Why I Couldn’t Get Undressed on My Wedding Night (Emily T. Wierenga)

I met Emily when I was co-hosting The Drew Marshall Show in July. She was speaking on the hang-ups that we, as women, have with our bodies, and I found her insight both powerful and freeing. Our conversation at dinner later that night only reinforced my impression that she is truly an amazing woman with a much needed ministry. I hope you enjoy her post.

We arrived late with a bottle of wine and I stepped on the back of my wedding dress as we crossed the threshold.

I didn’t see anything but the bed, with its nicely folded corners and my new husband already in his boxers and grabbing us glasses from the kitchen cupboard.

I leaned against the wall, drinking the white, in white, and we were 23-year-old virgins who’d never seen each other naked, had only felt each other’s skin and I couldn’t unzip my dress.

I stalled, pulling out my bobby pins and he helped me, and we made a nice little pile of pins and then he asked if he could help me with my zipper.

And I asked him if he wanted another glass of wine.

It wasn’t that I didn’t want to make love with him.

It’s that I didn’t want him to see me. All of me.

Not because I didn’t trust him, but because I didn’t like myself.

I didn’t like my skin and I thought maybe if we got the room dark enough first and we could do that every night, till death do us part, and he’d never see my flat chest or my wide hips or my pear shaped body.

I ended up slipping the dress around my ankles and then quickly sliding beneath the sheet and it’s taken me 10 years to learn how to walk into the bedroom naked, with the lights on. To look my husband in the eye, standing there in all of my skin, my stomach stretched with marks from two sons and my chest even flatter than it was before.

I am not beautiful because of my skin, nor because of my husband, nor because of my children, but because of my heritage as Abba’s creation.

But even though I was raised in the church, as a pastor’s daughter, who was baptized by the age of eight and went to youth group and memorized Scripture, I didn’t know that womanhood was something to be embraced. I didn’t know there were two different kinds of pride—a hubris kind of pride, which is a lifting up of the soul in defiance of God—and then, the other. The good kind of pride. The kind that Isak Dinesen defines in her book, Out of Africa:

Pride is faith in the idea that God had when he made us. A proud man is conscious of the idea, and aspires to realize it. He does not strive towards a happiness, or comfort, which may be irrelevant to God’s idea of him. His success is the idea of God, successfully carried through, and he is in love with his destiny.

I thought I was supposed to feel ashamed of my female curves. Of my body.

My mum was insecure and my dad, emotionally absent, so as children, we all battled low self-esteem. We weren’t allowed to watch The Little Mermaid because she had a bare stomach and Mum would get embarrassed if Dad caught her changing. I would be mortified if Dad saw my bra hanging on the clothesline. We thought we needed to be hidden away. Fig leaves, and such.

But Jesus came to change all that.

Jesus came so that shame would go. Jesus came, so that we could know, again, the full idea God had for us when he created us.

I am learning what it means to be a woman —

What it means to embrace all of my femininity and to see it as a loving calling. To know the difference between love of self, and loving myself, and to treat myself as tenderly as I would a friend.

My friend, Celeste Steele-Perez, puts it this way: “As I meditate on what it means to be a woman, I marvel. I feel strong… I celebrate every curvy nuance of the feminine mystique. The memory of birthing makes my blood rush with the knowledge that … I, too, am made in God’s image!”

About the Guest Author:
Emily T. Wierenga is an award-winning journalist, artist, and the author of four books.

She is a columnist for the Christian Courier and Prodigal Magazine, and a paid contributor to The High Calling. In addition to being associate editor, ghostwriter, copy editor, and staff writer, Wierenga has written for Christianity Today (Kyria), Christian Week, Faith Today, Adbusters, Geez, The Anglican Planet, Focus on the Family, Christian Courier, and In Touch. Emily speaks regularly across the continent at women’s retreats, universities, churches and conferences, about her journey with anorexia nervosa.

For more info, please visit Find her on Twitter or Facebook.

Bedwork 10: Find Your Attractive Self

Here is my radio interview with Susan Knight of Calgary’s up!97.7 FM this week:

For years, I have been a fashion disaster. Any sense of style that I now possess is a direct result of the blood, sweat and tears of more savvy girlfriends helping me over the years. But despite their valiant attempts, I still feel like a dud. Accessories? They don’t even remotely hit my GAF (Give a Flip) Metre. I have a few sentimental pieces that I wear all the time. A diversity of colour? No thanks. I would rather throw on a white top (or grey in the winter) and call it good. Shoes? Ok. I really like heels. I had a horrendously broken bone this past year and couldn’t wear heels for months. I was seriously unhappy.

