Shame, Shaming and Being Shamed

Ordinarily, I bounce along in life, having a series of wild and wacky and usually embarrassing things that happen to me that I can pass onto you in the context of developing a deeper and richer sex life.

But lately life has been teaching me about something more serious.  Something that causes one to stop, to ponder, to contemplate. Something that is extraordinarily uncomfortable to acknowledge. And yet something that, I believe, is at the heart of why so many people have such pain when talking about their sex lives.

My personal journey started when I was doing that aforementioned bouncing along and I ran smack-dab into a situation wherein I had caused pain to another. To be sure, this was not intentional on my part in any way, but intent did not mitigate the fact that I hurt someone.  I did.  And I felt awful for having caused them pain.

But their reaction to me – whether or not they intended it to be – was devastating.  I was shaken to my very core.  Suddenly my emotions were all over the map.

I cried. I raged. I had dialogues in my head wherein I called upon all my debate skills from law school and trounced them in public. But when all of this subsided, I wondered, “why is this affecting me so personally?” To be completely blunt, I had apologized to them for causing pain, so I could not figure out why I was still in emotional turmoil over this situation!

So, as is my habit when I find myself in unknown waters, I researched.  And to my surprise, my research led me to the concept of shame.


Dr. Brune Brown (a self-described researcher/story-teller), who has spent a decade researching “connection”, says that shame is the fear of disconnection. It is the silent, inner question that we all ask, “Is there something about me that if people see, I won’t be worthy of connection?” And in her brilliant book, The Artist Way, Julia Cameron defines the act of shaming as “the attempt to prevent a person from behaving in a way that embarrasses us.”

We all have things within us that we are deeply afraid to reveal to others. Dr. Brown asserts that all humans capable of empathy have shame and the less we talk about it, the more we have it. We all wear masks that hide the parts of us that we don’t want others to see.

It is my profession to poke behind the masks that people wear and peek into their innermost fears and doubts. I cannot count the number of couples I have met who appeared to all those around them to “have it together” and yet they were secretly meeting with me to discuss their sexless marriage, or the incompatibility of their sexual proclivities or the fact that they loved each other, but were no longer “in love”.

I have also met countless young couples, boasting that they would do just fine in their sex lives because they had done all the research on the quantitative and qualitative elements necessary to sustain a healthy relationship. Later, they creep back to me because, in their youthful zeal, they had failed to see that there are things that you very simply cannot anticipate through theory…only experience can truly test whether you can thrive. Relationships, simply put, are not academic.

But what happens when we say something or do something (intentionally or inadvertently) that rips the mask off of someone and exposes their shame?

Most people resort to blame. (Dr. Brown says the clinical definition of blame is “a way to discharge pain and discomfort.”) For if they can turn the argument around and make you look and feel bad – if they can shame you – then they will feel safe and secure once again with their mask firmly back in place. It turns the spotlight from shining on their insecurities to redirects the light onto you.  For, as we all know, the spotlight can be extremely uncomfortable.

Here is an example from my coaching practice. I met with a woman who had been married for decades and had decided that the sex life she had lived with was not what she wanted for the rest of her relationship. She had come to the place of needing a substantial change if she was going to stick around. After a series of conversations, her husband threw up his hands in disgust and said, “What is wrong with you? Sex has always been good for me!”

This woman, after years of silence, had expressed a desire to change their sex life, and his response was to cover his own shame of being unable to satisfy his wife by telling her that she was the problem. She had embarrassed him, and he responded by shaming her.

So how do you confront shame and blame in the bedroom?

