Shevonne Hunt hosts Kinderling Conversation every weekday at 12pm.
I want to take you back to a time before children. It may feel like a long, long time ago… but just take a moment to think about it.
I want you to think about your partner… the father or mother of your children. Think about how you first met, the things you did together when you were ‘courting’ and how you both felt when you found out you were having a child.
How did it feel? A lot of things change after kids, your focus shifts, so sometimes the love and affection does too.
After feeding, bathing, dressing, soothing, playing with and mediating with small children all day, you’re mentally exhausted. But that’s where you’d normally find the energy and creative thought to consider your partner, and what you’d like to do for them.
So how do you re-light that fire when you’re all sizzled out?
Step One - Changing the way you think
Let’s face it. Sometimes we get annoyed with our partners. They leave the bowl in the sink, the toilet seat up, or let the children jump on your head when it’s your turn to sleep in.
Desiree Spierings is a couples’ counsellor and sex therapist at Sexual Health Australia, she says that we all need to hold up a “good mirror” to our partner, and this will help turn your thoughts… friendlier.
Instead of thinking of the things that make you see red, take note of their good qualities. It might be working hard to provide for the family, being a great mum or dad or having a great sense of humour.
Step Two – Make time for each other
I recently decided to commit to a monthly date night. I realised that if my partner and I didn’t start connecting and communicating with love, our relationship wasn’t going to survive. We can’t all afford to get out of the house without the kids; baby sitters (if you don’t have willing and able friends or family) can be expensive. But it could be as simple as turning off the TV and having a real conversation.
Leonie Percy, author of Mother Om, says “You have to cultivate love, if you think about it, it’s like a seed that will turn into a plant or a tree… Cultivating something makes it grow and the way we do that is we spend time with each other.”
Leonie says that she has learnt this from experience. In her first marriage she put her son first, and her relationship suffered. Her new partner, the father of her two-year-old daughter, is also divorced. She says too often we put ourselves last when happy parents mean happy children.
“I’ve really learnt that the kids come last… [because] they thrive when we’re in a good space.”
Step Three – Learn their ‘love language’ and teach them yours
Desiree says that couples need to reverse the biblical saying “do unto others as you would have done to yourself.” Instead we need to treat your partner as they want to be treated, and they need to treat you the way you want.
Finding each other’s ‘love language’ can involve a certain amount of sacrifice and understanding, but it’s really quite simple.
What is it that makes you feel loved? What makes your partner feel loved? If you take the time to think about it, it may be very different from your own desires.
For one person it might be having a good smooch when they walk in the door after a day at work. For another it might be offering to cook dinner or do the ironing. It could be sex or cuddles on the couch.
After a long day with children and seeing to their emotional and physical demands, a stay-at-home parent may feel like making out with their partner is on par with doing four more loads of washing.
But if the partner who wants some intimate time understands that the stay-at-home partner may feel more loved and romantic if they do the four loads of washing first… You both might be getting closer to speaking the right language.
Step Four - Don’t expect the spark to ignite straight away
If you’re a stay-at-home parent you may have laughed out loud at the thought of still being awake after your partner has done the four loads of washing, and even then, while you might be grateful, it’s unlikely you’ll be so moved that you’ll want to jump straight into bed.
Desiree Spiering agrees. While she says that working out each other’s love language is important, it’s also important to realise that the path to intimacy can be a process with several steps.
“If we’re looking at the types of intimacy there are really five gears. If you’re thinking of making it happen more often, just step it up one gear,” she says.
“The first gear is affectionate touch, which would be things that you would still do in public, so holding hands, kissing each other on the cheek, those kinds of things.
Then there is sensual touching so that might be more the passionate kissing, a bit of French kissing, breast touching or maybe kissing their ear, and that’s more done in private.
Then we’ve got the more cheeky touching, or playful touching that might be squeezing their bum or having a shower together or those kind of things.
And then there is more erotic touching and last but not least there is intercourse.”
Desiree’s advice is, if you want to really find the sizzle again, let it be a slow burn, and don’t try to move from gear one (holding hands) to the last gear (hot sex).
Of course the ‘spark’ isn’t all about sex. It’s about feeling connected and loved by the person you’ve chosen to have a family with. For me it was realising that while we make a great team for our kids, that’s not enough. We need to give each other love and nurture each other, not just for our kids’ sake, but for our sakes as well.