In Episode 4 of sex and relationships podcast BANG! Melody Thomas speaks with couples about the ways intimacy has changed over their years together. To celebrate its release, Sex Therapy NZ’s Helen Mounsey shares tips for staying connected long-term.
Maintain your couple time and social lives
“Prioritising couple time is hugely important… Even if it means saving your pennies to pay a babysitter for two hours. Just ensuring that you have a break where you have conversations that a) are not about children, b) are not about money but c) about us. Our dreams, who you are, how you are… and an opportunity to listen or be listened to.
It’s important to have a social life. Couples who don’t go out miss out on an opportunity to see their partner viewed by others… We see another aspect of our partner when they flirt or talk with another person… and we listen to how other people attend to them and respect them. It gives us another view on how we are together.”
“Most couples will reach a stage where their sex drives are different. It’s easy to have similar libidos when you are new and fascinating to each other – but somewhere between 6 and 18 months, each other’s annoying habits and differences can be a turn off... [and] acceptance, flexibility and candid communication will be necessary.
Problems can also arise from infidelities, differing parenting styles, work pressures, power imbalance, family demands and financial pressures. Left unresolved, they are likely to breed resentment - the most common reason for withdrawing from intimacy and sex. Sexual problems related to sexual performance can emerge… worry about lasting the distance (men) or finding arousal and orgasm elusive (both men and women) can be related to one of the above issues. And engaging in “mercy sex” in order to please a sulking partner will inevitably add to mounting disappointment and isolation. So seek help as soon as you can so these patterns don’t become entrenched.”
Share the work
“People go into relationships with unrealistic expectations around what happens when you have children. The fact of the matter is there are enormous changes and there are losses. In heterosexual relationships, the mother is totally invested in the care of the baby and… for men who find it difficult to step into place of being the father, there may be feelings that they are losing their partner to the baby.
Some couples are still really traditional around who does the feeding, who changes the nappies and who gets up at night. The more that parenting is shared equally between both parents, the bigger the benefits for baby, mother and father.”
You can only change 50 percent
“All couples would benefit from understanding that we have this complex thing going on for us where. On one hand we want our partner to be available, familiar and safe, and on the other hand we need mystery, intrigue and excitement. People stray into infidelities often for the sake of excitement or passion, but we can bring those elements into a stable relationship.
You can only change 50 percent — your 50 percent. Don’t try and change your partner. Change yourself. Any other change will follow and if it doesn’t then you need a discussion about that. [Taking] responsibility for your part enables you to be kind, to be less critical and less judgemental. Because you are focused on what you yourself can be grateful for.”