  1. It starts with you. Shift your focus from the other person and onto you. What did they say that made you feel vulnerable, exposed or insecure? Is there any truth to what they said? If so, what changes can you make in your behavior, your choices and your attitudes towards yourself and others? Once you have that figured out, get to work.
  2. Do not deny the pain. Cameron has a profound way of addressing shame and blame. Instead of saying, “It doesn’t matter”, she instead says, “I will heal.” In this way, she encourages us not to deny the feelings that resulted from the blame, but rather to allow ourselves to move past them.
  3. Be patient with others. Sometimes just understanding that we are all covering our own shame gives us patience and grace for others. Furthermore, when we refuse to accept the shame and refuse to strike back in blame, we disrupt the pattern and thereby grow in personal strength.
  4. Be kind to yourself. Because she is a teacher of the creative, Cameron suggests that the very best way to move past shame is to be creative once again. Perhaps you do not consider yourself a creative person, so you think this is not a solution for you. The point, however, stands. Do something that reminds you of who you really are: have lunch with a friend who can kindly speak truth to you, read old letters from people who love and encourage you, or write in your journal about the things you believe to be true.
  5. Move to a place of forgiveness. Eventually, when you are ready (do not rush this process just because it is the right thing to do!), begin the process of forgiveness. If you need pointers, read my article Freedom of Forgiveness.

Of course, putting several bullet points on paper makes the process seem simple. Let me to assure you that it is not. But it is a starting place. If you want to research a bit more, take 20 minutes and watch Dr. Brown’s presentation at TED here.

So what do you think?  Have you ever been shamed…have you ever reacted to someone by shaming them?  Your thought are always welcome!

Winning Isn’t Everything


Not too long ago, a dear friend came to visit us. During the course of her stay, we had much discussion about her new career. After years of working in the field of web design, she has taken to has taken up designing board games. She seems to have a natural talent for it; two of her prototypes have a very strong potential to be published in the next year.  Not bad for a newbie designer.

Because my repertoire of games runs the very uncreative gambit from Go Fish to Monopoly, I found this new world to be completely fascinating. The more I learned about the intricacies of the process of publishing games, the more impressed I became. And, of course, you can’t hang out with a game designer without playing a lot of games. So, after Riley was put to bed at night, our friend would pull out various games and we would play.

One game, Dominion, was addictive. We played every chance we could get. The hours would melt away, and I would look at the clock in horror when I realized it was late into the morning hours and we were still playing.

Needless to say, once our friend returned home, Eric and I immediately purchased the game. After all, TV had become incredibly boring in light of the fact that we could collect gold and potions and other such fun baubles.

Fairly quickly, however, I noticed a disturbing trend. Eric and I would play; he would beat me (badly); I would get angry; I would go to bed in a huff. Evidently, my husband’s skill at the game had escaped my notice when there were several people playing and was magnified when it was just the two of us. We were not just playing the game of Dominion on the kitchen table; it was manifesting itself in our relationship too. The fact that he won ALL THE TIME had me seriously pissed off.

Have you ever tried to have sex when you are pissed off? It doesn’t work so well. Pretty soon I noticed that it had been a long time since we had sex. (I will refrain from mentioning a specific time frame here only because I believe that every one should decide for their own relationship how much sex is “enough”. Just take my word that, for us, it was a long time.)

Since we both saw the pattern of drought that was emerging, we would start the evening with the best of intentions. “Let’s play a quick game and then have sex,” I would enthuse. (Why didn’t I reverse the order, you ask? Simply put, our five-year old does not go to sleep immediately at bed time, so we have a “no sex” safety-buffer zone for about an hour after we put her down.)

And then, after one game, I would want another…and another. But by the time my husband had thoroughly trounced me over and over, I was physically and emotionally exhausted and ready to call it an evening. “I don’t like playing with you,” I would pout. Until the next night came and I would ask to play again. Seriously, a therapist would probably have a field-day with me.

I did get me thinking, though. The game of Dominion might seem like a silly example, but there are lots of little irritations that we allow to invade our sex lives:

  • He doesn’t pick up his socks and has no clue about the enormous amount of housework that I have to do = No sex for you buddy.
  • She is watching her TV shows (again), so I will roll over and fall asleep. Pocket veto.

Really, at the end of the day, there are so many things that get in the way of a good sex life that really shouldn’t get in the way. Isn’t your sex life more important?

Finally, FINALLY, I took a bit of my own advice and decided to do something about this issue. I had a few options:

1)   I could stop playing the game.

