The Cross & the Pen: Is There Sex After Kids?
- 2003 20 Nov
When I saw that my friend Jill Savage had written a book titled Is There Really Sex After Kids, (Zondervan) I burst out laughing...then nearly cried! Why, oh why, wasn't Jill typing out this advice 20-plus years ago, I wondered, when I was balancing both heart and hubby? When I saw the book's description (Your 10-year-old is late for piano lessons, your teenager wants a tattoo, and your toddler just dropped his sippy cup in the dog's water bowl. . . . Who's got time for romance?) I knew I had to read it and then chat with Jill about it. Wanna listen in on our "saucy" conversation?
Eva: Tell me a little about yourself, your husband Mark and your children.
Jill: Mark and I have been married 20 years and we have five children ranging from age 7 to 18. Mark is a church-planting pastor and I am a mother at home.
Eva: Jill, with five children I don't suppose I have to ask you what inspired you to write this book...but what inspired you to write this book? A single event? A collection of events?
Jill: When Mark and I introduce ourselves at our marriage seminars we begin by stating that we have been married 20 years--10 of them happily. Our first 10 years were very difficult for us and we hit crisis between years seven and nine. We both truly felt no love for one another and considered calling it quits. However, we also felt that God created marriage and that it was "doable." This conclusion then led us to admit that we didn't know what we were doing when it came to marriage. This realization launched us into learning about God's plan for marriage and making changes in our relationship to reflect God's plan. As our marriage began to get back on track, we wanted to share our discoveries with others so we created our own marriage seminar and began speaking at conferences about marriage. This eventually led to sharing our discoveries in book form.
Eva: And what a book! You've hit some very hard--yet tender--topics. But what I loved was how open and frank you were! How'd you manage to be so real without offending?
Jill: When Mark and I hit rock bottom, I was honest about my hurts and struggles with a "moms group" I attended. It was a risk to be so honest, but I found that my honesty opened the door for others to be honest as well. Honesty breeds honesty. As we became more healthy in our marriage relationship, Mark and I committed to be open and frank when discussing marriage issues, because this helps other couples not feel so alone. It also helps couples move from discouragement to hope.
Eva: One of your first points is that God created sex. What are some of the issues that get in the way of couples being able to embrace this?
Jill: Because sex has become so tainted by the world that we live in, we often associate sex with shame, guilt, or even something that is "dirty." We even have trouble believing that sexual pleasure is something good. However, God created sex to be a special gift shared in marriage. It's something very beautiful and very pleasurable when shared in a trusting, loving marriage.
Eva: Amen, Sister. What is "Into Me See?"
Jill: "Into Me See" is a definition I use for describing intimacy in marriage. Intimacy is knowing someone in their nakedness, but it doesn't start with a nakedness of body, it begins with a nakedness of soul. In marriage, a spouse is privileged to know their partner's hopes, dreams, struggles, strengths and weaknesses. It is truly seeing "into" the other person. That emotional intimacy then sets the stage for feeling comfortable with physical nakedness in the sexual relationship.
Eva: Jill, you compare inhibitors of sexual intimacy to luggage. What are some of the inhibitors of sexual intimacy and how can they be unpacked?
Jill: Mark and I refer to the homes in which we grew up and the relationships we had before marriage as our marriage internship. There were positive things we brought into our marriage from that internship and there were areas that weren't so positive. In other words, there are areas of marriage where we may need to do a new internship. Any unhealthy areas of relationship are carried into our marriage similar to how we would carry a suitcase on a journey. However, there are some suitcases we don't need to be carrying.
In our marriage, we were carrying baggage in the areas of conflict resolution, communication and sexual intimacy. We had to identify that baggage and determine to unpack it by doing a new internship. We had to learn new ways to communicate, resolve conflict, and relate sexually. We pursued this new internship through marriage counseling, marriage seminars, and other resources that helped us unpack our baggage and gave us new tools for our relationship.
Eva: Jill, let's move into a really tough question. What would cause someone to have an affair? And can marriage survive the damages of them?
Jill: Affairs most often happen when basic needs are not being met in a marriage. Marriages can't run on autopilot. They have to have intentional strategy to keep the fire burning.
Affairs cause incredible hurt and mistrust in a marriage. However the damage does not have to be fatal to the relationship. Many couples have sought help, committed to change, and found that their relationship is actually stronger after they have healed from the hurt of infidelity. There is hope and healing!
Eva: Jill, I laughed, laughed, laughed at the chapter title: And Then I Had Kids. How do children change a couple's sex life?
Jill: One of the biggest mistakes couples make is making their family child-centered rather than marriage-centered. Children need a mom and dad who love one another. They need the stability of a two-parent family. They need parents who model for them the time it takes to grow a healthy marriage. This usually requires a willingness to leave the kids in the care of someone else to have time for the two of you. When a couple doesn't take care of their relationship "outside the bedroom" they will not be connecting "inside the bedroom."
Eva: Is it okay to see ourselves as sexual beings?
Jill: Absolutely! God created us that way! Do you know that God gave the female an organ of her body that has no other purpose except for sexual pleasure? I believe that alone let's us know that God designed us with sexuality in mind. Sex in a committed marriage relationship is God's provision for recreation in a marriage. He created sex and it is good.
Eva: (Shall I say "Amen" again?) Okay, Jill, I'm going to give you a common scenario as we play the "what if" game. WHAT IF, you and your husband are totally into each other...making love with wild abandon...and suddenly...from down the hall...you hear, "MOMMY!" What should you do?
Jill: Well, let's hope that first there is a lock on your door. If not, get one! The other thing to understand in this situation is that mom is going to be much more distracted than dad is at that moment. She's the nurturer and she's tuned into that child's needs. She also may need some help getting back into the passion after little Johnny goes back to bed. Most men have an on/off switch when it comes to sexual excitement while women have a dimmer switch. Both husband and wife have to be sensitive and accommodating to those differences, especially when in the child-rearing season of life.
Eva: What is a marriage investment?
Jill: We need to be investing in our marriage daily, weekly and annually. Daily we need to be intentional about communication: fifteen minutes after work that is specifically mom and dad time, a voice mail during the day that says "I'm thinking about you, or an email that says "I love you." We need a chunk of time together weekly or bi-weekly. This is time we set aside and protect fiercely. Maybe Thursday nights or Saturday afternoons become your "date" time. You secure a regular sitter, trade with a friend, or ask Grandma to watch the kids while you take time for just the two of you. And finally, every married couple needs a getaway at least once a year. It could be an overnight at a bed and breakfast for your anniversary to a one-week vacation for just the two of you. Getaways help you to remember what it is like to play together, enjoy spontaneity, and fall in love all over again.
Eva: Jill, would you offer up a prayer for all those couples out there who have children and who struggle with the sexual part of their marriage?
Jill: Father, I thank you for the relationship of marriage. I thank you for your perfect design for intimacy, both emotional and sexual. I pray that you would help each one of us to be the husband or wife you have called us to be. I ask that you would help us identify those areas of our marriage where we could benefit from a new internship and help us pursue that with excitement. I also pray that you would help us refrain from praying "Lord, change my spouse" and help us to pray "Lord, change me." In Jesus' Name. Amen.