Sleep-deprived new parents would never believe it, but the best sex you’ve ever had may come after you expand your family, say therapists. “We often don’t remember how the little darlings—when they’re sleeping or just being ridiculously cute—make us feel about life and each other,” says Pepper Schwartz, PhD, professor of sociology at the University of Washington in Seattle and author of more than a dozen books on sex. For parents, “sex can feel like a richer, deeper and more passionate experience.” While children are often dubbed sex-killers, there are unexpected ways their existence can enhance your time between the sheets, Dr. Schwartz says. Here are seven of them.
1. You’re more likely to schedule sex as a busy mom. Kids call for a more regimented routine, which ups the chances you’ll have to pencil in time for intimacy. But that’s a good thing. The longer you’re married, the more sex tends to be put on the backburner, and planning ahead makes the deed more doable, says Tammy Nelson, PhD, author of Getting the Sex You Want. But if you don’t put it on the calendar, “it’s unlikely that either of you will wait until the kids are asleep to wipe the dishes off the kitchen table and drape yourself across it,” Dr. Nelson says.
2. That doctor-mandated postpartum sex pause can prompt exciting foreplay. The lead-up to sex becomes predictable in lots of long-term relationships. When intercourse is off the table right after a birth, though, many couples focus on new foreplay techniques to connect on a physical level without going all the way, says Gilda Carle, PhD, a relationship expert who contributes to theToday show. “It’s almost like tantric sex, building to the moment when you’re truly ready,” says Dr. Carle. Plus, picking up a few tricks along the way certainly doesn’t hurt.
3. Being short on time forces you to be more straightforward about what you want in bed. Before kids, you may have been able to wait around and see if he’d figure out what turns you on most. Not anymore. “With the time crunch of parenting, couples are often forced to be more pragmatic and direct about their sexual needs, which can encourage more honesty and transparency,” says Reid Mihalko, a New York City–based sex and relationship expert. And that can open the door to “experimentation and exploring sexual activities that were once hidden.”
4. Having a child can take the pressure off having sex, which trying to conceive adds.Tracking ovulation. Peeing on sticks. Attempting to get pregnant doesn’t exactly put you in the mood. No wonder those who already have children can find sex after kids more enjoyable and carefree. Pleasure, not procreation, is the new goal. That benefits your relationship too. “The erotic aspect of your life is the stuff that makes you feel ‘in love’—not just loving toward your spouse,” says Dr. Nelson.
5. Being a time-pressed parent can make you more desirable to your spouse. You know the adage “people want what they can’t have”? Not always being available because your children command most of your attention can turn on some partners, says Mihalko. “Knowing that your spouse has committed to a lifetime of being there for your children is often damn sexy,” he explains. But be careful not to spend all of your time with the kids; your partner still needs to feel like your number one occasionally.
6. The shared experience of having children can be an aphrodisiac. No one but you and your partner knows what it’s like to raise your children. That’s a pretty powerful bond right there, points out Dr. Schwartz. “The increased satisfaction with life and the intimacy of sharing parenthood with only one person in the world often creates warmth that turns into heat,” she says. Let this link increase your desire in the confines of your bedroom, but don’t let it get in the way of the respect and admiration you must have for one another as parents.
7. Wanting another child can make you forget about your sexual hang-ups. Some parents who want more kids report feeling increased desire because they’ve learned the ropes and understand the amazing outcome, say therapists. Making and raising children makes you “more comfortable with what to expect from your body and your partner” when trying for another child, says Dr. Carle. Bonus: That understanding of expectations and lack of stress about your post-baby body just may make it easier to conceive again.