If you enjoy sex and value connection with your partner(s), you owe it to yourself to plan at least some of your sexy time. If you are not planning time for sex and physical intimacy, you may be missing out on a lot.
When you think of sex, you probably think of spontaneity. Getting caught up in the heat of the moment. Letting loose. The opposite of planning and scheduling.
So, planning something like sex might seem counterintuitive. But it makes sense for many reasons. Rather than being restrictive, putting sex in the calendar can give you and your partner more freedom, connection, and peace of mind.
Here we will get very detailed on various aspects of this topic, so you’ll have an abundance of ideas to implement.
Signs you may benefit from scheduling sex
If any of the below sound like you, you may benefit from putting sexy time in the calendar:
- You desire sex significantly more or less than your partner. This could be due to natural differences in drive, aging, menopause, andropause, stress, work schedules, or orientation (more on mixed-orientation asexual-sexual couples near the end of this post).
- You and your partner have difficulty coordinating your schedules.
- When you and your partner have sex, it often seems like at least one of you has difficulty relaxing or fully enjoying it.
- You’re in a polysexual relationship, and one or more of your partners doesn’t have a regular, specific time set aside for them.
- You and your partner tend to enjoy sex at different times of the day–for example, one of you is a morning person, and one is an evening person.
- You and/or your partner highly value your freedom, independence, and alone time, in addition to together time.
- You live in a household with other people, where interactions can introduce unpredictability into your schedule. This can include children, parents, housemates, or roommates. Even pets, who often function as family members, require time and attention.
- Stress and relaxation often have opposite or near-opposite effects on you and your partner’s sexual desire. For example, stress makes you horny, but it puts sex at the very bottom of your partner’s priority list.
- You and your partner have different approach and avoidance tendencies during times of stress and conflict. For example: Shortly following an argument, you want more connection, while your partner desires more space and alone time.
Why scheduling sexy time is sexy
Calendaring activities and people makes them a priority
If you want to ensure that you walk 10 miles by the end of the month, what’s a good way to make it happen? Set aside the time in your calendar a few days each week, and commit to using that time for walking.
If you want to ensure that you regularly keep in touch with a few of your close friends, what’s a good way to make it happen? Pick a weekend each week or month, and commit to using that time to get together.
Same thing with physical intimacy, including sex. Pick a time in advance and commit to it.
The irony is that when it comes to planning, many people consciously prioritize a person more when they’re dating than when they’re living together. When you’re dating someone, you call or text them and plan specific times to get together. You commit to spending that time with each other. You set up a Friday night date with your new boyfriend or girlfriend, and eagerly anticipate it. It’s sexy.
But once you’re living with someone, it’s easier to calendar other people and events in your life, knowing that you’ll see your beloved during the “open” times when you’re home anyway. You may indeed see them a lot, or be near them. But that doesn’t automatically mean you’re both getting your intimacy needs met.
Planning helps to ensure that you’re both prioritizing your intimacy needs.
Scheduling sex helps to set intentions
After you’ve been with someone for a while, it can be nourishing and connective just to “hang out” and have unstructured time with no specific intentions. However, both of you might not be getting your needs met. After spending 3 hours watching TV together, you might look back and say, “Gee, I wish we could have spent just part of that time watching TV and the other part having sex.” But by then you may both be too tired or have other things you need to do.
You may spend plenty of your time together doing necessary “chop wood, carry water” activities, like doing dishes or home projects. But there is almost always something like that to be done. If you put off sex until you’re completely caught up with other things, you’ll probably be putting it off for a very, very long time.
Planning sex can help to create and maintain positive interaction patterns
Through longitudinal studies of couples, John Gottman and Robert Levenson discovered that the most stable relationships exhibited the “magic relationship ratio“: during times of conflict, they had roughly five positive interactions for every one negative interaction. Those with a positive-to-negative ratio of 1:1 or less were at high risk of splitting up.
Expanding this concept beyond times of conflict, it’s probably safe to say that the more positive interactions you have versus negative ones overall, regardless of the exact ratio, the happier you’re likely to be in any relationship. Some of this is basic behavioral psychology: If someone is largely a source of pleasure and joy, you’ll want to be around them more than if they’re mostly a source of negative emotions and pain.
However, because life happens, and because nobody is 100% emotionally mature, the positive moments don’t always occur automatically, even between two wonderful, loving, and well-intentioned people.
Frequent, intentional practice can increase the likelihood of positive interactions, and the bedroom offers one place for such practice. Sexy times can provide a place for regularly and consciously practicing communication skills that are applicable in other settings, and that facilitate positive interactions. These include listening to your partner, expressing interest, making requests, negotiating, and expressing appreciation.
