When you decide to have a child, every aspect of life undergoes a seismic shift — and sex is no exception. If you're wondering how to talk to your partner about timing sex when trying to conceive, the American Pregnancy Association has the facts on the birds and the bees, but managing the emotional aspects of trying to conceive can be tricky, if not downright fraught.
Romper spoke with Rosara Torrisi, PhD, of the Long Island Institute of Sex Therapy about how best to communicate with your partner, and stay connected through windstorms of uncertainty, anxiety, and change.
"When couples experience conflict during [the conception process], there are a number of possible causes," Torrisi writes in an email interview. Reasons include differences in readiness for parenthood, and different coping strategies in the face of adversity. Family history and past traumas can cast unexpected shadows at this time of life, and the importance of empathy, trust, and teamwork can't be overstated. If you're feeling nervous about discussing timing sex to increase your chances of conception, or your partner resists such scheduling, be sensitive. Becoming a parent means becoming open to the fact that no two people — no matter how closely wedded — see the world in the exact same way.
When I was trying, my worldview diverged from my partner's in ways I never expected. I focused on my body, and lost sleep over biological risks. Meanwhile, my partner lay beside me each night, worrying over finances, and whether our relationship would survive the perils of parenting. We didn't talk about our fears at the time, and I wish we had. Physically, we were on that journey together, but psychologically, we were worlds apart. It wasn't until much later that I realized this, and came to reckon with the rift.
"Much like raising a child, conception never happens alone," writes Torrisi. The way you approach the process sets the stage for the relationship — and the sex life — you'll have as parents.
For that reason, it's crucial to find a way to keep joy and pleasure alive, even while taking your temperature each day and setting phone alarms for hookups. Remember the early days, when your longing for each other was rich, and layered, and deep? According to Torrisi, many long-term relationships lose this focused intensity, and such loss is only exacerbated by the medical aspects of conception. For the health of your relationship, remember that sex is always, first and foremost, about pleasure — even when you're trying to conceive. So infuse scheduled encounters with the heat of anticipation, says Torrisi:
"Plan for what you'd like to do with each other when that time comes. What positions do you enjoy? Is there a fantasy you've been longing to explore? Is there a sensation you're curious about? It's not just about getting the deed done, it's about having fun along the way. Tease each other, simmer while you wait."
For some, conception comes easily. For others, the journey to childbirth is heartrending. Resolve provides an overview of the emotional aspects of infertility, including tips for communicating with your partner and managing stress. When you feel you've lost control over your body, it's all too easy to lash out.
For Torrisi, what matters most is how two people work through conflict. She recommends the book Nonviolent Communication to foster sensitive discussions that leave both of you feeling heard and understood. If you have difficulty speaking past the complex pain of infertility, it might be time to reach out to a therapist. Additionally, if you struggle with sexual intimacy while trying to conceive, despite your best efforts, Torrisi suggests consulting an AASECT certified sex therapist.
Whether or not fertility is an issue, communicating openly and well about sex isn't easy, and when you decide to try for parenthood, the stress alone can sweep away the pleasure of your most intimate moments. So take the focus off conception for a moment, and enjoy each other. You can't control every aspect of your biology — or your life as a parent. What you can do is celebrate, strengthen, and enhance a relationship that's already precious, in and of itself.