Recharging your marriage can make you happier -- and a better parent.
With so much at stake, parents should take active steps to halt the sexual drought that so often accompanies parenthood. Here are suggestions for changes that you and your spouse can make to remind yourselves why you got married in the first place.
Never talk "business" during lovemaking. A husband starts making love to his wife and she suddenly jolts upright in bed and asks, "Mark, what was that noise?" No, turns out it's not a burglar carrying off little Sammy. It's actually the sound of her imagination carrying off her love life.
Don't let your mind wander to whether you accidently left the oven on or whether you remembered to sign Emily's homework assignment. Your brain can be an enemy to your sex life. It gets stuck in the "function mode" -- and worries about everything else that's going on around the house or at the office. But remember, function is not romantic; function reminds us of dysfunction, and that may lead to all sorts of other discouraging ideas.
Honeymoon together at least twice a year. The happiest memory of my childhood was when I was 6 years old and my parents went away to Israel together to try to save their marriage. Sure I missed my mother and father. But I realized that they went away for the sake of our family, even if, in the end, they wound up more distant than the Arabs and the Israelis.
Make arrangements for your children to stay with relatives or close friends, then go on vacation and act like newlyweds. Make love, giggle, and have meaningful conversations so you can rediscover that you're not just a mother of someone with a runny nose, but a woman with a beating heart. If this is something you can't afford, then try getting the kids out of the house. You can perhaps send them to their grandparents so that you and your spouse have time together at home.
Start dating again. Set aside a regular night for couple time. It's okay to meet friends, but save at least the first hour or so for just the two of you. Don't blow the evening on a movie. Get emotionally naked. Discuss your fears, and comfort each other in a way that allows you to really connect. Do everything you can to bring new surprises into your relationship, whether that means sexy lingerie or scented candles to heighten the mood.
Make kid-related conversation off-limits for at least 15 minutes a day. This means a few hours a week when you're not allowed to discuss the children or their needs. (You're people, too, and you have your own needs.) Instead, take this time to talk about and to each other. But do make sure to avoid perfunctory topics like finances, work, and domestic affairs.
Get in touch with your physical side. When you come home from work, hug your spouse. When you wake up, kiss each other. Nothing creates better communication and closeness than experiencing love through touch. The more you feel with your hands, the more you'll feel with your heart. The same is true with smiling. If you try keeping a happy disposition, eventually you'll discover that you have many things in your life to feel happy and smile about. This is especially important in these turbulent, anxiety-ridden times.
Declare family time over at 9 p.m. From 6 to 9 every night, have dinner with your family, bathe the children, read them stories, help them with homework, and allow them time to come and talk to you about anything they want. But at 9 p.m., make sure all the young children are in bed with the lights out and that teenagers understand you're not to be disturbed. This gives you time to unwind, read, cuddle, and maybe even have sex! Oh, and turn the TV off. Stop watching other people make love when you should be doing it yourself. Remember, love, unlike Monday night football, is not a spectator sport.
Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, founder of the Oxford L'Chaim Society, has written many books, including the bestselling Kosher Sex and the recently published Why Can't I Fall in Love? In 2000, he cofounded the Heal the Kids Initiative with Michael Jackson.
Copyright © 2002. Reprinted with permission from the February 2002 issue of Child magazine.