This is how we do it: ‘The sheep on our farm hinder our sex life more than the kids’

Rosie, 41

There is something hot about being a farmer, but working together is tricky – Brian can nitpick to a degree that doesn’t make a difference for the sheep

Two things get in the way of Brian and I having sex: parenting responsibilities and – more often than I’d care to admit – our sheep. For the last four years we have been running a sheep farm together, a huge shared responsibility. We both have kids from previous relationships, so our schedules are jam-packed. During the week my two kids are with us, so our sex life crashes to a halt. They’re under 10, so their needs are full-on. I don’t mind because my time with them is precious, and not being able to have sex with Brian 24/7 does make it more exciting when we have the house to ourselves.

The sheep negatively impact our sex life more than the kids, if I’m honest. There is something quite hot about being a farmer: the closeness to the birds and bees. But working together has proven tricky. Brian can nitpick to a degree that doesn’t make a difference for the sheep. There’s been a lot of screams and tears in the field.

It was a particularly bad argument in the barn that led us to take up couples counselling. After a row, I often seek closeness through sex, but Brian would rather talk the matter through obsessively first. If I initiate and he turns away, I feel rejected. The couples therapist suggested we work on our communication skills by using I-statements, and avoiding the word “you”. Like, “I’m feeling upset because I don’t feel heard” to express how we feel without attributing blame. It has helped a little but Brian can be quite resistant to it.

I’m trying to see the benefits of Brian’s constant desire to talk about our problems. In my first marriage, we were conflict avoidant, and sweeping things under the carpet made me very unhappy. Brian’s communicativeness means that when we do have sex, it’s more connected and open. We talk about our fantasies a lot; for example I like the idea of Brian becoming aroused in public. I love the fact that Brian and I can say anything to one another – but I sometimes wish he’d hold back a bit, when it comes to criticising my farming skills. That kind of openness is not good for our sex life.

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Brian, 49

Rosie is open to experimenting and comfortable with her own sexuality – she’s expressed all her fantasies to me

If I had to melt our intimate life down into a single word, I would say “good”, but it’s always more complicated than that. My son is 18 and just started university, so I spend a lot of time checking in on him, and Rosie’s kids are here every other week. It’s a bit like going back in time for me, to when my son was their age. It can be tricky to be intimate when the children are here as they require a lot of patience, but it’s a joyful experience, too.

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In my first marriage, sex was completely different. Rosie is open to experimenting and comfortable with her own sexuality in a way my first wife was not. She’s expressed all her fantasies to me. I initiate more than Rosie but I never feel I am bothering her. Our general routine is to begin with foreplay. Rosie likes her nipples being touched. When we are ready we start off spooning, then vary positions.

The fact we work together is the biggest disrupter of whether one of us is in the mood – I can be quite strict about how I want things done. I was a farmer before Rosie and have become accustomed to a certain standard. Out in the field, I leave the role of husband and lover and enter the role of work dictator. She hates it.

When we have a disagreement, I’m not interested in sex. I can’t get aroused when I’m overwhelmed emotionally, whereas Rosie chooses those moments to initiate. I think she wants to be reassured that everything is OK. She looks to resolve fights more quickly than me, but I am still in the argument in my mind. I am passionate about my work and I think Rosie finds that very attractive, but I wonder if she views sex as a cure. She seeks to soften my edge and de-escalate the situation. But this isn’t where the magic is. For me, the magic is in the more emotionally connected sex that starts when we’re in a good place, not when we’re in a fight.

The Guardian