Thursday, May 15, 2014

Giving Up On Sex

Flikr:  Diyana Kamaruza
Flikr:  Diyana Kamaruza
Disclaimer: I am not a professional. This is not advice. This is me talking about my experiences, what works and what doesn't for me, my family, in our situation. What works for us may not work for you - because we are different, which is cool. If you want to tell me why I am wrong, or right, or kind of wrong or right, or what works for you, I welcome your feedback. 

Disclaimer the Second: You may want to ask your children who can read to leave the room. If it wasn't clear in the title, his post mentions the existence of sex. Or the nonexistence. Or the sporadic existence.

Disclaimer the Third: Mom. Just stop. Really. Let’s not make this awkward. I know that you know that I have had sex at least twice in my life. Let’s just leave it there. You can continue reading this if you really want to, just please tell me you stopped at the third disclaimer.

OK. With all of that out of the way, let’s just get right too it. Stevie and I gave up on sex and it is the greatest thing we've ever done for our marriage. Period. Exclamation point. Here’s what happened. 

When we were young and kid-less sex came easy. We could bump into each other on the way to the bathroom and WHOA look at that. Sex. Bam. Hello sex. Where did you come from? Then we got married and had a kid. Then we had another kid. 

I remember a while ago someone explained to me why Reagan’s “Star Wars” missile defense program didn't work. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, in 1983 Ronald Reagan announced that we were going to develop the technology to shoot ICBM (Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles) out of the air. There were political and financial reasons it didn't work out, but the main reason why it was a complete failure boiled down to this: Trying to a hit tiny object traveling at hundreds of miles an hour with another tiny object traveling in the opposite direction at hundreds of miles an hour is really really f*cking hard to do. 

I tell you this, not because I am stalling, but because I firmly believe that there has never been a more apt metaphor for navigating the perilous waters of post-kids sex than Ronald Reagan’s failed “Star Wars” missile defense system. After kids, our sex drives, that before had been uncomplicated in their simplicity, had morphed into tiny missiles, lovingly aimed at one another yet doomed by mathematical uncertainty, atmospheric anomalies, and unforeseen circumstances to narrowly miss each other over and over, travel off into the distance, and explode by themselves in the lonely sky. 

I got frustrated. I took it personally. Stevie got frustrated. She took it personally. There is so much pressure surrounding physical intimacy. We are told that if we don't have enough sex, our relationships will fail. If we don't have enough sex, our partners will find it elsewhere. If we don't have enough sex, something is wrong with us. We took that “knowledge” to bed with us every night, along with our fatigue, along with our personal insecurities, along with any small inconsequential resentment that comes along with the stress of being married and having kids. Then, with the lights off, we’d lay there silently weighing on one hand how tired we were, and on the other what the consequences to our relationship would be if we continued to go without sex. Eventually one of us would say this:

“We should probably have sex.”

It had turned into a chore. And then, when the chore didn't get done, it turned into a fight. The worst part of this was, the fighting and the anxiety about not having sex certainly didn't lead to more sex. Quite the opposite. We still loved each other. We still were attracted to each other. We just couldn't find a way to get our missiles to hit each other in midair while traveling hundreds of miles an hour. I blame Ronald Reagan. 
And then one night I said it. “Let’s give up on sex. Seriously. Let’s just give up on it.” Stevie immediately and understandably took offense. Probably because I said it the way someone might say “I give up on you,” before throwing their hands up in the air and walking away. But, despite my frustration, that isn't how I meant it. 

“So you just want to give up on sex? Like forever?”

“That’s not what I mean!”

“Then what do you mean?”

“I don’t know what I mean. I mean, I know, but I don’t. You know?”


This is how our most productive fights start, with the two of us acknowledging that we have no clue what we are talking about, but agreeing to talk about it anyway.  

I won’t write out the complete dialogue of the conversation about our sex life, but here is where we ended up after about an hour of passionately trying to explain things we had no idea how to explain. 

We felt pressured to have sex. That pressure was making it difficult, not only to have sex, but to communicate in other areas of our life. We needed to change something. We decided to give up on sex.

Not give up on having sex. That is silly. We would give up on sex being the answer. We would give up on sex being the glue that holds our marriage together. Eww. I should have picked a different metaphor. I digress. 

