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OK, hear me out on this one.
I’m not planning a career change into sex therapy, I promise you. And I’m not about to divulge awkward personal details which would make you run a thousand miles from this blog and never return.
I am, for want of a better title, a ‘Christian parenting blogger’. This means I’m passionate about family life, and discovering our identity in Christ so that we can be the parents God wants us to be to the children He has blessed us with.
And I’m increasingly convinced that if you’re parenting as a married couple, one of the best things you can do for your children is invest in your marriage.
Every day, we run around like headless chickens doing everything for our children, meeting their every need, supplying every snack, taking them to every extra-curricular activity. By the time they’re in bed, we’re so exhausted we’re heading for ours too – and not in the exciting sense.
But what’s the use in providing our children with every material need, if they don’t have the one thing (besides a relationship with God) that will actually make a real difference to their mental and emotional health: parents who are a solid team?
My intention here is not to make you feel like a failure if the relationship between you and your child’s other parent hasn’t worked out. My single parent friends do an incredible job raising their kids, and I honestly believe God can fill the gaps with His grace. If you’re in this situation, you may like to check out our review of Surviving and Thriving on the Single Parent Journey.
The challenge here is for those of us who are married to consider the importance of continued and sustained investment in our relationship.
And a key part of this is sex.
Why make time for sex?
To say kids take up a lot of time is akin to saying that Concord was a large plane.
Understatement of the year.
Children – wonderful blessings that they are – justifiably take up an inordinate amount of time to dress, change, feed, wind, play with, take to school, take to activities, listen to, help, counsel and advise (not all at the same time). It’s all pretty knackering – and not in the traditional sense of that word – and sex can come way down the list of priorities.
As Christians, we are often super-involved in our churches too – ministry which doesn’t necessarily reduce once we start a family. (Check out Ministry-Proofing Your Marriage for more on this.)
Without meaning to, we’ve prioritised our nuclear families and church families over our marriages.
Yet, despite our exhaustion, sex is worth making time for. Why?
1. You get to focus on and serve your spouse
Apart from reproduction, the only other point of sex is pleasure. God designed it this way. Our lives as parents are filled with mundane, thankless tasks like clearing up vomit and listening to seemingly never-ending explanations about unicorns or Fortnite.
Sex is one way to show pure love and gratitude to your spouse by focusing on their needs – and they focus on yours – that’s the beauty of how God designed it!
2. It has loads of health benefits
Regular sex can help you sleep better (and deeper) – and which parent doesn’t need better sleep?
It can also boost your immune system, reduce your blood pressure and help your pelvic floor, amongst other things.
Put it like this: it’s less hassle than going for a run, cheaper than the gym, and more fun than both.
3. It can boost communication
Good sex requires good communication. And good communication is something we parents often struggle with when, after a day of conversing with a child about which Paw Patrol is the best, we look at each other, bleary-eyed, and just about manage to croak out, “Netflix?” “Yeah.”
Well – why not turn that into Netflix and chill? (See what I did there?)
If you want good sex you need to communicate – again, God designed it this way. He didn’t design it to work perfectly for both parties, every time. He designed us with differing libidos and preferences, so that we would work this stuff out.
It’s an integral part of building our relationship as a couple outside the bedroom too. As we learn to communicate about the most vulnerable things, we become closer and more attuned to each other’s needs more generally. This makes family life run more smoothly – which, in turn, has a massive impact on our kids.
4. It reminds us that we are husband and wife
Without sex, our marriage becomes merely a relationship of housemates or ‘parenting partners’ who raise kids but have no role outside ‘mum’ or ‘dad’. Sex reminds us that we are also committed to our spouse till ‘death do us part’.
It was this relationship which came before our children, and it’s this relationship we’ll be left with when our children leave home to form households of their own. So it’s important not to neglect our roles as husband and wife, one of which is – as God designed – to be sexually intimate.
I highly recommend the book Closer (Adrian and Celia Reynolds) if you want to read something good and Biblical on the subject of sexual intimacy within marriage.
5. It makes us a stronger parenting team
When we’re investing in our marital sex life, we are building one another up, rewarding each other for a ‘job well done’ in surviving another day of parenting, and telling our spouse that we value them for their own sake – not just because they’re a great mum or dad, but because they’re a great individual, made in God’s image, who we have committed to love and serve until we die.
