I grinned cheekily at my husband, his golden hair mussed, his cheeks slightly flushed from the exertion of moments earlier. I looked at the clock. Yep. We were going to be late again. We repeated this drill nearly every Sunday morning for five years; to the extent that my girlfriends would avert their eyes in order to avoid snickering as we strolled in—at least 10 minutes late—to church.
Nearly 10 years later, weekend sex rarely makes us late to events. We roll into the parking lot, a friend’s driveway, or the movie theater basically on time. Each hair is perfectly in place (well, washed at least!), our socks match, our respective outfits are clean.
What happened? A lot of things, I guess.
We have different internal clocks. Like a lot of couples, we operate best at different times of the day. And as we have different responsibilities–more now than ever–our respective internal clocks have become more extreme.
We decided to procreate. Five years into our marriage, we had our first baby. I foolishly and naively said to a dear friend as I anticipated my baby’s arrival: “I don’t things are gonna change that much.” Her polite silence on the other end of the line said everything. Sex changed. Basically, everything changed.
We have Netflix. Most times we don’t “chill” (check out this article for more on Netflix and chillin’) when we watch Netflix. Usually, he’s snoring on the couch while I edit images, write a blog post, send an email or two, and keep one eye on a show that’s part of a series I’ll only half-finish. Super sexy, I know.
We know each other. I know my husband’s body nearly as well as I know my own. Every line, every edge, every plane is familiar and beloved to me. I recognize changes in his body as readily as I recognize changes in my own.
Yet, sometimes in this cozy familiarity, we lose the electricity, the tension, the heat, and the passion. So, occasionally when his hand slides up my hip at night, l’m like: “Not tonight, dear. I have a ‘headache.’” (Note: When I made him read this post, he laughed and said something to the effect of “you’ve never said that!” It’s true, I’ve never said that but I’ve definitely thrown cold water on burgeoning desire, if you get my drift.)
Smooth moves and “So, tell me what you want, what you really, really want.” Sometimes I’m annoyed by the predictability of sex. First this, then that, then this, and then…well, you get the idea. Stymieing my man even further is the reality that what is delicious and wonderful one day can irritate me the next. And sometimes, I don’t want to tell him what I want. Instead I think, albeit irrationally: He should just know. Right? Shouldn’t he just know!?
My 23 year-old self would have scorned the idea of needing to “make a sex a priority.” Like, why would I ever need to do that? 23 year-old me couldn’t keep her hands off her man. Oh, naive 23 year-old me. You didn’t have children or most of the responsibilities that current me has. A couple’s sex life has its own ebbs and flows, dictated in part by the rhythms of a woman’s body, dictated in part by life, by stress, by children, by responsibilities. But these days, when I reach for him and he for me, I realize the following and remind 23 year-old me to shove it.
Sex smooths over minor irritations. When you live with someone, it’s inevitable that at some point he’s going to irritate you and you him. Maybe it’s the fact that he rambles on about something he knows you don’t care about, don’t want to know about. Maybe it’s that he always forgets to put his boots away when he gets home from work. Magically, sex makes these irritations lessen and, on a good day, disappear.
Sex today is better than sex 10 years ago. Arguably, we had more sex 10 years ago. But we both agree that sex today is better than sex was 10 years ago. It’s somehow richer—rounded out by our life together, the tears we’ve shed, the fights we’ve had, the forgiveness we’ve extended, the babies we’ve made, the years we’ve lived under the same roof. His smell, taste, and feel are precious, beloved, and home to me.
Sex makes me really look at him. In the madness that is everyday, it’s so easy to look past my husband and instead focus only the pesky, never-ending TO DO list. Sex compels me to look at him: his square jaw, chiseled cheekbones, his blue eyes—rimmed with amber, his thick blonde hair. His carpenter hands—skilled and gentle—hands that have wiped away tears, smoothed my hair back from my face countless times, fixed my crazy furniture projects, built our house. And I bite back tears. He is mine and I am his.
What I’ve realized these last months, nearly 15 years into what’s been an incredible friendship, partnership, and comradeship is that sex is worth prioritizing even though 23 year-old me would have mocked the very thought. One of my New Year’s Resolutions for 2018? Cancel Netflix and cut right to “chill.”