If You Don’t Nurture Sex Now, then When?

intimacy when parenting young children

intimacy when parenting young childrenAs many of you know, some other wives and I did a day retreat recently for engaged and newly-married Christian women.

Our goal was to give them a solid and exciting foundation for building great sexual intimacy in their marriage earlier rather than later.

One of the questions that came up during the Q/A period was, “How do I nurture intimacy while my children are young?  It seems really difficult to find the time and energy.”

If you are a mom of littles, you know what we’re talking about here.

For all the strides we’ve made with dual parenting, the reality is that in most homes, the bulk of caring for babies and small children falls to the mamas.

For one, if a mother is nursing, her body literally is not her own, but rather is a feeding trough for the little tyke (yes, I know it is a bonding experience, but it can be hard to view your breasts as an arousal point when they are a hot commodity as a food source).

And even if you aren’t nursing, but have monkeys children under the age of 5, you spend a great deal of your time as a makeshift jungle gym — holding, cuddling, reading, soothing, zipping, snapping, washing, wiping, dressing, playing, and so forth.

By the end of the day, the thought of being touched, even by the man you married, doesn’t sound near as appealing as falling asleep beneath your sheets or slipping into a hot bath.


(You knew I would have a disclaimer).

Here’s the thing.

If you don’t figure out how to have sex (and have it often) when they are little, you may be shocked to discover that you have less time and motivation when they turn into annoying inquisitive middle-schoolers or rebellious independent high-schoolers.

If you don’t nurture sex now, then when?

Every season of parenting has its time constraints and energy depletion. Every. Season.

I kid you not.

I remember when my children were small, a friend of mine with older children essentially said to me, “Brace yourself. If you think your life is crazy now, you haven’t seen anything yet.”

Sure, the little tykes turn into big tykes who no longer paw at you (or want to be seen with you), BUT your parenting responsibilities tend to double, triple and quadruple (like rabbits, but less adorable).

And on a more serious note, one of the more common times of divorce in a marriage is between years 20 and 25 (depending on which source you read).


Because by that time, if a couple hasn’t nurtured their intimacy and marriage, there’s no compelling reason to stay together.  The kids are grown and gone (or at least on their way out).  More often than not, finances are more stable, making living separate lives seem more doable.

And one or both spouses finds themselves looking at the other and thinking, “I just don’t know you anymore. And I really don’t want to stay.”

Don’t shoot the messenger.

Remember, I’m here to give you hope that you don’t have to be like those couples who get 20 years in, only to realize they really want out.

If you are a parent of babies or littles, intimacy in your marriage doesn’t have to be put on hold until that youngest child is heading out the door.

Here are 5 tips for nurturing hot sex in your marriage NOW, rather than LATER:

1. Put the kids in their own room.

I know, I know.

Some of you are big on the whole family bed concept.  Sadly, what I think happens in too many houses isn’t family bed at all, but rather “mom and kid” bed, while dad sleeps elsewhere.

Regardless of whether you’re all sharing a bed or if you’ve told yourself “just while they are little,”  I’m going to challenge you to reclaim some marital ground.

Personally, I think your bed should be the one place in the house that is just about the two of you.  Much easier to teach those kids that they have their own space in their room, rather than fight the battle of getting them out of your bed after they’ve been sleeping in it for 6 years.

2.  Lower your standards on what doesn’t matter.

About 85% of it doesn’t matter.  Pour most of your heart into what does matter — your relationships.

If you have to push the unfolded laundry off the bed or leave the dishes till morning or constantly have a family room that looks like Toys R Us just blew up, so be it.

There’s something profound about drawing a line in the sand.

The dishes can wait. The laundry can wait.  Put those kids to bed, take your spouse’s hand, go into your bedroom, and shut the door.

Shut the door. And open your heart and arms.

3.  Be sexually suggestive throughout the day.

Our bodies tend to follow the lead of our thoughts and words.  Be sexually playful with each other, through your phone calls, an occasional note in the brief case or lunch box, creative texts, “I can’t wait till we can be alone” glances.