When we give and receive this kind of affirmation, it makes us feel more positive. We can approach the new day, with all its challenges, as a strong team, knowing that we’re pulling together for the same positive outcomes in our family life, and being quicker to forgive each other’s failings.
How do we make time for sex when we’re constantly exhausted?
Second understatement of the blog post: parenthood is tiring.
It is joyful and creative and fulfilling in so many ways – but it is also just flippin’ hard work. When we reach the end of another day of keeping our kids alive, fed and watered, it’s all too easy to collapse in front of the latest box sex or catch up with jobs the day hasn’t afforded time to complete.
I know this to be true, because this happens in our home. Regularly. We have had to really work to fight against lethargy when it comes to our marriage. (Check out 25 Stay-at-Home date night ideas for ways to kick that lethargy!)
Here are some ideas, then, of how to find time to truly make sex a priority, even after kids come along:
1. Be flexible to find a good time/place
It’s just not so easy as parents, is it? If your kids are up all evening, or waking through the night, or you’re co-sleeping, finding a good time/place for sex may take some thinking about.
But you CAN do it, and it IS important to prioritise this. Can you utilise your baby’s nap time? Settle a co-sleeping child in your bed then head to the spare room? Put on some Saturday morning TV for the kids? Find a time and a place, and make it happen!
2. Schedule it
The very thought sounds extremely un-sexy, doesn’t it?
But if nothing’s happening spontaneously, then scheduling it in is better than it not happening at all, right? Besides, spontaneity is only one fun aspect of sex: there are plenty more!
Once you know it’s going to happen, you can plan for some fun…
3. Make it fun
It’s so easy to go through the motions where sex is concerned – particularly if we’ve spent our day clearing up paint and Cheerios and have no energy left for anything but the basics.
So find easy, no-fuss ways of making an effort. Buy some new lingerie, light a candle, make a playlist, download the Intimately Us app – which was developed by Christians, so is totally ‘safe’ to use from a Biblical perspective. Nothing gross or demeaning to either gender, and a total focus on emotional intimacy and connection through sex, rather than just being a physical pursuit.
You don’t have to spend two hours lighting a hundred candles, ironing satin bed sheets and covering your bed with rose petals. Just one or two quick ‘add-ons’ from the list above (and the Intimately Us app gives you LOADS more ideas) can help. Quality beats quantity!
4. Get help if needed
Women’s bodies change after pregnancy and childbirth. Men’s bodies change as they get older. Sorry to tell you, folks, but we’re not the young, hot 20-somethings we once were. (Unless you actually ARE a hot, young 20-something.)
Sex may have worked well in the past, but things have moved around and now you’re now facing obstacles: lower libidos, less stamina, different preferences. Get help. It exists – and it may not be as embarrassing as you think.
Firstly, you won’t be the only person who’s ever suffered from whatever’s going on, so there will be help. And it might just be a book or course that you can buy without needing to talk to anyone outside your marriage.
You could try Sheila Wray Gregoire’s Boost Your Libido course or Orgasm course for great practical, medical and Biblical advice and exercises to help boost your sex life. She’s a Christian, and none of her stuff is remotely dodgy, just straightforward and helpful.
(Sheila also has an individual or group study called 9 Thoughts That Can Change Your Marriage – and it’s totally free!)
Perhaps the issue might be addressed with some over-the-counter medicine available – or, failing that, by making an appointment with your GP.
Don’t leave issues festering – it’s much more than a physical issue; sexual abstinence can drive a wedge between a husband and wife, as Paul advises in 1 Corinthians 7:
“Do not deprive each other except perhaps by mutual consent and for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer. Then come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.” (verse 5, emphasis added)
What’s stopping you?
It is all too easy to throw ourselves into looking after our children, leaving little time for our marriage and/or sex life. And if we don’t make a concerted effort to invest in this area, we may find, twenty years and thousands of pounds on piano lessons later, that we actually don’t really have a marriage anymore.
Yes, it probably seems like an effort and a half to dress up, clear our bed of laundry piles and physically exert ourselves when collapsing in front of Bridgerton seems much more achievable – but our Future Selves will thank us for it, I promise.
And for a brilliant video course to help your kids understand puberty, sex and relationships from a healthy Biblical perspective, check out The Whole Story!