Scheduling sex is a tricky issue. ￂﾠI do recommend this to couples struggling with mismatched libidos (read: almost all of them, after the honeymoon phase), but I myself have never done it in my own marriage, at least not explicitly. ￂﾠMany happy couples with very different sex drives get along fine without scheduling sex, and many unhappy couples schedule sex and remain unhappy. ￂﾠ There are many ways to schedule sex, and many couples try one type of scheduling, get frustrated, and conclude that it doesn't work at all.ￂﾠHere areￂﾠsome of the problems withￂﾠscheduling sex:
1. It isn't romantic.
Just because I'm a couples counselor doesn't mean I'mￂﾠa Pollyanna. ￂﾠI know scheduling sex, particularly for unhappy couples, is about as romantic as scheduling a root canal. ￂﾠBut worse, because root canals are one and done, not every Saturday for the rest of your life.
2. What if you can't agree on how often to schedule it?
You know what the secret problem with compromises is? ￂﾠInstead of both people ending up happy, neither person ends up happy. ￂﾠThis is often the resultￂﾠwhen a man who wants to have sex three times a week and a woman who wants to have sex basically never compromise on one time a week.
3. Yeah it's scheduled, but the person who wants it more still has to push for it and the person who doesn't want it still pretends it's not on the calendar.
Same pursuer/distancer pattern, different arena.
4. The person who's having sex more than s/he wants to feels increasingly resentful and frustrated.
Women who have tried scheduling sex, in the absence of feeling empathy and love more generally from their partners, can end up feeling like hookers. ￂﾠAdditionally, since "love and affection outside of sex" (or whatever they want from their partners) isn't on the calendar, they feel like the relationship is a one way street.
5. The person with the higher sex drive feels pathetic, like a dog being thrown a bone.
Men commonly say to me, "If she needs to schedule me in like a chore, I can find plenty of women who are happyￂﾠthat their husband wants to have sex with them." ￂﾠThis anger comes from deep sadness and insecurity over feeling completely unwanted and like a burden to their wives.
So, if these are all of the problems with scheduling sex, why do I still recommend it? ￂﾠThe answer is that scheduling sex can look very different for different people. ￂﾠHere are the types of couples that tend to thrive with this approach:
1. Practical people with limited time.
Yes, there are differences in these couples' sex drives, but overall they both still want to be having sex. ￂﾠAnd they just can't fit in the time without effort, because they have small kids, or crazy work hours, or anything else. ￂﾠThese people often look forward to a set-aside time for sex.
2. People whoￂﾠare collaborative in other aspects of their marriage.
If a couple is overall feeling connected and close, but one partner just always avoid sex due to a lower sex drive, scheduling sex can feel like a team-oriented approach to getting sex back on the radar. ￂﾠIf you take a team approach to your marriage, scheduling sex can work for you.
3.ￂﾠCouples where the lower sex drive partner is a Highly Sensitive Person who likes to prepare him or herself for what's coming.
Scheduling sex can ensure that this lower sex drive partner knows what's coming and can prepare herself (or himself) and have the best chance of getting into the mood.
4. Couples whoￂﾠschedule things for the lower sex drive partner, too.
For example, if the lower sex drive partner likes date nights, then there is a date night every Friday. ￂﾠThen sex every Saturday seems a lot more palatable.
5. Couples where the higher sex drive partner is appreciative of the scheduling.
When scheduling sex is necessary, most often one person could take or leave sex entirely, for many reasons, including marital dissatisfaction, low hormones, monotogamy, poor body image, sexual side effects from medications, or anything else. ￂﾠIf theￂﾠhigher sex drive partner openly acknowledges (via empathy) that it's tough for the lower sex drive partner to have sex at all, rather than seeming disappointed with the need for scheduling, then scheduling sex goes a lot better.