You get the idea. I don’t have to paint you a picture.  But if I did, it would have a lot of sexual innuendo in it.

4. Don’t wait for perfect moments.

A lot of great sex can be had in 20 minutes. Sure, we’d all like an ideal setting and a leisurely hour, but are you really going to build anything solid on the rare occasions when the stars align and everything is perfect?


A better approach is to adapt.  You’re in a season of having little kids, so you have no choice but to get creative. If you don’t, your intimacy will suffer.

5.  Don’t just go through the motions.

Sadly, a lie that a lot of women tell themselves is, “I’ll give him what he wants and then he’ll stop asking.”

Have you entertained such thought?

If so, not only have your shortchanged your husband (who likely doesn’t want obligatory sex), you’ve also shortchanged yourself.  Orgasm and sexual closeness are great stress relievers and help us keep things in perspective.

A little sexual perspective can do wonders for the chaos of parenting littles.

I get that you’re in a demanding time of life.  And it’s messy.  But here’s the deal.  Life is messy.

If you don’t nurture sex now, then when?

Copyright 2016, Julie Sibert. Intimacy in Marriage Blog. Links may be monetized.

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17 thoughts on “If You Don’t Nurture Sex Now, then When?

  1. southern gent says:


    So glad the event went well. I prayed for a good number of participants and a good event.

    Yes, many recognize the “7 year itch” which I describe more as a 3 to 5 to 7 year itch. After that, the “empty nest / about to be empty nest” is the next big pitfall. And it plays almost exactly as you describe.

  2. Anonymous says:

    I couldn’t agree more. My wife and I are 51 years old and have been married 23 years. We have children ranging from 15 to 20. After our youngest was born, my wife was stressed and sleep deprived and I didn’t want to pressure her for sex. I waited to let her initiate, which after a while, she did, but not with anything near the frequency I would have liked. Still a pattern developed. She was often tired or cranky and appeared sexually unavailable to me. I didn’t want to pressure her. So we only had sex when she initiated. Our marriage has been clinically sexless (fewer than 10 times a year) for the past 15 years. We have averaged sex 3 times per year for the last 5 years and it’s been more than a year since we last made love. She says that it isn’t that she doesn’t think about it but she is always tired in the evening and groggy in the morning and doesn’t know when we would find time to fit it in. This is crushingly disappointing for me and I struggle with the fact that we have too much invested and too much history to just chuck it all. Plus, I would not want to put the kids through that. But, it makes me emotionally and physically sick to my stomach to think of our sex life not getting better. I would give just about anything to be able to go back and do things differently. Don’t let this happen to you. It will probably be uncomfortable broaching the subject, but it won’t get better or easier with time.

  3. Anon II says:

    This paragraph hit me like a ton of bricks,

    “Because by that time, if a couple hasn’t nurtured their intimacy and marriage, there’s no compelling reason to stay together. The kids are grown and gone (or at least on their way out). More often than not, finances are more stable, making living separate lives seem more doable.”

    We’ve been married just over 24 years and our youngest is almost out of high school. I got tired of being the bad guy and bringing up the fact that we really need to be more intimate than we currently are. Every. Two. Months. I’ve reached the conclusion that my wife will never want to talk about intimacy or how her lack of interest causes a constant ache in my heart.

    So yes, I see no compelling reason to stay together when he’s off to college.

    The sad thing is this, when my wife was sixteen, her parents divorced (her father had an affair after years of a sexless marriage, go figure) and her mother didn’t take it well at all; no skills to earn a living and was completely despondent (I have to wonder if she honestly didn’t know that sex is the glue that holds a marriage together). My wife vowed never to let that happen to her, so she entered the workforce and kept me at arms length emotionally and physically.

    I guess she won’t be like her mother in two ways; she’ll be able to earn a living and she won’t be emotionally devastated when her husband leaves.

