We’ve all heard of the seven-year itch, but I think many modern marriages suffer from the “children chill affect.”
I know so many couples who seem to lose intimacy over time as life gets crazy with kids. The parents, and especially the mothers, often don’t realize that this is hurting their children. Mothers are sometimes so focused on the kids, they think they have to sacrifice intimacy to have enough energy for nurturing children. Or they lose interest because they are so focused on the priority of taking care of the kids.
A friend called the other day to talk about a possible trip I was making to his city that got cancelled (because a divorced friend who is getting remarried postponed her wedding in that city). He was confused why this mutual friend of ours would set a date for a wedding, invite family and friends, and then cancel. (The simple answer: Relationships are complicated. We all have our own baggage in dealing with life, and with a relationship we have the baggage of the other person and the baggage created by the union of the two people. And of course where kids are involved, the emotions run even higher.)
It surprised me a bit that he seemed so shocked. I knew his marriage was suffering, so I figured he could relate to relationship woes. I asked him about the state of his marriage because he had confided in me a few years ago that he and his wife had virtually no intimacy any more. To my dismay, his situation has not changed. This couple have young children still in elementary school and may likely stay together for many years despite their lack of intimacy. Many of us think that once the kids leave, the husband and wife may eventually split and move on with their lives, but they did the “noble” thing to stay together for the sake of the kids. But are they doing the kids a favor?
I have another friend who had three kids and decided he would not stay in a bad marriage for the sake of the kids (and himself) because he felt he was miserable and the kids were interpreting his confrontational relationship as the “norm” for a marriage and he didn’t want them to grow up thinking that. So he went through with a divorce.
But perhaps there is a third option — after (1) staying and being miserable while the kids are growing up or (2) divorcing while the kids are still at home to start fresh and model happiness.
I believe it is possible to try (3) Regain intimacy. I’m not saying it’s easy or even natural, but it could be desirable to the other options and is definitely possible. If two people were once attracted to each other and enjoyed physical intimacy, you can get that back while you are living the crazy life of raising kids in modern society. But like anything worth having, you probably have to work at it. Really hard (no pun intended). Both of you. And many times, the mother or father or both give up because they feel like it’s pointless and they feel that the “sacrifice” is needed for the kids.
But have you really been honest with yourself about how your relationship could be affecting your kids?
As kids get older, it’s likely the children will recognize the “chill” affect — that their parents may have a friendship but don’t have a spark. And is that the kind of relationship you want your kids to have someday? Don’t you want them in a committed, loving relationship where they feel as desired by and attracted to their spouse as they did when they first met? Your kids model what you do — maybe not now but someday — and that includes your relationship. And if one parent is sleeping in the office every night because he has a “bad back and needs a different bed than mommy,” eventually the kids will perceive that to be normal. And that may influence their future relationships and marriage.
Just as I finally decided I had to work like hell to get rid of the extreme clutter in my house because my children would grow up thinking that was okay to live life with boxes stacked up in every room, I believe women who have lost intimacy in a marriage must work like hell to get it back for the sake of their children being in a family with a healthy relationship between parents — and that includes regular sex!
So buy some lingerie or sex toys, schedule date night at a hotel instead of a restaurant, read books or articles about getting back your groove or your mojo, woo your spouse like you just met and are trying to get in her or his pants, and ask other couples what they do to keep it fresh or bring it back. But don’t give up. You can reclaim the flame that brought you together, made you glow on your wedding day, and initiated the little lives that are now your wonderful children!