But in an attempt to figure this whole fashion thing out, I have been reading a book called “I Have Nothing to Wear.” Even the idea of picking up a fashion book made my skin crawl but my sister swore it would change my life, and I agreed to read it out of love for her. Looks like it was written for me because it talks about the utter frustration of jumping from style to style, trying to keep up with the latest trends. When I read that part, I was hooked. I don’t have a clue what the latest trends are and I struggle with a lot of guilt because I secretly don’t care. (We’re back to the GAF Metre.)

In this book, the authors outline 6 different “styles” to which women gravitate. They are: Classic Girl, Preppy Girl, Fashionista Girl, Soccer Mom, Bohemian Girl and Surfer Chick. The idea is to identify and own your own style so that you feel most comfortable in your own skin every time you step out the house. Turns out, I have been getting advice from Fashionistas and Bohemians for years, when I am a Classic Girl. This was an ah-ha moment for me. I felt normal for the first time in my life.

And that is where my bumblings in the world of fashion intersected with my professional life. For years, I have seen that there is a direct correlation between a woman who feels good within her own skin and her confidence as a lover. She doesn’t shrink into herself as often. She isn’t as concerned about how she looks. She is kinder with herself about her flaws. She isn’t as hesitant about getting naked. She knows who she is.

To be clear, this doesn’t mean that these women fit into some crazy cultural standard of what “looking good” entails. They aren’t all size 0s. They don’t all wear makeup. They don’t all look like they stepped out of a magazine. And they certainly don’t like all the parts of their bodies.

I met a woman once who was teeny-tiny and she asked me, “Do women struggle with body image in the bedroom? I weigh the same as I did in high school, but everything has shifted.” After I worked through my own fit of jealously about her weight, I was deeply moved by her vulnerability. Even the women who look spectacular on the outside carry their own shame.

Women who feel comfortable in their own skin have not escaped body image issues completely, and they don’t fit some cultural stereotype. They are just real women who have learned what works for them. Through trial and error over the years, they have found their attractive selves. They have come to accept parts of their bodies that have shifted with age, they have made the changes that were possible to make, and they have found what makes them feel like a “10.” They like themselves, and their husbands have a deep appreciation for them as well. Because this kind of confidence isn’t limited to picking out clothes in the mall. It extends all the way to the bedroom.

Here’s your Bedwork for the week: Find one outfit (in your closet OR use this as an excuse to go shopping) that makes you feel like a “10.” Wear it this week and then jot down in a journal how you felt. Make note of what it was about the outfit that made you feel like a “10” so that you can duplicate this experience. Need a bit of help in the fashion department? I highly recommend “I Have Nothing to Wear.”

Want more Bedwork? Check out my book The Essential Elements of Sex: 9 Secrets to a Lifetime of Intimacy.

What Mila Kunis Can Teach Us about Sexy

Here is my radio interview with Susan Knight of Calgary’s up!97.7 FM today:

Esquire Magazine just came out with their proclamation of the Sexiest Woman Alive for 2012. (And by “Sexiest Woman Alive” what they actually mean is “Sexiest Woman in the American Media.”) This year’s winner, Mila Kunis, follows in the footsteps of other women who most men would readily take to bed if they were given the opportunity. Those of us who think our culture has gone insane with its obsession with the perfect body just ignore the press releases and move on with our lives. Those of us who watch celebrities from a distance inwardly sigh in resignation that we will never be sexy.

But Hollywood has no shortage of women who are half-starved, surgically altered, primped and then airbrushed so that very little of the human remains. If sexy only means a certain clothing size, or cup size, and long, luscious hair, then the decision makers at Esquire would have a very difficult time narrowing down the candidates for their yearly title. So I did a bit of research to find out what is so catching about Mila. Here are some qualities that make her stand out from the crowd.

1)     Sexy is being comfortable in your own skin. Mila moves like she knows what she is doing. That is difficult for most of us. Moving easily, feeling good about ourselves was always derided as pride or vanity. However, it is at the heart of being sexy. One of my favourite definitions of the word comes from the book Sex God, wherein the author’s wife explained the term to their five-year-old son. “Sexy is when it feels good to be in your own skin. Your own body feels right, it feels comfortable. Sexy is when you love being you.”[1] When you know who you are and like yourself, you have one of the key ingredients to sexy.

