I met a couple in my practice who were evidently sexually thrilled with each other. They had two children, one with a significant neurological impairment, the other acting out at school. While they were worried about both children and seeking help, they presented as a united front. I wondered how they managed to weather the stress of parenting. "We still make time for each other," was the mother's simple answer. Then she blushed.
There is something to be said for ensuring sexual satisfaction between parents. In fact, research shows that it is marital satisfaction (and that means both a good sex life and the sensuality of touch and time spent listening to one another) more than the stress of raising a child with a disability or a behavior problem that causes parents to divorce.
Consider this: a 4-year study of couples after the birth of their first child showed that most couples were sexually content despite being sleep deprived. What's more, the better the sex, the more sensual the relationship. It seems that keeping it hot in the bedroom can also mean a more enduring and intimate relationship between spouses. And that, of course, is good for kids because parents who are communicating well and feeling close to one another are also more likely to parent effectively.
The story gets even better as children get older. Another study of families during the 15 years after the birth of a first child shows that parents who report low marital satisfaction when their child reaches school age are also parents who are very likely to seek a divorce later on. In other words, keeping a decent sex life going during your child's first five years can mean a more intimate, sensual relationship with your spouse. It's that satisfaction that makes it more likely there won't be a divorce before that child reaches high school.
I've argued often in my blogs that resilience isn't as much a quality of an individual child as a quality of what the child is provided. Give a child, even a child with a disability or a behavior problem, a pair of caring parents who feel supported and in love and the child is likely to get more of what he or she needs to do better over time.
So, before you let a stressful day with the kids and at work turn into an emotional rift with your spouse and a cold shoulder in bed, remember that the better your sex life, the more likely your spouse is to tune in to your needs, and stick around.
And that, it seems, is a great antidote to children being left without the supports they need when problems inevitably occur.