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Caught in the Act
It's embarrassing if your kid hears you and your spouse having sex, but don't let it affect your sex life.

It's no the end of the world if your kids catches you, but maybe you should get a lock.

I was at a friend’s house for supper when their teenage boy decided to embarrass his parents.

"Yeah, I wish my parents would keep it down when they are having sex,” he said. To which I replied, "Don’t you think they deserve some fun too?" Mortified, his red-faced parents pretended not to hear.

Apparently the heating ducts in the house connected to all four bedrooms. According to the mom, a loud whisper could be heard if the house was quiet. Later on, the mother confided that ever since that embarrassing dinner she and her husband were too paranoid to have sex.

On the long list of things that help parents be asexual, getting caught in the sex act is certainly a concern for many. Yet should parents give up their sexuality just because they feel it will have negative implications on their children? Absolutely not.

Sigmund Freud is the culprit for creating this misnomer. Freud intellectualized children who witnessed the "primal scene" (i.e. seeing parents making love) would become neurotic because of their unfulfilled resolution to marry one’s opposite-sex parent. It is interesting that Freud’s theory stuck considering the majority of the world today and in history have/ had families living in one-room dwellings. Privacy for parents is a relatively new phenomenon.

Even knowing this, I recognize how uncomfortable getting caught or having sex while the kids are still awake can be. However, you and your partner need to be clear if this unspoken expectation is causing marital distress due to zero reconnection time.

Valerie Davis Raskin, M.D. author of Great Sex for Moms: Ten Steps to Nurturing Passion While Raising Kids wrote, "It is absurd to try to provide our children with a perfect environment. Ironically, while we zealously ‘protect’ our children from seeing their parents as sexual beings, we relinquish our only opportunity to teach them our family’s values about sexuality. We miss the opportunity to teach our children that love and physical intimacy go together, and this important message is too often exactly the opposite of what they see in the media." In her book, Dr. Raskin conveys that it is not only healthy but necessary for parents to be affectionate, touchy and yes a bit sexual in front of their children. Does that mean you should have sex in front of your children? Of course not. Dr. Raskin believes discretion and regarding appropriate sexual boundaries is important.

How much affection you show is up to you and your partner and what makes you feel comfortable. For example, when I was growing up my friend’s mom allowed her husband to openly touch her breasts in front of the children—that simply would not happen in my home. Where I was fascinated by it, my friend found it commonplace.

Where should you and your partner start in creating sexual intimacy in the face of getting caught? Start with communication and planning:
  • Discuss any unspoken expectations you may have around not being sexual because of the children.
  • Talk about any guilt associated with presenting yourself as a happy, healthy sexual couple to your child.
  • Discuss what your sexual privacy and sexual boundaries will be; and more importantly, how you will stick to them when your desire to cave overrides good sense.
After the communication process:
  • Go immediately to the hardware store and buy a set of good locks for your bedroom door—your mantra to and from the store being "boundaries, boundaries".
  • If you are worried about being too noisy, buy something to create white-noise—a loud humidifier, fan, radio or stereo that can be moved close to the door.
After you have taken these precautions:
  • Discuss what you will do in the worst-case scenario: Your child walks in on you making love.
A younger child is unlikely to understand what is happening and may simply be frightened by the sounds of lovemaking. Address your child’s fear. Matter-of-factly reassure them that no one was hurt and this way of touching is something grown-ups do.

A primary school-aged child may simply be curious. Say only what is necessary to move to the next subject without shaming or inadvertently stirring up even more interest. Say, "I can see you are inquisitive. Sometimes adults do things kids don’t understand." Then switch the topic.

An older child may know exactly what is happening and maybe disgusted or embarrassed. If an older child bursts in, do not lie or get defensive about what is going on. Instead, get dressed and talk about what just happened, acknowledging this as awkward for both of you. Then set your boundaries with the child to ensure your privacy.

However you work this out, make sure the fear of getting caught is not stopping you from keeping you connected to your partner.

Dr. Trina Read has a doctorate in human sexuality. Dr. Read is also an international speaker and offers a free sex audio tip weekly on her website www.trinaread.com/t-sextips.

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