I am starting to understand why so many divorces happen when the kids are in middle school. There is no time or energy for sex.
For years, I listened to mothers of older kids complain about how busy they were. “My day really starts at 3pm.” “I don’t have a minute to myself.” “Our schedule is crazy!” With infants in smelly diapers, snotty little toddlers attached to my legs and an ever present, yet unidentifiable stain on my right shoulder, I wasn’t very sympathetic. I thought these were just excuses, so stay-at-home moms could assuage their guilt for having 6-7 hours of free time every day. Older kids seemed so easy. They don’t cry, they don’t need their butts wiped and most importantly, they are in school ALL DAY. How could this possibly be hard? Now, I am starting to get it.
With a couple four year olds at home and a job, I still don’t have any downtime, but I do understand just how crazy the after school rush can be. I am bombing around town in my environmentally irresponsible car for what seems like hours each day, often well after dark. There are kids to drop off and pick up, dinners to prepare, homework to assist and … wait, what was the other thing??? Oh, yes, a marriage to nurture. With all the extra-curricular madness on the evenings and the weekends it is too easy to ignore your most important relationship.
Larry walks in from a long day at work, maybe has time to change his clothes, and then, needs to jump in with two feet to help get everyone where they need to be, answer homework questions and spend some time with the little guys — the last task being a real luxury which only happens on a rare, easy night. We are often two ships — two busy, aging, exhausted ships — passing in the night. And when we finally pass each other in the bedroom, Larry is ready for adult playtime. I, on the other hand, find it harder to jump right into it when we haven’t connected all day, or worse, when we’ve connected, but in a less than loving way. (e.g. “Did you pick up Serena?” “No, I thought I was getting Lorelei and YOU were getting Serena.”) Barking orders, juggling schedules and managing homework does not turn me on … maybe that’s just me. A cool breeze can turn Larry on.
When the kids were small, even though we may have been more physically tired, we had our nights together. We put the kids to bed and opened the wine. We talked and caught up or watched a movie and relaxed, silently enjoying each other’s company. Now, by the time we get everyone home, eat some dinner, get the boys to bed and help with homework, the night is over.
In general, we have a great marriage. I feel so fortunate to be sharing this craziness with a true partner and a real friend. But, like all relationships, ours requires attention and some work. A lot of the work is fun, especially making sure our sex life doesn’t suffer. The more intimate we are, the happier our union. Having five kids to raise means we often have to divide and conquer. The more we divide though, the more our emotional connection suffers. While you are in the throes of the chaos, it is hard to think big picture. But, it is especially when you are in the throes of chaos that you need to think big picture.
Remember, one day, your children will leave (the good Lord willing) and you will be left staring at your spouse. You will have no school or sports to obsess over. You will have no family dinner to prepare. You will have no one to live vicariously through. You will be alone with the person you chose to spend your life with. Don’t wait until then to rekindle the flame. Think of it like the burner on the stove and keep it going all the time. You don’t have to aim for a full boil, you’ll end up embarrassing your kids, but you should aim for a constant simmer.
Here are five simple tips/reminders to keep the love alive. I realize this post sounds a bit like a soft rock 80s ballad. So be it. I hear that was a good decade for sexual satisfaction.
– It is okay to be affectionate in front of your kids. A loving home is a great gift.
– Be respectful and kind to your spouse at all times — or you know, as often as you can. Do not make your child your ally against your partner. It is unfair to them and damaging to a marriage.
– Make time each day, even if it is just a few moments, for each other. The kids WILL wait. You are the grown up, you can tell them to.
– Separate your children’s problems and pressures from your own. You already did adolescence. You don’t have to do it again.
– And finally, like a Nike T-shirt, Just Do It. Sex begets sex. If you are in a dry spell, don’t wait for fireworks. Even if you are exhausted or aren’t feeling particularly sexy, do it anyway. I guarantee, once you get going, you’ll wonder why you waited so long.
Remember, intimacy is really the only thing that makes your relationship with your partner different than all your other relationships. Don’t give it up for the sake of the kids. That’s how they got here in the first place.