I’m a Sex Coach, and I Swear By Scheduling Sex in Relationships

If you’ve ever been in a long-term relationship, this might sound familiar: You and your partner tumble into bed at the end of each day completely exhausted, promising yourselves you’ll have sex tomorrow. Then that tomorrow-sex rarely comes, pun fully intended.

As a certified sex coach and sexologist, I often hear about how difficult it is to make time for intimacy while leading hectic lives. It’s why I swear by scheduling sex in relationships. This is exactly what it sounds like: sitting down with your partner and marking sex dates into your calendar.

Many of my colleagues in the sexual health space and I call this “maintenance sex,” which…doesn’t sound sexy, I know. But for some people, scheduling sex is critical for maintaining a healthy relationship, hence the moniker.

“It definitely feels like we’re closer now than when we’d wait for ‘the mood’ to just hit us. Without it being scheduled, we were like two ships passing in the dead of night,” Melissa B., 28, who’s been with her husband for eight years and scheduling sex for just over a year, tells SELF. “Either I wasn’t feeling it, he was working late, or we honestly [were] just too exhausted.”

Why I’m a fan of scheduling sex

Even though sex is typically so, so vital for relationship happiness, people often let it fall by the wayside in long-term couplehood. Scheduling sex is an amazing way for partners to keep intimacy and satisfaction alive.

If sex feeds your bond, it isn’t just some extra fluff you should try to work into your day if you have time. When it’s part of the glue holding you together, it deserves some respect and dedication. But there’s this very pervasive and annoying myth that sex should just happen. For a lot of people, sex in long-term relationships generally doesn’t work that way. And that’s fine!

“[Scheduling sex] has helped our sex life. Having to plan it into our lives gave us both a bit of a reality check that we need to make the time,” Brook W., 24, who’s been with her partner for eight years and scheduling sex for the last nine months, tells SELF.

How to actually schedule sex

1. Figure out a day and time that works for both of you.

It sounds obvious, but you can’t schedule sex without this bit. I recommend that couples sit down together and carve out a time that works, whether it’s a standing sex date or something you need to decide anew each week. It feels like a more intentional step towards intimacy than scheduling via text and the like. Technology is great, but there’s really nothing like IRL face time.

Don’t just think about when logistically makes sense; also think about when you might feel most emotionally and mentally engaged or turned on.

“I suggested scheduling sex because my partner preferred late night sex and I’m such an early bird, and both our lives were pretty packed. We started scheduling late-afternoon and early-evening sex when we both had good energy,” August M., 40, who’s in a four-year relationship and has been scheduling sex for three years, tells SELF.

2. Actually put it in your calendar.

When you write your scheduled sex down, you’re granting it the same weight you’d give any other important appointment. So, be sure it’s on both of your calendars. Give it a designated color, even. I suggest hot pink or red. You can guess why.

“We noticed that the only day of the week that seemed to allow us to both have free time was Tuesday afternoons. We both [take] late and long lunches that day, allowing us to slip back to our apartment for one-on-one time,” Melissa says. “It’s something in my schedule that I protect at all costs. I mean, even my admin at the office knows not to schedule any meetings on Tuesday afternoons. I just always have a block on my schedule for that chunk of time.”

3. Be flexible about what kinds of intimacy are involved.

Having a sex schedule does not mean you need to have intercourse every time (or ever). This isn’t really about sex. It’s about intimacy. Many—but not all—couples often do experience this through sex, while others don’t.

The point is scheduling time to engage in whatever activities make you feel more closely connected. Perhaps it’s a make-out session. Maybe one week it’s oral sex and the next you spend time playing with your partner’s hair and talking about your fantasies.

This level of flexibility respects the fact that life happens. For example, I don’t expect you to toss aside a fight simply because sex is on the schedule. This flexibility also acknowledges that some people experience a more responsive form of desire and really only become aroused after seduction and sexual touching have begun. Scheduled sex is not about mandating a specific command performance, but creating a space where sex can happen if it’s right for you both at that time.

So, talk about what scheduling sex really encompasses. Be willing to compromise so both of you are satisfied. What’s most important is setting aside time for you two to be together and focus on your relationship.

4. Do your best to stick with the schedule.

One of the biggest issues couples have with this process is not following through. It’s really up to the two of you to decide how committed you are to this schedule based on everything else going on in your lives.

I often have clients who note there is a sense of “pressure” when they first start a sex schedule, which can scare them away. For some people, that drops off once they get used to it. But it may also take some playing around to land on a version of scheduling sex that works for you.

“We tried putting sex on the calendar for Saturday mornings, and it was so exhausting,” Britt K., 28, who’s been with her partner for four years, tells SELF. “I would feel so needy and terrible because Saturday would come and she wasn’t into it. That isn’t fun.” Instead, Britt and her partner decided to designate Saturday as their standing weekly date, which is a more natural way for them to have opportunities to connect physically. “It’s just us, but no one feels pressure,” she says. “So far, it’s been good.”

5. Lean into the anticipation.

Look, I get that “scheduled” can sound synonymous with “so dull I want to cry.” It’s not. While this tactic won’t work in every relationship, scheduled sex creates anticipatory excitement for some people. It sets the sex date into your routine along with the opportunity to explore new sexual terrain.

“[Scheduling sex] might seem boring, but scheduling a date, party, or vacation doesn’t make it less fun,” August says. “Doing so can add to the enjoyment because you can put more thought into it and benefit from that spicy anticipation. On top of all of that, occasional spontaneous sex when you typically schedule it becomes even more exciting because it’s so novel.”

Long-lasting sexual excitement is built on the unknown, the new, and the exploration of fantasy. Capitalize on that here. You might think of a new intriguing sex position or pick up some cute new underwear for the occasion. You can even text your partner something like, “I can’t wait for our Monday night date. I bought something for us to try.” Then, when your partner gets home, they get to meet your new vibrator, set of anal beads, or whatever else has piqued your interest.

With all of the above said, if scheduling sex doesn’t work for you, don’t get down on yourself. It doesn’t automatically mean your relationship is over or in trouble. It might just not be your jam. This advice can still serve as a blueprint for becoming closer: Sit down. Communicate. And draw up a plan for quality time that might work better for you both.

Gigi Engle is a certified sex coach, sexologist, educator, and writer living in Chicago. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram @GigiEngle.

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