Jokes about a coronavirus-prompted baby boom nine months from now have become a constant fixture on talk shows, in articles, and on Twitter.
Sorry to disappoint the people in your life asking when you’re having kids, but in reality, ultra-stressful times like the one we’re currently in typically don’t yield baby booms, says Dr. Alyse Kelly-Jones, the medical director of the Novant Health Women’s Sexual Health and Wellness Center.
She says baby booms are typically associated with shorter events, like a blizzard. They can also be associated with celebratory times, the most well-known baby boom being post-World War II.
In times of tragedy, the opposite tends to happen. “If you look back at 9/11, people weren’t having more sex, they were having less because they were so worried,” she says.
If you’re not feeling particularly inclined to be intimate these days and are wondering if there’s something wrong with you, rest assured, there’s not. Kelly-Jones says, “It’s OK to give each other grace and have less sex. But talk about it.”
In a recent survey of more than 4,000 Axios Charlotte subscribers, 20 percent of respondents said they’re having less sex than they normally do.
Respondents had different reasons to explain the change — from struggling to find alone time to stress.
Kelly-Jones says having sex one or two times a week has been thought of as pretty standard, but there isn’t much value in focusing on this number. Instead, she encourages couples to focus on the bigger picture.
If you’re looking to improve intimacy in your relationship, here are three tips from an expert:
(1) Learn each other’s love language
If you’re not familiar with the book The Five Love Languages by North Carolina native Dr. Gary Chapman, it’s worth a read, especially if you’ve got extra free time right now. A “love language” is the way in which you express or receive love. There are five to choose from — physical touch, quality time, gifts, words of affirmation, and acts of service — and you can express love differently than how you receive it.
Kelly-Jones encourages couples to learn about their own love languages. She says you can use these tools to boost intimacy in and beyond the bedroom.
For example, if your partner’s love language is words of affirmation, “You can tell them they look really good or smell good today,” she says. If your partner’s love language is acts of service, taking out the trash can help strengthen your connection.
This approach, she says, is preferable to using sex as a gauge of relationship health.
“When it comes to checking a box, that’s when it loses some of that fun and spark and playfulness. The concept of intimacy or sex is just part of the whole thing. Every day you have moments to speak the other person’s language and have them speak yours, which is intimacy. You’re building intimacy into your everyday regimen,” Kelly-Jones says.
(2) Get creative with at-home date nights
With a little thought and pre-planning, it’s possible to resist the siren song of Netflix. Kelly-Jones suggests building a fire in the backyard, sharing a glass of great wine, or putting on some fun music and dancing.
She also loves the idea of writing in a journal together, passing it back and forth as each partner writes down their thoughts. You can write about the things you’re grateful for, or what you love about each other. “It’s romantic and almost free,” she says. I can co-sign on this idea. My husband bought me this one for our anniversary and it sparks good conversation in a way just watching TV can’t.
(3) Make mindfulness practices a part of your daily routine
Whether you’re happy with your sex life or not, during this strange time Kelly-Jones stresses the importance of maintaining a routine. She encourages people to incorporate mindfulness practices like meditation or exercise into your daily life.
“Take a shower every day, put on nice clothes, put on makeup,” whatever works for you, she says. “Nobody knows what’s going to happen tomorrow, so this is a really great time to adopt a mindfulness practice, whether that’s meditation, walking, or other kinds of exercise. Those are tools you’ll keep with you for the rest of your life.”