I wanted to call this article something “mature” yet catchy, like “When Sex Can’t Be the Band-Aid.”
My husband, however, suggested “From Ballin’ to Crawlin:’ Can Your Relationship Survive Without Sex?”
Because, the thing is—I’m not a “sex” writer.
Nope. I’m a mom, and a yogi, and a this and a that—but I don’t write about sex.
Except for now I do, and I will—about something that I believe fully in; about something that lately has been regularly reinforced as a serious truth in both my relationship and my life as a mother.
And here it is: an outright declaration that couples planning a family should find other ways to connect intimately, besides sex, before having kids.
Because all couples think they will be that special, magical couple who still has a hugely invigorating sex life, after kids.
There, I’ve said it.
Don’t worry, we all think this, or no kids would likely intentionally be made in the first place—if you like sex; which I do. So this, please consider, is also written from that standpoint. (I’m so sorry, Mom.)
Yet, it’s a universal joke for a reason: having sex with kids in the house is a whole new ball game—hahaaaa! Sorry again, but it’s a reality that we need to have other ways to connect.
Our kids learn to communicate from us.
Children see the way that their parents exchange differing opinions, the way that we hug, or don’t hug; the ways that we embrace—in words and arms and lips—in front of them.
Kids see everything.
But, as a couple, if our main way to reconnect and get close after a blow-out or a “discussion” is sex—then we’re in for potential trouble.
Sex can be an easy way out.
It can be a mind-blowing experience that we pretend means soul-mate love, or it can be a way for those of us who are otherwise well-matched to reconnect after a bad experience. Sex, though, is no longer the easy way out when you have kids.
Instead, it becomes planned (well worth it), or perfectly timed (again, well worth it) or ignored (ugh) or placed on the back burner (place it on the front burner of the schedule again).
Because, yes, sex should be something that we make important, and that we make time for—but, that’s a different article, no?—but trust me when I say that it cannot be the main way that couples engage in communication or play if the relationship is going to have longevity.
So what else can we do?
The following are a few suggestions for couples who want to get along well, so that they still want to have sex:
I will not play the gender card here either.
Some people are more verbal and others are not, and I don’t believe this is a man or woman thing. Instead, it’s a hodgepodge of how willing we are to share, if words are the way that we show love, and likely, too, of how our families expressed themselves—etc, etc.
Yet, don’t misinterpret that we do need to talk through things. No—we need to talk through everything.
Get used to it.
If words are not your best form of expression, then consider writing down what you need to say. More, if you—like I—am an extremely…passionate—read: hot-tempered—individual, then consider occasionally sending an email that gets ideas across better than can sometimes be conveyed through conversation.
Hugging is hugely underrated. It helps forge a feeling of closeness and it also cuts through life’s tension that gets in the way of how we feel about our partners, if we could stop time and co-exist outside of work and child-rearing.
Raising children isn’t the only reason a relationship might go through a sexless or less-sex period. Illness and long distance are other possibilities—and my relationship has gone through all of these reasons.
I’ll never forget seeing my husband, then boyfriend, as I got off the plane to visit him across the country in New Mexico. I can still feel the sensations of his strong arms as they completely enveloped me, standing in front of him. That hug meant and said more to me about his love than any words could have. His hugs still make me feel wonderful.
In other words, hug it out.
Speaking of hugs being underrated, talking is also over-rated—listening is the new best thing.
Honestly, listening involves stopping our own thought processes and authentically being present with our partner, and truly hearing and taking in their experiences of both life and our relationship through life together. This is worthy of an article by itself.
Regardless, let’s all put on our listening ears.
4. Stay present.
I’ve been with my husband since we were 14 years old. In other words, it’s easy to re-hash the past. Don’t.
Trust me, I’m horrible at this.
I have an elephant’s memory and a sensitive heart, and it’s taken me years and years—echo after me : years and years—to learn, and repetitively understand, that while yesterday’s problem might still be today’s, it’s crucial to discuss what is happening now.
This is easier said than done, both externally and internally, so my suggestion (aside from professional help for recurring problems) is to:
5. Walk the fuck away.
When we cannot move mentally past a conflict or regroup ourselves for our best dialogue, then we need to walk away, cool down, internally reconfigure our feelings and then express them at another moment.
In short: Walk. The. Fuck. Away.
So, in closing, parenthood is glorious.
My blunt delivery of the aforementioned facts, that life after a child’s birth is when a relationship’s true challenge begins, might not completely display this.
Because, let’s be real: parenting is when a relationship becomes hard.
This is good! (I’m being serious.) Why stick with the same person if we can’t progress together as individuals?
Parenthood will progress a relationship automatically past go. (You may or may not collect $200.)
For me, becoming a mother has been the most difficult and mundane job I’ve ever performed. This distinct dichotomy is precisely why it’s such a challenge. More, marrying this arduous work with the man who I chose to spend my life with is honestly the most difficult thing that I’ve ever attempted—and it’s also the most important.
I love my husband.
Because of this I equally think that sex should be prioritized.
It has to be squeezed in between children’s bedtimes and when you don’t feel like it; in between long days at work and long days at home.
These tips will help couples to still feel romantic after long days of childcare and work.
Life isn’t easy; maybe yours is, but mine isn’t.
My life is, however, glorious—sometimes my eyes prick with tears from the beauty of watching my baby walk for the first time, or my husband talk to me about his job as a physicist or my oldest child write her letters all by herself.
It’s the little things in life that matter.
Talking, hugging, making love, listening—this is what we need to experience and enjoy with every ounce of our souls.
And sex? It’s huge. It’s important.
But it isn’t everything, or, more accurately—it doesn’t have to be.
Photo: Flickr/The First Couple…