2)     Sexy is passionate. When they announced the winner of this year’s title, Esquire also released a racy video of Mila prancing around, scantily-clad, giving sultry looks. (Here is the video.) But at the end of the video, she writes on the wall, “I’d rather be scuba diving.” It is completely disarming because we often assume that sexy is all about the sex appeal. But authenticity plays a role as well. Substance is important. What you are passionate about, the core of your being, comes out when you are being sexy.

3)     Sexy is warm and expressive. During the interview for the article, the reporter noted that Mila laughs and speaks loudly. “Loud enough that any of the ten or so people in the immediate vicinity can hear every word she’s saying. Loud enough that you start whispering just to counteract it.”[2] From the context of the article, I got the distinct impression that this was not so she could draw attention to herself, but because it is intrinsically part of her being. So many times, we minimize ourselves so we will fit in with the world around us. Unfortunately, this only serves to cut us off from others rather than deepen our connection. Sexy connects.

4)     Sexy is slightly mysterious. There are certain things about Mila’s life that are simply off-limits. She does not talk about the men that she is dating. When she needs privacy, she intentionally tries to dodge the paparazzi. A little bit of mystery is good for your sexy self as well. Not the “I’m not going to tell you where I was all night” type, but the “I’ll close the door when I go to the bathroom” variety. Understanding the difference and giving mystery room to breathe cultivates sexy.

We can’t all look like Mila. We can’t have the life experience, the visibility in the media or the roles in movies that she has had. But we can all be sexy.

[1] Bell, R. (2007). Sex God: Exploring the Endless Connections between Sexuality and Spirituality. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 46.

[2] For the complete article, see McCammon, R. (2012). “Mila Kunis Is the Sexiest Woman Alive 2012.” Esquire, October 6.

So You Think You Can Dance?

For as long as I can remember, I have wanted to dance. We didn’t have a lot of money as a family, so I wasn’t given options about extracurricular activities. I was slotted into piano year after year after year. In fact, I don’t ever remember being asked if I wanted to do it – it was just a foregone conclusion that I would play an instrument and my brother would play sports.

But I dreamt – literally and figuratively – about dancing. I was enthralled by dance shows. I was envious of my friends who danced. My heart would start to race and I could feel a rush of adrenaline when I saw a performance. Footloose was epic for me.

However, once I passed the age of ten, I thought that it was too late for me to learn. By that age, I was already a hard-core perfectionist and consequently was terrified of doing anything poorly. As an adult, I continued to buy into the fallacy that dance lessons are just for little kids. I put Riley in dance and watched from the sidelines.

A few years ago, a friend invited me to a hip-hop class. When I observed the class, I felt that old, familiar stirring within me. I enrolled in the class, but it was a dud for me. The class was large and so I struggled to get one-on-one time with the instructor. I joined the group halfway through the year and so I had to catch up to women who had been practicing the routine for months. But the death knell came when an important conference was scheduled for the same weekend of the recital. The whole experience was kind of like a firecracker that promises to be spectacularly impressive and just fizzles out before it even starts. But the class was significant in one respect – I had finally realized that a thirty-something-year-old mom could take dance.

So despite that first false start, I found an adult hip-hop class when we moved to Toronto. Then I recruited my friend Judy to go with me so it wouldn’t be so scary. This time, though, I was in for a radically different experience. I was privileged to have two amazing instructors – Lucy and Monique – who nudged me out of my comfort zone. They demonstrated the basic moves, of course, but they did so much more. They took the time to work with each of us, drawing out and honing our unique styles. They pushed us when we didn’t have the personal courage to push ourselves. They laughed with us when we messed up and cheered when we finally got the move. They created a safe place to be less than perfect. They invested in us. Because of them, the year was transformational.

In my professional life, I encourage people to pursue the passions deep within. I teach about learning to be comfortable with the uncomfortable. I highlight the pitfalls of perfectionism. I coach people to press through the awkward learning phase so that a new skill set has the chance to emerge. I demystify body image issues. I know all these things intellectually and I see the benefits in the lives of my clients. But I had the opportunity to practice what I preach on the dance floor all year long.

