“Making a baby is making sex a chore”

A husband wants to know if the desire to get pregnant outweighs your partner’s feelings.

Welcome to Relationship Rehab, news.com.au’s weekly column solving all your romantic problems, without restriction.

This week, our resident sex therapist Isiah McKimmie has news of a man whose desire to get pregnant with his wife is taking its toll on him.

QUESTION: My wife and I have been trying for a baby for six months and haven’t had any luck yet. When we first started trying to conceive it was a fun excuse to get more sex and I loved it! But six months later and without success, it starts to become a chore. My spouse follows her cycles and when she ovulates, I have the impression that I am being made to have sex on demand. I think she must start making an effort to seduce me if this is going to last long. Not only does it become hard work, but I also feel like a piece of meat. I know my wife wants to get pregnant but is it really fair for me?

ANSWER: I’m so sorry to hear you’re having trouble conceiving. Fertility struggles can have such an emotional impact on you and put a strain on a relationship – not to mention your sex life.

What you are going through is not uncommon for couples seeking fertility.

How infertility affects your sex life

It usually starts to feel new, exciting, and fun. Both partners may notice their libido increasing for a while as sex takes on new meaning for you.

But as each month brings new disappointments, your feelings about sex change. For some people, sex becomes associated with the grief of another missed opportunity. Sex can start to feel like a chore that only happens during fertile times and becomes very “functional”. Some men tell me they feel like a “sperm donor” and sometimes men can experience erectile dysfunction like the emotion around sex and the pressure to perform increases.

How Infertility Affects Your Relationship

The emotional toll of the inability to conceive can further impact your relationship. In addition to sadness and grief, you may feel guilty or let the other person down because you can’t conceive. One or both of you may feel like your body is letting you down. These feelings are all normal and common.

These big emotions can pull you apart if you’re not paying attention. You may each have different ways of dealing with disappointments and retreating to your own space. One of you might feel resentful that the other doesn’t seem to share their feelings or want to talk about them. It can be extremely difficult.

Communication is essential

I guess your wife is coping with this the best way she knows how right now. If that doesn’t feel right or fair to you, you need to talk to her about it. When we don’t talk about something it becomes the elephant in the room and tension, resentment and distance can build. I hear this is starting to happen for you.

When you can work together and understand each other’s experience, your relationship and your sex life are more likely to thrive.

It’s hard and I don’t know many couples who have been through what you’ve been through and haven’t been affected by it. I have some suggestions for keeping your connection and your spark going that have supported other couples I’ve worked with who are struggling to conceive. You will need to address both your relationship and your intimacy.

How to Maintain Connection and Intimacy When Trying to Conceive

You must sail as a team

Working together will not only help you get through this difficult time, but also the future challenges you will face together.

Talk about how you feel

It’s important to understand how the other person feels about problems so you can find solutions that work for both of you. Although sharing feelings can be difficult, it’s also how you create and maintain emotional intimacy.

Maintain romance and connection

Remember to take care of your relationship as a whole during this time. Make time for romance, do things together that are fun, nurturing, and unrelated to making a baby.

Make your erotic connection a priority even during non-fertile times

Your erotic connection is so much more than sex. This includes how you tease, flirt, and prepare for sex. It takes some effort (even when you’re not trying to conceive), but it’s important to maintain long-term desire. Consider having times, especially during your infertile period, where you massage, cuddle, or get sexually intimate without the pressure of intercourse.

Don’t skip foreplay

When you’re trying to conceive, sex can get a little functional, but don’t rush and skip foreplay. Foreplay enhances the pleasure for both of you.

Keep some variety in your sex life

Novelty is important for maintaining desire and increasing sexual satisfaction. Experiment with different sexual practices, different places (i.e. the kitchen or the bathroom), positions, and the use of toys.

Remember that the effort you put into your relationship and your sex life right now will help you grow stronger as a family.

Isiah McKimmie is a couples therapist, sexologist, sex therapist and speaker. To book a session with her, visit her website or follow her on instagram for more advice on relationships, sex and intimacy.

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