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'I Don't Want to Have Sex With My Husband'

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Dear Catherine,

I'm a mother of three (10, 7 & 20 months). I know am supposed to have sex with my husband, but I'm always finding an excuse not to. What can I do to spice up the bedroom again? Am I a bad wife because I'd rather my husband take care of himself than be with me in bed? What can I do to be more interested in sex?


Suddenly Chaste

Dear Suddenly Chaste,

Well, all right!

Now we are getting to the real heart of French parenting: Le Sex. Those Frenchies are very into it, and I'm convinced that their attitudes toward childrearing are directly related to their abilities to keep things roaring in the sack. Or vice versa.

Early into my experiment of trying to turn out better behaved kids by acting French with them, I was struck by a couple different reactions to bed size. (Stay with me here.) I was conducting an interview in my home, and my French subject chastised me for having a California King-sized mattress, pointing out that if I downsized a bit I'd have an easier time finding my husband in there. Conversely, an American friend of mine was blasted by her lactation-consultant for going with a more narrow bed. This breast-feeding expert blamed my pal's trouble with nursing on the fact that she only had a full-sized mattress. The difference in focus—husband vs. kids—was almost comically obvious (in fact, most French mothers I interviewed had never heard of a lactation-consultant, as they were more likely to bottle feed after a few months and use their bosoms for a different purpose).

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As I went deeper into my research, I discovered that it's a very consistent discrepancy. The French protect and cultivate their sex lives—ah oui—and think it's weird if spouses don't spend routine time together, away from the kids. This, by the way, includes eight hours every night, and you will rarely find any pint-size interlopers in the French master bed after hours. Kids sleep in their own beds.

Happy marriages rarely hinge on celibacy, and kids rarely thrive in unhappy marriages.

I have to admit, there's a lot to be said for the French focus. Happy marriages rarely hinge on celibacy, and kids rarely thrive in unhappy marriages. My point: It's all a matter of perspective.

So, for starters I would advise that you and your husband break from the pack on a regular basis and go do something that makes you like each other as people and not just parents, whether it's dining out, going dancing, or dressing in lederhosen and scarfing Mallomars (no judgment). You still have a toddler, and I know getting away isn't always easy, but it's tres valuable.

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I hate to sound like a cliché (French word!), but sex after kids is often something that takes work, and I'd advise you not to ignore the problem. Once you get out of practice, it's hard to find your way back. There's a suspicion that depleted levels of testosterone in a woman are often to blame for her dive-bombing libido. To make matters worse, the production of this sexy little hormone is roused by a regular shtup. So, once you find yourself uninterested in love-making, you may have entered a causal nexus with no exit. And speaking of Jean Paul Sartre, I'll stop short of advocating the kind of extra liaisons that he and his longtime partner, Simone de Beauvoir agreed to, but it does make one wonder ...

For now, get in there sister! Ditch the kids for a bit, find your inner animal and build it back. And if you just can't, I recommend a therapist. There's no time to waste.



Have a French (or any nationality) parenting question for Catherine? Email her at mommecs@bermanbraun.com.

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