Yesterday, I did a dance recital in front of hundreds of people. I looked nothing like the competitors on So You Think You Can Dance, but that wasn’t the point. I had worked hard so I could earn a spot on that stage. I wasn’t in the audience anymore. My husband and daughter got to witness me practicing courage. I modeled “out of my comfort zone” in living colour. I faced down the gremlins that told me I was too old and too uncoordinated to perform. Best of all, I had so much fun. It was an amazing way to fulfill a life-long dream.

And next year, I’m going back for more.

My dear friend Judy and I right before we performed our dance.




Christine Lingerie

Remember how I said I am not a good juggler? Here is one superb example of it. In September, I had the privilege to interview Christine Morton of Christine Lingerie. I am ashamed to admit that I couldn’t figure out how to post the video and so, rather than getting help, I allowed it to slip off my radar. This is such a shame, because Christine is really engaging and her line is stunning. Not only do movie stars love her product, but Christine really understands how to create sensual lingerie that works with a wide range of body types.

So in the spirit of “better late than never”, here is the video and the link to her site. (No, I didn’t figure out how to do it, but I finally asked for help.)

Here is the link to her site: Christine Lingerie

Having Sex to Relieve Mental Stress

With very little effort I found quite a few websites and articles that talk about taking a “mental health day”.  Some of them are as simplistic as, “don’t go into to work if you think you might need to kill your boss – take a mental health day and relax”.  Others are fairly lengthy explanations about the existence of World Mental Heath Day – which is evidently every October 10th.  The bottom line is that we all get stressed at times in our lives.  And there is some evidence that taking a day to focus solely on yourself has tangible benefits to your mental well being.  But when a friend of mine pointed me to this article, The Benefits of Sex for Your Mind and Body, I realized that we don’t have to take a day – or wait for October 10th – before we can do something to reduce the amount of mental stress we carry.  We can have sex.  The article lays out 10 major benefits of sex that all relate to helping your mind and your body relax.

1.     Sex Makes You Sleepy.
“The sexual release you have after having sex actually helps you sleep better at night,” says Dr. Yvonne Fulbright, author of The Better Sex Guide to Extraordinary Love Making.

2.     Sex Makes you Happy.

Fulbright said that in a recent study of 4,000 American women, those who had the lowest stress and best overall mental well-being were those who were the most sexually active.

3.     Not having sex can lead to depression.

4.     Sex causes an “orgasmic pregnancy.”

“Women are the most interested in having sex when pregnant because they feel really good about themselves overall.”

5.     Sex will boost your self-esteem.

Fulbright says that having sex boosts your entire self-esteem, not just your body image.

6.     It releases oxytocin and endorphins.

Oxytocin is commonly referred to as the “love hormone” because it leads to feelings of intimacy, closeness, and strong social connections with someone else.

7.     Orgasms help mental health.

“Nothing is as relaxing as putting yourself in a place where you relieve stress,” says Dr. Gloria G. Bramer, a Georgia-based licensed clinical sexologist. “After you have an orgasm you release natural oxytocin to the brain, which balances you out.”

8.     Sex gets rid of cramps.

Bramer says that having sex may be the best way to relieve menstrual cramps. Many women say that by having an orgasm, they not only get instant relief from their cramps but also from other PMS related symptoms.

9.     Sex has healing powers.

Orgasm can help relieve chronic back and other pain.

10. Sex is connected to your libido.

Just as sex is tied to mental health and happiness, it’s also tied to your libido. Bramer says that when you are feeling stressed, your libido is going to suffer. This will in turn diminish your appetite for sex, which will also add to your risk of depression. Having sex is an instant mood enhancer that can reverse all of these symptoms.

Now, I will be the first to point out that the article, written by Colleen Moody, does not site source studies for these tidbits of information (other than the book by Dr. Fulbright and the quotes from Dr. Bramer), but I still find the list interesting.  These might be common sense things to some of you, but putting things into a neat little list can often be helpful.

Want to add to the list?  What mental health benefits do you find accompany sex and orgasm?

For those interested, you can find the original article here.

