Self-Conscious and Craving asks:
When me and my boyfriend started dating, we had sex all the time. After we had our son, things got more stressful, I didn't take great care of myself and I'm still not back to my pre-baby figure. We hardly ever have sex and when we do its only if he is drunk. We have only had sex twice in the last year when he was sober. Now it's to the point where I'm really self conscious about my body and its been so long that I feel awkward at the thought of having sex with him when he is sober. How can I feel more confident in myself and get back the great sex life we had.
Dear Self-Conscious and Craving:
The first thought that pops in my head after reading your question is this: you can't love someone else until you truly love yourself. I'm not implying you and your partner don't love each other, but I do believe an individual's feelings of self-worth often have a great affect on their ability to love and be loved. When you aren't feeling good about yourself - for whatever reason whether it's your job, your appearance, your health, etc - your lover may pick up on it, which in turn can affect the energy he gives back to you. More importantly, when you feel self-conscious, you may also put up a wall to hide your insecurities, making it difficult to discuss, recognize and understand sex-related issues.
First thing's first; have you talked to your partner about this? You say you've only had (sober) sex twice in the past year, so it sounds like this has been an issue for quite some time. However, given the appropriate time and place, it's never too late to talk about sex-related issues. Better late than never, right?
As I always say in my posts, communication is the first step in resolving sex-related issues. I suggest you begin this conversation outside of the bedroom when you are both in high spirits and are not pressed for time. Initiate the discussion while you are both in the car or going for a walk, or even over a home-cooked meal (take-out's okay, too ;)); just not in the heat of the moment before/during/after/in-the-place-where-you-have sex. Why? Because talking about sex-related issues can conjure feelings of extreme vulnerability, and you don't want to taint your play space. By taking the conversation out of it's usual context, perhaps both you and your partner will feel more comfortable talking about your concerns in a welcoming environment. Tip: don't forget to use non-accusatory language.
In terms of getting your confidence back, this is something that is almost entirely up to you. I suggest creating a list of the things that make you feel good about yourself, AND DO THEM! Think outside the box here (i.e., not just things that make you feel good about your physical appearance). Include tasks/events/goals for the general well-being of your mind, body, and spirit. Suggestions include charity work, playing with your children, exercise, eating healthy, spending time with friends, being outdoors, dancing, spending time with family, embracing your spirituality, reading, yoga, meditation, shopping, wearing sexy cloths, taking a class (or a sex-ed class?)...the possibilities are endless! Set aside some time everyday - even if it is only for 5 minutes - and do something that makes you feel good about yourself. You deserve it!
Lastly, check out Laura Berman PhD's book, Real Sex for Real Women. She has a entire section dedicated to learning how to love and connect with your body. With mainstream media setting such an unrealistic standard for what is considered "sexy", it's easy to forget that our sex appeal isn't all about how we look, but is actually about how we act and feel about ourselves as sexual beings. Dr. Berman's book has some great suggestions for embracing your body and regaining your self-confidence by tackling body-image issues head on.
Hope this helps!