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How I Mastered The Art Of Silent Sex

Everything's fine until it comes time to go upstairs to bed. That’s when things get a little weird for me.

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couple kissing near window at house with man taking woman's bra off
Robert Whitman/The Licensing Project
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It happens to everyone with children: Someone forgets to lock the bedroom door while you’re doing the deed and bam! … a kid walks in on you. It’s one thing when the kids are small and they miraculously believe you when you say, “Oh, Daddy and Mommy are just wrestling.”

But fast-forward to when they are teenagers and the rules of the game change when you attempt to make love with them in the house. And things get even dicier if your bedmate is someone who isn’t their dad, but a person you are dating post-divorce or as a widower.

Which is precisely where I am now. After surviving a difficult 18-month stint as my husband’s caregiver that wound up leaving me widowed, I am well on my way toward rebuilding my life. I am thrilled to be seriously involved with a great guy who is healthy in every way possible — and yes, we are sexually active. We plan on getting married and spending the rest of our lives together, so it’s important to both of us that my kids who still live at home — a 21-year-old college student and an 18-year-old high school senior — get to know him. We spend most weekends hanging out at my house as a family. We cook together, watch movies together, and his presence in our home feels comfortable and natural.

Until it comes time to go upstairs to bed. That’s when things get a little weird for me.

While we initially restricted our intimacy to weekend trips away or a convenient no-tell motel where he stayed during the early months of our relationship, we have advanced to sleepovers when my kids are home. Neither one of us is a prude, nor are we under the delusion that my kids don’t know what occurs when we close the bedroom door. Yet there is something decidedly different about having sex with your teenagers in the house versus having it in an anonymous hotel room where you won’t ever again see the people sleeping on the other side of the shared wall. We are completely mindful that in the morning we will be sitting across the breakfast table from my kids, and the last thing in the world we want is to get a sly wink and a high five.

As a result, Charlie and I have mastered what we jokingly call “silent sex,” where I muffle my moans in his shoulder or a pillow. He is acutely aware of bedspring squeaks and mindful that the sounds of our passion can’t be louder than the sounds coming out of my kids’ headphones. Wild abandon has been sacrificed in the name of pretending we are not doing what everyone knows we are doing. I have new appreciation for my old bathrobe stationed at the ready, and need it or not, we run a fan to mask the noise of what’s going down between the sheets. White noise for sex, if you will.

Why, I frequently ask myself, does having sex with the man I love in my own house feel so at odds with sound parenting? Intellectually, I know that showing my teens what a healthy and happy relationship looks like is a positive thing. Where else will they learn what love looks like if not from me? Charlie and I don’t hide our affection from them. I like that they see him hold my hand in a restaurant or pull me close for a kiss as he gets in the car to go home.

I do not think sex is something to be ashamed of or embarrassed about. It’s a natural expression of affection, and when shared with the right person — can we just say? — feels damn fine. I also am not hung up on the idea of marriage for either me or my kids, so that’s not it.

So if those are not the reasons (all low-hanging fruit in my book), why on earth is this still an issue for me? I think it’s that I worry it will make my kids uncomfortable to know their mother is having sex, and I worry that discomfort could color their relationship with Charlie forever. It may just be that every kid wants to think theirs was an immaculate conception when it comes to their mother. Or more likely, they just don’t think we should be wrestling at our ages. Yeah, that’s it.