Planned sexy time provides an opportunity for you and your partner to consciously practice being sources of pleasure for one another. It provides a space where you can each ask your partner for things that are nourishing and connective, and to be a source of that for them. This can help you to keep your love tanks filled, so you’re less likely to be running low when you need to drive through the tougher stretches.
Planning connective time enables you to be ready
If you know in advance to have energy for sex, you’re more likely to be able to carve out time for helpful self-care prior to sex. For example, maybe you have more energy if you jog before sex. Maybe you’re more present in your body if you meditate or nap beforehand. Maybe you find it helpful to eat an energy bar half an hour before sex. Having some advance notice to get your mind, body, and spirit into a sexy place can be helpful.
In Come As You Are, Emily Nagoski explains that many people find it much easier to become aroused when certain environmental and emotional conditions are met. Planning sexy time can help you to set the stage. As I discuss below, it also enables your partner to play an active role in setting the stage.
Planning sex helps you to maintain sexual health and independence
No matter how similar you and your partner’s sex drives are, your partner(s) probably won’t be willing or able to meet all of your sexual needs. So it’s helpful to be okay with solo sex at least sometimes.
Masturbation can help you to learn about your body, and about what types of touch you like, so that you can communicate that to your partner.
Additionally, some studies suggest that men who ejaculate frequently may have a lower risk of prostate cancer. Orgasms also lower stress and may improve immune response. So masturbation can have health benefits as well.
A limitation for many with penises and/or masculine hormonal states* is that if you masturbate, and then your partner is in the mood for sex soon thereafter, it can be more difficult to show up for them due to the refractory period. Even if you’re still willing to pleasure them, they may be disappointed that you’re not as excited to receive.
If you have planned sex times in your calendar, you don’t need to worry as much about this predicament. You can just avoid masturbating prior to your sex dates, for as long as is needed.
Planning sex allows foreplay and building anticipation
Even when you’re not expecting sex, it can be helpful to do little things regularly to maintain a spark with your loved one: sending texts, playful kisses, and so on. When you have a specific date and time planned for sex, it enables you to build anticipation playfully as the time approaches. So the experience becomes about more than just the planned time, and it can elevate your moods once you’re in the bedroom.
Planning connective time reduces rejection
Scheduling time for sex may reduce rejection anxiety, which can be an issue if one of you initiates a lot more than the other. Continuing to initiate regularly, even when your partner often says “no,” can be challenging. Having a regularly recurring time in the calendar reduces this.
Planning partner time allows you to enjoy non-partner time more, too
To understand how this works, let’s look at two scenarios where a lack of calendar planning makes it harder to enjoy non-partner time, followed by a simple solution.
Scenario #1: Weekends are the only times you and your partner are both available for sex. You also enjoy seeing your friends on weekends, and the times you see them vary and are often decided at the last minute. This creates difficulty having regular intimacy with your partner.
Sometimes you hang out with your friends much of the day, only to find that your partner is too tired for sex by the evening. Other times, you’re headed out with friends just as your partner gets home and is ready to connect. As the quality of your intimate relationship suffers, you enjoy time with your friends less.
Scenario #2: You have a relatively low sex drive compared to your partner. You sometimes find it hard to relax at home around your higher-drive partner, because you’re never quite sure when they may approach you about sex.
Instead of your partner’s desire for you feeling like a flattering source of energy, it becomes a source of pressure and anxiety. It feels like something that could potentially stand in the way of other things you’d rather be doing.
Solution: One day, you have an exciting idea. You ask you partner, “Hey, what times work for you on Sunday, to plan and prioritize intimate time with each other? Between 2 and 6 PM? How about blocking out two hours from 3 to 5 PM? Sound good? Awesome!”
You put a mutually agreeable time in the calendar. Then, you and your partner can both enjoy the rest of your weekend, while still connecting.
Once in a while you may miss something spontaneous, but your planning may motivate others who value your presence to plan in advance as well.
Planning physical intimacy helps to avoid the Devil’s Pact
Sexuality expert David Schnarch wrote about the “Devil’s Pact,” which is where the higher-drive partner agrees to stop asking their lower-drive partner for sex altogether. The intention is that the lower-drive partner will no longer feel pressure. The lower-drive partner agrees to initiate when they’re ready.
This common agreement usually fails because the lower-drive partner still experiences pressure, regardless. They still know their higher-drive partner is quietly waiting for sex, and they notice even the most subtle signs of frustration from the higher-drive partner. The anxiety tied to this further delays their initiation. If the higher-drive partner caves and expresses any disappointment, frustration, or anger, that only serves to delay sex further.
