My wife and I haven’t had sex since our second child was born two years ago

23 Mar 2024

 "My wife and I haven’t had sex since our second child was born two years ago. I feel cast aside as she lives for our children. I love her and love our children but fear our relationship won’t improve.

Every night without fail, one or other of our children, now four and two, wake up. I work full time and earn the main salary, while my very talented wife works part time, and gets up for the children at night – but ends up sleeping in their room, rather than coming back to our bed.

My wife had a traumatic birth with our second daughter: she had to stay in hospital for a week. A few months later, when she had healed, I tried to instigate sex a few times. She turned me down, which I completely understood, but it now feels too sensitive an issue for me to broach. I don’t want to have sex with someone who doesn’t want to have sex with me: I do want to be wanted, or told I’m not wanted."



I feel it’s high time that you and your wife bared your souls about where you are now as a couple, and where you want your lives, your family and your marriage to go.

It’s very common for children to take over and parents not to stop, think and communicate their personal, emotional and sexual needs. In the routine of day-to-day living, we can forget to create time and space for ourselves as individuals, as a couple and as a family. And that’s before adding a complicated birth into the mix.

It can be hard to know how to broach the subject of how your partner’s body feels after childbirth: how sensitive it is, how it’s healed, whether the lack of sex is physical, emotional, related to sexual attraction or simply because you’ve fallen into a habit within a busy household where she’s doing the night wake-ups.

For all you know, she’d love to have sex but might feel nervous – and maybe even a bit shy. The reason that she’s sleeping in a bed with the children could be that she wants you to have a good night’s sleep because you’re working full time. The only way to find out is to have a conversation from the heart.


I’d recommend you reflect on your own feelings around the birth, which sounds frightening for you as well as your wife. No one wants to see someone they love in pain. Many men I’ve worked with feel guilt, even shame, because of the pain that their partners might have been through during childbirth and afterwards. Some feel that it’s somehow their fault.

I’d recommend that you start by chatting to your wife about both births, but the second particularly – and be open to sharing your vulnerabilities and feelings, too, which might help her to open up and talk about her memories. Ask her about her body now: does she feel truly healed?

Be open with her about loving her, finding her attractive and wanting a sexual relationship with her. How does she feel about the idea of sex? Is she worried about pain? It might be a brand new sex life as I’m sure you’ve both grown and changed, physically and emotionally, since the last time you had sex.

It’s amazing how few people talk about sex, but patience, openness and tenderness in conversations about intimacy – that you can reflect in bed – may help to redevelop your sense of closeness.


It’s also possible that as much as you want sex, you might feel scared of it at the moment too and need her presence and reassurance that you are wanted. Be open in your conversation about whether you’re both feeling safe around the idea of sex – and how you could make it feel safer; whether taking things slowly and gently, for example, would help.

Sex is about safety, losing yourselves in each other, openness and closeness. I wonder if it’s this place of meeting – and sense of belonging together – that you’re finding the most painful to go without. But it’s possible to be intimate and share closeness without having sex. There’s closeness in mutual masturbation, which avoids current fears surrounding full penetration, and I would recommend talking about this, too. Alternatively, this might be a one-way practical thing for you, where she simply helps you take the edge off your frustration.

I’ve worked with couples who have taken sex off the table for a month and focused on sensuality, allowing space for kisses and cuddles; taking the pressure off has helped regrow their sexuality.


If none of this works, you might find it helpful to talk to a sex therapist about your experiences. Or, depending on how you both feel about confiding in friends about sex – the ultimate taboo – you could consider talking to those who’ve been through similar experiences and ask how they rebuilt their sex life. Many people’s sex lives change radically while they have very small children and it may offer some comfort to know you’re not alone – and it’s not permanent.

Also, schedule some time together to talk about your home life. Things evolve quickly with children and regular communication is key. I wonder whether you’ve pictured the type of life you want to have as a couple or family, or whether you’re leaving your wife to take the lead and somehow expecting her to know what you might like?


Honest conversation about how you wish to live and be together – and whether you feel seen and acknowledged for what you’ve brought to the family, or feel in any way superfluous to the family needs – is important.

Perhaps part of the conversation might include you asking how you can help out more so you can free up time to spend together, and individually. You’ve arrived at a place where she does all the night wake-ups, which might be by design because of your work pressures, but might have become so routine you don’t even know how this became “her” role.

You might find that getting involved in the nighttime wake-ups – even temporarily – and returning to bed once your children have resettled helps to break the pattern and gives your partner some rest. I imagine that some sleep-deprived mothers of young children might consider a night of proper sleep to be the best aphrodisiac in town.


Finally, I would remind you that while the intensity of young children is all absorbing, it’s also very brief (relatively). You’re making a conscious commitment to your children’s wellbeing while they’re so young, but soon it won’t feel so hands-on and you’ll have more space.

While waiting for them to become more self-sufficient, do create time for the two of you, whether it’s taking a day off while you have childcare or asking your extended family to get involved with babysitting. Even if you don’t have sex, you can spend the day together, in bed or elsewhere.