How to Look Good Naked

“All we’ve ever wanted is to look good naked; hope that someone can take it.
God save me rejection from my reflection; I want perfection”

Robbie Williams, Bodies

How to Look Good Naked

I am endlessly fascinated by the British series How to Look Good Naked. During each show the host, Gok Wan, will hone in on the deepest insecurities of a female guest and discover which body part she despises most about herself. He will then have her strip down to her “knickers” (or underwear for you non-British folk out there) and introduce her to a line up of average-looking women who are also in their undies. Gok explains to the guest that these women are lined up from smallest to largest of the hated body part. The woman then has to place herself where she thinks she fits in the line up. So, for example, if she is really concerned about her thighs, he arranges the women from smallest to largest thighs and then has the guest decides where she believes she measures up.

I have never seen a show where the guest didn’t go right near to the end where the largest body part was. Sometimes, while she does this, she is in tears completely undone by her self-loathing. However, Gok will then move her to the place where she actually belongs – this is most often nearer to the smaller end. The brilliant point that the show makes is that when it comes to body image, how we perceive ourselves is not necessarily reality.

We are besieged, each and every day, by images of “beauty” as defined by marketers. We somehow forget that it is their job to make us feel insecure about ourselves so that we will go out and buy their product. In fact, we get so caught up in what beauty is supposed to look like that when our lover tells us how good we look, we grimace and respond with an ungracious comment such as, “you need to get your eyes checked”. Internally, we are running through a checklist – formed through our consumption of airbrushed images – of all the reasons why s/he is wrong. But we, like the women on How to Look Good Naked, might have perspectives on our bodies which are very, very wrong.

Most people at this point go into a diatribe about how our character, our choices, our love for each other, our insides are most important in life. And I am all for those things. Truly.

However, there is no doubt that attraction is essential to a great sex life. You go to bed anticipating hot, steamy sex and all that passion you are feeling is immediately extinguished when he kisses you with unbrushed teeth and you get to taste what he had for dinner. Or she sidles up to you in her ratty sweats – so she can stay warm during foreplay, of course. Or he hasn’t cleaned under his finger nails since 1995. Or her hair hasn’t come down from that pony-tail since the kids were born. Physical attraction matters. You might be a beautiful person inside, but s/he is not making love to your insides.

When I am coaching couples, I try to redirect their focus from what our society says is attractive to what they find attractive in each other. Instead of scrambling to reach some unattainable cultural expectation (let’s face it, we’ve all seen rather unflattering photos of what the media refer to as “beautiful people”), find out what your lover sees as beautiful and what makes you feel attractive and sexy. Then set a goal to work on those things.

One of my clients shared with me her road to finding her “attractive self”. She has terrible skin sensitivities and so she cannot wear makeup easily and even hair products can be problematic. She always felt “less-than” because she couldn’t have the glamorous hair and makeup like the models. However, she discovered that she feels really attractive in skirts. So, she started to look for skirts which really make her feel sexy. Sometimes they are long; sometimes they are short. They had to be made of a fabric that felt good to her. She works with her husband, and so sometimes she goes to work with garters on underneath her skirts. And he loves this. Just knowing that his wife is wearing garters under her skirts is a complete turn-on to him especially since he can think about it all day at work. Now, if you saw her walking down the street and you were looking only for women who fit the model version of “gorgeous”, you might not give her a second glance. But she knows that she is attractive and her husband knows this too. They have found what really works for them.

What works for you and your lover? Do you actively put effort into being attractive for your spouse? If this is an area of your relationship that you would like to address, here are some things you can do:

  1. What does your lover find attractive about you? Have you ever asked or have you just assumed? Ask him/her – what is your favourite feature about me? What do I do that you find attractive? If I am able to do nothing else to make myself attractive, but I could only do one thing for you – what would that one thing be? If s/he is open to the conversation, turn it around and tell him what you find attractive about him/her.
  2. What makes you feel attractive, beautiful, sexy, hot? Do you allow yourself the time, the energy, the money to invest in this? How would your demeanor change if you did? Would your lover notice a difference? Would other people around you notice a difference? Find one (even small) way that you can feel more attractive this week and do it.
  3. Buy an article of clothing that makes you feel incredible. How does it feel against your skin? What do you love about it – is it the colour, the shape, the fabric, the way you look in it? How does your lover respond when you wear it?

The Body Song

This past week, I had the privilege of introducing my family to Paddy and Carole Ducklow.  Back in the 60’s, when my parents left Texas to move up to Canada, Dad met Paddy in graduate school and they began a life-long friendship. My father wrote his first book in the basement of their home. He logged countless hours sitting out on their deck drinking beer and debating life, the universe and everything. Paddy flew to Texas to attend his funeral.

