If you're married with little ones (or have a long-term partner), you're probably familiar with "the roommate years." It's that lovely time in your relationship— insert sarcasm here — when you literally just live together, split the household responsibilities, and occasionally have time to watch TV together. But romance? Pshh. Sex? DOUBLE PSHH. Your sex life is practically non-existent because you and your partner are just so focused on the tiny humans that have taken over your life. Not to mention, you might be experiencing postpartum symptoms that can last for years and may include loss of desire, exhaustion, depression, pain, and other physical and psychological effects that reduce the likelihood of wanting or having sex.
If you're someone who loves sex and misses sex, "the roommate years," while an era that's understandably necessary, can totally suck. The good news is you're not alone. Experiencing "the roommate years" with someone who used to curl your toes is pretty normal. The better news? You can revive your sex life — if you're committed to changing up the dynamic in your relationship, that is.
"It's easy to focus so much on the kids that you stop investing in your relationship. You may communicate with your partner through the kids, about the kids, and around the kids," Dr. Jess O'Reilly, Lovehoney sex and relationship expert, tells Scary Mommy. "For example, you may start calling one another 'Mommy,' 'Daddy,' or other terms related to parenting. It's easy to get lost in these roles and forget that you're also lovers."
The key to reviving your sex life, says O'Reilly, isn't always having more sex or hotter sex, but through investing in your relationship. "You need to see one another as adults — not just as co-parents," she says.
Curious to learn more? Read on for O'Reilly's tips to go from roommates back to lovers.
Communication is everything.
If you want to reignite your sex life, O'Reilly says you need to communicate first and foremost. For some language to start, she suggests using any of the following:
"Remember when we used to lie in bed on a lazy Sunday morning? It felt so good. I miss feeling connected in that way. I want to make time for more of it because I love you, and I want you. I just haven't had the energy lately. Can we talk about how we can get some of that back? Even if it's awkward, I'd love to talk about it..."
Intimacy isn't just sex.
Feeling intimately connected to your partner doesn't mean jumping straight to sex. According to O'Reilly, couples who invest in all forms of intimacy and pleasure tend to have happier relationships. "I suggest you focus on affection, connection, meaningful conversations, kindness, and flirtation," she says.
For example, she recommends the following:
Affection: "Make a point to kiss and hug hello and goodbye for a few extra seconds this week."
Connection and conversation: "Ask about their day beyond the mundane and more conversations that don't revolve around your work, schedule, and kids." E.g., "What was the most exciting thing you did today? What surprised you today? What did you take away from that experience (e.g., watching a movie, attending a workshop)?"
Kindness: Perform one-minute favors for them every single day.
Flirtation: "Admire them. Compliment them. Send them funny videos or memes. Laugh together. Commit to letting the little things go so you can see them as a lover."
You have to talk about sex.
As previously mentioned, communication is everything when it comes to reviving your sex life, including how you talk about sex. O'Reilly says you can start by talking to your partner and exploring the three Fs: feelings, frequency, and fantasy.
Feelings. "What is your core erotic feeling (CEF)? This is the emotion you need to experience to get in the mood in the first place. Do you need to feel loved, relaxed, powerful, desired, or … ?" Additionally, what are your elevated erotic feelings (EEFs)? According to O'Reilly, these are the feelings you experience in your hottest fantasies. "These emotions make everything more thrilling and intense. Oftentimes, CEFs are rooted in validation, and EEFs are rooted in subversion or risk."
Frequency. "How often do you want it? What makes you want it? What hinders desire? Why does frequency matter to you? How do you feel about your levels of desire? How do your daily interactions affect frequency?"
Fantasy. "What are the themes of your fantasies? What environments do you include? How do you feel in your fantasies?" O'Reilly says there is a wealth of data suggesting that talking about sex leads to better sex. "So rather than worrying about a specific position or technique," she says, "simply start a conversation: 'I love you so much, and I know it's been tense/dry/frustrating/disconnected. I feel bad/awkward/nervous, but I want to try talking about it because I want to make this relationship as good as it can be.'"
Be patient with yourselves.
Sometimes it'll take a few kicks at the can before your sex life starts to feel good again — and that's perfectly OK.
"Don't expect it to feel like it did in the beginning," O'Reilly says. "You won't always be spontaneously in the mood. You may have to put yourself in the mood, and this is perfectly normal — for parents and for all couples in long-term relationships."
O'Reilly points out that desire is mostly responsive in long-term relationships... not spontaneous. "This means that you may have to do something to get physically aroused before you experience subjective desire," she explains. "So if you don't find yourself in the mood, put yourself in the mood. Push through even when it's a bit uncomfortable (if you want to). Injecting anything novel (sexy stories, toys, lube, new locations or techniques) can help to rev things up again."
You might also consider trying out a new toy. O'Reilly says data shows people who use toys with vibrations have higher levels of arousal, desire, orgasm, and satisfaction, and less pain, discomfort, and sexual distress. She suggests picking one that you can add to your regular routine. "You don't have to change what you're doing — simply add in the vibrations and see how your bodies respond," she says.
Before you know it, you'll be off to the races.