My husband and I are both sex therapists. We are parents of two young boys, three and one years old. We work, parent, and live very full lives. And yes, we have sex. On occasion.
We recently returned from a vacation without kids. We had more time and energy to be spacious with our sex. We had lots of downtime to restore and relax. There was connected and uninterrupted conversation, laughter, lingering, touching and kissing. The spaciousness of not having kids to contend with, or bedtimes to adhere to, allowed for a slower and more sizzling build-up of arousing, full-body touch. We know each other’s bodies well, and how to generate maximum pleasure.
But the truth is, we don’t have passionate, pom-pom sex very frequently. We have maintenance sex – sensual and sweet, though nothing like the days before kids.
In daily life, our whole model of spacious-vacation sex is condensed. The condensed version is what makes it maintenance. This has been our new normal since our first son was born. We choose to operate by this expectation because it is our current reality.
Don’t worry, the Maintenance Model doesn’t suck. We have key ingredients that make it work, and make it fun.
Desire is about how we turn on our brains. Since our brains are our largest sex organ, this is foundational for an optimized sex life. We are responsible for both turning ourselves on, and turning on each other. However, if we sail through the week without acknowledging one another, feeling unheard and unseen, it’s pretty difficult to ignite any desire when the window of opportunity presents itself.
Enter what I call, Desire Deposits. Imagine a little piggy bank, hungry for shiny quarters and silver dollars. Everything we do outside the bedroom is like foreplay for when we are IN the bedroom. Every deposit counts. Thus, the more we tend to our relationship out of the bedroom, ensuring respectful, reflective conversation, peppered with laughter, the easier it is to dive right in. (If we are disconnected, sex can help us connect too, but it’s a longer lead in, for which we might not have time or energy.)
We work on respect. Yes, we work on respect. This is not a given; it’s something earned. Furthermore, Respect is a key ingredient to the Desire Deposit theory. If we don’t respect each other, then we are unlikely to like each other enough to have sex in a fun and mutually pleasurable manner.
What I respect most about my husband, Daniel, is his endless endeavors to grow and evolve. Though I may not share all his hobbies, I appreciate and respect the comprehensive way he engages in them. He reads constantly, about 50 books a year. He practices martial arts and/or CrossFit all days of the week. He gardens in summer, and plans for the garden in winter. He cooks clean, mouth-watering meals every night. Conversely, I know he respects me for the way I mother, run our business, engage compassionately and intelligently with my clients, maintain our finances, and keep healthy and fit. We go to CrossFit together because it suffices as a date, and allows for a little healthy competition with one another. Going to CrossFit is always a good Desire Deposit for me. If Daniel beats me at a workout, I am impressed by his efforts. If I beat him, I feel on top of the world and turned on by myself. It’s a win-win. We keep going because health from the inside out is part of what we respect about each other and value as a family.
SELF-CARE FOR OPTIMIZED LIVING
We support each other for self-care so we can feel vital. For us, if we are not spending some time outside, eating well or exercising, we don’t feel good in our bodies, and then we feel turned off. As parents of young kids, we don’t have wiggle room to be turned off. Time and energy already suck away enough of that. So, we have to optimize our turn-ons. We have to optimize our lives so that we can be all that we can be for our kids and for each other.
Sex therapist and author Ian Kerner once joked about sex after kids, spontaneous sex is the best sex you’ll never have. I live by this quote. It’s my mantra. I plan my sex, and make a living helping others plan their sex. For us, we look at the schedule and figure out (hypothetically) semi-spacious windows. We raincheck (read below) if the spaciousness is zapped by kids or energy. We are realistic, which is not terribly sexy, but again, is the new normal. Communication is key. We have to gauge energy levels. We have to gauge time. If we spend an extra 45 minutes at night having sex, we negotiate who is going to wake up and do the early morning kids’ shift.
Planning allows for reliability ensuring there will be connection, and ensuring there will be downtime. We never live in starvation mode for either. And, because we plan, we are able to also seize windows of opportunity beyond planned connection.
Even though we plan, we both make sure to invite each other and check out if the timing works. We don’t leave invitations to just one person. Inviting each other, or just reminding one other of our erotic date, allows for an additional Desire Deposit. Throwing in a compliment as you make an invitation can really pack a punch. Things I say to Daniel include: That was super hot how you killed it at CrossFit. You are looking so svelte. I love seeing you shower. Thank you for an awesome meal. Let me reciprocate. Thank you for putting both kids to bed. I have extra energy, wink wink. Yes, you can be cheesy and weird. This is your partner, not a one-night stand.
We understand rainchecks. This is part of our expectations in our new normal. We can have all the best intentions, but sometimes we have to pass. Please note that the raincheck is not a full out rejection or No, don’t even think about it. This is a: thank you for inviting me, and, I’m not up for anything sexual right now. Ideally, the person passing has to honor the raincheck another time in the near future.
CREATIVITY & CLOSING THE DOOR
We close the door. One child sleeps in a crib, so he’s not likely to interrupt us in our bedroom. But the other one is easily mobile and can walk in. The closed door rule means that he has to knock, allowing us privacy. It teaches him that mommy and daddy have private intimate time – and that is essential to a successful relationship. Routinely, both kids end up in our bed in the morning. Because we personally love the occasional co-sleeping, we’ve been creative to have sex in our closet, the living room, and kitchen.