A lot has been said about Tiger: sex addict, thrill seeker, adulterer – how about third wheel?
As Tiger goes from married dad to single dad, it’s worth considering the role that new parenthood may have played in his woes. According to a recent study at University of Denver, more than 92 percent of new parents experience a decrease in relationship satisfaction after the birth of a child, and as a NYC-based sex-therapist I’ve seen a big rise in the number of new fathers who have dependency-issues with Internet porn. I’m also a father of two young boys, and while I’m not making excuses for Tiger, part of me empathizes with him: the part that doesn’t know him personally, but can use him as a sort of new-dad mirror.
In tracking Tiger, we’ve been so focused on what he was doing outside of his bedroom, it makes you wonder what was going on (or potentially not going on) in his bedroom. Of course I know nothing about Elin’s marriage to Tiger, and not that it’s any of my business, but I do know that when you become a new parent, your relationship with your partner changes a lot. Not only do you stop having as much sex as you used to, suddenly you need a lot of stability and transparency. Your life becomes highly scheduled. But while your relationship requires stability and predictability, your love life craves the opposite: unpredictability and mystery. Therein lies the relationship rub: How do we share everything with our partners and yet also remain mysterious and unpredictable? It’s not so easy. And when you’re a celebrity-athlete like Tiger you come to depend on those rushes. And when you can’t get them at home you seek them out elsewhere: whether they’re Internet-based or reality based.
Tiger is an extreme case, the exception rather than the rule when it comes to husbands and fathers, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t lessons to be learned for all new parents:
• Be selfish about your relationship. Once you have a kid, it’s easy to make everything else a priority. But, in the end, one of the greatest gifts you can give to your kids is a model of what it means to be in a loving adult relationship.
• Stay in touch. Even if you’re too burnt out for sex, stay physically connected outside the bedroom. Once there’s a new baby, it’s to make him or her the object of all of your affection. But make sure to save some of that hugging and kissing for your partner.
• Disconnect and reconnect. Today’s modern couples are getting sucked into a digital black hole. When we do have a few moments of down-time, we often get on the computer to check emails, Facebook, etc., and pretty soon those few moments here and there add up to some serious time we could have spent tuning in and turning on without partners. And men: don’t fill the gaps in your sex life with porn. It’s too easy to get habituated.
• Try to have sex once a week. Ruts beget ruts and sex begets sex. Don’t let sex become a distant memory. Having sex once a week at least keeps intimacy on your to-do list, and keeps the juices flowing.
• Don’t let your identities as mom and dad eclipse your individual identities. Keep growing: as individuals, as a couple. Find things to marvel at besides your children. Find new sources of conversation. It’s okay for your kids to be a center of gravity, but don’t let them become the sun around which you constantly revolve.