40 extra pounds and stocking up on witch hazel. I'd add this idea: Keep a running tally of the things you do just for him -- joking, not serious -- and remind him of the "payback" you two will indulge in when you get your groove back. It'll keep him happy now while building anticipation for later, and again, you'll maintain that "you-and-me-against-the-world" feeling that's so important to couple bonding.
And since I'm in the same boat, I'll add this: Exercise. Non-impact sweat-builders like elliptical training or swimming don't just keep your metabolism and circulation up -- they also give you endorphins. Not as many as you're used to, but enough to keep you from punching the smug making-out couple on the park bench. (Been there, almost punched that.)
How do you stay connected without sex? Have another question for an expert? Ask in the comment box below!