Want to have more sex? You should try scheduling it. Really! I was in your shoes two years ago, but I was so desperate for more sex—and the prospect of penciling it in—that I typed “SEX” in all caps into my husband's calendar without realizing his coworkers and boss could see it too.
Things have come a long way since then. For one, I realize there are better ways to schedule sex than what I did. And after having been married for nearly six years, in couples therapy for two, and no longer having access to his work computer (kidding!), I understand the importance of setting time aside for intimacy and the relationship overall.
In my case, this came in the form of counseling I sought out after having a mental health crisis, in the midst of a dry spell, thinking I wanted a divorce. (I did not.) It turns out nothing was actually wrong with our marriage; all we needed was consistently allotted time, sans distraction, dedicated to us as a couple. Once that clicked—and I’m sorry if anyone in my family is reading this—our dry spell was over, and we were back to having incredible sex. And often!
It can be easy to forget that relationships take work, and work, like all things, requires time, effort, and planning, especially for sex. Most things in life require preparation. Why should intimacy be any different? Without strategy, sex becomes theoretical—the “We should get together sometime!” of domesticity. If you don't sit down and schedule it, it very well might not happen.
Is it normal for couples to have less sex over time?
First of all, yes. Know that it’s completely normal for couples to have less sex over time. “The more we intertwine our lives with logistics, finances, cleaning toilets, kids, work, etc., the less space we have for sexy stuff,” Rachel Wright, MA, LMFT, licensed psychotherapist and founder of Shame Free Therapy, tells Glamour. “Unless you’re committing to prioritizing your sexual connection and pleasure, it’s easy for it to get lost in the shuffle of life.”
This also doesn't mean anything is “wrong” with your relationship. “It is completely normal for couples in long-term relationships to go for long stretches of time without physical intimacy,” says Moraya Seeger DeGeare, MA, LMFT, in-house relationship expert at Paired. “What a ‘long time’ means depends deeply on the couple: For some, that's a few weeks; for others, it’s a few years.”
Still, a sharp decline in sex is worth taking note of, and it can be tough to determine what needs to be done to get the spark back. “There are many, many reasons sex can decline in a relationship,” says sociologist and certified sexologist Sarah Melancon, PhD. “As time goes on in a relationship, we tend to have more responsibilities that take our time, energy, and focus.” She points to children, work, and caregiving as examples. Alternatively, it could be as simple as the dynamic having changed over time. “For instance,” she says, “a couple may have enjoyed concerts or other events, where sex tended to occur after, but once they have kids, there’s less time for a one-on-one outing.”
What's more, Melancon adds, after the first six months to two years of a relationship, the honeymoon-phase hormones and chemicals wear off and reality starts to set in. “Your partner has annoying habits, you always have that fight, and you may start to feel the strain of some unmet needs in the relationship,” she says. “At this point, sex can decline in the face of drama.”
That's why, in addition to working toward improving your relationship overall, experts encourage couples to schedule sex and physical intimacy—and insist that doing so isn't vanilla. “I will forever shout this from the rooftop: Being intentional is the new sexy,” Beverley Andre, LMFT, relationship coach and founder of BeHeart Counseling Services, tells Glamour. “Some people get it wrong when they think of scheduling sex as boring or a duty that needs to be done. Scheduling doesn't automatically mean you won't have steamy spur-of-the-moment, exciting, and mind-blowing quickies. If you want to ensure that you and your partner prioritize connection, fun, and sexual chemistry, schedule it.”
The benefits of scheduling sex and intimacy
The most obvious benefit of scheduling sex? The fact that it tends to lead to having more sex more often. But scheduled moments can also help you realize what else you were missing from the relationship, sexually or otherwise.
“Oftentimes someone might not really know what they want because of complex competing emotions, or just stress pulling your mind in different directions,” says DeGeare. “By scheduling sex, one partner might say, ‘Wow, I really didn’t realize how much I missed you,’ or, ‘I feel so much more relaxed and connected.’ They needed it on the schedule to slow down and connect.”
Plus, scheduling it is simply realistic. “If you look at the rest of your week, very few things are spontaneous, so why would we leave something so important in our romantic relationship up to chance?” DeGeare points out. “Scheduling says, ‘This is a priority for us,’ just like eating breakfast, a meeting, or a baseball game.” It also allows you to prep accordingly, she adds: “Everyone involved can be prepared to your comfort level. That means level of cleanliness, how much food you have eaten beforehand, and any other things that enhance pleasure.”