As a child, I have many memories of the Ducklow’s being a part of our lives. Even when the two men were living in different parts of the Lower Mainland, they always stayed connected. And then, several years before our family returned to Texas, they worked together at Burnaby Christian Fellowship. Dad was senior pastor, and Paddy was on staff as the church psychologist who ran a practice in the church.

One of the programs that they collaborated on during this time was a seminar to teach kids and their parents about the concept of “appropriate touch”. The kids and parents were split into different rooms and taught about issues surrounding personal boundaries, safety and communication. I was one of those kids, and my favourite part of the whole seminar was learning the song, My Body by Peter Alsop (which was thereinafter referred to by us simply as “the body song”).

Fast-forward 20+ years. My family is driving to the Ducklow’s house for the first time and I am explaining to my daughter about the importance of this family in my life. Having a vague memory of the body song, I decided that it would be spectacularly impressive if I could teach it to my daughter to sing for Paddy over dinner. Riley was very much into this idea (life is, after all, a musical for her) and enthusiastically embraced the task. The more we sang it, the more furrowed my husband’s brow became. He finally cleared his throat and said, “Uh, honey? I think you are not remembering that song right. I am pretty sure that’s not how it goes.” I pooh-poohed his concerns and, undaunted, Riley and I sang the song a few more times – to ensure that she really knew it.

When we arrived at Ducklow’s, the conversation inevitably turned to the body song. Actually, Eric brought it up because he was so smug in his assumption that I had the words wrong and thought it would be hilarious to see Paddy’s reaction. I was hesitant because I had an ever-growing suspicion that Eric was, unfortunately, right. Eventually, he coaxed Riley and me into singing it together.  So, in a vain attempt to prove that I was correct (or more that he was wrong) I belted out with great gusto:

My body’s nobody’s body but mine.

You touch your own body,

Let me touch mine.

There was an eerie silence that fell over the room for what was only a moment but felt like eternity.  Then the room erupted!  I thought Paddy was going to fall off the couch laughing. He fell to the side and buried his face in a pillow as he howled in laughter.  It was suddenly inherently obvious to me that I had turned a song on appropriate touch into one on mutual masturbation.

***Epic FAIL***

Later in the evening, Paddy and Riley went to the computer and drudged up the words to this 1980’s song. Thank goodness for Google!

The true version of the body song can be found here and goes like this:

My body’s nobody’s body but mine.

You run your own body,

Let me run mine.

I will admit that the correct one is a much better version for Riley to be singing out in public.  But as I am not one to be easily dismayed, I will brazenly confess that personally prefer my version…even if you’ll never hear me sing it aloud ever again.

So inn the midst of all of this personal humiliation, I figured that I should try to redeem myself by unabashedly sharing the story with everyone and using it as a teaching tool to help parents talk with their children.

Eric, however, is still laughing.

10 Ways to Reconnect with Your Spouse as Lover

In my business, I often ask couples to tell me what hinders them from having the sex life they dream about. The number one answer that I get is, “the kids.” These parents deeply love their children, but are keenly aware that their sex life began to abate when little Johnnie or little Susie was born. We live in a culture which dotes on children – we make them the center of our world; we make sure that they are exposed to every possible activity so that they can thrive in adulthood; we keep them up with us until we go to bed so that we can spend as much time with them as possible.

The problem with having our kids as an exclusive focus in our marriage is that we forget the romance, the friendship, and the attraction that drew us together in the first place. So many times, couples have very little to say when I ask what they talk about besides the topic of their kids. It seems to be the only thing that they have in common. However, if we want a long-lasting relationship with this person, we need to remember that the kids will eventually leave home (after all, we are raising adults, not children). And when that happens, we want to make sure that our companionship together was not built wholly on them.