2)   I could change my attitude towards winning. My husband, to his defense, was trying to teach me new strategies so that I could get better. He wasn’t being a jerk about the whole thing. Really. No, really.

3)   I could do some work during the “buffer” time, then have sex, then play the game. (And get pissed off or not at that point…either way it wouldn’t have impact on our sex life!)

4)   Try other options that hadn’t yet occurred to me.

Recognizing what we need to change and then going and making that change is challenging. My problem was that I enjoyed the behaviour that ultimately led to my anger. I liked playing the game. I liked trying to win. But the long-term effect was counter-productive for my relationship. So I needed to change.

I personally chose a combination of options 2 and 3. We still play the game, and I still have delusions of beating Eric, but it no longer has a negative impact on our sex life. And in my mind, that is a pretty big win.

And I take my wins where I can get them, because they still aren’t happening in Dominion…but I’m not bitter (anymore)!!

Relational Eroticism Part 2

I am not a history teacher by any means, but I have heard the comment that those who do not study the past are destined to repeat it.  I understood that statement to be an indictment on ignorance, and I have never wanted to be ignorant.  So, in order to “study the past” I became a student of it, mostly by watching the History Channel and Mel Gibson movies every now and again.  And one of my, now less so, guarded secrets is that I love watching the History Channel.  I was watching it the other day when my husband walked in.  He stared at the screen for a moment and saw men dressed up in medieval armor and turned and looked at me…waiting for some explanation as to why I was watching historical battles reenacted. I didn’t really have one other than a meek, “there wasn’t anything else on.”  But the truth is that I found it fascinating.

I love the names we have given to periods of time in history:  “The Dark Ages”, “The Renaissance”, “The Age of Enlightenment”…these all sound so romantic.  It’s way better than simply saying, “I grew up in the 70’s!  Best I have is “The Age of Bellbottoms and Awful Moustaches”, and that doesn’t roll off the tongue.

Just like looking back at pictures from the 1970’s and wondering how on earth our parents could have thought those clothes were fashionable in any way, when we look back on other ages in history it is always interesting to see what odd and even ignorant perceptions and paradigms people held so dear to themselves.

For instance, look at the so-called “Middle Ages” or “Dark Ages” for instance.  It was not until hundreds of years later that scholars began to use those terms for it, and it quickly took on a derogatory meaning.  It became a way to sum up that section of time by focusing on what was deemed to be “wrong with it.”  For a while it was called the “Age of Faith” because religion reigned supreme in the culture. Later, when this was deemed to be inappropriate because it is in direct conflict with the subsequent deification of intellect and man, scholars began referring to that period of history as “barbaric” and “priest-ridden”, and spoke of “these dark times”, “the centuries of ignorance”, and “the uncouth centuries”.

By the same token, these same scholars began calling their own time the “Age of Enlightenment.”  Thanks to the great oracle Google, I can tell you that, The Age of Enlightenment (or simply the Enlightenment) is a term used to describe a time in Western philosophy and cultural life, in which reason was advocated as the primary source and legitimacy for authority.  In fact, during this time reason was held to be the primary value of society.  Reason was prized above authority, intuition, emotion, mysticism, superstition, and faith.

Why am I forcing you into my private interest in history?  Because there are things we can learn from the past.  In fact, our current culture is shaped, in many ways, by cultural past. Studies have been done that show as much as 90% of our beliefs are secondary – meaning, that we either heard or read it, but did not personally experience it, and yet we believe it to be true. So when we hear “Dark Ages” we believe those times to be “bad” and when we hear “Enlightenment” we believe those times to be “good”.  What follows from that are logical conclusions that we should do like those who were “enlightened” and not be like those who were “ignorant”.   The pendulum has swung fully from a time where mysticism and faith (belief in that which cannot be seen or explained) were revered to a place where reason and understanding reign supreme.  Anything that cannot be fully known, understood, and explained in minute detail is not to be trusted.

The problem with this, like with any over-reaction, is that we have thrown the proverbial baby out with the bathwater.  Believe me, I too love to know and understand things.  When my husband is telling me something, I often serenade him with a chorus us “details, details…I WANT DETAILS!!!”  Seriously, I really do sing this to him.  It’s cute when I do it.  Seriously.

