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Pulling the Shades

If that concept is difficult to handle, then imagine the awkwardness of the kids discovering that their parents might be interested in some bedroom practices that aren’t exactly vanilla.

As 50 Shades of Grey has become a national sensation, engaging some couples in some of their darker romantic fantasies, married with children couples face several challenges. How do they approach some of these new ideas in a safe, sane and consensual fashion? And how can they do it while still being true to their roles as responsible parents?

Here’s how.

Separate fiction from fact. Many of the practices revealed in 50 Shades of Grey may seem captivating in the context of a fictional story but can be downright dangerous to couples who want to explore them. They involve core relationship issues such as trust, comfort, security and consent. So it’s really not a good idea to use a work of fiction as your guide. Adult websites with explicit videos also may not be a good resource as most of them were not created to educate but to excite. Books and articles by experts and scholars on the subjects in 50 Shades are the best places to start. Read up on the realities of those fantasies before you begin to experiment with your partner.

Talk. Communication is the cliché of the counseling profession. We always advise our patients to communicate openly, but if it were that easy an instruction to follow, we probably wouldn’t have a practice. It’s not enough to be able to talk openly. You have to be able to listen without judgment. Upon hearing your partner express an interest in something that’s out of your comfort zone, it’s generally not good to react with, “That’s insane! You’re a freak!” It’s probably better to say, “I appreciate the attraction you have to that idea but it’s probably out of my comfort zone to actually try.” If you react judgmentally when your partner is opening up, all you are doing is conditioning your partner to keep things from you. Lying is a bad practice in relationships. However, sometimes we condition our partners to lie to us because we punish them whenever they speak a truth that is unpleasant to us.

Proceed slowly. Exploring fantasies can be a wonderful time for couples, but remember that you are exploring. If you were exploring a cave or scuba diving, you likely would proceed cautiously for fear of unknown dangers. Exploring fantasies should be treated the same way. It is better to leave each other wanting more than overdoing it out of the gate.

As for the kids, here are some ideas to help you navigate that touchy terrain at home:

Privacy. If you’re like most parents, there are times when the kids are home alone. If you think that they don’t sometimes take the opportunity to look in places you think are private, you’re likely to be disappointed. First, protect your computer. Most browsers have a “private browsing” option. This function does not track the sites you visit. Use it regularly and you’ll never have to worry about your kids finding that article about adult topics on your computer. Also, in case you order some instructional books from Amazon or maybe some sexy ensembles from an online lingerie site, don’t have them delivered to your home. Establish a mailbox at the post office or the UPS store for those deliveries. For a few extra bucks a month, you can be assured that packages intended only for you and your spouse are only handled by you and your spouse.

Close the door. For those nontraditional practices that don’t involve a lot of noise, enact a closed-door policy. Agree with your kids to always knock on their bedroom doors before entering as long as they always knock on yours first. Locking your door enhances your privacy, but respect for their privacy will result in a higher road.

Facilitate alone time. Kids love the movies, and they love going to the movies without mom and dad along. So indulge them. Heck, send them to a double feature. Allow them to have friends as overnight guests on occasion so that you can also benefit from them spending overnights with their friends on occasion. These tactics can ensure you get the house to yourselves from time to time.

Follow these guidelines, and you should be able to walk the delicate line of being responsible to your family and adventurous with each other, enjoying the benefits of both.

Drs. Chuck and Jo-Ann Bird are relationship counselors and board certified clinical sexologists who have been practicing as a couple for nearly a decade. Read more advice from them at

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