Who said appointment books can't be sexy? Spontaneous sexcapades may be ideal, but experts say a little scheduled lovemaking is sometimes the only way to maintain passion in our multitasked, overextended lives.
Newlyweds Allison and Rob say their incompatible work lives have made scheduling a must.
"He leaves for work at 1 a.m. for an overnight shift; I get home at midnight three nights a week," Allison says. "For a while we've had to be weekend warriors — Saturday mornings are sacred. We both avoid making plans, so we can really take our time, have breakfast together and go back to bed."
But isn't sex supposed to be about passion of the moment, sparked by sudden, knowing glances between lovers?
The Way We Were
Not according to sex therapist Dr. Aline Zoldbrod, who says the idea of sex as surprise is a misconception based on the hot-and-heavy early days of a relationship.
"The memory is that sex was spontaneous, but it wasn't," she says. "Seeing their new partner was exciting, and they were preparing for it all day — when they finally saw them, sex happened, but it wasn't out of the blue."
Some advance planning and concessions to reality are often necessary, Zoldbrod added — especially when kids are part of the picture. On vacation with her family, she and her husband sent her kids off on a walk with a babysitter, "and she knew exactly what we had in mind."
"When my kids were little, we wanted to plan a night together, we wouldn't go out with friends," she says. "I didn't want to come home at 11 and have a sexual encounter. I wanted to start at 9!"
A dual-mode approach — ready for the unexpected impulse, but prepared to schedule if necessary — is the best strategy for Ellen and Ken, who lead busy lives in Baltimore.
"There's no need to set up specific times when you and your mate are always in the mood," Ellen says. "But even saying that, sometimes I have to remind him that he hasn't sexed me up in the past few days.
"When I'll be gone for the weekend, or have a friend visiting on the way, we'll pause for a lunchtime nooner, or an afternoon delight before a flight."
Waiting: The Hardest Part
Maybe the stodginess of pre-arranged dalliances is offset by the world's most powerful aphrodisiac: anticipation. What better opportunity to fantasize, to feel that pleasantly anxious feeling in your stomach.
Of course, expectations can backfire if the sex is lackluster.
"The anticipation is more exciting than the actual act," says Kenny from Philadelphia. "You put so much time into setting up the event that the act itself is a letdown."
Scheduling has taken over Fanti's life in a bad way. Her boyfriend has to travel across three New York City boroughs from Brooklyn to see her in the Bronx. Unfortunately, the only time she's surprised is when his subway train runs late.
"He tells me beforehand when he's coming over, and if he's coming over that means he wants some," she says. "Scheduling sex takes the fun out of it. He has keys to my apartment but I never come home to find him there unexpectedly."
But without any scheduling, according to Zoldbrod, the majority of couples' sex lives will wither over time.
A little scheduling goes a long way, she says. Playing hooky once a month to meet your sweetie for an afternoon delight or taking a weekend to escape your kids knocking on the bedroom door at inopportune moments can be a sexual lifesaver.
"We know this about desire: the more things go well, the higher your libido," she says. "If you have some scheduled times to have sex — and you're communicating well and getting pleasure, and at the end you feel a renewed sense of connection to your body and your partner — your desire will go up.
"Having an intense sexual experience isn't something that happens by accident," she says.