Your marriage is affected by the lack of privacy that's part of having kids in the house. Not only are they there physically, they also take up emotional space.
Stepkids and Your Sex Life
If you are the custodial parent, share custody, or have the kids visit often, you might feel like your sex life has been impeded. (If you have kids of your own, this probably won't be as much of an issue—you're already used to never sleeping and having it tough to find time for romance!)
Yes, romantic life with a parent is quite different. You can't chase each other naked through the house, you're gonna have to be quiet, and you run the risk of being interrupted.
As with all aspects of stepparenthood, the first year or so is the hardest on your sex life, when the honeymoon hormones are flying at the same time that you're doing all that adjusting. You can help yourselves out by establishing a couple of house rules:
- Everybody must knock on closed bedroom doors before entering (even little ones 2 years old can be taught this). Stress that just knocking is not enough — they have to wait for an answer!
- Assert your need for private time. This is a problem not just for stepfamilies; kids the world over seem to have “sibling prevention” wired into their genetic code.
Private time is not just about sex—you also need intimacy. Especially during a stressful visit or a hard time in family life, you have to be able to check in with each other. Sometimes this means making love, and sometimes this means just lying on the bed playing cards or giving each other back rubs.
There is no need to flaunt your sexuality, but it's also not healthy to deny it. Children who observe loving relationships with physical affection grow up to become loving, affectionate adults.
Time to Talk
It's vital to talk with each other, even if it's about almost nothing. The craziness of the era we live in, combined with the hullabaloo of children, can kill conversational opportunities. Don't let it! Talking is an essential part of intimacy. Schedule a check-in walk 'n' talk if you must.
Your marriage may be under fire from the kids! Children of divorce understand weakness in marriage firsthand and will be looking for it. You guys had better be a strong team. Be each other's allies. The kids really need the stability that comes from your solidity as a couple.
Don't Be Wicked
What are you really furious about? Are you picking a fight with your wife over dirty clothes strewn about the bedroom, or is it really because you're annoyed at your stepdaughter—her daughter—and can't voice it? Don't misplace your anger. Ask yourself: “Why am I so angry about this?”
As a stepparent, you may find yourself feeling competitive and jealous of the time your partner spends with the kids. I used to lie in bed waiting for Bill to come in to talk with me. After a long day, I just wanted to have some time alone with him. When he did come in, it was often just for a quick cuddle or game of cards. Then he'd leave, and I'd hear him hanging out and talking with his kids until late in the night. I could have gone out and talked with them, too, but I was “socialized out.” I felt the lack of privacy, of not being able to walk around the house in my underwear or sit in the kitchen without talking to anybody. I lay in bed feeling jealous and forlorn.
(I learned years later that their perception was quite different. They thought I was being cold and that I was rejecting them, and that it was odd that I disappeared just when “family time” began.)
Going Out Without
One way to get privacy is to leave together, without the kids. Hiring a baby-sitter has its problems; some kids are too young or too old, and sitters are expensive. But dating is important. I'll say it again: You lose the relationship, you lose the stepfamily, so it's in the stepfamily's best interest to support your romantic time together. (The opposite is also true: If you lose the stepfamily, you will lose the relationship.)
Guilt Interferes with Privacy
Sometimes Parent Guilt makes bioparents feel guilty for wanting time alone with their Sweetie. Sometimes Stepparent Guilt makes you feel guilty for depriving the poor dear child of her parent, perhaps her only good one. Kill that guilt! Stab it dead! Yes, you can go overboard and never spend time with the kids, but a little time alone as a couple is a requirement. See The Nine Steps to Stepfamily Success.