I’ve attempted the Devil’s Pact on a few occasions, and it failed. Each time, it played out pretty much as Schnarch described, creating mutual frustration. It’s a good thing to avoid, in my opinion.
Planning sex may help with different stress-desire and attachment response styles
Some people desire sex more when they experience stress, while others desire sex less when they experience stress. Emily Nagoski calls these desire types “redliners” and “flatliners,” respectively.
Similar differences can apply to desire for intimacy in general. When experiencing stress or conflict, some people prefer to move toward their partner, while others have a natural tendency to move away. After resolving a conflict, some people tend to prefer increased closeness and intimacy as a way to reaffirm bonds, while others tend to have a need for increased space and alone time to recharge. Others may vary or fall in the middle. This stems partially from different attachment styles, or different ways in which we experience emotional connection to other people.
When two people have significant differences in this area, it can create problems given that both members of a couple often experience stress at the same time. Even when only one partner is experiencing stress directly, the other partner will likely experience some stress as a result of their partner’s struggles. When your partner has had a bad week at work, you’re probably going to feel some of that.
If you and your partner differ significantly in the above respects, your needs will sometimes be at odds, and can create a downward spiral. Jack is stressed, and desires more intimacy. Jill feels Jack’s stress, and wants to be alone. Jack senses this and feels more stressed, leading him to want connection with Jill even more. Jill now feels suffocated, and desires Jack even less.
Having a scheduled sex time on the calendar can provide a “safety valve” to put both people more at ease. Jack knows that even though Jill wants personal space today, they’ll have time together tomorrow. So he doesn’t get quite as stressed, and lets Jill have her space. Jill ends up desiring him more during their scheduled time the following day.
Tips for planning sexy time
Don’t be too attached to a specific goal or activity
Just plan to get together, with the intention of being physically intimate. Maybe you both end up having wonderful orgasms, or maybe you just snuggle naked. Maybe you trade massages. Maybe you do all these things. Maybe just one of you gives while the other receives. It’s up to you.
Schedule time for warm-up activities if needed
One of you may need time to warm-up for physical intimacy, either alone or with your partner. Perhaps taking a short walk or nap before sex helps you to enjoy it more. Maybe having a conversation with your partner about their day for 15 or 20 minutes before sex is important to you. If so, block out time for that to be sure it happens.
Know what types of foreplay turn each of you on
If there are specific things that get your turned on and in the mood, let your partner know. Also ask them what gets them turned on. Then you’ll both know what to do in anticipation of your planned time. For example, does your partner enjoy when you whisper sexy things in their ear just before bedtime? When you give them a little shoulder or back massage? When you send them a romantic and/or sexy text?
Set the mood with environment and rituals
How can you create an emotional and physical space supportive of sexy time? The more senses you involve, the better.
When the weather is cool, I enjoy making my partner and me cups of herbal tea right before our connective time. It warms the body and also makes the room smell very nice. Perhaps there’s a particular food or beverage that you and your partner enjoy. If needed, we also turn on a radiant space heater to avoid chill.
For lighting, my partner picked out some fun soft-colored light bulbs for the bedroom. Occasionally we’ll light candles. Smartphones and streaming playlists make music a snap.
Consider what type of clothing colors and textures turn you and your partner on, and maybe start out wearing a little bit rather than being completely naked to build anticipation. You can dance or stretch together to get things started. The possibilities for creating a fun, connective, and sexy environment are endless.
In creating your environment, be aware that everyone has different needs and preferences. Maybe you need to meet in the middle on your preferred room temperature or music volume. Maybe you put on your favorite playlist for half of the time and your partner’s favorite playlist for the other.
Try to honor both partners’ energy and schedules
If you tend to have energy at different times of the day or week, and can’t find a single time that is optimal for both of you (e.g., if one of you is very much a morning person and the other an evening person), consider identifying two different times. One should be optimal for each of you, and at least workable for the other. Then you can alternate between them.
As mentioned earlier, people vary in terms of how their sex drive responds to stress. Some people tend to want sex more when they’re stressed, while others need to be relaxed in order to feel desire. Keep this in mind when considering times likely to work best for each of you.
If you each strongly prefer different times of day or days of the week, you can also alternate routines and giver/receiver roles to fit your respective energy levels if needed.
For example, during your morning sessions, maybe the one who tends to be hornier in the mornings gets to be the first or primary “receiver” of pleasure and the one who comes first (or maybe the only one, if time and energy are limited).
