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Couple Struggles With Intimacy With Kids At Home

Dear Dr. Diana,

Any suggestions for intimacy with kids around? We've been quarantined with our two children (7 and 4) since March, and so our mid-day trysts have been less frequent. The last time we tried to be intimate together during our kids' afternoon "quiet time" our oldest overheard our activities, prompting us to have a discussion about what we were doing.

We're pretty open with our kids about sexuality, and we want them to love and respect their bodies and sex. However, now my husband feels uncomfortable locking the bedroom door during quiet time, knowing that our son knows exactly what we're doing when we do that. My husband's libido is stronger in the mornings/mid-day, but I'm less concerned about other things at night.

Mid-day was the perfect solution pre-quarantine, as we had several hours a day without kids around (hubby worked from home part-time). Seeing as we are about to embark on another year of having the kids home from school, I'm not sure what to do about this.


Dear Stephanie,

First of all, congratulations on remaining sexual with your husband during these trying times. I’m a big fan of having more sex to help relieve stress and stay connected to your partner.

It’s understandable that you and your husband would be missing your mid-day trysts. Studies have shown that for most men, levels of testosterone (which strongly enhance libido) fluctuate during the day and are highest in the morning.

One way to address this challenge is to have more in-depth discussions with your husband about his feelings of discomfort about locking the bedroom door. Perhaps the two of you can tease out any underlying conflicts about sexual shame. For example, how does he reconcile his openness about sex with his discomfort about being overheard by your son? Many children at that age have some awareness of their parent’s sexual activity, which doesn’t seem to result in any discernible harm.

It’s important for kids to know that their parents have quiet, personal time together. It’s a healthy boundary that your children can learn to respect. (But always lock the bedroom door while having sex; having a child walk in on you can be traumatic—for everyone involved.)

Another possibility: be very quiet while you’re having sex, so as not to attract your son’s attention. You might ask: Wouldn’t this diminish our enjoyment? Not necessarily. Pioneering sex therapist Jack Morin, author of The Erotic Mind, suggested this erotic equation: attraction + obstacles = excitement. In your case the “obstacle” is the need to be quiet, to restrain your vocalizations and other noises. This self-imposed limitation can actually increase your arousal, almost like “sneaking around” to have sex.

A third option: create a “quarantine bubble” with another couple with kids and take turns babysitting. This is where the two families have been safely quarantining and can now start spending time together, so long as they all observe safety guidelines and agree to be exclusive. This can give each couple the chance to chill together without kids for whatever reason suits them.

Epidemiologist Melissa Hawkins, PhD, lays out the main benefit of this approach: “When done carefully, the research shows that quarantine bubbles can effectively limit the risk of contracting SARS-CoV-2 while allowing people to have much needed social interactions with their friends and family.”

She also stresses the need to discuss the levels of risk, set clear rules, and follow them. As you can imagine, creating and safely maintaining such a bubble (or “quaranteam” as Hawkins calls it) requires lots of clear communication and trust among the adults involved.

— Dr. Diana


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Advice From a Sex Therapist

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