Question: Our sex life has really gone south since our two children were born. My wife is always afraid of being "heard" or "interrupted" in the act. Again and again she rebuffs my advances by asking, "What if the kids walked in?" How can we be intimate and keep up a healthy sex life with children in the house?

Answer: This is a very common problem. Most couples find their sexual dynamics disrupted when there are children in the home. Lack of privacy and fatigue from the hectic demands of family life easily lead to communication breakdowns. It’s important not to let this situation continue, since left unattended it can easily become a threat to the stability of your marriage. A healthy sex life gives strength and protection to the marital relationship, so you need to find ways to be intentional in nurturing sexual intimacy.

What should you do if having kids in the house is putting a damper on your sex life? Here are five suggestions.

  1. Clarify the issue. Take the initiative to meet with your spouse to discuss the situation. Find a time and setting that lends itself to uninterrupted conversation. Put your thoughts on paper before the conversation – these notes can serve as a script or be given to your spouse to read. As you talk, remember to be sensitive and respect your spouse’s point of view. Bear in mind that a woman’s greatest need is to be loved, while a man’s is to be respected.
  2. Describe the factors leading to your present outlook. You may not share your wife’s fear of being heard during lovemaking. She, on the other hand, may not understand how you can make light of her anxiety. Reveal your thoughts and feelings to one another and try to discover the factors that have shaped your spouse’s unique perspective.
  3. Frankly discuss sexual expectations and desires. The two of you probably differ in your expectations about things like sexual frequency and technique. If you thought having children wouldn’t affect your sex life, say so. If you assumed you’d never have intercourse again after the kids arrived, let your spouse know. Your objective is to seek common ground, a place where each of you is comfortable.
  4. Be open to novel solutions. If your wife is concerned about privacy, explore the possibility of installing locks or rigging music or white noise to muffle sounds emanating from the bedroom. Baby monitors can be used to alert parents in the event of an emergency. Stay flexible until you’ve found a plan that works.
  5. Prepare a response to your children’s questions. Despite efforts to maintain the privacy of the sex act, unanticipated interruptions may occur. Protecting innocence takes precedence over completion of intercourse, so be ready to offer answers as needed. Children’s curiosity is best addressed with a confident reply in mutually agreed upon terminology like this: "After all these years, we still love each other and sometimes get excited to spend time together." If your kids have seen the two of you holding hands, kissing, and going out on dates, they’re probably comfortable with the idea of parental closeness.

If you have further questions, don’t hesitate to give our staff a call. Focus on the Family Canada’s counsellors would be happy to listen to your concerns and help you with some practical suggestions. They can also provide you with referrals to qualified marriage and family therapists in your area who specialize in sexual issues. You can contact us Monday through Friday between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. PT at 1.800.661.9800.

Excerpted from The Complete Guide to the First Five Years of Marriage, a Focus on the Family book published by Tyndale House Publishers. Copyright © 2006, Focus on the Family.

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