Question for husbands, but wives are welcome to answer too.
I have read and heard about many instances where a husband cheats on his wife while she is pregnant or during the postpartum period. Or perhaps the husband didn’t cross the line into an actual affair, but was very tempted to do so when his wife was pregnant/postpartum.
A recent comment on TMB brought this to my mind again. A husband wrote:
“I struggled with lust more during my wife’s postpartum weeks than any other time in our relationship”.
As a woman who has gone through pregnancy and the postpartum period multiple times, comments such as these weigh heavily on my mind.
It’s hard to not get the message that a pregnant/postpartum woman is undesirable, or is unable to meet her husband’s sexual needs, and therefore he is tempted to look elsewhere.
Is it the physical that is the problem? Her pregnant body doesn’t turn him on? She can’t perform the wild sex he desires because of the limitations of a growing belly or extreme exhaustion (or any of the other pains/discomforts of pregnancy)? Her postpartum body is not what it used to be, and it just doesn’t do it for him? I read one Christian marriage blogger freely share that he was jealous of husbands whose wives had cesarean sections – because his wife’s vagina was not as tight after giving birth vaginally. This just makes me feel like we women are just used up unwanted goods. We do what God designed us to do – bear children – and this renders us as ‘less than’.
Is it that the wife isn’t showing desire for her husband sexually? Is she not taking enough time to be sexual in amongst feeding the baby around the clock? Is the husband expecting her to be sexually adventurous and enthusiastic, while enduring postpartum bleeding and exhaustion?
I don’t know what the answers are. Can any of the husbands (or wives) offer some insight? What makes the pregnancy/postpartum period difficult for husbands? What (if anything) can we wives do better during that time?
Please help me to understand – are pregnant/postpartum women really just damaged goods that are disappointing sexually? Is the pregnancy/postpartum period so incredibly difficult for husbands that they feel drawn to seek satisfaction outside of the marriage?
Thanks for reading this far. I know there is a wealth of wisdom in this forum, and I would really appreciate some of that wisdom if people are willing to share their thoughts. Thank you.
The main issue concerns a man’s attitude toward his wife and to sex. If a man marries his wife solely because she is sexy to him, and if he thinks of her primarily as a way to gratify his sexual needs, then it is likely he will have difficulty handling not only the changes to her body that accompany pregnancy, but also the changes that will happen to both their bodies as they age. A man does not marry a set of genitals, he marries a real live person, who he ostensibly loves and cares for. With his wife, they will together create new people, and hopefully love them and raise them to know the purpose of sex, life etc. so they can become good loving spouses when they grow up and marry.
I obviously missed sex during the postpartum period after the birth of our children. But, this was only for a limited time, and even during that time DW would still shower with me, provide me with the occasional HJ, etc. We maintained a close connection, even during the stress of those first weeks after child birth.
With regard to the changes that occurred to DW during the creation of our family, I found her pregnant body exhilarating, and love her ‘mom’ body and still thrill to the sight of her butt, vulva, etc. I will continue to love her even as we both become old and wrinkly. She is indeed my Dear Wife. She is the foundation of the family we have created together.
The point is that one of the chief sins of our time is the objectification of both men and women. The forces that form our culture are relentlessly secular, and preach an anti-gospel that we are ‘just’ made of meat, that nothing ultimately matters, and that our physical needs come before all else. In this world, authentic love is rendered impossible as people become reduced only to ends for other people. Boys need to be raised to understand women are not just objects for their sexual gratification. A healthy married sex life is important, but it must be within the context of a committed relationship ordered toward all the proper ends of marriage, which for Christians includes raising children and teaching them about God, etc.
Seems like SD covered it pretty well. Lots of things can contribute. Pregnancy and birth are MASSIVE life changing events for both parents. The mother of course experiences the physical changes and those can be alarming to some women, though their men likely think about that part far less, if at all. Then throw in the hormonal hurricane and it can put everyone on completely unstable ground with stress going out the roof. And then there is this little crying creature that seems to demand constant, draining attention. (I’ve got two and love the both, just being illustrative) It’s a wonder parents make it – but most do and we all know why.