And before you start to worry, none of this means spontaneous sex stops being a possibility. “Just because you schedule sex does not mean you can’t follow the mood at any given moment,” asserts DeGeare. “Having a delicious connection now does not mean you can’t enjoy each other again later. It’s not pie—we don’t run out.”
You're also not scheduling a play-by-play of the session, predicting that at 7:05 p.m., this body part will touch that one. You're scheduling time for intimacy instead. “Whatever happens in that container can still be spur-of-the-moment, without the timing of it being spur-of-the-moment,” says Wright. Thus, it’s no surprise that pro-scheduling couples with whom Wright works tend to have more spontaneous sex after adopting this mindset.
How to schedule sex and intimacy
How you choose to schedule sex and intimacy depends on you and your partner. Some couples may literally need to put it in their calendars—just make sure it’s not one that connects to your work account (for that reason alone, consider a physical calendar or planner you keep in your bedroom). For others, it’s more of a conversation.
Such was and is the case for Texas teacher Marie, who started scheduling sex with her partner last year. “In the first weeks of our relationship, we were having sex every day, sometimes multiple times a day,” she said of what inspired the decision. “Then, after those fun, butterfly-filled beginnings, we got into a routine pattern of having sex once a week, and sex started to slow. We would go on dates, then get home and fall asleep.” Hence their mutual decision to schedule the act in advance.
The way they go about it is “simple,” she says. “It’s just one of us saying to the other, ‘Hey, I'd really like to have sex on this date. I've been thinking about you all week. Would that be okay with you if we got home early that day so we can make that happen?’ To ensure these plans follow through, we are extra flirty at dinner and dirty talk over our cocktails in order to build up the tension for later. As long as we have the conversation beforehand, this always works.” See, anticipation is sexy!
The same rules apply if you have children; just be sure to have child care covered for your selected time slot, or aim for when they’re at daycare or school, or on a sleepover or a playdate. (Or, if you have a night in mind, see if you can schedule some time for them to spend time at a friend's.)
Finally, try not to see the situation as black-and-white: How you define “sex” and/or intimacy is up to you. “Scheduling containers for physical intimacy are really important, whether or not that includes penetrative sex,” Wright clarifies. “I define sex as a meaningful experience of pleasure. Notice that it doesn’t say anything about body parts, penetration, gender—nothing. It’s a meaningful experience of pleasure.”
Her thoughts on what that looks like? “It can be 30 minutes a week or 30 minutes a day, depending on your schedules and lives, but at that time, you are committed to physically connecting with your partner,” Wright says. “Commit to creating and keeping the container.”
How to keep scheduled sex sexy
As for how to keep that container sexy? “Be creative and use your imagination—and think about your and your partner's fantasies and make them come true,” Andre advises. “Spice is relative to the person, so be in tune with what excites you and your partner. There are a few apps and card games that couples can use to have conversations about fantasies. If you can imagine it, it can happen.” If you're still having trouble, she suggests finding a certified sex therapist via AASECT who can help you and your partner(s) explore your sexual identities.
“The biggest thing to spice things up is to remember pretty much everything is normal, and when you stop thinking your fantasy is weird, you can really start to enjoy being playful with your partner,” DeGeare reiterates. “I encourage couples to be open to trying anything new that does not feel like it rocks the base of your relationship. For example, a couple does not need to be thinking about opening up their relationship sexually to swipe on a dating app together and imagine a fantasy experience of inviting someone into the bedroom. You are doing this together and communicating your feelings that are coming up.”
At the end of the day, it's hard to argue that open and honest communication is unappealing in any way shape or form. But if you start to feel like it is, DeGeare encourages you to focus on feeling like a priority to our partners, and that outweighs any turnoff we feel from scheduling sex in the first place. That “turnoff” feeling might never even come to fruition, though: Marie continues to assert that scheduling sex has never felt boring or ick-inducing. “Fun and spontaneity are overrated and, honestly, not sexy,” she says. “But you know what is sexy? Teasing, suspense, and a long-awaited orgasm that you've been thinking about for hours—or days.”
Penciling it in doesn't sound so bad now, does it?
Danielle Sinay is the associate beauty editor at Glamour. Follow her on Instagram @daniellesinay.
Originally Appeared on Glamour