The second half of the Sexless Father’s frank and open conversation about intimacy.
This is a continuation of An Intimate Conversation, Part One.
Mother: So we were talking about how there’s this loop, that I see starting in one place and you see starting in the opposite place.
Father: Right, that I see it as being that we have to be having a certain amount of sexual intimacy in order to enjoy, in order for me to enjoy non-sexual physical intimacy, and you see it the other way around.
Mother: Yes, right.
Father: I mean, I see it the other way around too. I just think it works both ways for me, anyway.
Father: But then we were talking about the other kinds of emotional intimacy, and intellectual intimacy and all that other stuff.
Mother: Experiential intimacy. That we have mutual experiences.
Father: That our minds have been growing together for such a long time that we know what the other is thinking. That end of things. And that stuff never went away. Even if, certainly our emotional life together is strained a lot.
Mother: But also I want to think back, because right now we’re at this point where The Girl is big enough that she doesn’t need constant attention and we’re sleeping at night and all that, and the fetus, you know, we’re in the second trimester uptick.
Girl: Did I eat enough for, mama, for mango?
Mother: No, you need to eat it all.
Girl: (offended) Maybe I ate it all.
Mother: But there’s that period of time, especially when a new baby is really tiny when we can’t even converse like this, which is, for you and I, a huge part of our intimacy. Do you remember back in the day when we used to go out to that one bar and read the dictionary to each other.
Father: The bar that used to be a union hall.
Mother: Yeah. Because mental exercises have always…
Father: Turned us on in a way that…
Mother: Turned us on in a very non-sexual way. Turned us on like light bulbs.
Girl: (holds out a handful of grated cheese) Mama, look at my tiny baby. It’s name is cheese.
Mother: Oh, look at your tiny baby named cheese.
Father: What a sweet little cheese baby.
Mother: But there’s a period of time where, you know, my brain is…
Mother: Mush. And so that piece of intimacy falls off too, and really all we’ve got at that point is the experiential intimacy of parenting.
Father: Right. Which we do well together, and we enjoy.
Mother: We do it well together, but it’s not enough.
Father: It’s not enough. It’s not sufficient to be the foundation of our relationship.
Father: So the question is, really not what intimacy means to us, but how do we take these things that we both kind of understand even though we haven’t really talked them through completely, how do we take these things and continue them with a tiny infant. I mean, is it enough that we now know that there’s a period of time that we won’t have probably physical and emotional and mental intimacy, other than just as co-parents?
Mother: Well, I mean I think it’s kind of like preparing for so many situations, where you get yourself prepared for what the potential worst situation is, the most logical worst situation, you bring your umbrella and your rain coat because you’re going on a hike and it might rain. And you work toward and you hope for and you also prepare for what you really want to have happen. Right? Like when The Boy did his violin recital, we got prepared for him to melt down and not be able to handle it. And we also got prepared and hoped and planned on him rising to the occasion.
Father: Right, that he would play his song and…
Mother: And he did it. And he was great. But we prepared for the other outcome as well, so that it wasn’t like all of a sudden we’re like, “AAH! How do we deal with this?”
Father: But we would have been disappointed if he had, I mean, he would have been disappointed if he had freaked out and not played his song. I mean, he was so proud of it. He played his song. And if he had freaked out backstage, and cried and not gone on, later he would have felt really bad.
Mother: And, if we can’t hang on to some of this work that we are doing now once we’re in the first six months of infancy, we will both be disappointed. But, and I truly from the depths of my heart and my bones, hope that doesn’t happen. I hope that we’re laying enough groundwork now, putting enough thought in now, that, you know?
Father: Well yes. We’re three kids in, and we didn’t talk about any of this stuff with The Boy or with The Girl.
Mother: We didn’t even know that we were supposed to talk about any of this with The Boy. That we should have, but…
Father: Nobody said anything. I think I kind of knew, and the midwives told us that our sex life was going to be impacted for a period of time after the birth…
Mother: And there was a little conversation at one of the classes about, you know, letting Mom’s body take the lead because of healing and blah blah blah…
Father: I remember, and not putting a certain, like, number of weeks or whatever.
