My name is Stephanie Mitelman, and I am a certified sexuality educator. In this blog I will be addressing readers’ questions on sexuality, health, and relationships. Please don’t be shy to send me a question you have! I will be happy to answer one every month!
My daughter is upset with me that I am dating again. She is a teen and doesn’t understand why I want to date. What can I tell her?
Adult Intimacy- What Kids Sometimes Do Not Understand
In today’s day and age, many families are not traditional. The “modern” family often includes adjustments and losses due to death or divorce, and additions of new partners and friends. For many involved, these changes are scary and even unwanted. Children of all ages, whether young or old question how losses and additions will affect them. And they have every right to ask these questions.
One question in particular though often comes up; why does a parent need to date or remarry? I think most may not stop to think about the reasons why we date and want to be married. But for those who face the reality of change in this domain, it is particularly important to help children understand why adults seek out this companionship and what that really means for them.
While it is often understood and very much celebrated when young people date and eventually marry, the same truths seem to be overlooked when it comes to older adults starting anew. Many children may watch their parents when younger eat meals together, and go to sleep together, and see this as entirely normal. Yet when a new person is introduced, the questions get raised about these very same actions once taken for granted and seen as typical.
As a society, we often do not address the importance of intimacy, and how partners play a role in each others’ lives. We assume a lot is learned an understood by modelling, but in the case of starting over, it is a situation that usually calls for more explicit explanations.
Adults needs for companionship do not change when they start over. They remain constant, even as parents, and may in fact increase after certain life experiences. What kids may not understand is why adults have these needs, and why adult intimacy is so important. So here are a few reasons of importance that may help to bridge the gap in this conversation.
All people need companions. Often partners are our best friends. This is even more true for men, who tend to have less friends that they spend time with than women. Most kids can relate to this and have best friends. Kids need to know that partners are our best friends when we get older.
All people need to feel secure. It is a basic human drive. We achieve this in many different ways. But for adults, the ability to have a partner, who looks out for you and cares for you is one of those ways.
Day to Day Living
Day to day living is hard. It is stressful on most people. To know that you have somewhere to go at the end of the day with the comfort of someone’s arms, helps temper some of the bumps of daily life.
Parenting is a Two Person Job
There are many single parent families, that should be applauded. But the reality is that with work, pick ups and drops offs, cooking, cleaning, shopping and the other one hundred errands that need to get done in a day… parenting is really a two person job or more! In the case of a single parent due to death or divorce, all the responsibility falls to one person to complete all the tasks that were previously for two. Having a partner to “tag team” with is not only helpful, but sometimes essential.
Intimacy and Sexuality
People have needs. This is incredibly difficult for parents to explain, and even harder for children to understand. The great majority of adults desire a healthy outlet for their sexuality, and feel safe and secure when engaged in intimate expressions with their partner. Children need to understand that holding hands, kissing, hugging and waking up next to your partner are all natural behaviours for adults, and the ones that help keep couples bonded together.
Providing for a family is hard. Most people would agree. Partners are often teams.
Not only do we rely on each other for emotional support, but we are often needed for our financial capabilities and contributions too.
Life can unpredictable. People fall ill. People lose their jobs. Businesses close. Seasons are slow. With such unpredictability, it becomes even harder to fly solo. And sometimes we need to lean on our partners, and pool the resources.
Partners are the social plus one for each other. Whether it is a work event, a charity, or just a dinner party, it feels nice to experience such events with a partner. Most people feel awkward attending events alone. Whether it’s for eating, socializing or dancing, most people prefer their partner by their side.
Many people who are married tend to overlook the privilege of marriage itself.
Being married offers a certain amount of status in society, certainly more than being single or divorced.
And this is especially true for women, despite the added pressure this double standard continues to pose.
There are countless privileges for couples who are married over couples who are not. The short list includes tax benefits, insurance benefits, and property rights. Partners who are married are also afforded decision making power in certain situations, where partners not joined by law are not, whether they are the best person to make those decisions or not.
Research shows that men who are married, or in long term committed relationships tend to have healthier lives and live longer! While healthy relationships are a positive factor for both men and women, it is marriage that proves healthiest for men.
Couples who have the privilege of living under the same roof also offer protection to one another. This can be especially important where there are children involved. Protection can also be about taking care of your partner in other ways. Helping each other eat right, get exercise and enough sleep is often benefitted by loving support. And should one partner become ill, short or long term, a strong partnership offers help they may need.
Couples who are in love, generally like to be together. It makes them feel happy. While this is not a concept questioned in first early marriages, it often is for later ones. Children generally want their parents to be happy, and should know that happy men and women make for happier parents, but may miss the link between intimacy and happiness it brings to one’s life.
In short, being in love means a boost to your self-esteem, a sense of belonging, and a rush of feel good chemicals throughout the body. This combination can help boost the moral of an entire family if welcomed with openness.
Therapists often talk about modelling healthy intimate behaviour for children. And this is something we all should probably do more of. But talking about what they are seeing is equally as important. Children of all ages need to understand the nature of intimacy, and the importance that this plays in our lives as adults. They need to know that spouses of all forms are best friends, confidants, helpmates, financial partners, social partners, and the primary supporter for one another. They also need to know that partners are lovers, and the “go to” person in times of good and bad. And that ultimately intimacy in a parent’s life is something that has the potential to ripple positively throughout a whole family. Including their lives.