6. Couples where the lower sex drive is thought of as the issue, rather than the marital dissatisfaction.
For example, when I am nursing, I have a very low sex drive, like many women. ￂﾠThere are hormonal and evolutionary reasons for this- for child spacing. ￂﾠOther people have low sex drives due to depression, or low testosterone, or aging, or anything else. ￂﾠIf the low sex drive itself is an issue, that can be seen discretely, then scheduling sex can be seen by the couple as a practical way to address the other partner's needs. ￂﾠHowever, if one partner feels that his/her low sex drive is due primarily to unhappiness in the marriage, scheduling sex rarely goes well.
Hereￂﾠare a couple of ways to help make scheduling sex go better for you and your partner.
1. Start viewing one partner'sￂﾠlow sex drive as the issue, separate from the marital issues, or else shelve sex entirely.
If you have someone with a reasonably high sex drive that just isn't having sex with you because she's so angry and bitter, thenￂﾠcounseling is needed to deal with the deeper problems. ￂﾠHowever, many people can, withￂﾠsome effort, start seeing the sex drive issues as distinct from the marital issues. ￂﾠThere can be two issues: resentment in the marriage, and, separately, low sex drive. ￂﾠLow sex drive can actually be increased through regular sex. ￂﾠResentment in the marriage can be helped via counseling. ￂﾠIf you try couples counseling, and, in parallel, try to increase your frequency of sex, this can work well and you feel like you're attacking the issues on two fronts simultaneously.
2. Implicitly schedule sex, versus explicitly.
Knowing "Friday is the day for sex even if I'm exhausted/the kids were up all night/I have a headache" doesn't work for me or for many people. ￂﾠInstead, try something like, "If I wake up before you and the kids on any given weekday, I will initiate sex with you" or "Any naptime that the kids are all asleep at once is game time" or "Weekends are our time." ￂﾠMaking the window wider may actually increase the number of times you have sex because it's not so much pressure. ￂﾠThis only works if the low-sex-drive partner is fully committed to reframing in this way, and doesn't try to wiggle out of everￂﾠhaving sex.
3. Let the low sex drive partner initiate sex 1-2 times a week on his/her schedule.
This is a schedule-bound variation of my suggestion hereￂﾠto have the low sex drive partner always initiate. ￂﾠThis way, there is more spontaneity, and the low sex drive partner can get theￂﾠego boost of seeing how happy and surprised her partner will be when she initiates sex, rather than seeing him sulk and complain when she is less than enthused about the weekly date.
4. Schedule more things for the marriage, too.
Ifￂﾠyou're going to counseling once a week, having sex once a week, having date night once a week, and having an emotional check-in (30 min conversation once a week about how you each feel about the relationship) once a week, you will really feel like you're working hard on the marriage in all possible directions. ￂﾠYou will also feel less like, "I'm having sex that I don't want and what the hell is my partner doing?"
5. Have an open conversation about how sex could be more excited or pleasurable for the low sex drive partner, and actually do what the person says.
If your wife wants you to take out the trash, give her a back rub, and not talk dirty during sex, then do these things. ￂﾠThe main problem with this is that the low sex drive partner often is too shy to suggest any of this. So, if you're the low sex drive partner, write your partner an email titled, "I would like our scheduled sex more if...."
6. Start a freebie system.
Freebies go both ways. ￂﾠIf you're the high sex drive partner, say, "Hey, if you're not feeling it this week, I'll give you a free pass to not have sex with me." ￂﾠIf you're the low sex drive partner, add in some extra times over a month. ￂﾠBoth people are thereby showing that they are committed to their partner's happiness, not just to the schedule.
7. If you're the higher-sex-drive partner, start being more objective.
Even if your wife says she won't sleep with you because she's angry with you, it's also probable that she just has a lower sex drive than you. ￂﾠAnd if she is openly saying she's tired, has no sex drive, or has limited desire after kids/when nursing/when pregnant, take her at her word. ￂﾠHer low sex drive doesn't mean you're not attractive. ￂﾠIf you can emotionally detach more from your partner's low sex drive, you can be more empathic and loving, which will ironically get you more sex.
Share with your partners! ￂﾠAnd till we meet again, I remain, The Blogapist Who Says, For Some People, Outlook Reminders Are Just Not Gonna Cut It.