Communication is vital at this stage. For example, if you are exhausted, pressed for time, or low on sexual desire and interest, you may want to address any or all of these issues with your spouse and in turn allow your spouse full expression of his or her concerns as well. "Take comfort in knowing that you are not alone in feeling these feelings, as many (and probably even most) young couples go through this experience," says Baldino.
Part of communication is acknowledging to yourself and to your spouse that your priorities have shifted dramatically. Baldino says to keep in mind that while previously you only had to worry about the two of you, you now have a child to care for, and that is a huge and radically life-altering responsibility.
Intimacy comes in many different forms. "Many couples who are too tired and emotionally drained from new parenthood to have a great deal of sex find other ways to feel physically close (i.e., cuddling, massage, hugging)," says Baldino. "There is also emotional intimacy, which is just as important as physical intimacy, and which comes from keeping those lines of communication open—perhaps just by lying side by side in bed and talking about all the joys and challenges of this brand new world of parenting."
The Continuing Marriage
Some couples continue on a lonely road of no intimacy in their marriages. Psychologists estimate that about 15 to 20 percent of couples fall into a "sexless marriage" in which they have sex less than 10 times a year.
"Parents often forget that the couple relationship needs time, too. It may sound difficult in a busy week to devote some time to just the two of you, but if you do it successfully, it will make a huge difference in how the rest of your time together goes," says Dr. Tina B. Tessina, a psychotherapist.
She suggests couples have a "state of the union" meeting once a week. Parents may want to arrange for shared childcare with a friend. "Nothing works better than trading childcare with other parents, so that each of you gets some time off," she says.
Also make time to get together with other parents to have "at-home" social evenings with the children included. This helps both the budget and your need to have adult contact and couple support. Every couple needs to interact with other couples who have similar lives—it supports the relationships, says Dr. Tessina.
Families who focus on all work and responsibilities lose the spark that keeps them close. Dr. Tessina adds that having down time and adult alone time with other couples allows the parents to relax and creates more intimacy, which leads to a better sex life.