Researchers have known for years that parenthood has some predictable effects on heterosexual couples. Specifically, relationship satisfaction typically decreases1 and sexual activity usually drops off markedly once kids enter the picture.2 Given the significant increase in gay couples raising children through surrogacy and adoption in recent years, researchers have begun to explore whether similar effects occur among persons in same-sex relationships. Perhaps not surprisingly, the answer appears to be yes.
In a recent qualitative study, 48 gay male couples with children who were living in either San Francisco or Salt Lake City were asked to discuss how having kids affected their relationships and sex lives.3 The men reported that having children actually increased their commitment to the relationship, despite having negative sexual effects. Specifically, having kids reduced sexual satisfaction and opportunities for sexual activity as a result of changes in their priorities and stress levels. These effects held regardless of whether the men were involved in monogamous or “open” relationships.
Contrary to the researchers’ expectations, having children actually had no effect on the nature of partners’ sexual agreements with one another. That is, monogamous couples tended to stay monogamous, while couples in open relationships continued to allow each other to pursue other sexual partners. Thus, couples do not necessarily shift toward monogamy once they have babies. However, for those whose relationships remained open after kids, the frequency of sex outside of the primary relationship decreased substantially.
These results indicate that parenthood seems to put a damper on everyone’s sex lives, regardless of sexual orientation. So if you find this happening in your own relationship, you are not alone. Just make sure that you don’t completely ignore the subject of sex and that you find a way to maintain some level of physical intimacy with your partner. And if you need some inspiration, here's a reading suggestion to get you started: Hump: True Tales of Sex After Kids.
1Twenge, J. M., Campbell, W. K., & Foster, C. A. (2003). Parenthood and marital satisfaction: A meta-analytic review. Journal of Marriage and Family, 65, 574-583.
2Condon, J. T., Boyce, P., & Corkindale, C. J., (2004). The First-Time Fathers Study: A prospective study of the mental health and wellbeing of men during the transition to parenthood. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry, 38, 56-64.
3Huebner, D. M., Mandic, C. G., Mackaronis, J. E., Beougher, S. C., & Hoff, C. C. (2012). Couple and Family Psychology: Research and Practice, 1, 106-119.
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