5 Smart Ways To Keep Your Marriage Intact (Even Though You Have Kids)

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woman holding man close

Last week, as I lay in bed trying to fall asleep with a diapered bottom squished against my cheek, I thought about why — HOW — kids are so talented at weakening their parents' sex life.

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My kids don't even know what sex is (at least I don't think they do), but they're like little sex leeches, bleeding the life out of our bedroom activities. It's ironic that they can be so adept at crippling the very act that created them. As I gazed at my snoring toddler, his head cuddled on my husband's chest, I wondered how I ended up with the suspiciously fragrant end of the deal.

Then I thought about how deliberate we have to be to protect our sex life from falling by the wayside. 

Here are 5 smart ways to keep your marriage intact, even though you have kids:

1. Get a babysitter

The only thing better than a responsible high school babysitter who will keep your kids safe and entertained for a small fee is grandparents. Can I get an AMEN? 

Sometimes you just need to drop the kids off at grandma's house so you can go on a date. It's priceless. And while we have yet to do this, there's something romantic and downright steamy about having a sitter come to the house while we go to a hotel. Who said date night has to be dinner and a movie?

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2. Enforce a "back to bed" policy

I've already tattled on myself by telling you about my rounds of nocturnal diaper-to-the-face. I'm not great at standing firm on this, especially when our prospective roommate is endearingly snuggly. My toddler was sick last week, and I had him sleep in our room so I could keep an eye on him. Apparently, this was a great adventure because he's lobbying to make the arrangement permanent.

"I siiick," he says in the middle of dinner. Before I figured out he was crying wolf, this scared me a bit ..., especially on spaghetti night. But I quickly caught on, especially once he followed up with, "I sleep Daddy's room." HA.

In order to avoid tantrums (and a generally miserable end to the evening), we struck a compromise. We let him fall asleep in our bed, and when we're ready to get busy, my husband carries him upstairs. So far my boy has kept up his end of the bargain and stays in his bed once we move him. I strongly believe he'll outgrow this phase soonish. But for now, it's working.

3. Lock the door

My kids do not believe in closed doors, especially if I'm behind them. If I didn't lock the bathroom door, there'd be an ensemble every time I pee. In order to prevent miniature witnesses to our married people time, we (try to remember to) lock the door. If they need us, we obviously stop what we're doing and attend to their unfortunately timed needs. But a locked door at least lets us scramble for clothing without worrying that we've scarred our kids for life.

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4. Get in bed early once in a while

Ah, bedtime. The magical time of day when I can do whatever I want without holding a baby. Or stopping to draw a choo-choo train. Or answering a question about long division.

Once the kids are tucked in their beds (or my bed, as the case may be), I start a mad dash to accomplish everything I couldn't do during the day. This is when I write, do laundry and the dishes, and read. It's also the time I try to reconnect with my hubby. If I'm not careful, I get carried away until midnight. Don't get me wrong — there was a time in our marriage when it was NEVER too late for sex. But right now, especially with such young kids, sleep is precious. And I'm not sacrificing it for sex.

Going to bed on time, however, creates a window of opportunity for romance.

5. Talk about something other than the kids

Sex isn't just about opportunity — it's about reconnecting with your partner. And I need to stay plugged in with my husband, so when the opportunity presents itself, I'm ready. If all we do is talk about the kids, we aren't doing so hot as a couple. We need to remember that we're a couple first and foremost, that we love each other, and that this is the reason we want to have sex in the first place.

I'm not saying we're pros at protecting and prioritizing our sex lives.

We're busy parents, and we're human. We have our droughts, believe me. But when our nocturnal bonding starts to suffer, revisiting these rules is a good way to get back on track.

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Collen Meeks is a freelance writer who writes about relationships, family, and motherhood.