We Keep Our Marriage Healthy With Lots of Quickies and Regular Check-Ins

Marriage is about making it work.

Welcome to ‘Sex After Kids,’ a column where parents frankly talk about how their sex lives shifted after they had children and what steps they took to recalibrate their relationship. A baby raises the stakes. Couples have less time to devote to one another, emotional intimacy can dwindle, date nights — at least for the first months — are nearly non-existent, and sex is often a non-starter. Couples must adapt. Here’s how they do it.

Dana B. Myers and her husband, Charlie, live in Miami with their two kids, who are five and eight. They also own and operate the Booty Parlor, a sex toy and intimacy store. Before kids, they considered themselves freewheeling and fun. After their first kid, however, Dana struggled to reconcile the old Dana with the new. In fact, they both had a very hard time adapting. Using their expertise in sex and relationships, they eventually found the routine that helped them find rhythm — and keep their relationship happy. Here’s how they

Dana: I don’t think we had any idea how our relationship would change after kids. I don’t think you can know.

Charlie: I think we learned from older siblings who have young children. We got to see it from the sidelines. But I agree with Dana: I don’t think anyone really knows how challenging parenting is until they’re the ones changing the diapers, cleaning up the vomit, and dealing with all the things you do as a parent.

D: I definitely thought we’d fail-in with our romance and handle it. But I was pretty shocked with how much of an identity crisis I went into. I don’t know if I thought I’d just go right back to work unaffected, but I definitely felt challenged in my identity. I was thinking: I’m a founder, I’m an author, I’ve got my sex life intact, and I’ve got this amazing relationship. I didn’t realize how many questions I’d have about my new identity, and how much time it would actually take for me to grow into being a woman who was also a mother.

D: It took us about nine months after the baby to grow into this new identity. I realized that I didn’t feel very good. I felt like I was trying to do everything, trying to be everything to everyone and I was pushing too hard. I felt the exhaustion really catch up with me. So, I started to make some changes. I just fine-tuned the knobs in my life.

D: Charlie was really getting the worst of me after the baby. I feel like I became all-mother, all-the-time. I remember him coming into the kitchen and trying to kiss me or say hey, come outside and look at the stars with me, and I was like, ‘No.’ That was the moment where I couldn’t believe that I actually felt like cleaning the bottles or getting all the mom shit done was more important than connecting with him. I think that, for me, was a big wake up call.

As soon as my body felt like I had healed, we went back to having one quickie a week, and then I also remember this point where I just distinctly felt like that one quickie was not enough for Charlie, and not necessarily just in like a quantity, because if you’re having one great session of sex a week, that can be satisfying. But I remember him being like: ‘I don’t want you to feel like having sex with me once a week is an obligation. I want to know that you still desire me.’ That was also another wake-up-call.

What’s up, Charlie? You’re being so quiet.

C: I’m from England, so I’m just blushing. I’m really lucky. Dana is really the expert [in our business.] She’s the one who does most of the work, and I’m more on the business side.

D: I thought you were going to say, ‘whereas, I just show up with a boner!’

C: We’re very aware of the importance of intimacy in a healthy relationship, maybe more than the average couple. We also are very aware of what can happen if you lose that connection after you become parents. I mean, even if you’re not parents, if you want to stay married to someone for the rest of your life, you have to be creative.

D: I think it also helps that we are essentially in the business of creating products that make people feel sexy. Whether we’re sent a new box of toys to try out from a company, or we’re working on creating a new product, it opens up communication. No matter what, we’re still talking about sex. When I encountered this identity crisis and my own loss of libido, and then I started following my own advice, that was really important. Because you can get a little stuck.

D: Charlie is the main date planner in our relationship. I’m super grateful for that. He goes out of his way to create really special dates for us. It makes me feel really special. I take care of so much of the nitty gritty kid stuff day to day that it makes me feel like he’s really stepping up to play a huge part in making me feel like a woman. Because so much of the time I just feel like a mother taking care of everything.

C: That did take me a long time to figure out. Our first date after having the baby, I did literally drag Dana to a huge rock concert. She had just been out of the hospital…

D: … Two weeks.

C: For two weeks after. I just think that it took me awhile to figure out. Dana is the most bodacious mom and the most fabulous girl that I had ever met. And she had to change, for all of us. Watching the woman you love become a mum, that code-switch, is one of the most incredible things to be witness to. As a dad, you might do the night duty, and you might do a lot of tasks, but it’s not really the same.

I would be lying if I said that the old Dana, the relationship we had before we had kids, that I didn’t miss it, when it was more carefree and easygoing. So, I had to realize that Dana had not gone away, and part of my responsibility was nurturing her to be that Dana.

To do that, I would do more work. I would take her out and turn her on. I’d figure out who was coming to town that she might like or that we’d both like. We’d figure out an experience we hadn’t done before and still make sure that those date nights happened and that we had fun times together, as a couple, without kids. The older the kids got, we started to do more traveling, and roping in Dana’s parents, who moved to Florida. We got them a bit more involved. Things like that have allowed us to go on…

D:Sex dates.

C: Well, just fun dates.

D: Yeah, but overnight. Combining a great concert and having the child care actually stay overnight somewhere else so we can stay and sleep in and have a late breakfast. Those things that you don’t really…

C: … that you never get to do.

D: Yeah, that you never get to do. Just the simple things, like having a late Sunday.

D: I had this naive motherhood moment when the kids were four and seven. We were in this really easy phase, and everyone can get themselves dressed, and everyone can get their own snacks and Charlie and I looked at each other and we were like: “This is it. We’ve done it. We’re on easy street!”

Literally, like a week later, we just entered a whole new shitstorm of challenges. Things you don’t expect. Kids get old and you think it’ll get easier. But actually, their emotions become more complex. It’s just trickier.

It’s very easy to get into a blaming, resentment, score-keeping pattern. For a while, we were doing these resentment check-ins. We were just telling each other: ‘I resent you for this.’ It felt really good to just air it out, so it doesn’t rot away at your relationship. We never let things sit and rot. We always talk about things.