For me, the physical side of a relationship has always taken second place to the mental. It’s not that I don’t like sex, but I’ve never been one to equate it with love.
My husband and I have been married for almost 12 years, and while we have had our fair share of passionate encounters, our typical nightly routine consists of wrangling two young boys into the bathtub, wrestling them into their pajamas, reading them books, asking them to go to sleep, begging them to go to sleep, and then giving up and falling asleep ourselves.
Initiating sex when you have children seems like tacking on an additional 5 miles to a day that already feels like a marathon. The reality is that comfort and trust lead to complacency. It’s the downside of knowing that the person lying next to you is fully committed to the relationship, that he will be there in the morning and the morning after that. When sex is always available, you don’t obsess over it like you do with carbs banned from your gluten-free diet. I was living with my best friend, and as long as we were laughing and talking and working together as a team, I often felt that the romance could wait.
Then I turned 40 and started waking up each morning with anxiety. Week after week, I would chase a phantom physical ailment through my body, convinced that my grip on life was weakening. I didn’t know what I had, but I was convinced I had something.
My younger son, Lazlo, was about to turn 2. Unlike his older brother, Sid, he was already unlocking the front door of our apartment and walking out on me as if he were an emancipated minor on his way to star in a reboot of Home Alone. Aside from wanting to turn back time on my baby, I wanted to turn back time on myself. I wanted to feel young and healthy and relevant. In my mind there was only one thing that could truly protect me from my impending doom, and that was to reproduce.
When sex is always available, you don’t obsess over it like you do with carbs banned from your gluten-free diet.
Jason and I discussed the idea of three children in the abstract, with neither one of us coming to a conclusion. There was no denying that we had our hands full with two, but there was also no telling how insanely cute our holiday card would look with just one more. We weren’t certain what the right answer was, so we decided to take a month and roll the dice. Over the course of the following weeks, we were diligent about making time for intimacy. And something sort of amazing happened: We got closer—not just physically but emotionally. I was more into him than I’d been in years.
I was able to step outside my own neuroses and appreciate all the ways he was contributing as a partner and father. Suddenly, he looked more attractive tidying up around the house. I even started to find it charming when he would incessantly remind me to take off my shoes at the front door.
For the first time, I got what my therapist had been saying for years: In making time to jump each other’s bones, Jason and I were also taking time to connect.
I didn’t get pregnant that month, but sex helped me feel seen and taken care of in a way I didn’t even know I needed. We still don’t know if we want more children, but I do know the act of potentially making them is something I will no longer let slide.
Jenny Mollen has two sons, is married to the actor Jason Biggs, and has an avid Instagram following on @jennymollen.
This article originally appeared in Parents magazine's February 2020 issue as “Sex and the City as Parents.”