Anyway, the point here is that I am like everyone else when it comes to knowing things.  I want to know.  I need to know.  It’s my God-given right to know!  And therefore I tend to not trust things that I do not really understand.

This same philosophy has wormed its way into our belief about relationships.  I cannot tell you how many people have told me that they “deserve to know” every detail of their lover’s past and present in every area of their life.  And if they don’t know every detail, then they assume that things are being hidden and if things are being hidden then they must be bad or they wouldn’t hide them, and if they hide things then they don’t trust them, and if they don’t trust them then they cannot truly love them…and round and round the circle goes – each link in the chain assuming more and more negative qualities and it will become a major block in a relationship (if not a causal link to it failing).  Somehow in marriage we have come to the point where we actively and intentionally strive to eliminate all mystery.  We lose tolerance for a spouse who loads the dishwasher differently than we do – we don’t even bother to see why they do it a different way, we just know that our way is better.  We lose all tolerance for ambiguity – everything has to be nice and predictable.  Orderly.  Able to be quantified and classified.  Simple and easy to explain and understand.

The problem with this banal perspective is that it is, well, boring.  And aside from boring, it by definition extinguishes any erotic life from marriage.  Eroticism thrives in an atmosphere of mystery.  It allows for, and even encourages, spontaneity.  It provides fodder for our powerful imaginations to re-engage in the area of sex.   We regain a sense of wonder about sex.

I love the wording of that phrase: sense of wonder.  The very word bestows us with permission to not know.  To wonder is to not be sure – to not know.  And yet, one of the things we revere about children is their unadulterated sense of wonder – their amazing ability to simply look at things in awe without the overwhelming desire to understand it all.  They can take things at face value and appreciate them for what they are on the surface.  Faith comes easy to them.

We as adults, on the other hand, almost pride ourselves on our cynicism.  No one will take advantage of us.  We have ubiquitous sayings that permeate our sub-conscious like, “fool me once, shame on you – fool me twice, shame on me” or “if it seems too good to be true, then it is” or “I’m from Missouri, SHOW ME.”  We require proof.  In many ways we still cling to the pendulum that swung so far.

This is because, in North America, our thinking has been so radically impacted by the Age of Enlightenment. We can rationalize and explain virtually everything in our world. Intellectual discourse is high on our list of values. If I can explain things more articulately than you then I win the debate. We put very little value on mystery, on that which cannot be explained. Even our “mystery” shows on TV – CSI and Bones among others – are tied up neatly with a bow at the end of the episode. Shows which refuse to explain every little nuance – the show Lost comes to mind – drive us insane. (Why can’t they just tell us what is up with that island anyways?!)

And so it is with our relationships. Can’t communicate well? Head to your local bookstore and look through the thousands of self-help books. Or even better, flip on Dr. Phil – he will give you an answer. Can’t sustain an erection? Go to the doctor and get a prescription of Viagra or Cialis filled. If that doesn’t work, you can research penis implant surgery.

Please don’t misunderstand me. I am not saying that diligently seeking solutions to life’s problems is wrong. Au contraire – I wholeheartedly advocate being solution-oriented. And yet, there are times when we cannot find answers. Times when the prescription medication he is taking to keep him alive has devastating side effects on his libido and despite all the things you have tried, nothing can take away the ache that he doesn’t pursue you like he once did. Times where even though she has never had an orgasm with you, she finally confesses that she cannot live like this any more. Even though you have tried and tried, nothing is working and your fear that she will leave is escalating with each failed attempt.

In these moments, do we stop looking for solutions? No.

Rather we have to act like the love illegitimate love child of Mulder and Scully from the X-Files.  While looking for answers, we have to simultaneously learn to embrace the ambiguity of mystery. We choose to learn from the very fact that we do not know the answers. Contrary to everything our culture teaches us, we realize that we can grow from not knowing. We choose to see this mystery box as something that will weave richness into our life’s story rather than an inconvenience that needs to be immediately eradicated.

