Don’t Schedule Sex, Schedule Quality Time
Some of the most popular sex advice out there right now is to schedule sex.
You’ve probably seen a number of relationship coaches and dating experts talk about how necessary it is for today’s modern couple to carve out designated time in their busy lives for sex.
The thought behind scheduling sex is that we’re all so over-scheduled that we won’t make time for an activity unless we put it in our calendar.
Couples are being urged to commit to “sex dates” with each other every 1-4 weeks, and actually follow through by being intimate at the agreed-upon times.
As a sex therapist, I’m not a big fan of scheduling sex. I haven’t seen it work very well in my professional experience, and there are a few reasons why I’m theoretically not in favor of it.
Instead, I encourage couples to schedule time to be together.
Scheduling quality time vs scheduling sex time; sounds like six of one, a half-dozen of the other, right?
While the semantics might be close, I think there’s a huge difference in practice.
Here’s why: Scheduling sex creates pressure and expectation, while scheduling quality time creates relaxation and invitation. Scheduling sex has the potential to close us down to our partners, while scheduling quality time almost always opens us up.
This tendency to create pressure is the main reason why I don’t like the idea of scheduled sex. There’s a sense of obligation, since you already commited to have sex at that particular time. It can feel like you don’t have a choice anymore.
Here are some of the ways that scheduling sex can lead to increased pressure:
It makes you inflexible
Most couples try to squeeze their sex dates into small and unrealistic time frames, like every other Wednesday at 10:30pm. It sets partners up to be rigid and inflexible.
If a pre-scheduled 30-minute block is your only time over the course of two or three weeks to have sex, it creates a huge pressure to make those few minutes count.
It makes you feel like you “have” to do it
I’ve also seen sex dates set up a lopsided dynamic between partners around pressure. One partner gets excited about “guaranteed” sex, which makes the other partner feel even more pressure to follow through.
Let’s say Sarah and Dana are a couple who schedule sex. Sarah is expecting sex on their pre-arranged night, but Dana doesn’t actually feel like it when the time rolls around.
One of two outcomes is the result: Dana says he doesn’t want to have sex and Sarah gets extremely disappointed – perhaps even more so than had sex not been scheduled. Or Dana gives in to the pressure he feels – pressure that is already higher due to the scheduling – and has sex even though he doesn’t want to.
Both of these possibilities are terrible!
It makes you ignore your desires in the moment
Scheduling sex doesn’t allow you to tune into what you actually need in the moment, and it doesn’t give you the opportunity to ask for what you want.
Say you get sick, have had an awful day at work, or just aren’t in the mood. Or say what you really need that evening is to just take a bath together and talk about your upcoming vacation.
There’s a pressure to follow through with the plan rather than be honest about your needs and wants.
So what’s there to do instead? I believe that scheduling alone time together is a better option than scheduling sex. Scheduling quality time together means that you set aside blocks of time for you and your partner to simply be present together, talk to each other, and do whatever feels good in that moment.
If you feel like having sex, have sex! But the point is that sex is an option, not a mandate.
Why scheduling time together works better than scheduling sex:
It’s more relaxing
Scheduling time together makes most of us more open to the possibility of sex.
The simple fact is that we can’t schedule our desires. You may say that 10:30 on Wednesday night is your “designated sex time”, but there’s not a very high likelihood that you’re actually going to feel desirous at 10:30 on Wednesday.
Most of us (women especially) need time to put the stresses of the day behind us and relax with each other.
If you make creating this time to unwind together the priority, you’re more likely to desire sex during those times.
It creates quality time together
Putting an emphasis on spending time with each other is more beneficial overall.
We all have the tendency to stop making as much of an effort with our partners. It’s almost as if we forget that we’re in a relationship with this person because we enjoy spending time with them!
When you start re-prioritizing time together, your stress levels will decrease, your happiness levels will increase, and intimacy will deepen. The effects will be felt in all areas of your life – not just the bedroom!
It’s easier to schedule alone time
In my experience, couples have a hard time justifying clearing their calendars for sex. Prioritizing quality time over other commitments feel easier for most people.
I wish that our culture made it easier to prioritize sex, but many of us just aren’t there yet.
It helps you learn to be more present
Scheduling alone time puts the emphasis on tuning into what you want in the moment. You get to tell your partner, “I feel like holding hands and going for a walk. What sounds good to you?”
If you’re really struggling with making the space for intimacy, you can make a guideline that your alone time will involve touching each other in some way. But again, make sure the emphasis is on what you actually feel like doing.
So maybe one night you feel like cuddling, another evening you want an epic makeout session, and a different day you’re dying to have sex with each other.
My bottom line with all of my sex advice is always to do what works for you. If scheduling sex works in your relationship, by all means, keep scheduling sex.
But if you’re interested in alleviating pressure and creating more authentic intimacy, give scheduling time together a shot!