Recently I've had the marvelous experience of seeing my children attempt to decipher the English language, from sight words to phonics and everything in between. The struggle is real and tangible, but also so worth it to witness the development of their brains in such complex yet systematic and elegant ways. I try to appreciate those moments, because a moment later they do the stupidest shit on the fucking planet—for example, take a Jedi lightsaber, point it up my nose, and, without any reservations, pull the trigger, all the while laughing—and all that appreciation for our maker goes right out the window.
I often ask myself, how can two men raising twin boys continue the romance we had prior to having kids, and still keep sexual relations at the top of the list? Ha. Don't make me laugh. Priorities change. Or maybe you change? Fuck, something changes, I assure you. But my goal has always been to achieve emotional and sexual wellness for myself and my partner, while still keeping our children top priority.
When we talk about wellness, we mean the quality or state of being healthy in body and mind, especially as the result of deliberate effort. If you really focus on that definition, there is one word that stands out amongst all the rest: effort. Maintaining wellness involves effort, and not only yours, but also your partner's and your kids'. Without that combined energy, not only will your family not reach its true potential, but also your own emotional and sexual wellness will suffer. So, what's the key to success, you ask?
It is critical to have full-disclosure discussions on what you want out of life, specifically as it pertains to emotional and sexual wellness. Start with personal reflection and then move to discourse with every member of the family. Clearly, the discussion points will differ in conversations that are geared toward your two-year-old versus your partner or others in the household, but it's the simple act of disclosure and positivity that's key. I am not saying that it's always going to go your way or that it's your decision, or else. Life's a give and take, but the truest self-analysis allows you to create an evenly dispersed reality with the goal of fruitful and positive relationships. Remember: without being self-critical and diving deeper into the root of the cause, resolution or improvement will never be reached.
For instance, after five years of rearing our children, I finally decided that it was time to have a heart-to-heart with my partner, Andy. I told him that I needed some "me" time, and that I wanted to expand my practice to LA. This was not only strategic for my brand, Bespoke Surgical, but would also give me time to myself to reflect on what we—Andy and I—were actually creating: our family. Do I love to leave the kids? Hell no. Do I think it's important for my soul to be renewed? Totally. One week a month away allows me the other three weeks of living together to truly be in it one hundred percent. Sometimes in Andy as well, but maybe that's TMI.
We are all such busy people, including our children! Raising them in New York can mean that every second of every day is accounted for. Understanding that there are only 24 hours in a day, the key is to carve out some dedicated family time. It's totally not easy and let me tell you, I get pulled in many, many directions all day, specifically when I come home. But we set rules and boundaries to facilitate success. Andy understands my passion for the kids, especially since I am away all day, and provides me with this time. And sometimes, we plan time alone with each child. This has been beyond successful for meeting each of our rambunctious children's differing needs.
Once the kids are tucked into bed, it can be you and your partner's time to catch up on any daily events, but more importantly, really hone in on the emotional side of things—positive and negative. This allows for appropriate decision making with the hopes of improved transformations. Also, this should lead to sexual topics on all things play and exploration. But let's leave the ass play discussion to the bottom. Oh, and one more thing: it's hard work and sometimes you may feel like you are walking a tightrope, but the fact remains—the clients I see that have successful relationships have one thing and one thing only in common: communication.
I feel as if this is the most important time for emotional wellness and is most often forgotten or ignored. Time to yourself is essential for fostering positive parenting and relationships. Now, you can say that all day at work and during your commute, you are, in essence, "alone," but your mind is preoccupied during those hours and there's no way to truly focus on you as an individual to restore your soul. The work hard/play hard scenario holds so true in delineating the balance and I implore you to carve out some "me" time, engaging in the things that bring or restore pleasure into your life. It will translate to improving your relationships across all disciplines. Some may only need a short time to themselves, while others will need more time to recharge. Am I crazy for needing four days a month away? Actually, don't answer that. At least there's FaceTime!
Lastly, without the above frank discussions, appropriate time management involving family, and partner and "me" time, any intimacy and sexual exploration will result in a limp dick. Now doesn't that suck (and not in a good way)? With all seriousness, intimacy in all forms and all of its complexities is such an important part of relationships and leads to obtaining full and complete emotional success. This clearly translates to improved relationships, let alone the most important one that we have formed: our family.
Some straight-forward questioning: are you getting what you sexually desire? Is your partner? Can you or your partner provide what is desired and, if not, who will and what are the rules of engagement (together, group play, or open the world)? Or do you, like me, want to just shut the fuck up and watch TV on the couch? That response is totally acceptable as long as everyone is in full agreement. The balance may never be truly 50/50, but just like the give and take with all other family rearing, this needs to be approached in a similar fashion. The exploration needs to be consensual, even if it's not your partner who is beside (or on top or beneath) you. And constant psychosocial and medical risk assessment is imperative to making sure everyone plays by the rules and the rules are deemed safe.
I know we covered lots of topics on the emotional and sexual identity as it pertains to you, your partner or partners, and the entire family. And I hope that you are not fleeing to Canada, like Julianne Moore in The Hours. But the reality is that the effort mentioned and the time commitment for both emotional connectivity and intimacy, when it comes to one's identity, is sometimes dismissed and ignored. Yet it is crucial to not only the success of your adult relationship, but also critical to the foundation of amazing parenting. And we as gay parents have given tremendous thought and/or financial resources in order to be afforded this luxury of having children—and we owe this retrospection to the integrity of its success. Go forth and be critical—most importantly of yourself.