Richard Rohr calls this place “liminal space.” He says, “It is when you have left the “tried and true” but have not yet been able to replace it with anything else… It is when you are in between your old comfort zone and any possible new answer. It is no fun.”

No, it is not fun. However, if we can survive liminal space without bailing out too early for cheap and easy answers, we reap incredibly rich rewards: we become adept at dealing with anxiety, living with ambiguity, and stoking the flames of eroticism.

You thought I had forgotten about eroticism. Trust me…I’m getting there, but we have to build the foundation first. Next week: Exploring the Mystery of the Erotic or The Truth Erotic is Out There…

the erotic is out there

How to determine what is right/wrong in the bedroom

In this short Q&A, Eryn-Faye, Canada’s Passion Coach, answers an audience member’s question about how to determine what is “right” or “wrong” in the marriage bed. As this clip is a short cut-in from a longer segment, we do want to emphasize that obvious physical health concerns play an important role regarding any decision a person makes.

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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?

When the going gets tough…

Last week, I had the pleasure of watching The Proposal on DVD. My husband is out of town and I often use times like this as an opportunity watch a lot of films. It is a win/win. He doesn’t have to endure movies that he would be watching simply to make me happy, and I get to do some “market research on the cultural perspective of romance” (in layman terms, I get to enjoy a really sappy chick-flick).

The main character in this film, Margaret (played by Sandra Bullock), is an orphan and consequently is extremely driven and myopically focused on her career. In fact, she has nothing BUT her career and comes across really bitchy.

While I genuinely hope that the people in my life don’t think of me as a bitchy – at least not all the time – I too am an orphan. It is the single-most defining role which shapes and molds how I see and approach life. When times get tough, my orphan voice says to me, “This is a walk in the park. At least no one has died!” When I feel overwhelmed, that same little voice whispers, “You have overcome much worse than this, so buck up!” When I start to take my husband for granted, the voice nags, “Remember that you don’t know how long you will have him so treat him well”. I am constantly guided by the learnings that I have gleaned from losing my parents at a young age. And while I still miss them desperately, I also am extremely cognizant of the fact that I would not be the person I am today had they lived. Yes, there is a sadness and loneliness which is omnipresent in my life – I believe that it is ludicrous to expect anyone who has lost a loved one to ever fully recover the piece of them which dies with that person – but I have also been given an incredible gift of perspective for which I am deeply grateful.

The English playwright and poet, John Heywood, has been quoted as saying,

“If you will call your troubles experiences, and remember that every experience develops some latent force within you, you will grow vigorous and happy, however adverse your circumstances may seem to be.”

Now, indulge me for a moment as I apply this to your relationship and sex life. If you have a desire gap with your lover (one of you wants more or less sex than the other), what experience can you glean from this state? How can you use this gap as a catalyst to deepen your communication with each other? How do you deal with financial stress which has had a “trickle down” effect in your bedroom? What about menopause or andropause or low libido or erectile dysfunction? How do you approach an illness or disability?

One of our closest friends developed severe arthritis in her early twenties and for years, it took an extreme toll on their sex life. However, a few years ago they made a choice: rather than having a bad sex life for the rest of their marriage, they would embrace the mystery that they would often not know how her body would respond. They increased their communication skills and increased their creativity so they could have a full repertoire of tactics they could take when she wasn’t feeling well. I must say that, despite chronic illness in their relationship, they have one of the best sex lives that I have ever heard about.

When we choose to see troubles in our sex lives as “experiences” and choose to learn from those experiences, the intimacy in our relationship grows to a magnitude that we previously did not think was possible.

I learned a long time ago that while I could spend my life playing the “orphan card” for sympathy, it did not change anything and would never make things better.  Is it time for you to stop playing the “poor me card” in your sex life?

What part does a long weekend play in your sex life?

What part does a long weekend play in your sex life?

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Steps to Increasing Sexual Variation

In this short Q&A, Eryn-Faye, Canada’s Passion Coach, answers an audience member’s question about what they can do to increase variation in their sex life.

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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.