From my own experience and that from parents I know, several things are key to getting through. Primarily they both have to understand that they were married before, still are now, and will be when the child flys the nest. They both must make emotional support of the other a top priority. So very often, once the baby comes, it become king, queen and tyrant of the house. It was never meant to be that way. This upsets the design. It causes all kinds of trouble like those being mentioned. And it is often an indication that the couple was not operating according to The Plan to start with. But even if they were, this new stress and new “priority” gets them off track. For men, they often see that they once had a wife, now there is a mother in the house and their wife is AWOL – and they respond poorly. For wives, they now have this new life they feel overwhelming responsibility for, they need help, yet their husband still wants sex! WHAT?! There are all kinds of variations to this but you get the picture. The problem is I have seen MANY marriages go south after the children because the children became the center of the marriage/family (which puts undue stress and pressure on children that will cause them future problems, but that’s not the topic here) and that misalignment creeps into every aspect of the family unit, including the bedroom. In the bedroom, it breaks down the glue that supposed to be a main part of keeping the parents together. If that glue was on the weak side to begin with, it could unbind easily.
Bottom line – it’s almost never physical changes that cause increased temptations or sin. It’s a lack of working together to keep first things first. Both have responsibility for this. Sacrifice and Submission.
I don’t think it’s the wife’s body changes at all. I think most of it is basic need for sexual release and for 9 months and a couple months afterward, every thing is focused on his wife and baby and he feels left out of the conversation so to speak. Everyone asks the wife about being pregnant or the baby after it arrives. The husband kind of becomes a working guy supporting his wife and new baby, but he gets very little back. His wife is tired, may not feel great, so he doesn’t even get attention or support from his wife. I don’t think I really felt like that as much, but I have heard plenty of guys at work mention it. They become so far down this list of things to do, they aren’t even on the list anymore.
I haven’t been on TMB much at all the past week or so so I am late in responding to this excellent question. I know that what MQ wrote happens and I am sorry if it has happened to her but I do not know any otherwise stable marriages which experienced what she described. The husbands who have responded already have said it well as far as I am concerned. My DW was always attractive to me before, during, and after her pregnancies and I never lost interest in her sexually nor (through God’s grace) allowed my mind to stray to considering pursuing sex with other women much less actually doing it. During the refractory period when she was healing, I MB to take care of myself – this was before the internet age and porn wasn’t a factor in my self-relief at that time.
Not that either of us ever strayed but the biggest strains in our marriage (including our MB) came later when our sons were being raised, still under our roof. It seemed to me that DW’s role as a mother had become far more important to her than her role as my wife… seemingly, my role was now limited to being the breadwinner enabling her to fullfill her role as a mother to our sons, and secondarily to “be her husband.” Our MB was stale and her attention to me in general and her perception of my desire for sex was mainly for physical relief- when it really was a manifestation of my desire for both emotional and physical closeness and appreciation of me as a person. Accordingly, her response to my initiatives were dutiful, mechanical compliance as a Christian wife, lacking real passion or enthusiasm. Often her mind seemed to be elsewhere in the midst of our LM and I wondered if our days of passion were over.
It was then, years after the postpartum phases had passed that I was most susceptible to the attractions and enticements of other women, and succumbed to the temptation to MB to pornography (which by then was an option I didn’t have before.) I was very vulnerable to thinking about and savoring the praise of female coworkers who had worked for me long enough to sincerely compliment me on my business competency, leadership, people skills, etc. , especially if they were intelligent, excellent in their work, and high in their character – women who I respected for the right reasons. (The attraction was in my mind – not a response to any overture from them because they were too principled to make one. ) I sometimes wondered why they could see the value in what my DW seemed to take for granted in me.
I realize that women undergo major physical and emotional changes in the process of childbearing, nurturing, and raising their children, and that many fathers shirk their responsibility to share that load – in some ways I was guilty of letting my wife take a bigger share of the day-to-day load than I should have – and which she eagerly took. Coming from a FOO which was unstable in most every respect, I had come to believe that if I could make enough money, my family wouldn’t have many of the problems which terrified me as a child. I wore myself out trying to “succeed” and DW wore herself out trying to “parent” more than her share.
