The Sex Talk I Had To Have With My Husband

Valery Sidelnykov / Shutterstock

Valery Sidelnykov / Shutterstock

After many years of courtship and marriage, my husband and I developed a sexual shorthand that, when the kids were little and we had no time and even less opportunity, came in handy. Foreplay that was once steamy and drawn out was distilled down to a simple, “Hey, the kids finally fell asleep! Quick, meet me on the couch!” followed by eight or nine sweaty minutes of politely taking turns getting our jollies.

As time paced forward in the familiar, uneven clip of parenthood, we found ourselves experiencing less and less of our intimate shorthand. Then one day, while looking at the calendar, I realized that it had been more than a month since we had had any sex at all.

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As I stood there staring at the calendar, I realized that it was time to have a sex talk with my husband. Clearly, this was slightly more than just a dry spell; it was marital laziness. We needed to fix this. But I wasn’t quite sure where to begin or what to say.

My mind began to lay the outlines of what I wanted to talk to my husband about—things like the importance of intimacy and physical affection. I wanted to plead a case for being more selfish with our precious little free time, but as I began to think out the right words to say, my insecurities floated closer to the surface of my forming words.

Was the reason we didn’t have sex anymore because I had gained weight? Middle age was coming, and motherhood had been rough on my exterior. While my husband was growing more distinguished with age, I was becoming more frumpy and soft. My ass was no longer high and tight, but more like squishy and wide. Gray hairs had begun to poke out in ungraceful ways around my face, on which laugh lines and crow’s feet were forming. Was I still attractive?

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A nagging insecurity can quickly spin into imagined betrayals that simply are not there, and an irrational twist of logic immediately turned to worries that my husband was having an affair. Was that possible? For the better part of the day, I went back to this place of fear and calculated his work hours, commute time, money spent and the fluctuation in our savings account, but each time I came up short on any proof of potential infidelity.

Was the reason we didn’t have sex anymore because that is just what happens in a marriage after a decade? Was this the Seven-Year Itch? I had heard of this phenomenon that declares a marriage essentially dead after a prolonged period together. There were only so many new things we could talk about and new experiences we could have as a couple. Flirting becomes a chore. The business of running a home and building a family takes over, and marriage slides further down the list of priorities almost without notice. A divorced friend once told me that after nearly a decade, it would be a miracle if my marriage was still alive, no one was cheating, and the words “take a break,” “separation” or “divorce” were not mentioned.

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But it had been that long.

Her dismal outlook on marriage gave me pause. I was ready to jump-start my marital libido before her words came true. Should I buy porn and see-through outfits? Was it finally time to retire my frumpy mom attire and trade in the ponytail for layers and highlights? How much of this dry spell was even my fault?

The lowest common denominator in this funky marriage problem was that while it may be true that my husband and I were swamped with the details of our family life, we still loved each other. And when we remembered to, we even desired each other. We still had small moments of sexual innuendo during the most boring of conversations. During the morning rush to get out the door, my husband still on occasion slapped me on the ass while giving me a peck on the cheek.

While I thought through all the things I wanted to say to my husband about how much I missed our intimacy, how much I craved just to be held and looked at and touched by him, I could not help but feel just a little bit ridiculous and needy. Wasn’t this chapter of our lives supposed to be busy and difficult? I finally decided that, foolish or not, silence would be the same as lying by omission. Our private life shouldn’t take a backseat to the business of parenting. I didn’t care if this was the Seven-Year Itch. I didn’t care what my divorced friend said about marital successes and failures. I didn’t care if I sounded weak. But I did care that my marriage climbed back up to the top of the list of priorities.

So, after thinking all of these things and feeling the fullness of urgency and awkwardness, I sat my husband down and took a deep breath.

“Honey, we need to talk.”

About the writer


Follow Sarah Cottrell on Facebook where you can keep up with the fun! As a Maine-based writer, Sarah is the voice behind Housewife Plus at the Bangor Daily News and is a regular contributor to Scary Mommy. She is a co-author in several books including I Still Just Want To Pee Alone from the New York Times Bestselling series.


Amelie 3 weeks ago

I’m very shocked to read that the author seems to consider sex as part of the definition of marriage. If they feel sex is part of their marriage, that is their business to address, but sweeping statements such as “marital failure,” are not helpful. Every marriage is different, and those which do not involve sex are not worse that those which do.!

just me 1 month ago

best thing i ever did was buy a few toys and some oil for his birthday one year, get grandma to take the kid and opened the door for a long amazing lovemaking and reconnecting session. since then our sex life has been reclaimed and is better than ever. i curb my needs and he does his best to bolster his. we have leeway with only one kid and close by grandparents. we steal moments when we can and we have refashioned our physical connection as a core component of the current state of our marriage. i expect it to change again in the future but right now we are having the time of our lives. contrast to several years ago with a young child, busy careers and an abject lack of making each other a priority and i take this stage over any other so far. what works for us works for us and thank god it did because a sexless marriage would not work for me at this stage in my life.

