Relationship expert and sexologist Dr. Logan Levkoff serves as an expert on the reality show “Married at First Sight” on FYI. The show sends two strangers down the aisle and follows them as they try to keep their marriages afloat; two of the three couples from the first season are still married more than one year later.

We talked to Levkoff on how couples can keep the spark in their sex lives even after they have kids. 

The biggest issue, to start off, is we sort of forget our identity – our pre-child-rearing identity – we forget there was someone who was sexy and confident who could prioritize his or herself and put his needs before anyone else’s. Oftentimes when you’re someone else’s mom, you sort of forget you have a name and identity besides being a parent. It’s about getting into the mindset that you have needs and desires, and knowing that those needs are important. 

Do you find that when you speak with couples maybe one parent has a harder time maintaining their identity than the other?

Usually it’s the parent who takes care of most of the day-to-day stuff and all of the minutiae who loses their identity a little bit quicker than the other. And that could still be a working parent; it’s just that for the person who deals with all of the minutiae, all of those little things get in the way of feeling like you’re a fully functional human being at some point.

What if you’re the parent who doesn’t feel like having sex? What can you do?

I think feeling a lack of desire and not wanting to be sexual or have sex is a really common thing that happens. And the “why” is important. The sheer exhaustion, especially with new parents, means the last thing you want to do is jump in for sex if you just want 20 minutes of sleep without someone calling your name. There’s an exhaustion component, but if you’re the person who’s not into it, it’s really important we redefine what sex is and what counts as sex. For some couples, having intercourse regularly – weekly, daily – that’s not the only thing that counts as sex. That’s not the only intimate behavior that ends in pleasure for both partners. Sometimes we focus so much on sex being this one act we need to do and if we don’t do it, then we have a problem, but there are a lot of ways to be intimate up to and including intercourse.

What if a couple can’t see eye-to-eye on their sex lives?

I think we get so swept up in our own lives that we really don’t prioritize sex and physical and sexual intimacy is really important to being a human being and being in a partnership. Otherwise, you’re roommates, and that’s not what anyone wants. People want to feel human connection and touch and it’s not that one partner wants sex for the sake of having sex. Oftentimes, a lot of our erotic energy goes to our children – not in a sexual way – but we meet everyone else’s needs, like cooing, kissing, touching, nursing, bathing. We’re sharing our body with someone else, but just not our partner. And there’s a great deal of envy that can happen. It’s important for parents to realize that having a physical connection with a partner is an important thing. With respect to pleasure and if we have pleasure – by which I mean orgasms – through masturbation, then we are going to want more of that, so good meaningful interactions breed more. And there is a time we need to get out of our own way and remember that these things are important if we’re feeling out of sorts, and sometimes we need to remember that our partners are human too. It’s not just that they want sex, but they want to feel like they’re important to us again. Intimacy, even kissing, is important to us. Once you get into the grind, our affection toward one another becomes sort of rote and it becomes sort of pathetic. That’s not a great romantic, sensual gesture and it can be a long time since we’ve had a meaningful physical encounter with a partner and those things are really important. They may not be explicitly sexual, but they can be just as meaningful and lead to sex.

What do you suggest in making time for intimacy?

Raising a child takes a village and it’s an old but important saying because there are times you need to be a grownup and feel like a grownup – for your partner and for you. One thing that’s hard is that we’re so quick to think our children’s needs come before our own. Our children’s needs are important, but if you are not happy as a parent, your children are not happy. Use your friends, relatives, a sitter – even for an hour or two. You need to make time for you and your partner in a way that’s not talking about your children and getting back to who the two of you are as grownups and not having to rely on your child’s issues to spark conversation. We use our time alone to talk about our children instead of ourselves and our lives – all the things we used to do before we had children. I believe also, that masturbation is a healthy and important part of our lives and when you can in your own way feel what pleasure feels like, you’re going to want that. I’m not suggesting you shouldn’t do it with your partner, but oftentimes we get so swept up and stressed when we should be doing things that make us feel sexy and ignite the desire in us again – to remind us how pleasure feels and what it can feel like.

What if you catch your partner masturbating? Can’t it be hurtful?

I don’t think masturbation, when you’re in a partnership, is any kind of indication there are problems in a relationship. People in healthy relationships still masturbate. It could be a stress reliever or you’re tired and want to go to sleep – there are so many reasons this could happen. I have a friend whose husband, since college – 20 years – he masturbates every morning in the shower. That’s his thing. Everyone knows it’s his thing. It’s not about the relationship; it’s how he starts the morning. There are reasons other than lack of satisfaction for why people masturbate.