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Dear Aude and Bruce: Can you help? I need to feel desirable again

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I’ve been happily married to my wonderful husband for eight years but since the birth of our child (four years ago) things have been going downhill. Our marriage has become more distant. I feel that I’m taken for granted. Intimacy and communication are both really struggling. I don’t feel like a woman anymore, instead I’m now just ‘mum.’ Can you help me get back to my old self and reignite the spark that used to be there? TROUBLED DB MUM

AUDE:
I hear your pain in not feeling like a woman anymore. It is always painful when we feel we’ve lost a part of ourselves and our relationship. Addressing it is the first step towards getting things back on track, even if it doesn’t seem that way at the moment.

BRUCE:
Indeed, the first step is always the biggest – identifying that there is a problem and finding a way to voice that problem. Many people continue on as if all is well and let these issues persist in the background, so well done for raising yours.

AUDE:
Your reaching out is actually showing that you are still in love and that your relationship matters. Like Bruce said, most people don’t talk about things like this, but what you are going through is what most couples in your situation go through. We were raised with a fairy-tale ideal about our futures; the princess marries the prince and they live happily ever after. Reality, obviously, is far from this. When a child is born, even though it is a blessing, it’s a lot to handle. Our role as individuals changes completely. We are not only lovers, focused on each other, now we are also partners, raising another human being. With all of this comes lack of sleep, exhaustion, emotional ups and downs, stress, responsibility…. and this is all on top of our already busy lives.

BRUCE:
When I work with couples this issue comes up all the time. Let me address the male perspective here. It’s a conversation that the man’s role as a lover to his partner has now been superseded by the arrival of the child. He may be feeling left out, or even jealous of the attention that the child is receiving. His connection to his partner has been challenged, in fact he may feel, or indeed see, that there is little to no space for that connection.

AUDE:
Once a woman gives birth, she will have a period of emotional ups and downs, and weeks (perhaps even months) of low libido. There is a biological reason for this – the low libido is a survival mechanism, so that she can dedicate all of her focus on the survival of the new child. A new mum will also have to grow a new confidence – she may feel insecure about the changes in her body post birth, and she may be fearful about experiencing pain when having sex. All this takes time. The man, meanwhile, may feel jealous of the bond between his wife and baby, and he may feel rejected because his wife has less or no desire for intimacy. It’s important to stay in constant communication – allow this time to exist and trust that it’s just a phasethat everyone goes through.

BRUCE:
Without conversation, without open lines of communication through which both parties can discuss how they feel, the results are pretty much set in stone. The initial lack of intimacy becomes entrenched, the man feels further marginalised from his ‘male past’ and trapped in his ‘fatherly future,’ and his partner feels the same way. This gap will continue to widen if it is not bridged with effective, direct and compassionate discussions that nurture both parties. The good news here is that once this phase is over, it’s time to step back into your role. At this point, it is critical for the man to reclaim his position as the husband and lover, not just the father. He needs to step up and cut the cord between mother and child. Notice that the man is helping to cut the cords of co-dependency, thus allowing the child to begin to open up to the world.

AUDE:
Your child is now four years old and it’s time for you to start reclaiming your identity. I would suggest that you start by talking with your husband about your feelings and desires. Tell him what you lack, need and miss, but be careful not to blame him for anything here – there is no finger pointing. This is about your needs, and about creating a dialogue which will, of course, then allow him to open up about his needs as well.

Here’s a super effective communication tool for you to try: Always talk about yourself, your needs and desires, by using ‘I.’ For instance, “I need to feel like a woman again. I would be so happy to have a date night once a week.” What you don’t want to say is: “You don’t make me feel like a desirable woman anymore, we never do anything together.”

BRUCE:
Absolutely. You want to ensure that your partner receives these opening statements and that he is able to communicate in equally personal terms. This is all about finding common ground to walk back towards each other.

AUDE:
And make sure that you are talking about this at the right time, definitely not while you are feeding the baby! Make sure it is a time for just the two of you, no distractions.

BRUCE:
Body language is so important here. Lie or sit together chest to chest, heart to heart, and look into each other’s eyes. Communicate in a space of openness and freedom; be intimate, be exposed.

AUDE:
You will both need to be ready to open your hearts and be courageous in order to address your pain. What you are going through is normal (I can’t stress this enough) and the good news is that you can address this together, just the two of you, as long as you are open and honest. Communication is key to relationships. Explain how you feel in detail. Never assume your partner knows what you are thinking, even after years of being together. It is your responsibility to explain how you feel. Couples all go through the same struggle. You are not alone… the question is are you going to do the work to put things right?


Aude Garderet is a Practitioner of Psychotherapy and Bruce Taylor is a Reiki Master Healer, both are DB residents. You can contact them at A and B Therapy, [email protected], www.aandbtherapy.com. For more on Aude, visit www.brieftherapyhk.com; for more on Bruce, visit www.brucechi.org.

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