Here are 10 ways that you can stay connected with your spouse as a lover, not just as a parent:

  1. Start dating again. Go on regular dates with your spouse. Begin with once a month and then increase the frequency so that eventually you go on dates once a week. #1 rule of the date: No talking about the kids! If you are struggling about things to talk about, think of things that you used to talk about before the kids came along, what is going on in the world around you, or get a book which gives you questions to ask each other. Learning to talk about as lovers may feel awkward at first, but the more you practice it, the easier it will be.
  2. Establish good sleep patterns for your children. This includes having a regular bedtime for them that is earlier that when you and your spouse go to bed. If your kids are younger, have a set time when they have to be in their rooms even if their lights are not out. Not only is this good for your sex life, but it is also essential for the health of your children.[1] Need some advice on how much sleep your kids actually need? Check out the National Sleep Foundation’s recommendations here.
  3. Establish good sleep patterns for yourself! Oftentimes, we fall into the trap of thinking, “If I stay up later, I can get more done.” However, exhaustion ultimately makes us less effective and it also undermines our sexual relationship (which, in turn, undermines our marriage). So, get into a bedtime routine which ensures that you will get enough hours of sleep. Not sure how much is enough? Find out here.
  4. Take time each day to connect emotionally. Have a time each day where you and your spouse sit down together and have a short conversation without the children present. Let the children know that Mom and Dad need ten minutes alone and make sure that they have something that can keep them occupied and safe during this time. This allows you to connect daily but it also models to your children the importance of your relationship together as a couple. They will reap the benefits of this modeling when they have their own relationships.
  5. Make sex a priority. Sex is the one thing that sets your spouse apart from a really good friend. It is the physical and spiritual connection that you have with this special someone that you share with no other. Set up “sex dates” so that you don’t allow too much time to pass between sexual encounters. Get answers to any physical difficulties that you are experiencing. Stop making excuses (when the kids get older, this will get better…).
  6. Ensure privacy. Are you one of those people who can’t get past the idea of your children walking in on you in the throes of passion? Start teaching your children the importance of Mommy-Daddy alone time. This is time when the two of you focus solely on each other.  It doesn’t have to be sex every time, but once the kids understand the importance of the uninterrupted time, you can worry less about, well, interruptions. But just to be on the safe side, put a lock on your door and get a white noise machine so that you can ensure that you will not be seen or heard by the kids. After all, the modeling I spoke of earlier only goes so far!
  7. Begin a regular exercise routine. What does this have to do with sex??? The science behind arousal is all about blood flow. When you are working out on a consistent basis, you are increasing blood flow to your extremities and you can reap the benefits of this in the bedroom. Not convinced? Exercising also leads to a better body image, helps us sleep better and reduces stress – all of which make intimacy easier.
  8. Variety is the spice of life! We all have our favorites (and knowing your spouse’s favorites is great way to make your marriage sizzle) but variety expands our horizons. How do you find our whether your kids like PB&J sandwiches? Or curry? Or sushi? You let them try. So, add something new to your “menu” once a month. If you both hate it, then scratch it off the list of things you will do again. However, you might be surprised and find a new favourite!
  9. Find out what makes your spouse feel loved. As spouse who feels loved is much more likely to want to jump into bed. Do they need a back massage? A heart-to-heart talk? An afternoon away from the kids? A compliment on how good they look? A love note tucked into the laptop? How about the having the toilets scrubbed? Find out what sets the stage for romance for your lover and then do it unbidden.
  10. Get out of town! Vacation sex is the best. The kids aren’t around (so you don’t have to be quiet or worry about them walking in on you), you can sleep when you want to, you don’t have to get home to a babysitter and you have time to linger. Figure out a way to spend at least one weekend a year away from the kids and try to increase this frequency as the years go on. If you don’t have a relative or babysitter to watch the kids, do an exchange with friends. You take their kids one weekend and then they take your kids another weekend. It’s a win/win for both couples.

Not to put too fine a point on it, there is a reason KT Oslin wrote the lyrics “Don’t kiss me like we’re married…Kiss me like we’re lovers”. All too often we separate the two – especially once kids come along. Never let that passion for each other fade away. It is much easier to stay connected in the first place than it is to re-connect after years of simply parenting together. As my husband likes to say, “parallel parenting is great so long as you can be horizontal in the bedroom too!”

If the spark is fading, then take the steps now to rekindle the passion that you once had (or always wanted). If you still “got it”, then don’t lose it through neglect. Work on it like you were losing it, and you will always have it!

[1] In the September 1 Issue of the Journal of SLEEP, Jacques Montplaisir, MD, of the Sleep Disorders Center at Sacre-Coeur Hospital in Montreal, Canada concluded that children who do not get enough sleep are at higher risk of obesity, ADHD and slower cognitive abilities.