As everyone knows, sex is an important part of a healthy relationship. 

Sexual health – that is, physical, social, and emotional conditions and attitudes when it comes to sex – is an important aspect of intimacy for a connected couple. 

Without good sexual health, doubts and fears creep in and otherwise-solid relationships can fester.  

It’s also a really hard thing to talk about, which is why I’ve decided to write a very personal blog this week (with apologies to the teenage daughter and parents who may be reading it).

Most parents will tell you that sex is altered when children enter the picture.  

Gone are the carefree days of sunlit mid-afternoon trysts in the kitchen, moonlit beach walks, candlelit dinners, and dimly lit hotel rooms with crisp, clean bed sheets. 

Bye-bye bedroom, hello bedlam. 

In Stage One...
 

Children - whose routines do not allow for much down time, let alone snuggle time for Mum and Dad – take over every aspect of your lives.  

Feeding, sleeping, cuddling, worrying, changing, playing, shopping, cooking, cleaning, budgeting for one income – these become your new ‘normal’.  

Sex takes a serious back seat and intimacy comes from ‘family time’ more than the other thing. 

For most couples, this period eventually gives way to...

Stage Two
 

School runs, sports coaching, dance classes, performance attendance, and parent-teacher interviews.  

Sex is slowly making its way back into the core of your relationship (when you’re not exhausted) and your children aren’t yet old enough to be grossed out by the occasional kitchen pash. 

A few years on, it’s Stage Three
 

...and teenagers who absolutely don’t want to know that you have sexual organs, let alone any reason to use them.  

Driving lessons, taxiing kids to school/part-time jobs/social engagements, and forking over regular wads of cash become the norm.  

Sex is a hushed, midnight activity – with the bonus of being allowed to go out for the occasional adults-only dinner at local restaurants when you can trust your teens at home alone.

Stage Four is the big parental payoff.  
 

Child-free and (hopefully) cashed up ‘empty nesters’ channel their inner teenagers again and enjoy time with the best kind of children – grandchildren – on their own terms.

For special needs parents, we are often stuck in Stage One.  

The most difficult stage to find the time and energy for intimacy seems (and perhaps always will be) endless for us.  

Added to the usual Stage One issues – sleep deprivation, low energy levels, being time poor, financial struggles – are the worries and stresses that come with caring for our special children.  
 

I imagine this would be much the same for any family in the throes of a traumatic experience – caring for an ailing parent would probably produce the same result.  

Our trauma is every day.  

Our worries are every moment.  

Most happy thoughts are chased by stressful ones before we can enjoy the endorphins too much.
 

In my own experience, sex can feel like just another demand I don’t have the energy to meet.  

Our cycle seems to be that I reject my gorgeous, supportive, wonderfully sexy husband (sorry again Emily) so consistently that he eventually stops trying.  

That’s when I go from feeling annoyed by his need for me to being hurt by his apparent indifference, which I know is exactly where he was before.  

We still love each other throughout this period, you understand, but we feel (and perhaps I should just speak for myself here)… disconnected.
 

After some time goes by, I start to wonder whether my general sadness has become something more worrying (I know I’ve read about a lack of libido being a sign of depression) and I wonder whether that’s preferable to the idea that we’ve just lost interest in each another that way.  

You can see the vicious cycle developing here.

Finally, we manage to grab some relaxation time.  

It’s usually unexpected or spur-of-the-moment, as opposed to planned events that have the potential to feel like another obligation. 
 

It might be a rare extra hour to laze in bed on a Sunday morning, or a chance to escape the grind for a romantic dinner somewhere, or it might just be a glass of wine and a game of cards after the children are in bed… whatever it is, it’s exactly what we need.  

We reconnect, the old flame returns, and we wonder why we ever stopped making time for each other like this. 

I breathe a huge sigh of relief and life goes on.

Inevitably, the cycle begins again.  
 

The reality of our situation is that despite our best intentions, we slip into the old Stage One routine again.  

But it’s okay, because I know now that we’ll get our moment – and our mojo (thanks Austin Powers) will come back. 

Why am I telling you all this?  

It’s because, despite understanding this cycle, it still feels awful when it’s on the downswing.  
 

This article is partly to remind me that it always passes – and that there’s nothing fundamentally wrong with my marriage – and partly to let you know that if you’re going through this, you’re certainly not alone. 

We talk a lot about our children, about our love for them and our heartache for what might have been, but we don’t take a lot of time to discuss other aspects of life in this lane.  

Especially when those subjects are a little bit taboo.  

If ‘normal’ is relative, then it’s important that we as a community relate these things to one another, if only to highlight how ‘normal’ we really are. 

 

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