Scene One: Noel and Julie came to see me for separation counselling. They had both agreed that their marriage of twelve years was over. They didn’t fight, they didn’t hate each other… they had just grown apart. They had not enjoyed a good sex life together for four years because they felt they had just become good friends. They were worried about the best option for supporting their two children, ten year old James, and seven year old Elly. We worked out an access arrangement based on the kids staying with Julie in the marital home, and spending Wednesday night and every second weekend with Noel. Everyone seemed happy.
Scene Two: Two months later: Julie came to see me for counselling. She was furious with Noel.
Elly and James had told her that Daddy was sleeping with Jane. Julie was devastated. Who was Jane?
It seems that our mild-mannered Noel had very quickly become sexually involved with his work colleague, Jane, and she was a regular bedmate in his new flat.
Julie cried and cried. She hadn’t even thought about looking for a male companion. How dare he introduce a new woman to her children and blatantly have her in his bed!
Scene Three: Two months later, Noel came for counselling. He was worried about his kids. Every time they came to stay over, they kept sneaking into his room and waking him and Jane up. Jane was complaining bitterly about it. Noel felt like the meat in the sandwich. He wanted to keep his kids happy, keep Julie happy and keep Jane happy. He also wanted to have a decent sex life at last.
Scene Four: Two months later, Julie came to see me. She was fairly glowing. She had met a man at a party and was very attracted to him. She wanted to get advice on how to handle her first sexual partner since Noel. She also wanted tips on how to handle the children. This was made more challenging since Noel had gone on a month business tip and Julie had the children every day and night.
Scene Five: …you can just imagine. The tortures of single parenting are fired by the unpredictable challenges that come up as couple separate and then begin to pursue other relationships
It seems that no one can be right or wrong. There is always blame and recriminations for the first partner who actually ‘does it’ with someone else. In the above case it was Noel who looked like the thoughtless sex maniac. Even though Julie agreed that their sex life had not been ablaze for four years, she wasn’t ready for the speed with which Noel jumped into bed with Jane. Julie did not think his timing in immediately allowing the children to see them in bed was fair to anyone. What do you think?
I actually recommend that you see a counsellor and make a plan before you jump into sex after a long-term marriage where there are kids involved. Some kids can cope with their parents’ new partners but some are horrified or feel rejected and betrayed. Typically, I like the parents to take time to be single parents for a while before introducing new partners. They should at first be included on outings and only invited to share the bed as common knowledge when the kids have given their seal of approval. (Oh and of course, ideally, the kids should only see one new sex partner at a time!!!)
Single parents who are stressed by kids who come into their bedroom at night – either when they have their special sleeping friend there or are just counting sheep due to the hectic nature of daily life – may be heartened by my book, How to Be Boss of Bedtime. It has a section for the kids to read or be read to by parents, which details all the ‘delaying and manipulating’ strategies that kids typically use to stay up at night. The idea is that kids now know that we know what they are up to. You’ll learn some terrific techniques to settle your kids and boost their self-esteem if they are worried after mummy and daddy start to live in separate houses. You’ll learn how to anticipate and head-off any delaying ploys so that your kids end up staying in their own beds all night so you can enjoy the sex-life that you truly deserve.
For more help see Dr Jan’s book: Sex-life Solutions and her CDs in the Sensational Sex Series.
Dr Janet Hall is a psychologist in private practice who specializes in family and relationship therapy, particularly sex therapy. She is the author of eight books on family issues including “Sex-Wise Teens”.
Jan has created and produced many CDs on sexual issues ranging from sex therapy with adjunctive hypnosis, to sexual fantasies and strategies for ‘sparking up’ your sex-life. A regular in print, radio and television media, Jan presents user-friendly information which can be easily applied in psychological practice.
© Dr Janet Hall