  4. Larry B says:

    This post is crucially important and ought to be widely read! Young married couples need to strengthen and nurture their sexual bonding early and often in their marriage. (And, continue doing so in each future year of their marriage.) If they do not, it will be extremely difficult to do so later. Sexual frustration and resentments will set in and be hard to overcome, hard to heal later on.

    Newlyweds: make it a top priority to make love often. Do not become strangers to each other.

  5. Jack says:

    “Because by that time, if a couple hasn’t nurtured their intimacy and marriage, there’s no compelling reason to stay together. The kids are grown and gone (or at least on their way out). More often than not, finances are more stable, making living separate lives seem more doable.”

    This is so true, and so sadly so. This is where we are – after 35 years, the younger one out of college now two years. There is nothing there between us.

    I cannot tell you how sad this is. I have been trying for months to peel away the shells and break through the walls. We once had real love – but after so many years it’s apparently more than we can do to reach out and touch one another (literally and figuratively).

    We had a great love. We married each other with love and hope. At this point divorce is just recognizing a fact, rather than being a decision, if you understand the difference I’m trying to draw.

    Be intentional about each other. Stay engaged so you can stay married.

  6. Anonymous says:

    Thank you for sharing this.
    My husband and I don’t have kids yet, and sometimes sexual intimacy is something I struggle with on the deepest level, to the point of physical anxiety (shaking and quivering, holding back tears, trying to ignore physical feelings, etc).
    We have always had good sex, and he is so loving – yet I have not figured out why, sometimes, this is such a huge struggle for me.
    This post encourages me to continue to try – it will be worth it in the long run!
    Thank you.

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  8. OKRickety says:

    Interesting. So far, 5 comments from men, and 1 from a wife without children yet. This article brought back unpleasant memories from my now-defunct marriage of 21 years. I pray this article will motivate many to change for the better, for themselves and for their marriage.

  9. Stephen says:

    Tired of trying to nurture. Youngest is 15. Been trying for 23 years. Julie is right, the only thing that keeps me here is my christian faith. Everytime I think there is hope, it is only to reel me back in after I have become so frustrated and distant. Not expecting anything to ever change.

  10. Daniel says:

    I think the whole design of a woman is to have sex to have kids; and to have kids means never having to have sex again.

    Am I wrong?

    If I am, then why do most women shut down, sexually, after child birth? And I’m not talking about a couple months for recovery, I’m talking about the next 30 or 40 years, or ’til death do us part.

    I know my marriage is not the exception to the rule. It is the rule. The evidence of all the similar relationships is abundant and overwhelming.

    I tried the whole “nurturing intimacy” after the first child was born. Fail. Except for when she wanted to have the second child. After that, occasional turned into vast spans of infrequency, with derision thrown at me for even asking or initiating.

    Conversation doesn’t change design. And I’d say that the design is pretty clear. Some may not want to admit this uncomfortable fact about female nature, but facts tend to win out over wishful thinking, especially over the long term.

  11. oldermarried52 says:

    Having read the comments above, I think how sad it is that couples do not understand how sexual intimacy will bond them for life. Many of the above comments imply that the females only want children…and then no sex.

    Is this libido? A lack of understanding of how important sex is to a marriage? Choices available for women now?

    I couldn’t stay in a marriage without sex. Might as well be roommates with separate budgets, separate lives? Is that not what couples are, when there is no sexual bond?

  12. Emily says:

    To answer, I think we are being polite to Julie. At least I was. This is how I felt during those years. We barely made it through married much less had a sex life at all.

    This is impossible to do.

    I can’t be intimate and “Just let him cry for a while.” I can’t give up 2 hours of sleep a night when I only get 4, broken up into 30 minute or less sections while my husband snores. I can’t care that he’s frustrated when all I hear are complaints about why things aren’t “like they used to be” or immature moody glares about how “You care more about the baby than about me now. You never have time for me.” Yes, you won’t die without sex but the baby will without breastmilk. And I will never say it, but my respect for you has plummeted. You used to act like a man, but now I have two children. My friends warned me it would happen, but I was sure you wouldn’t let it happen to you but you did. You won’t even change a diaper. While I am half-dead, you shout, “Will you bring me a soda?” Followed by “Why isn’t that kid sleeping yet?”