During your evening sessions, the one who tends to be hornier in the evenings gets to be the first or primary “receiver” of pleasure during your weekly evening session, and the one who comes first (or maybe the only one, if time and energy are limited).
In a giving/receiving switch-off scenario, it’s important for each partner to do their best to show up for their partner with the same level of enthusiasm with which their partner shows up for them.
Also be open to discovering new and unexpected things. For example, the partner who normally doesn’t feel horny at a certain time of day may find themselves getting more aroused than they anticipated as a result of pleasuring their partner. If that happens, have fun!
Don’t automatically rule out sexual spontaneity at other times
If you’re both feeling sexy within a day (or even hours) before a scheduled love making session, you can still take advantage of that energy. Just be clear on whether you still expect your partner to be available at the originally planned time as well.
For example, you might be too tired to receive when your partner is feeling spontaneous the night before, but you might have some energy to give. You might ask if you can still receive during the upcoming planned time the next day, when you’ll have a bit more energy.
Knowing that you’re still free to potentially have sex at other times can rule out performance anxiety. Occasionally when I’ve planned sex with my partner, I worry a bit: “What if I don’t sleep well, or don’t have that much energy? What if I’m not really feeling that much energy, or what if she isn’t? Then it’ll be several days before we have another date.” Knowing that you’re not necessarily limited to those times can be helpful.
Try to resolve important “hanging” issues beforehand
If you’ve recently had conflict or disagreement, try to get it to a place where both of you are reasonably relaxed before your planned intimacy time. Not right before it, but at least a few hours or a day if possible. Otherwise, it will be hard for both of you to enjoy it.
Just prior to planned sexy time is not the best time to bring up something annoying but minor that your partner did a day or two ago. Unless it was something really egregious that makes it difficult for you to feel connected and open, consider letting it wait. Otherwise, it’s kind of like inviting someone to the kitchen to enjoy a piece of cake, and then surprising them with a bitter vitamin to chew before they can have their cake. They’re not going to be happy about that vitamin.
One time, as we were transitioning into sexy time, I foolishly commented to my partner that she had put the new roll of toilet paper on the dispenser backwards, in my humble opinion.
I had just tossed her a bitter vitamin. Oops.
But we had a good laugh about it later. And I learned that there are apparently two equally correct and valid ways of installing the toilet paper on the dispenser. Who knew?
If you have larger issues that can’t be resolved completely prior to sexy time, at least try to get to a place where you can be relaxed and present with your partner. This will also help you to implement the next suggestion.
Respect the reason you’re getting together, with some flexibility
If you have busy schedules, it’s easy to say right as you meet up with your partner for sexy time, “Oh, we haven’t had time to touch base in a few days, and there’s this thing that’s been bothering me that I’ve really been wanting to talk about. Can we spend a chunk of our time talking about that?” As much as I appreciate the importance of regular physical intimacy, I’ve been guilty of this.
Keep in mind that your partner was already planning to connect with you in other ways. They may not be in the most receptive place to hear about your other needs in this particular moment, even if they still generally care about those needs. They may be thinking about how there will be less time and energy to connect with you in the way that they had anticipated. If you end up having rushed sex or none at all, your partner may feel deprived of connection.
That all being said, there will undoubtedly be times when there’s something one of you needs to “vent” about, or at least let your partner know you’re experiencing, so that you can be more emotionally authentic and energetically present. Intimacy isn’t about always putting on a happy face. You might be able to compartmentalize something or block it out until you’re trying to be both emotionally and physically intimate.
Let your partner know you still wish to physically connect, but need to share a bit so that you can transition into an emotionally connective and mindful space. Agree to a time limit if needed.
There have been a few times when I literally needed to cry about something I had experienced or something going on in the world that was weighing on me, before I could emotionally open up in other ways. As I’ve become more comfortable with just letting this happen, and treating it as part of the connective experience, I’ve found it possible to connect more intimately. I’ve occasionally had experiences where I started crying during sex–often triggered by a piece of music that stirred something within me unexpectedly.
Intimacy is often a flow of a range of emotions, and if you try to define, control, or box things in too much, it can limit the experience. Part of really opening up and letting go is that sometimes things percolate up to the surface unexpectedly.
If your partner doesn’t have the space for you to vent, and you just can’t get into a connective emotional space, ask if you can reconvene in 10 or 15 minutes after you take a short walk, meditate, or do something else to get yourself in a better space.
If you don’t believe that will help, be honest with your partner about where you are. Let them know if you simply need to postpone until a time in the near future.
Or, let your partner know if you’re willing to do certain things but not others in your current mindset (e.g., “I’m in a space where I can still do A, B, C with you, but probably not X, Y, or Z”), and ask if that works for them. There are myriad wonderful possibilities between the extremes of not physically connecting at all and having the most mind-blowing sex ever.