I wholeheartedly agree that God’s intent for marriage has always been that a husband ‘s and wife’s relationship with each other ALWAYS takes precedence over either of their relationships with their children and if either spouse loses sight of God’s priority in this respect, the marriage is in trouble. While this may sound selfish, it isn’t, and the children will benefit from the resulting stability and example of their parent’s strong marriage. As other posters have already noted, I believe that this is the main reason that many marriages dissolve as soon as the last child leaves the nest… it was already dead long before the kids left.
I haven’t had the experience of dealing with pregnancy (we dealt with infertility for 10 years before our daughter came to us thru adoption) so this is all speculation on my part, but I wonder if it has to do with with a natural instinct to “spread the seed” that can become more heightened when it’s obvious a previously planted seed has sprouted (so to speak). Again, total speculation on my part with no scientific info to back it up but that’s the first thing that popped into my head after reading the post.
Other men may be different, but my experience:
It’s hard to not get the message that a pregnant/postpartum woman is undesirable,
Is it the physical that is the problem? Her pregnant body doesn’t turn him on?
Not at all. I found my wife to be completely sexy while pregnant and even more so after giving birth.
or is unable to meet her husband’s sexual needs, and therefore he is tempted to look elsewhere.
Absolutely. God put a need in man that is perpetual. We have a cycle too, it is just that it is much shorter than women, every couple of days on average for most men.
She can’t perform the wild sex he desires because of the limitations of a growing belly or extreme exhaustion (or any of the other pains/discomforts of pregnancy)?
I’ve never needed wild sex though I’m sure some men do. There is a component of priority here though, not unlike what a sibling faces with a new child. This is a period where relationships in marriage tend to change for the worse if they were not right in the first place. A husband not being met sexually is going to feel unloved and unimportant. The proper balance of God, spouse, child often is reworked to God, child, spouse. Having a baby changes so much and it is a huge weight and life change for women, but we don’t think much about the changes on men. There is a ton more responsibility, worry, and pressure. The stakes are higher in every way to work hard, get ahead, get the bills paid, and so on.
Her postpartum body is not what it used to be, and it just doesn’t do it for him?
Not for me; she was always sexier after.
I read one Christian marriage blogger freely share that he was jealous of husbands whose wives had cesarean sections – because his wife’s vagina was not as tight after giving birth vaginally. This just makes me feel like we women are just used up unwanted goods. We do what God designed us to do – bear children – and this renders us as ‘less than’.
I think this is total world lie bunk. I’ve only got experience with one vagina and it was fantastic before and fantastic after.
Is it that the wife isn’t showing desire for her husband sexually? Is she not taking enough time to be sexual in amongst feeding the baby around the clock?
Yes and yes.
Is the husband expecting her to be sexually adventurous and enthusiastic, while enduring postpartum bleeding and exhaustion?
He is probably looking for some relief and connection, and would be happy to get the attention even if it was a 5 minute quickie.
What makes the pregnancy/postpartum period difficult for husbands? What (if anything) can we wives do better during that time?
The sex changes are definitely a part of it, but not the only part. We are going through life changes as well.
Wives can do better by keeping on the path of what their focus should be – living as a Godly wife who loves her husband like Sarah did.
Is the pregnancy/postpartum period so incredibly difficult for husbands that they feel drawn to seek satisfaction outside of the marriage?
It is a combination of factors I think. The lack of sex is one, and it leads to feeling unloved and unimportant. It also builds pressure and pressure sees bad opportunity. Combine that with all the new pressures and life changes of a baby and it is a hard time for men too. None of thing is made easier by the fact that it is also a very hard time for women, especially on that first child. It is a huge adjustment. I think all of it is easier if things were right before the baby, meaning the couple was strong and living a biblical marriage where holes in their armor are small. If a wife had no responsibilities before baby, then her husband did not do a very good job of preparing her from basically going from a life where she had no responsibilities to anyone to this child demanding of her all the time. If on the other hand, if she was a helpmeet to her husband and already used to responsibilities and working for others and not just herself, the transition to motherhood will be easier, though still a life change.
