Quarantined with kids and in-laws: how are couples getting intimate?
Late-night rendezvous, storage rooms and even a tent
On paper, social distancing sounded like a dream for couples. Locked in the house, working from home and nowhere to go. You’d think condoms would be sold out by now. But intimacy in lockdown hasn’t been easy with joint families and in-laws under the same roof, or kids running around your one-bedroom flats.
It’s hard getting into the mood when you know you mother-in-law is in the next room making besan ladoos. Not just because they’re delicious, but what if she hears you?
Prior to lockdown, couples still managed to get those stolen moments between tuition class drop-offs, weekend getaways and kitty parties at Sunita’s house that kept the in-laws occupied and out of the house.
“From my experience, couples living in a joint family setup already had less sex than couples living alone. There’s a feeling of always being watched, being on call for some task or the other. The shame of choosing to have sex versus doing everyone’s laundry weighs on a lot of women I’ve spoken to,” says Delhi-based relationship therapist Nishita Khanna.
Funnily, when it comes down to having children to carry on the glorious family name, people are more than happy to give a couple time and space. Sex for reproduction comes sanskaar-sanctioned, but sex for pleasure? Not very high on the priority list.
Khanna would advise her clients to take time out of the week to spend on their own alone in the room, organise date nights and staycations, or take long drives and weekend trips away from the family. Lockdown’s thrown her usual suggestions out of the realm of possibility.
“The best method would be to set some loose rules at home for everyone getting in some private time to keep the peace, but that’s easier said than done. People have had to get creative. Creating intimacy in lockdown is really unprecedented.”
Unless there’s an unspoken understanding regarding privacy in the household, when you’re living in a joint family or even have kids, alone time for a couple means those few hours when you’re lying exhausted in bed at night after a long day of chores and work.
Real-life couples on how they’ve created intimacy in lockdown
Making use of the ‘multi-purpose’ room
Tejaswi Shekhawat tried to talk to her friends about her diminishing sex life in lockdown after her in-laws moved in. “Everyone’s standard responses were ‘how do you even have time for sex?’ and ‘how can you be thinking about sex right now?’ But, why shouldn’t I be? This is the most time I’ve spent with my husband in the last few months.”
Her in-laws had flown in to celebrate their son’s birthday when the lockdown was announced. The couple gave up the bedroom and moved into the living room of their one-bedroom Mumbai flat, their sex life taking a massive nosedive that first couple of weeks. But Shekhawat said they’ve found their way around it.
Having sex in the living room was too scary a thought for them. And with only one bathroom in the house, what if one of the parents had a late-night call from nature?
“We have the little ‘laundry room’ that’s now a multi-purpose room. It’s basically the size of a cupboard, where we keep the washing machine, some suitcases and rations. That’s been our spot at night,” she adds. They tracked their parent’s schedule and sleep timings like a hunter watches its prey.
“I don’t think we put this much thought and calculation into major life decisions,” she laughs. “Midnight to 3 am is the new happy hour.”
The bedroom concerts
The go-to strategy for many people looking for intimacy in lockdown is turning on some tunes as a cover. Shaggy singing “Mr Lover Lover” was too obvious for Rachel D’Souza and her husband, they’ve had to ‘adjust’ to some more mellow tunes to get things going.
“Our sexy time playlist had to be updated to more neutral instrumental tracks to not make things too obvious. I’m pretty sure his parents know that we have sex, we’re married after all, but we don’t want to rub it in their face either.”
D’Souza and her husband wouldn’t even talk about having sex initially. There were too many anxieties and stresses keeping their mind distracted when lockdown started. As things settled and a new routine took place, life gained a new sense of normal.
They now have a full plan – making it known that sometimes after lunch, “Jerry* and I go to the room to finish off any pending work and classical music helps us concentrate. We planted that seed, let it sit for a few days. And it seems to be working. But, who knows. Parents probably had to deal with similar situations when they were younger.”
D’Souza just never imagined intimacy in lockdown would mean having sex to a soundtrack of Abida Parveen and Zakir Hussain.
There’s more than one use of a kid’s plaything
Lockdown has taken away the spontaneity of sex for some couples. For the ones with kids, planning has always been part of the deal. Now, it’s even more meticulous.
“We can’t just go at it on a whim,” says Nikita Chatterjee*. With her brother-in-law moving into one room and her son into their’s, having sex became an obstacle course for the couple.
“We can’t have sex in Karan’s** toy room or Rahul’s* work room because he (Rahul) gets too conscious about his brother being right next door.”
They either wait till he goes off to sleep or get busy in a small tent they set up in their bedroom for their son – since he sleeps with them in their bed. Of course, after making sure he’s deep in sleep before.
Going beyond just physical intimacy
Many members of our private women-only Facebook group, Tweak Connect, rightly noted that intimacy and romance go far beyond just the physical act. Sex is great, and all, but a wham-bam-thank you ma’am only takes you so far.
“It’s all about how you express your love. Hugging, kissing, talking in bed, lying on each other, spending some time in the balcony or terrace,” says Kirti Singh.
Payal Mohan adds, “It is in a look, a touch, helping with household work, even just making a cup of tea. It all adds up.”
When all else fails, Vibha Kumar points out the one place few could disturb you – “Shower.” You know, that cheesy line ‘save water and shower together’?
All things considered, we Indians always have a jugaad for everything. Why should sex be any different, lockdown or no lockdown? We’re a >1bn population of creative thinkers when it comes to it.
*Name changed upon contributor’s request for anonymity
**Name changed to protect the identity of a minor.