Anonymous 1 month ago

If hubs isn’t interested, insist he see his dr to get hormone levels checked. It could be a pituitary gland tumor, which is very common. Most people don’t ever know they have one. If this is determined, they can give hormone replacements. Marriage saver.

terri 6 months ago

Did I miss something? Where is the end of her story?

The Ranta 6 months ago

A. Nonymous — you should read Dan Savage’s “Savage Love” column, or listen to the podcast (the Savage Lovecast). He’s dealt with a lot of people having issues like yours. Good luck!

A. Nonymous 6 months ago

As a husband in a similar situation, the lack of intimacy in the relationship with my wife contributes heavily to my feeling depressed and listless. When we got married, sex was great. When she wanted kids, it was great. Now that the kids are out, I guess I exist to lift heavy things, deal with spiders and be a good roommate. I’m basically a reliable booty call for her, when she wants it and how she wants it.

When I try and initiate anything, it’s pretty much every marriage joke ever told. Tired, headache, period, have to get up early tomorrow, was up late last night, stomach hurts, need to get work done, I’m worried, it’s too cold, it’s too hot and so on. I’ve lived them all. I didn’t get married as a joke and I don’t want a roommate — I want a wife, with all aspects of the relationship. In the Craigslist of life, that means I get “Casual Encounters” in addition to M4W personals, roommates, and household help.

Now, before the pitchforks come out — I’m a modern dad. I married a feminist knowing I was marrying one, and looking forward to an interesting life of shared work and happiness. I pull my weight around the house. So I’m not some jerk who comes home and expects to find Mrs. Suzy Homemaker with my slippers, pipe and newspaper. I married a very independent and free-thinking woman, I couldn’t be married to anyone else! I’m not asking for anal, swinger parties, threesomes, BDSM, etc. I know some people are into that stuff, but it’s not for us — we talked about it in the past! Just one-on-one, consensual sex of the oral and vaginal variety, with occasional appearances by nice lingerie or an outfit or some sort erotica stuff from time to time. Pretty tame stuff, and not stuff that requires a whole lot of preparation, time or money. But I don’t expect that stuff every time, just some of the time. We did this kind of stuff while dating, first married and when she wanted kids, so it’s not exactly pushing boundaries.

We try to have “the talk”, but it turns into “the argument”. She seems to think I’m asking for too much, or she will agree on something, and promise it “later”. I’ve been waiting literally years for some of the “later” to happen. Anticipation turns to frustration when you wait weeks, months, years for something to happen. I’m very open and honest about this — but then it seems to fall on deaf ears. It hurts a lot when someone asks what’s wrong, you tell them, they agree … and then nothing happens.

Orla 6 months ago

It’s a hard talk to start but it can save your marriage. I know it has for me. We both got swamped down in family life bill paying and then we both had the same unattractive insecurities all of which played on our minds until I started that talk and it all came out. I’m not saying it fixes everything but it gives you a starting point.

Anonymous 6 months ago

Had the talk, hubby says he isn’t interested. So add feeling unloved to no longer being a priority.

Anonymous 6 months ago

Sarah, I feel your pain… It’s been over 2 years without for us and we have been married less than 3 years. And the worst part is, I can’t talk to him about it and it’s not ok to talk to anyone else about it.

Sarah 6 months ago

Then what does it mean if it happens after only two years of marriage?

Emzmom 6 months ago

Life gets busy. We have been sold to obsess over our parenting skills,our clean homes ,our ability to make shit we see on Pinterest and then somehow we forget about ourselves, and then our marriages. Our spouse, if we chose well is our partner. Together you survive. United front. Keep them near in your survival of parenthood and you can be fine. If you try to warrior alone. Ehh you will be alone.

Liv 6 months ago

If you’ve never uttered those words or felt the need to, definitely worth having a chat. Beautifully said.

Liz 6 months ago

Nice one. Thoughtful and well told.

Vanessa 6 months ago

Great post that I’m sure many others besides myself can relate to. It’s so hard to start that conversation!

Katie 6 months ago

I love this. So good to hear other couples go through this too!

Cassandra 6 months ago

Amazing post. Of course, now we need to hear the follow up!


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