In my business, I often ask couples to tell me what hinders them from having the sex life they dream about. The number one answer that I get is, “the kids.” These parents deeply love their children, but are keenly aware that their sex life began to abate when little Johnnie or little Susie was born. We live in a culture which dotes on children – we make them the center of our world; we make sure that they are exposed to every possible activity so that they can thrive in adulthood; we keep them up with us until we go to bed so that we can spend as much time with them as possible.
The problem with having our kids as an exclusive focus in our marriage is that we forget the romance, the friendship, and the attraction that drew us together in the first place. So many times, couples have very little to say when I ask what they talk about besides the topic of their kids. It seems to be the only thing that they have in common. However, if we want a long-lasting relationship with this person, we need to remember that the kids will eventually leave home (after all, we are raising adults, not children). And when that happens, we want to make sure that our companionship together was not built wholly on them.
Here are 10 ways that you can stay connected with your spouse as a lover, not just as a parent:
- Start dating again. Go on regular dates with your spouse. Begin with once a month and then increase the frequency so that eventually you go on dates once a week. #1 rule of the date: No talking about the kids! If you are struggling about things to talk about, think of things that you used to talk about before the kids came along, what is going on in the world around you, or get a book which gives you questions to ask each other. Learning to talk about as lovers may feel awkward at first, but the more you practice it, the easier it will be.
- Establish good sleep patterns for your children. This includes having a regular bedtime for them that is earlier that when you and your spouse go to bed. If your kids are younger, have a set time when they have to be in their rooms even if their lights are not out. Not only is this good for your sex life, but it is also essential for the health of your children. Need some advice on how much sleep your kids actually need? Check out the National Sleep Foundation’s recommendations here.
- Establish good sleep patterns for yourself! Oftentimes, we fall into the trap of thinking, “If I stay up later, I can get more done.” However, exhaustion ultimately makes us less effective and it also undermines our sexual relationship (which, in turn, undermines our marriage). So, get into a bedtime routine which ensures that you will get enough hours of sleep. Not sure how much is enough? Find out here.
- Take time each day to connect emotionally. Have a time each day where you and your spouse sit down together and have a short conversation without the children present. Let the children know that Mom and Dad need ten minutes alone and make sure that they have something that can keep them occupied and safe during this time. This allows you to connect daily but it also models to your children the importance of your relationship together as a couple. They will reap the benefits of this modeling when they have their own relationships.
- Make sex a priority. Sex is the one thing that sets your spouse apart from a really good friend. It is the physical and spiritual connection that you have with this special someone that you share with no other. Set up “sex dates” so that you don’t allow too much time to pass between sexual encounters. Get answers to any physical difficulties that you are experiencing. Stop making excuses (when the kids get older, this will get better…).
- Ensure privacy. Are you one of those people who can’t get past the idea of your children walking in on you in the throes of passion? Start teaching your children the importance of Mommy-Daddy alone time. This is time when the two of you focus solely on each other. It doesn’t have to be sex every time, but once the kids understand the importance of the uninterrupted time, you can worry less about, well, interruptions. But just to be on the safe side, put a lock on your door and get a white noise machine so that you can ensure that you will not be seen or heard by the kids. After all, the modeling I spoke of earlier only goes so far!
- Begin a regular exercise routine. What does this have to do with sex??? The science behind arousal is all about blood flow. When you are working out on a consistent basis, you are increasing blood flow to your extremities and you can reap the benefits of this in the bedroom. Not convinced? Exercising also leads to a better body image, helps us sleep better and reduces stress – all of which make intimacy easier.
- Variety is the spice of life! We all have our favorites (and knowing your spouse’s favorites is great way to make your marriage sizzle) but variety expands our horizons. How do you find our whether your kids like PB&J sandwiches? Or curry? Or sushi? You let them try. So, add something new to your “menu” once a month. If you both hate it, then scratch it off the list of things you will do again. However, you might be surprised and find a new favourite!
- Find out what makes your spouse feel loved. As spouse who feels loved is much more likely to want to jump into bed. Do they need a back massage? A heart-to-heart talk? An afternoon away from the kids? A compliment on how good they look? A love note tucked into the laptop? How about the having the toilets scrubbed? Find out what sets the stage for romance for your lover and then do it unbidden.
- Get out of town! Vacation sex is the best. The kids aren’t around (so you don’t have to be quiet or worry about them walking in on you), you can sleep when you want to, you don’t have to get home to a babysitter and you have time to linger. Figure out a way to spend at least one weekend a year away from the kids and try to increase this frequency as the years go on. If you don’t have a relative or babysitter to watch the kids, do an exchange with friends. You take their kids one weekend and then they take your kids another weekend. It’s a win/win for both couples.
Not to put too fine a point on it, there is a reason KT Oslin wrote the lyrics “Don’t kiss me like we’re married…Kiss me like we’re lovers”. All too often we separate the two – especially once kids come along. Never let that passion for each other fade away. It is much easier to stay connected in the first place than it is to re-connect after years of simply parenting together. As my husband likes to say, “parallel parenting is great so long as you can be horizontal in the bedroom too!”
If the spark is fading, then take the steps now to rekindle the passion that you once had (or always wanted). If you still “got it”, then don’t lose it through neglect. Work on it like you were losing it, and you will always have it!
 In the September 1 Issue of the Journal of SLEEP, Jacques Montplaisir, MD, of the Sleep Disorders Center at Sacre-Coeur Hospital in Montreal, Canada concluded that children who do not get enough sleep are at higher risk of obesity, ADHD and slower cognitive abilities.