I don’t think the physical has anything to do with it. Men have affairs with women fatter & uglier than their wives all the time. It’s about availability. When women don’t make themselves available to their husbands, physically, spiritually, emotionally, socially, IN ALL ASPECTS, some men look else for connection, unfortunately.
Clearly this seems to be a sensitive and close topic with the question and I’m sorry and saddened for the feelings and experiences you’ve had. Not all men are that way, nor are all women.
It’s been a long time since my kids were born so I don’t remember much about how I felt waiting for 4-8 wks depending on the delivery. What I can say is that my then wife (now ex) became completely kid focused…and I felt used when she wanted to get pregnant because the frequency definitely increased during ovulation and decreased afterwards as well as after the kids were born. I don’t remember being tempted more during those times and cheating was never a thought. However, married life is never the same after pregnancy and kids and if allowed, the marriage, as well as bed, is sacrificed in the name of parental love. Hence the rise of divorces after kids start to through HS or college because of kid’ centric marriages. I remember feeling replaced by my kids, even the dog sometimes. As a man, it’s easier to look to work for accolades and affirmation.
As far as body changes, I’m sure some men are shallow about their spouse’s looks. While my current DW (not my boys’ mother) dislikes it, I ENJOY kissing and rubbing her belly because it is life-giving. It is beautiful. Yes, it’s not skin-tight and has some layers of adipose tissue, I love to touch it. We’ll never have kids unless God has a sick sense of humor and naturally reverses something we don’t want reversed!!! (Both of us would cry a LOT if that happened. I always tell her when she asks what I’d do if she became pregnant, I’d cry a lot ask for a paternity test 😀 and she NEVER sees the humor of me saying that.) :laugh
Sexual union and/or activities during and after a pregnancy is something a couple should talk about and what their feelings are. A husband needs to be sensitive to his wife’s physical & emotional needs. She usually doesn’t feel sexy, her breasts are now working, milk production plants instead of a playground and her one lane love tunnel just expanded to become a five lane super highway! 😀 A new mother may be physically exhausted, overwhelmed by emotion, information and advice; maybe be depressed, scared, and feeling helpless with this new human that can’t speak their needs.
Ultimately, grace, patience and help (a Philippians 2 mindset) should be extended by both to each other and to some of your original questions, many times both people are unable to see the other’s needs and desires.
Husband here: I have asked my friends about this subject and found an interesting split. Some men, like me, found the look of a pregnant woman very sexy. DW positively radiated health and fertility when she was pregnant so I was extra turned on. But some of my friends told me the opposite (and I was totally surprised because I just could not imagine this.) Likewise, women tend to be polarized too. For some, pregnancy is an erotically charged time, whilst other feel just fat and ugly. (Yes, I heard that too.)
We were extremely lucky: for both DW and me pregnancy was a very positive experience with lots of sex. DW had an easy time and gave birth without any problems. (Before you think she is some kind of superwoman: she is not. She has been suffering from mental health problems since her twenties, was hospitalized twice. Sometimes she says to me: “being pregnant and giving birth is just about the only things I haven’t failed in”.)
There was a dip postpartum but things returned to normal fairly quickly and she was kind enough to offer me some MS while she was recovering, so I can’t complain. Her vagina, as far as I can tell, looks pretty much the same, with perhaps a bit more ridges near the entrance but otherwise not much different.
I certainly think that cheating on your wife for any reason is plainly wrong. I think we have to accept that either of us might become physically unable to engage in sex and that’s tough but if you got married primarily for sex then you got married for the wrong reason anyway.
I am not saying that this is the experience of most men, but I had a friend share with me the uncertainty and fear a man can face in having a baby. I would guess that would cause some to “self-medicate” or seek solace in a place they may feel they have some control. In these cases it may not be something about the wife at all, other than he doesn’t feel he can show his fear and weakness to her in a time like that.