Navigating the world of sex after becoming a parent has been a challenge. It felt as if there was some reason to avoid sex. First was the recuperation period from giving birth, followed by exhaustion of raising a newborn that morphed into a toddler. And while all this parenting was happening, my body changed. I felt unattractive because my stomach is bigger and breast are saggy. Add mental illness into the mix, and sex was an afterthought.
Intimacy as new parents is something a lot of people struggle with, and unfortunately, it can cause many issues between partners. Over time, it is something that my partner and I had to work on actively. I had to learn to self-love my body, which is hard when you’re the heaviest you’ve ever been. Also, I had to learn to take time for myself away from my children and husband. I couldn’t give myself (emotionally, mentally, or physically) to anyone while I was running on empty. My husband had to work on issues too. He had to learn how to respect my boundaries and have empathy. While he may never understand the invisible weight of motherhood, he could be considerate to its heaviness.
It took time to create a space that allowed for intimacy back into our lives. It wasn’t easy but essential for our relationship. And when everything seemed to be connecting between us, I developed a new disorder called Sensory Processing Disorder. So I am a never-ending merry-go-round ride of mental illness. Not only is this ride exhausting, but it throws a wrench into the hard work of building our relationship back up.
Back to square one, but I’m not as eager to push through to come out on the other side this time. Because that side is filled with touching, and that sends a shiver down my spine. The idea of being touched by anyone is overwhelming. It doesn’t mean that I don’t crave intimacy; it’s just that physical sensations are too much.
When my husband comes home from work, I crave the solace from tiny hands using me as a jungle gym. I’m simply touched out. His arrival is a countdown to sensory freedom. I can finally put on headphones to listen to white noise to cancel out my house’s ridiculous constant commotion. I can tell my husband to be the primary parent because my body cannot take another touch. I can create boundaries with him because he is an adult. But it’s tough for my youngest child to understand that mommy doesn’t want to be touched or there’s too much noise. She’s learning. It’s easier to deny his affections than my children’s, which creates another rift in our intimacy.
How do I get past this overwhelming sensation that wants freedom from touch when his love language is physical touch? I don’t think it’s necessarily fair to him that he must bend his own needs of intimacy because mine clash with his. His desires are just as important as mine. So, what do I do?
We communicate and create an atmosphere that makes me feel safe while he feels loved.
He had to learn that during the moments that we aren’t physically connected, even just holding hands, had no bearing on me loving him any less. He feels safe in our relationship when I show my affection through touch, and we had to create a space where he felt safe without it. And I had to learn the triggers associated with a sensory processing disorder and how to avoid them. But since, I’m stuck with my children; I can use resources to help lessen the overload. It doesn’t work all the time, but I’m listening to my body. In time, I know we will find our way out of this slump, probably just in time to enter a new one.
And, if this is something that you are going through, don’t be too hard on yourself. It’s okay to say no, to your children and partner. It’s okay to tell your doctor that you are struggling. It’s okay to take medication or go to therapy. It’s okay to feel touched out.
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