We decided that for us, the most important part of "physical intimacy" is NOT the word "physical." We both agreed to focus on the "intimate" part, and not the "physical" part. There are plenty of ways to be intimate with someone before the physical part even takes place. We put our phones away. We made sure to make time for each other. We had conversations. We flirted. There was no pressure. Sex was not on the schedule. We were on the schedule. And then, something amazing happened.

Every once in a while, the kids were in bed before ten, the house was relatively clean, our flirting had hit the right degree and our love and kindness to each other had followed us to bed. One thing lead to another. It worked. Our missiles collided. Reagan would be proud!

Giving up on the idea of "keeping our average up for the sake of our relationship" is the greatest thing we ever did. Now, the times that my wife and I are "together" are because we have been intimate in all sorts of non-physical ways all day, or all week, or all month. And yeah, on rare, busy occasions we might go a week or even a month without sex, but we never go 24 hours without being "intimate." And for us, for now, that is more than enough. 

Thanks for reading, 


P.S. If you're not following on Facebook, Twitter, and now Instagram, you should be. Or you shouldn't be. Follow your heart... which is telling you to follow me on social media. I can hear it. 


  1. This Dad of 16mo old twins really needed to read that right now.

  2. We are only sixteen months into life with kid one, but we've also {not surprisingly} struggled with this. It's comforting to hear someone's honest struggle and current solution. Our relationships are and should be complex and rich. I love the reminder that intimacy is a crucial part of this complexity. Thanks!

  3. Stay out of my web history, John.

  4. Good on you for actually writing this, John. As with a lot of couples, my wife and I have struggled with this--particularly after having our second, who is now 1yo. We sat down and had a very similar talk about a week ago, and came to much the same conclusion--we'd pretty much lost all non-sexual touching without even realizing it. Hardly any flirting, just two robots trying to get through the day.

    There's no absolute cure, but I think actually talking about it and keeping those lines of communication open are the most important pieces to the puzzle.

  5. NOT better with 2 teenagers who never go to bed. Ever. Never ever.
    Our bedroom is on the first floor. The living room is on the first floor. See where I'm going with this? So, when the stars align, there are no kid squabbles or drama, they go to bed at a reasonable hour and we're not falling into bed exhausted, to sleep, BADABOOM! MISSION ACCOMPLISHED. Intercontinental Missiles exploding.

  6. Wrote about this very subject John. It's on the Huffington Post site in their parents section. "Parenthood does not mean the End of Romance" In short, you've got to adapt...or something. No answers, simply whatever works for the two of you.

  7. A great post John - I appreciate your honesty. I can relate to this very much. There are times when I feel like we should be having sex but am tired or my wife is. As you say, there is a type of pressure and it certainyl does not make things better. When physical intimacy arises (pun intended) naturally and from a deeper place, it is more pleasurful particularly for a couple that has been with each other many times.
    By the way, these types of missiles do exist today. May you be able to shoot down your wife's missile when the time it right.

  8. I absolutely love your approach, my husband and I deal with this, almost nightly, in pretty much the same exact manner. I see the spontaneity that I shoot down when Im not in the mood, and vice versa. Your words are very refreshing, I hope he feels the same way:) We shall see, it makes things easier when couples have comparable struggles...thanks so much :)

  9. Appreciate the share, great post :)

  10. Great insight into natural and hard working situations to cope with and understand

  11. This is awesome and honest and TRUE and I loved every word. Thanks for sharing with the rest of us marrieds-with-children.

  12. I'm 18 and even this sounds like something I need to try to get my relationship to work better.

  13. It's nice to hear people talk about this. My husband and I decided the same thing. We already mutually had really low sex drives but, I especially, felt the pressure to try to have as much sex as I thought other people had. We took a whole year off and I realised I hadn't even missed it. He said he hadn't either, which felt hard to believe at first because of the deeply ingrained (and incorrect) stereotype that men 'need' sex more often. In the end we decided to stop pressuring ourselves just like you did. If it ever happens, it should be a good and natural experience. There's so much intimacy to be had, and it doesn't always have to be from sex. There are more people in this world have little, or no, sex (and consider it perfectly fine, or even wonderful for them) than people imagine there are. It's been the best thing that's happened in my life, and our relationship, to give ourselves permission to have the relationship that feels most natural and fulfilling to us.

  14. sounds like denial to me. good luck.