A few years after graduating college, a group of my close girlfriends and I decided to plan annual weekend reunions as a way to keep tabs on each other’s busy lives. As 20-somethings, we’d get together and share our different experiences of either single life, serial dating, or serious relationships. We drank wine by the jacuzzi in our colorful bikinis and dished about our sex lives. More than once we played “Never Have I Ever,” which, for the uninitiated, is a drinking game where someone calls out a particularly racy or shocking sexual experience, and if you’ve done it, you take a drink. Example: “Never have I ever had sex on the roof of the Empire State Building,” would mean I would not be taking a drink. Still, the stories were fascinating, and some of them might have even made our mothers pass out. And while none of us had ever been handcuffed to a leather trapeze in someone’s pleasure dungeon, one thing was clear: We were all having a lot of sex.
These annual weekends continued for well over a decade but by then things started to change. We were now moms. Most of us had ditched the bikini for a ruched tankini. We still had our candid conversations over wine, but the topics were different. Now it was schools, work, aging parents, financial worries and childcare. For a long time there wasn’t talk of sex, until one brave soul opened the can of worms: “So how often are you guys having sex?” The moment of truth. There was a long silence, then one of my friends broke the ice: “Remind me again, what is sex?”
I honestly couldn’t believe how embarrassed everyone got. It was as if the fact that we weren’t doing it like rabbits anymore was this shameful secret that something was wrong with us. But as we started to genuinely open up, we realized that the tricky combo of sex and motherhood is a pretty universal predicament. It was kind of nice to know that we weren’t alone when we added “fluctuating sex drive” (AKA “I love you, but let me watch Real Housewives in peace”) to our list of mom-challenges.
The truth was, everything from hormonal fluctuations to fatigue to stress to post-baby body changes to feeling like a slave to our kids’ demands had really impacted our libidos. As my friend Michelle so eloquently stated: “Let’s face it. Wiping my child’s ass all day doesn’t make me feel sexy.” Conversely, our spouses generally seemed perpetually ready to blast Marvin Gaye’s “Let’s Get it On,” even if we were asleep and drooling on a sofa cushion. Seriously, why is that? It’s like I could have double pink-eye and be covered in poison ivy and my husband would still want to shag. Which is actually kind of sweet. And also weird.
But in fact it was pretty frustrating that we felt so out-of-sync with our partners. We wanted to be having sex even though we didn’t always “wanna have sex.” But then we got the best piece of advice from someone in our group: “Use it or lose it.” She and her husband had accepted the reality that they were always minutes away from a screaming or vomiting child. They’d made peace with it. And if minutes were all that they had to keep their intimacy intact, then minutes it would have to be. Enter… The Quickie.
Make no mistake, this isn’t the “I can’t wait to tear your clothes off in the airplane lavatory” kind of quickie. (FYI, if you drink for that one, you’re lying.) This is a different kind of quickie, one which exists because you refuse to let yourselves become platonic roommate co-parents. Listen, we can’t on the one hand laugh about baby poop in our hair and on the other hand become squeamish about addressing our disrupted sex-lives. Sometimes you just have to to look at your puppy-eyed partner and say “Alright, you’ve got five minutes and I’m keeping my hoodie on,” and know that it’s TOTALLY OK.
Needless to say, when my group reunited the following year, we had success stories to share about The Quickie. In fact, it had produced some surprising results, and in our wine-infused conversation, we noticed a few things kept coming up. I’ll share them with you here and I promise, I’ll be quick!
Tips for Working the Quickie
1) Tackle the Elephant in the Bedroom
Acknowledge what’s going on, for cripes sake. This phase of relationship is normal, it’s no one’s fault (except your kids’, of course) so don’t treat it like a catastrophe. If you have to do shots of tequila to have this conversation with your partner (I’ve considered doing shots myself just to write this article), then do it. Just know that the longer you avoid the issue, the bigger it becomes . So talk. And while you’re talking, laugh. Remember the movie The Martian? Matt Damon was trapped alone on Mars without adequate water or food and no foreseeable rescue. And he found it kind of FUNNY. Your situation is much less dire, so lighten up, address the fact that it’s been however long since you’ve knocked boots, and together, do what Matt Damon did: Find a solution.
2) Make a plan, even if the plan is not to plan
Maybe you’re very organized and can literally calendar it on Tuesday between 8:55 and 9:00. Great! Or, you can also just agree that the next time the kids are fast asleep (tonight) or out of the house (tomorrow) you’re going to stop what you’re doing and make it happen. As a dear friend of mine recently admitted: “Heck, I can do anything for five minutes.”
If you’re a wing-it kind of person, great. Example: If you find yourselves simultaneously scrolling through your Twitter feeds or binge watching a nature show, maybe put post it notes on your screens to remind you to take a break. You can use a code word if you have to. Like “Shawshank.” Your kids will have no idea.
Just keep in mind that some moments are better than others to initiate a quickie. You might be in the mood when your spouse has a deadline and the kids have the stomach flu, but you’re probably on your own. Everyone must have the freedom to say “hell no, no offense” and not suffer a guilt-trip. At ALL.
I know the idea of putting sex on a to-do list sounds entirely unromantic and therefore unappealing. But read on. The quickie has nothing to do with romance — and that’s a good thing.
3) Have zero (s)expectations
If you expect the whole romantic kit and caboodle in order for sex to feel worthwhile then you might as well say it’s pointless to workout unless you run a marathon. Obviously there are benefits to just getting moving. The quickie comes with no pressure and no attachment to any particular outcome. The only goal here is to physically connect for a brief period of time because you’ve decided it’s important. Period. Don’t overwhelm your partner with grandiose fantasies of how it needs to progress. It’s A QUICKIE. It doesn’t have to end with both of you screaming like Meg Ryan in a crowded diner. (Although, stay tuned… it might!)
4) Reap Unexpected Rewards
The consensus amongst my friends: we all really appreciated not having that pressure around sex. Getting rid of those dang sexpections changed everything. It often created a sense of freedom, which, amazingly, could end up turning a quickie into a “not-so-quickie” that included all the bells and whistles (cue Meg Ryan.)
What was more surprising: it affected things outside of the bedroom, too. Somehow, making space for even the briefest liaisons managed to soften some of the edges of married life. You know, those little annoyances that make you snippy? Suddenly you’re able to cut a little slack and use better manners with each other. What was once “I can’t believe you lost your keys again,” might now be “let me help you find them.” One is confrontational and the other is compassionate. We always have the choice to go in one direction or the other in any given area of married life. But one thing is certain: Compassion is sexy.
While there are few experiences as rewarding as having kids, let’s face it, it also comes with some major inconveniences. As parents, we run steam showers at 2AM for barking coughs, we help assemble crazy Leprechaun traps, and we spend a great deal of time as unpaid chauffeurs. Oh, right, we also feed them and keep them alive. We don’t think twice about doing any of these things because they are all done out of a pure and selfless love. We are simply hard-wired to look after our children, knowing full well they can’t reciprocate.
But what about tending to the partnership that got you here in the first place? Yes, it can also be inconvenient. Because having to consider connection with another person when you’re exhausted and buried under a pile of Legos is not always easy. But if we wait for the perfect time to find our way back to each other, it just might not happen. Remember, it all started with just the two of you. So forget the sexy playlist, scented candles and Kama-Sutra books. For now. You really don’t need them. You just need a lot of laughter… and a good five minutes.