It’s not difficult to find article after article on the internet about how over-scheduling our lives causes stress, anxiety, fatigue, and the need for cheese and more wine. So it might come as a surprise if I told you that I attribute “scheduling” with helping my marriage through a tough time. I’m not talking about scheduling couples therapy or a romantic vacation. I’m talking about scheduling…sex.
I first heard about the concept of scheduled sex from a girlfriend of mine. (Side note: this is why girls’ nights are so important. You learn things. And wine and cheese are almost always available.) Over dinner one night, I confided in my friend that my husband and I were having a rough time. We were in the throes of raising a 2.5 year old and a six-month-old. I was battling postpartum depression. He was working like a dog. Despite our best efforts, we had become disconnected and our sex life was virtually nonexistent. Almost daily, we had an interaction that went something like this:
Him: *attempts to hug me, kiss me, slap me on the bootie*
My husband would ask for sex (sometimes subtly, sometimes using the actual words “can we have sex?”). I would say no. He would feel frustrated and hurt, I would feel guilty, inadequate, and tired. Play that on repeat for a few months and you’ve got yourself a situation.
Then the concept of scheduled sex entered the scene. I’ll admit it sounds unromantic and somewhat cold. My husband visibly recoiled when I suggested the idea. I believe his exact words were something like, “couples who have to schedule sex are one step away from divorce.” Ouch. (Did I mention this was an emotionally charged time for us?)
But then I helped him do the math. Before we started a schedule, we had sex MAYBE once a week. The other six days were spent with him making advances and me denying said advances. “What if,” I asked, “I could guarantee you sex two times a week?” He fell silent. Sort of hard to say no to that, especially considering the desert he was living in. He agreed somewhat reluctantly, and we picked our two days. We would have sex every Wednesday and every Saturday.
That was six months ago. Aside from a few business trips and one
man cold illness, we have stuck with the schedule. Here’s what it has done for our relationship (from my point of view): scheduled sex has taken the guesswork away. We are on the same page. We joke more. I’m not suspicious of every hug or flirtation. He doesn’t try to capitalize on my every good mood. I know when sex is coming. There are some days when I still have to psych myself up for it, but I know it’s coming. If my husband asks for sex on an “off” day, I can say no without feeling guilty. Gradually, the resentment that had seeped into our relationship began to recede. My husband’s needs are being met. My needs are being met. Scheduled sex broke a destructive cycle for us.
I don’t imagine there are many people who enter into a relationship thinking that someday, they’d really like to resort to scheduled sex as a way to improve intimacy with their partner. I certainly didn’t. But if there’s one thing I’ve learned about marriage/motherhood/life, it’s that very few things go like I think they will. For now, scheduled sex works for my husband and me. I look forward to the day that we will ditch the schedule and have a spontaneous, exciting sex life again. I believe that being intentional about intimacy now will help us arrive there sooner.