By E.J. Gordon
It’s widely acknowledged that having children dampers our sex lives. When our children are born, our bodies need to heal before we can engage in sex. And when they do heal, we are often too tired from midnight feedings to want sex. As they get older, we deal with the physical fatigue of taking care of our kids. Whether it’s fighting with them at bedtime or needing to hold them all day during their clingy phases, we often say to our partners, “I just don’t want to be touched or needed for one more minute today.”
As our kids get older, as we get our physical freedom back, they become emotionally exhausting. Fighting over homework, chores, and sassiness depletes our reserves, and we climb into bed, curling up in fetal position, just wanting to be left alone. And then they get big; they stay up later than we do or they need us to drive them around, and our sex routines are relegated to vacations and the rare Saturday afternoon when all the kids are out with their friends.
The biggest kid-related sex killer, though, is RESENTMENT.
It’s that resentment we have toward our partners when they undermine us with our kids or when they parent in ways that make us crazy.
Nothing is more unattractive in a spouse than when you feel they are working AGAINST you.
Let me set the stage: You have told your children that they absolutely have to get all of their homework done before they can watch TV, and then you run off to your PTO meeting. You come home, and you find your husband has rented a movie for them to watch together, and not one ounce of homework has been done. Boom! You now have to be the Mean Parent, and you glare at your spouse who gives you a “you’re crazy” shrug. Chance of sex tonight? ZERO.
Another example: Your teenage daughter is giving you so much attitude that you question whether it was ever a good idea to have kids to begin with. You complain to your mother who tells you, “Payback’s a bitch, missy. Good luck.” You decide to control your desire to sell your daughter to the circus, and you sit down to make clear some expectations, boundaries, and consequences. She seems to understand, but the next day she mouths off to you anyway. You tell her she’s grounded for the weekend, but when you come home from Costco on Saturday, you find her gone. You desperately call out wondering if she perhaps ran away, immediately regretting ever even having the circus idea, even though you didn’t really mean it. Your spouse saunters in, eating your leftovers from last night while causally explaining that he actually gave her permission and a ride, because he thinks you’re overreacting and that you OVER-parent anyway. All you can think is, I fucking hate you.
Instead of your sexy partner standing in front of you — a man that you vowed 15 years earlier to cherish through thick and thin — you see the devil.
You have thoughts about finally understanding why people who were in so much love fall out of it. Then he winks at you and says, “Hey, so the house is empty, you wanna….?”
And then there are the times when you are having a nice, calm conversation with your emotional nine year old, trying to be supportive and open as he tells you about the mean boy at school who always insists on being quarterback and then refuses to pass the ball to him. Just as you’re working through some empowering role plays, your spouse comes in and says, “Oh, stop whining and toughen up kid. Nobody likes a wuss!” Now you’re thinking about how you have to spend the next hour undoing the horrible advice that was just imparted by someone who should know better, damn it, someone who is now acting like he doesn’t even know his own son. And simultaneously you’re wishing for an extra bedroom in your house, because you know you don’t want to be sleeping next to this person.
Resentment is truly the silent sex killer. The fighting, crying, or physical exhaustion is absent, but instead, resentment is like a slow-growing tumor, lurking, causing damage to an otherwise healthy relationship.
Most of the time our spouses do not intend to undermine us. They are not out to piss us off. But rather they just disagree with how we are parenting. Either they think we’re being too harsh or too permissive, or they relish the idea of being their child’s hero and friend. And when we confront them, we end up fighting about how to parent, or they dismiss our concerns. So what can we do to stop this ugly, hairy tumor of resentment from destroying our sex lives and our partnership?
Five Ways to Kill the Resentment Tumor
1. The single best way is to prevent it. When making a discipline choice, before going all Lone Ranger in your family and laying down the law, discuss the problem and some possible solutions with your partner. Get your partner on board with the solution by hearing him out and coming up with a solution together. He’s much less likely to undermine himself.
2. Use his need to be the Good Guy. Say, “I had wanted to take away your phone, but your father convinced me not to. You better prove him right.”
3. Put him in charge. Tell him what the issue is, and have him be in charge of the solution.
4. Question yourself. There are times when I think my husband is way too hard one of my kids, and then I proceed to undermine him. Maybe when he does that to me, it’s for the same reason. Question yourself on whether or not you’ve been overreacting or over-punishing. Ask yourself if you’re like the Mom on Wife Swap who thinks that everything she does is right, but the audience sees an emotionally-reactive crazy lady.
5. Remind your partner and yourself that as parents we are supposed to discipline out of love, not anger. Make sure the punishment reflects that. Calm down first, put thought into it, and then decide.
When all else fails, and you find yourself once again “The Bad Guy” — articulate it.
Calmly explain to your spouse that his actions are hurting you and are hurting the children, because your discipline is designed to cultivate a responsible child, and his undermining you is, in reality, spoiling your children. And then tell him it TURNS YOU OFF.
Sometimes using sex to get your way in your marriage really is useful. NO — sex is not a weapon, but it can be a tool, and withholding it can be an effective way of getting his attention, one that can communicate to him just how upset you are. And, it’s an equally effective reward, one that says to him that being your teammate and NOT your opponent comes with some pretty powerful perks.
Lisa Barr, Editor of GIRLilla Warfare: E.J. Gordon is a freelance writer, a regular contributor to GIRLillaWarfare, and “Sexpert”. Have any questions or topics that you would like her to address? Remember: No subject is taboo, and Anonymity is accepted. Contact E.J. at: EJGordon529@gmail.com.