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I was having dinner with a friend and her 1-year-old.
As I watched her wrastle with that adorable little tyke in a restaurant, I thought about the incredible demand kids are, especially little kids.
Don't get me wrong. I like my kids.
And I like other people's kids (well. kind of).
But it's a demanding time of life, isn't it?
A smiling doctor hands you this bundle of squirmy and wrinkles. With a wink, the doc's demeanor seems to say, "Congratulations! It's a time sucker and bank account drainer... uhh... I mean, baby. It's a baby. Good luck with that."
All you hear in your head is a big virtual countdown clock. At every turn, in the fabric of your soul, you see reminders of a rapidly closing window of opportunity. You've got 18 years to turn out a somewhat self-sufficient adult.
18 years. Well, 18 years is the general gauge at least.
Some kiddos are freaks of nature and become overly self-sufficient by the time they are 13. And some reach 20 still baffled as to why the Laundry Fairy never stops by their dorm room with clean socks.
I feel like my entire parenting adventure thus far has been spent peering aimlessly around looking for the bowling lane bumpers of parenting. "What? There are no bumpers? How on earth am I suppose to get this kid to adulthood without some padding on either side of this trainwreckish journey?!"
Not for the faint of heart. That's for sure.
Yeah, I looked across the table at the "I'm-gonna-throw-my-sippy-cup" toddler and thought silently to myself, "It's amazing any parent makes it out of this alive, let alone any marriage."
Which brings me to my point.
Have your kids ruined sex in your marriage?
Based on some of the emails I get, I'm going to go with an educated guess that many of you would answer resoundingly, "Yes!" (In some marriages, one person is yelling "yes" to that question and the other person is completely indifferent, thus compounding the problem.)
The kids really aren't to blame, but demise of sexual intimacy in your marriage seems to be eerily pinpointed back to their arrival.
The beginning of the end of all things sexual, right?
It doesn't have to be this way. If you are a new parent, raise your weary head from your sleep-deprived slumber and listen up.
If you are a more experienced parent, raise your head, too. Yeah, you may not be doing 2 a.m. feedings, but you're probably equally battled scarred. Your calendar looks like the hand-written plot schematics for "War and Peace," rather than the clean slate you once gazed upon BK (Before Kids).
Nope, kids don't have to ruin your sex life. And even if it seems they already have left damage in the wake, it's time to reclaim ground and raise a victory flag and lower the surrender flag.
How do you keep your kids from ruining sex in your marriage? Here are two ways:
1. Raise Your Sexual Expectations. Lower Your Parenting Expectations.
Sounds painfully selfish, but you gotta draw a line in the sand on this one.
Begin with this basic premise: What your kids most need is a mama and daddy in love. If you build around that premise, then the "norm" in the house will be mama and daddy take care of their marriage.
It's a deliciously wonderful way to live, even if it means you have to fight the tyranny of life in order to get there.
In practical terms, it looks like this...
You can occasionally put your kids to bed before they want to or need to go.
You can serve cheese and crackers for dinner. Or Pop Tarts. And everyone will be okay.
You can allow other people to take care of your kids every now and then.
Build a network of people who will give you some alone time with your spouse. Grandparents. Teenage Babysitter. Friends. Nice Clerk from the Grocery Store. Don't get too desperate, but you get the picture. You need support. A support network can save and strengthen your marriage regularly, if you let it.
You don't even need a fancy date.
Take the kids to someone else and then come home and have sex. Enjoy it. Linger in it. Your kids are eating chicken nuggets across town. They just as soon stay where they are than have their boring parents interrupt their free-for-all nugget-fest. Seriously. If they could put it all into words, that's what they would say.
2. Be More Sexually Playful With Your Clothes On.
I'm convinced that a huge factor of whether sex will happen on any given day is determined by whether you have created an atmosphere for sex.
If you can't remember the last time you were affectionate or even subtly sexually suggestive with your spouse with your clothes on... well... then it's been too long. Sexy is as sexy does. (Yeah, I know. Some people hate that saying, but there are caverns of truth in it).
Purposely create an atmosphere that is conducive for sex.
This isn't about candles and satin sheets.
It's about expressing love and commitment by intentionally giving your body to the person you married. There's power in that. Enough power and sacredness to keep the chaos of your life in check.
If having kids resulted in you blatantly or inadvertently giving up tender sexual connection with your spouse, something's gotta give.
When all is said and done, what do you want for your marriage sexually?
Copyright 2013, Julie Sibert. Intimacy in Marriage Blog.