Boundaries: a “Must-Have”
Nonetheless, setting boundaries – period – are good for children and really necessary when it comes to being intimate with your spouse. In fact, SPAN (Statewide Parent Advocacy Network), donning the mission to help ensure all children in their state “become fully participating and contributing members of our communities and society,” boldly asserts that “Children are incredibly important but they’re not the only important things in the world.” SPAN also takes the position that parents who establish boundaries with their children do their little ones the great service of teaching their children about boundaries in general, which will serve them their whole lives through. It also helps to make managing family dynamics much more effective.
SPAN leadership point out that “homes in which bedroom and bathroom doors are left open are probably not teaching boundary setting.” This is a lot easier said than done, too, so be prepared. I have been guilty of “fair-weather” boundary setting with my children – both biological and steps, and am becoming (at times painfully) more aware of it, even as I type this. I developed the “open door policy” with my children as infants and toddlers, and find now that my 4 year-old is approaching kindergarten, my husband and I are having to break some bad habits we’ve done more than help to create. (Whatever you model to your tiny children – my husband and I have learned that we need to take 100% responsibility… because at the really young ages, children know exactly NOTHING about the world or how to behave until we teach it… or don’t.) I never hid when coming out of the shower, for example, because I didn’t want my children (even my son) to be “freaked out” or feel the human body taboo. Also, those issues we all bring to the table of adulthood are likely seeping into this one. You see, during my own upbringing in a large, uber-conservative/Catholic family… bodies, nakedness and anything sex-related were utterly off limits as overt behaviors or even discussion pieces and were cemented as overall values. I know first-hand, my four siblings and I we were all more-than-a-little-curious about what all the hype and forbidden-ness was about, and seized every reasonable opportunity we could to learn about the things from which my parents worked so hard to shelter us. When I became a parent of two step-children and three of my own, biological kiddos, I made a deliberate decision not to parent using that same, extreme type method. However, as I am learning is the case so often, my parents had a lot of the right idea and did their best with regards to execution. It seems the execution of parenting and values is as tricky as it is personal and individual.
My husband and I, after much trial and tribulation, have decided to teach our children – all five of them – about privacy. After all, privacy in any form is a boundary issue, and we have come to see understand that parents are entitled to reasonable amounts of privacy. In some homes (we know, because we’re “converting” ours), the doors – bedroom, bathroom, you name it – are always open and children can enter any time, for any reason. Intimacy in these households can be a big challenge.
Boundaries in Blended Settings – Still a “Must Have”
And making matters more difficult – as if it isn’t hard enough for parents of any children to find the time and place to nookify, parents in blended families have a few additional things to consider when it comes to making time for intimacy.
I remember the sheer guilt I’d feel when my husband and I were first married, and his oldest would catch us hugging. She’d not only act embarrassed, but angry and disgusted, as well. My immediate reaction (as not only a stepmom who wanted so badly to succeed in the role, but also as a social worker – perhaps overly sensitive to the labyrinth that is a child’s psychological and emotional state at any given point) was to begin to hide affection. My husband and I both found that when his girls visited, we stopped holding hands during a movie, stopped hugging/embracing “just because,” and generally stopped doing a lot of the things we now believe are critical to a strong and healthy marriage. After all, we didn’t want any additional hurt to fly in the direction of his innocent children, the product of an already extremely difficult life event – the divorce of their parents.
It was a couple of years before we said out loud that this colder way of existing when they were around didn’t feel “right” for so many reasons. We made a fairly deliberate decision to slowly integrate physical affection back into our married home. It was something that my stepdaughters came to quickly accept and that (we realize now, a little older and hopefully wiser) is one of the healthy behaviors we could model to them. Our three children that came later haven’t known anything else. Please don’t miss my message, I am not suggesting that daily groping or French-kissing in front of your kids and their friends is the way to go, but (as with anything) a nice and tasteful balance can (and should) be struck. We would much rather our children learn love and affection from us than others’ versions, anyway… right?
As for when and where to raise the temperature with your spouse, logistics are not much different in blended households than in regular households. Once you decide that sex (on a semi-regular basis, not just anniversaries and holidays!) is an important part of a marriage (and important for the family dynamic in that happy parents = happy children!) it is a matter of committing to finding a way to reach out to one another.
If the kids and/or stepkids are little tykes: Studies reveal that from the toddler years until the “tween” age, children need 10 to 12 hours of sleep per night. This leaves a lot of room for semi-early bedtimes. This, combined with a good-old-fashioned lock on the bedroom door, should ensure you and your spouse get your much needed adult time together. If they’re old enough to spend the night at Grandma & Grandpas, this is a great opportunity to enjoy a little more time together with your spouse.
If the kids/stepkids are a little older: Things can be a little trickier. They should certainly know not to barge into your private space by the older ages because you (like my husband and I) now see the importance of establishing badly needed boundaries… right? However, they are also much more curious at slightly older ages and much more interested in what’s going on around them at all times. Therefore, if you can swing the small bit of effort to coordinate events out for them (overnight at a friend’s, babysitter depending on their age, weekend at Grandma & Grandpa’s occasionally – or a combination of all of the above)… it’s a good idea to execute your intimate moves when they’re not around. It will make for a much more relaxed experience for you and your spouse, even if you have to play like teenagers away from the home somewhere while a babysitter distracts the “tweens” with pizza and superhero flicks.
The important thing to remember is this: You aren’t really doing your children – step or biological – any favors by neglecting one another. Sex and intimacy are super-critical factors in any healthy marriage, and the presence or absence of children really has no bearing on that fact. If you have children and/or stepchildren – regardless of their ages – you simply have to find ways that work for you and your family in establishing privacy boundaries and ensuring time together. It’s a non-negotiable fact your children will deal with. (And we promise – even if they see you smooch or hold hands and go “ewwwwwww, gross!” – they won’t be damaged by it.)
Try These DiscoveryGames – discover yourself and your partner on a sexual, emotional and intellectual level and have fun while doing it.
Touch base with Tokii. Get Together. Get Talking. Get Intimate. Join Tokii Today! Like Tokii on Facebook, Follow us on Twitter. Get inspired with Tokii Pinterest, Get a behind the scenes look at Tokii on Instagram.