Somewhere between the incredible hormonal shifts, the sleepless nights, the new bodies we have post-pregnancy, the intensity of life with kiddos…somewhere along the way, we begin to numb out around our need for physical, sensual, intimate love and care from our husbands.
It can feel complicated and scary.
It can feel hard to express our need for physical intimacy if it doesn’t match exactly what our husband’s needs around physical intimacy are.
We can feel “touched” out from caring for children all day long and mistake that for not needing adult affection and touch.
Confusing, complicated and scary.
And, yet it’s one of the most crucial places of vulnerability and growth we need to tackle head on if we are going to truly live out our most vibrant lives.
I was on the phone with my friend Keri Kettle from Holding Your Grace recently and we were chatting about this exact topic. I loved her perspective and immediately told her, “Kerri, you have to bring this to my community.” And so she did.
I’m thrilled to share Kerri’s guest post with you today…and would love to hear your feelings on it as well.
The Dark Side of Toddler Hugs
by Keri Kettle of Holding Your Grace
I’ve heard that chocolate stimulates the same part of the brain as physical affection. I’m sure that is true, but I also know that you can’t replace being held in the loving arms of your husband with a Hershey Bar. Even artisanal, organic dark chocolate imported from a remote village in the jungles of Venezuela cannot substitute for having someone who deeply loves you, come up from behind you while you are doing the dishes and nuzzle your neck.
But it sure is easier to pick up the chocolate bar than it is to ask to be held.
I had over a hundred stitches when my first child was born. And then I didn’t heal properly and had to have a minor surgical procedure. The idea of any activity “down there” was terrifying. I had no idea if it would be painful or if it would feel different for my husband. Then there was the part where my body looked different – stretch marks, poochy tummy, hips, thighs, breasts – it all looked and felt different. What if I wasn’t physically attractive in this new mommy body?
It was so much easier to dive into being a really good mommy.
To make the Pinterest-perfect cupcakes for the birthday party (or not-so-Pinterest-perfect cupcakes, if we’re being honest), to make homemade organic granola to take for snack at Mommy and Me time, or to spend hours crafting a scrapbook to document my daughter’s first year.
When you make delicious treats, you get a lot of affirmation at the party or the preschool. When you have family get-togethers, you can get a lot of oohs and aahhhs over your beautiful scrapbook.
But no one asks you how your post-baby sex life is going.
After a while, the idea of even asking for affection felt like entering a minefield. If I asked for affection, but wasn’t ready for other activity, maybe I didn’t deserve the affection, or I was afraid it would lead to a place I wasn’t ready to go. It all just felt so complicated and scary. The more time goes by, the harder it is to open the door to physical intimacy.
But the cupcakes and the toddler hugs really can’t replace being held by the man you love. All the scrapbooks and FaceBook “Likes” in the world can’t fill the hole you feel when you aren’t intimately connected to your partner.
You need to be held. You need adult affection.
I hear moms say all the time that they are “touched out” when they are nursing or taking care of little ones. But they still crave being cared for, not just caring for everybody else. It’s complicated, yes, but it’s not impossible. Make time for leaning in to your partner, ask for a little time to yourself so you aren’t “touched out” and make space for adult pleasure. Because there is no substitute.
Instead of rushing to solutions, maybe the first step is to explore this in our own lives from a grace-filled, curious, honest place. I’d love to hear your feelings in the comments on this and what is true for you.
And please do, hop over to visit Keri at her online home, Holding Your Grace, she is an amazing resource for women and mothers.
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