Mother: “Don’t set a date.” But it was really, and I would say that our midwives are pretty sex-positive people in general, but it was still really couched in obscurities.
Father: It wasn’t an open, honest sex talk at all. And I had no idea the magnitude of what was going to happen. And I think that maybe this is something that happened for us and doesn’t happen for everybody.
Mother: I don’t think it happens for everybody, but I think because it’s all quietly addressed and we’re supposed to go have sex in the laundry room or whatever,
Father: Oh baby.
Mother: Oh baby, oh baby. Take me to the laundry room.
Mother: That vibrating washer, let me tell you.
Father: It’s hilarious because our laundry room is so tiny and always covered with laundry all over the floor.
Mother: But even in general, it’s like, dirty clothes, it’s usually related to a mud room, you keep your cleaning chemicals in there.
Father: It’s not a particularly sexy place. But, like, our laundry room would be a comically impossible place to actually make love in.
Mother: It would be ridiculous.
Girl: (singing) We love you, mister, we love you.
Mother: But I think that, I mean first of all, everything we heard was framed strictly from a penis-vagina perspective. Right? And briefly. And not shadily, but certainly not directly.
Father: And the thing I would have liked to have been given permission to ask for at that point is for it to be okay for sex to be a one-way street sometimes. And I think that this goes for if at some point I stop being able to have erections and lose my sex drive entirely and you’re super sexy and wanting sex all the time, I think it should be totally okay for you to ask for one-way sex. You know, will you do some of the things for me that I get pleasure from. Assuming that at that point there are things that you get pleasure from. I’m really hopeful that that happens.
Mother: I’m right there.
Father: And I think it should be okay for me to ask for the same thing. And I don’t feel like I, I feel like I didn’t have permission to ask for that.
Mother: But I also think that because we hadn’t had these conversations…
Girl: MOMMY I ATE IT ALL!!!
Mother: You did not. If you had eaten it all your plate would be empty… We, and this I think is pretty common for first time parents regardless of the parenting style that they follow, submerged so deeply into learning the art of parenting with our first child that we dropped the, we didn’t just drop the sexual intimacy ball, we dropped all of them. Except the co-parenting intimacy ball.
Father: And without all those other forms of intimacy, without emotional intimacy, without the…
Mother: Exactly, then we lose our intimate life. Which includes sex, and you can’t just, I mean, we’ve established that these things are all intrinsically linked. That intimacy is bigger than genitals, and it’s bigger than our brains, and it’s bigger than our hearts. So because we hadn’t had this realization, this deconstruction, I mean, even if I had said “yeah baby, let’s go,” without those other puzzle pieces? I mean, it would have been okay sex.
Father: But it wouldn’t have been great.
Mother: It probably wouldn’t have been great.
Father: It could have been good. It could have been good.
Mother: It could have been good sex, but it would have been…
Father: I tweeted something about this the other day, that sexual intimacy and emotional intimacy can exist independent of each other, but that when they’re combined they become more than the sum of their parts.
Mother: Exactly. So it would have been good sex. It would have been biologically satisfying to you and possibly to me. But it would have lacked what you are actually looking for, what you have been…
Mother: Components of what you have been looking for.
Father: Yeah, parts of. Because I’ve got to tell you that, like, even during the dark periods of no sex except occasional quick bad sex, that occasional quick bad sex was pretty important for me. Like, it’s not something that I’d say is worthless or meaningless. It’s actually an important release and a stand in for this other thing that, this great sex that I remember.
Mother: But it still, in the long term, does not really fill the intimacy gap.
Father: No. It never was going to fill the gap, but it patched over the gap, it plastered over it at a time when we weren’t in a place, either of us, that we were able to actually try and fill the hole. As it were.
Girl: Mommy, did I eat enough?
Mother: No, baby. Should we stop it there?
Father: Let’s leave it there.
Photo—Conversation from Shutterstock