It's a scene that plays out in homes everywhere. The darling little angels are finally asleep, so you start unloading the dryer, replying to emails, and putting away the toys. By the time either of you gets near a bed, the only thing you’re interested in doing is sleeping in it. So how do you stop and switch this routine for a sexier one? Let us share the ways.
All parents play many roles on a typical day. And—just to keep us on our toes—that moment when we typically reunite with our spouse at the end of the day most often happens to coincide with Maximum Kid Crazy: They’re hungry! They’re cranky! They’re dirty! This confluence of factors makes it hard for couples to reconnect. “Each parent needs time alone so they can reorient themselves from their other roles,” says Suzanne Iasenza, Ph.D., a psychotherapist specializing in couples and sex therapy. Couples need to think about the transitional spaces they can create and give to their partner, she says—whether that means taking a shower or clicking through your inbox or sitting down with a book for 20 minutes and not seething when your partner indulges in his iPad or video games after work. “When couples work together to give this time to each other, they’ll be able to shift into couple time more easily and be able to be present for each other,” says Dr. Iasenza.
Erica*, a mom of two, says her husband routinely offers her time to herself—which helps her feel connected to him after they get their boys, ages 7 and 4, to bed. “That way, I’m ready and into having sex before we have dinner. We’re not exhausted, and we still get to look forward to a night together,” she says. “I always feel a sense of accomplishment: We’ve done so much, and it’s only 8 p.m.!”
We know: You’ve heard this one a zillion times. Schedule sex! Plan ahead! Chances are, you instinctively reject the notion as unsexy, and possibly even anxiety-producing. However, as corny as it might sound, planning sex enhances your sex life. “Anticipatory eroticism is probably the biggest turn-on,” says sex and relationship psychotherapist Tammy Nelson, Ph.D., author of Getting the Sex You Want: Shed Your Inhibitions and Reach New Heights of Passion Together. “And it’s not like it was spontaneous when you were dating. You knew you were going to have sex: You wore your nice underwear.”
Inspire your partner by trying this: On Wednesday, message him for a sex date. On Thursday, text him: “I can’t wait until Saturday… ” Then on Friday, slip him a sticky note saying, “Hope you’re ready for an epic massage.” By working up to things, you’ll send your partner the message to do the same.
The idea is “simmering,” says Margie Nichols, Ph.D., a psychologist and sex therapist. “We need to move on past the myth of ‘spontaneous’ sex,” says Dr. Nichols. “We usually need time to decompress, to get in the mood, and we often need to feel intimate with our partner in other ways than sex before we want sex.”
And don’t confuse date night with sex night. “Nobody has good sex after they eat rich food and drink wine— you just want to go to sleep. If you want a date night, do that another night,” says Dr. Nelson. Or make sex the appetizer: Sneak it in before you get to the restaurant, maybe even early in the day. “We do a quickie while the kids are entertained by TV—weekends after soccer, before religious school on Sunday morning, and while our youngest naps,” says Ruby, a mom of three. Her next plan: convincing her husband to come home for “lunch” on days when she’s working from home.
You may be too legit wiped out for sex, but it pays to let yourself be open to becoming interested in it. “Sex doesn’t have to be tiring—it can actually be rejuvenating,” says Ian Kerner, Ph.D., the author of She Comes First: The Thinking Man’s Guide to Pleasuring a Woman. “There are so many health and relationship benefits to sex that probably the best way to fight fatigue or ennui or boredom would be through having sex.” It’s like going to the gym or your partner’s high-school reunion: In theory you may not be into the idea, but once you get going, you have fun. Your body will also release oxytocin, that hormone that makes you feel connected.
Instead of thinking of self-pleasuring as solo time, Dr. Kerner suggests it as a warm-up and recommends a great sex toy called the Satisfyer Pro 2 (you can order it on Amazon); it has a suction seal that creates just the right clitoral stimulation. “I would argue that if you give yourselves five minutes without distraction—you and your partner telling each other a fantasy, or kissing or touching for 30 seconds—you will both feel aroused.”
Veronique, a mom of two, agrees. “I have an awesome showerhead, and a little ‘pre-sex’ via masturbation helps my husband and me both get in the mood.”
*Names changed to spare future grossed-out offspring.