You don’t necessarily need to set an exact time in advance
Maybe you don’t want to put 7pm every Wednesday and Sunday in the calendar. Maybe you want to have a little more flexibility to allow for the unexpected ways a given day or week might affect your energy and mood. You could agree that each Wednesday and Sunday evening, you’ll have the intention of connecting at some point before a given time. And then as each given day approaches, you can agree on a more specific time if needed.
Set a specific time if needed
When one of your usual sex days arrives, one or both of you may find it helpful to add a little more specificity if possible.
Don’t just say, “when I get home from work” unless you get home at a pretty regular time. Specify 6 PM or 7 PM. If your job is very irregular and you anticipate you might work as late as 8 PM, then let your partner know you probably won’t be available until that time. If you think you’ll need a bit of wind-down or transition alone time after getting home, factor that in.
Talking about a specific time will also encourage discussion about how you may need to support each other. For example, your partner might say, “How does 9 PM work for you?” You might respond, “If you’re able to help me get the kids to bed at 8:30, that sounds great. Otherwise, I probably won’t be ready until 9:30.”
An agreement like, “whenever we wake up on Sunday” may be sufficient for a couple with relatively leisurely weekends. But it may not be sufficient if you both have busy schedules. What if you’re in bed by 11 PM, hoping to awaken and have sex by 8 AM before you start your day? Then you hear your partner coming into bed around 2 AM, knowing they won’t be up until at least 10, by which time you’d prefer to be out on a bicycle ride? Better to agree upon a specific time.
For example, if you agree upon 11 AM in advance, you might decide to go to bed early, and then do an early bike ride before coming back to home to enjoy love making with your partner. Your partner might enjoy sleeping in and reading, staying in bed until you get back.
Having a set time gives you both more freedom and peace of mind.
Considerations for asexual-sexual and other ace-non-ace relationships
If your partner is on the ace spectrum (also called the asexual umbrella), and still either enjoys sex or is at the very least happily willing to engage in it regularly, some of the strategies in this article may be helpful. However, if your partner dislikes sex, attempting to schedule sex may just end up creating emotional distress for both of you. This is particularly likely for those on the ace spectrum who identify as asexual: only around 4% favorably view the idea of themselves engaging in sex, and well over half report being repulsed/averse to sex, with most of the remainder being indifferent or uncertain.**
If you are in a relationship where differences in your levels of sexual interest are so extreme that it’s causing stress and unhappiness, whether due to orientation or otherwise, I recommend seeking the support of a therapist. If you and your partner realized sometime after establishing your relationship that one of you is (or may be) asexual, and are now struggling due to that, you might also find useful this resource page and book for partners of asexuals in sexless relationships.
Caveats above in mind, regular planned sex sessions may be helpful for some mixed-orientation couples with an ace and non-ace partner. As noted earlier under “Planning Connective Time Reduces Rejection,” the partner who regularly desires sex no longer needs to spend as much time and energy trying to determine the optimal time for getting their needs met. They no longer have to regularly request something that they know their partner would usually prefer to say “no” to, when brought up spontaneously.
With planned sex times, the partner who rarely or never desires sex (but still enjoys it or is at least happy or willing to engage in it sometimes) may worry less about whether their partner is currently feeling deprived or disconnected from them. They may experience less pressure, knowing that sex will be compartmentalized to specific times agreed upon in advance.
Even if planning sex doesn’t work, you’ll have useful data
There are no guarantees that planning regular sex dates will work, particularly if you and your partner experience significant differences in your levels of desire. However, even if it doesn’t work, it’s not a total failure. Your experiment can still provide you with useful information.
Perhaps you observe that shortly before agreed-upon sex dates, some type of barrier often crops up that makes it challenging or impossible to connect. Maybe you often get into arguments or one of you often develops uncomfortable physical symptoms. That could be useful information to present to a therapist, as you explore how to move forward.
Have fun scheduling your next intimacy date! I wish you and your loved one(s) lots of warm, wonderful, and sexy connection.
* Some trans people with female-at-birth anatomy and masculine hormonal state report feeling fulfilled after one orgasm, and not wanting another for a while. However, experiences vary. See “Do Trans Men Still Experience Multiple Orgasms?“
Thanks to AVEN users for providing some helpful feedback on this article.
Photo of clock in bedroom by Flickr user Marco Verch, photo of panda calendar by Flickr user Yoppy, photo of scheduling system by Flickr user Tnarik Innael. Size and resolution adjusted. License.