    Well, probably because his father is shouting and woke him up.

    I don’t have sex without because I don’t want to. I can’t stand the thought of you touching me. I don’t like you very much right now. You are demanding, selfish, inconsiderate, and immature.

    You lied to me. Love through better or worse? Not you. It’s worse – and you’re running, dumping all the responsibility on me.

    Our marriage is in shreds. And you have no clue. You rip my heart out every day and neither care nor know enough to care despite my pleas with you. You laugh and call me “hormonal”. I am ready to throw you out the bay window and move away. I regret I ever married you.

    In other words, my heart is bleeding. My body is screaming for sleep. I desperately need you – and you just came to me while I am rocking the sleeping baby, banging the door and saying “Since you got this, I’m going out. You don’t have time for me anyway.” ….as the woken up baby is back to crying.

    And that is not only not an exaggeration. That was a good day. I think most men are clueless as to how deeply they hurt their wives during the baby years, never apologized, but resent the lack of sex.

    I have had to work through intense pain, forgiveness, and removing bitterness to even salvage my marriage while my husband still does not acknowledge nor understand that anything was wrong besides lack of sex.He thinks he did so much and honestly cannot understand why our great marriage and sex life disappeared, causing us years of pain and struggle to try to rebuild.

    But, he does know one thing – It’s all my fault.

  13. Anonymous lady says:

    I beg my husband for sex. We have a newborn, a 4 yo, 8 yo, and a 17 yo. I wonder if there is any reason for staying other than I am a Christian. I beg God to sort out this marriage. I hate that I spend my free time wishing one of us would die so I don’t have to continue feeling this way. I got married with the idea that our love would be in every way. So disappointed and discouraged. The longer it goes, the less likely I feel like we will ever ha e sex again. He just says I’m broken, you should find someone else.

  14. Jim M says:

    I am a husband in a starving dying marriage of over 25 years. The kids are out the door, and the wife has no interest in doing anything with me, not even eating meals with me or going for a walk with me. Except for some mundane conversation every day, we are in separate rooms doing our own things. It is a sad existence, for sure.
    This blog should be required reading for all dating couples before getting married, and then afterwards, too. Most young dating men and women have raging affection for each other and cannot imagine how their sexual intimacy and friendship in marriage can be gone in sometimes only a few years, and end up being only housemates or economic partners at best.
    Here is a bold concept to try at your church:
    Ask the dating men and women what things they do with each other, and what they know they should be reserving for marriage. Yes, basically a loving sexual relationship and creating & raising children should be the unique defining features of a Godly marriage.
    Too often it seems that some people getting married put a huge amount of effort into the wedding day, and might not truly understand how a Godly marriage should function.

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  16. GoodDad says:

    Emily’s post is over a year old but just as pertinent today as ever. I’d like to give her a man’s point of view concerning the damage children do to a marriage.

    Imagine if your husband wanted to move his best friend into the spare room in your house, and immediately after that, your husband barely has time for you. He doesn’t speak with you, only sees your incessant needs as a nuisance and tells you to get over it – he’s busy helping and enjoying his friend. The longer the friend stays at your house – and it’s going to be YEARS – your marriage neglect gets deeper and deeper. He stops sharing his paycheck with you, spends it on his friend, tells you to manage that area yourself.

    How would you feel? Slighted? Wishing your husband didn’t have his friend stay over? Knowing the very thing you married him for – companionship and financial support – was at risk because HE wanted his friend to stay over your objections?

    Do you get it now? Sex is the ONE thing he’s not supposed to get anywhere else but marriage and with anyone else but YOU. You made your vows to your husband, dear wife, not your children. And for most of you, having children kills the marriage. Almost all of you become 100% mother and 0% wife. It is you, and children, that change the marital terms forever and don’t care the effect it has on your husband.

    Now you know how deeply wounded men are.

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