Sexual desire is about motivation to enter a sexual space with your intimate partner. Contrary to what we see in the movies and in romance novels, problems with sexual desire are normal and common. Research conducted by Dr. David Schnarch with almost 20,000 people indicates that virtually everyone struggles with sexual desire problems at least some of the time. Sexual desire is a multiply determined phenomenon, shaped by a variety of internal and relational factors. It’s a complex topic worthy of nuanced discussion, but for the sake of this article, I want to highlight two challenges to sexual desire that may be amplified during the holiday season.
Challenge #1: Parents and Lovers
I recently wrote a tongue-in-cheek Facebook post about family holiday jammies in which I shared a photo from a catalog of an adorable family (two parents and two kiddos) posing in front of a Christmas tree in matching holiday onesies and commented:
“Research indicates that 85% of couples struggle at least some of the time with SEXUAL DESIRE problems. Sexual desire problems have a variety of root causes, except during the holiday season when there is exactly ONE cause for sexual desire problems… family jammies. Don’t say I didn’t warn ya!”
This silly social media post is a gateway for looking at how couples navigate the dual role of being parents and being lovers. Creating and raising a family with your intimate partner is a sacred journey, one that bonds you through highs, lows, milestones, rituals, and memories. It is also a journey that can pose challenges to your sexual connection as lovers. Whether it’s sleepless nights with a newborn or the challenges of creating time for love-making when your teens go to sleep later than you do, navigating parenthood and sex is not easy.
The holiday season, with all of the family togetherness and family jammies, can make the transition from parent to lover even more difficult. Couples are well-served by choosing one of two paths over the next few weeks:
- Path #1: Reduce your expectations for sexual connection during the holidays and appreciate the beautiful bonding of snuggles and onesies.
- Path #2: Be intentional and carve out time and space for sexual intimacy.
Talk as a couple about sex and the holidays and consciously choose one of these paths so that you don’t end up on the icky Path #3: unspoken and mismatched expectations about sex that yield feelings of guilt and resentment.
Back to those festive family jammies for a moment. I want to be clear. There is no reason that matching jammies, by definition, will kill your mojo. The jammies are just the jammies. It’s all about your story of the jammies. Let’s look at two hypothetical couples:
- Couple A. Their story is that climbing into onesies puts them 100% in parent mode, signaling to themselves and each other that family energy will prevail over romantic energy. Fine.
- Couple B. Their story is that spending time with their kids in festive flannel feels bonding and playful, and they connect with each other around looking forward to locking the bedroom door and unzipping each other at the end of the night. Fine.
You gotta see what works for your relationship!
Challenge #2: Doing versus Being
The second challenge to sexual desire that may be highlighted during the holiday season is about doing versus being:
- Doing= tasks, goals, lists, accomplishments
- Being= mindfulness, here-and-now, pleasure, play
The holiday season tends to be all about doing. I don’t know about you but my social media feed is filled with posts and articles about how to handle holiday stress. Between traveling, shopping, cooking, wrapping, socializing, and finding fun new spots for your Elf on a Shelf (sending all y’all much sympathy for that whole challenge!), there’s a whole lot of DOING going on.
The energy of doing is all well and good, but it is quite different from the energy of being. And sex is all about the energy of being. Sex is about entering a space of pleasure, play, and escape. Sex tends to go best when we enter into it without a goal in mind—we know that goals like “I will have an orgasm,” or “We will conceive,” or “I won’t come too soon,” create anxiety and stress.
It makes sense that sex and the holiday season can end up feeling like two worlds colliding! Here are a few questions that can help you bridge these different worlds:
- In what ways could you simplify the holidays in the service of pleasure and play?
- How about adding sex to your to do list?
- How about at least talking together about what may end up taking a back seat until January?
The bottom line is that a little bit of intentionality goes a long way!