My first thought when I heard that former NFL player Tiki Barber was leaving his pregnant wife for a 23-year-old intern was what a jerk. Then I found myself wondering if baby strain played a role.
What’s baby strain?
It’s my unscientific name for the toll having young children can have on your marriage. For some it starts during pregnancy, and it usually lasts until all the children in the house are sleeping through the night, which in some families can be forever!
When I was expecting my first child, a mentor at church tried to warn me about baby strain. She told me to make sure I was still taking care of my husband’s needs. I remember rolling my eyes and thinking he should be taking care of my needs. After all, I was the one who was swollen, gassy and miserable, which I explained to him whenever he was in the mood.
Him: So do you want to fool around?
Me: The baby is sitting on my bladder, and I have terrible gas.
Him: So that’s a no?
Replay that scenario a few dozen times and replace “the baby’s on my bladder” with “I’m tired” or “the baby is crying,” and you get the picture. I’m not saying that baby strain can be blamed for every failed marriage, but if stats were kept I’m sure it’d be right up there with irreconcilable differences.
In my church’s moms group, many of the women with preschoolers complain of distant spouses and unhappy unions. Yet when the topic of sex arises, they laugh and say, “he knows better than to ask for that!” or “it’s been months since we’ve done it.”
Not that slumping intimacy is the only symptom of baby strain. There are others such as irritability (re: no sleep), lack of couple quality time, and a loss of interest in many of the things that once made you attractive to your spouse. All of which can leave your marriage on life support and your man vulnerable to temptation.
So now when friends announce their pregnancy, I am the first to remind them to enjoy their gift from God, but not to forget their husband in the meantime. Because if they want him to be there when the nest is empty, they better take care of their relationship while the nest is full.
Sexual Temptation Lurks All Around
However, there is a dark side to pregnancy and postpartum that most people don’t discuss. It is during these periods that men are vulnerable to sexual temptation.
During pregnancy, a couple’s regular sex schedule is totally disrupted. The first trimester is plagued with nausea and general uneasiness. Things stabilize during the second trimester and sexual frequency may increase. Sexual frequency slows again during the third trimester. All sexual activity can cease if the mother is restricted to bed rest.
After the baby is born, the doctor often instructs couples not to have sex for at least six weeks. This time period doesn’t even factor in abstinence due to lack of desire or lack of sleep.
All in all, couples could face up to six months without sex. Many men have a hard time dealing with this lack of sexual activity. I was one of them.
My frustration lead me to seek sexual gratification through pornography. Although I wasn’t physically cheating, I was being emotionally unfaithful to my wife. Thankfully, I had a group of friends who intervened and helped me to deal with my frustration in more positive ways.
Couples, I implore you to openly discuss sexual issues during and after pregnancy. Clear communication is the key to preventing emotional or physical infidelity.
Men, I implore you to guard your hearts during times of weakness. Find a close friend who you can confide in and who will hold you accountable.
Pregnancy is a special period in a couple’s relationship. Don’t allow sexual problems to taint it.