Relationship Connection: Is it healthy to schedule marital sexual intimacy?

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Question

My wife really struggles to care about and enjoy sexual intimacy with me. We’ve been married for over 20 years, and I get tired of going through the same routine where I bring it up, she promises to do better, nothing happens and then she forgets until I bring it up again.

It’s something she’s never prioritized or cared much about even though she would say that we have a good marriage.

I agree that our marriage is good in just about every area except for our sexual intimacy. After one frustrating letdown recently, she suggested that we schedule sex once a week on the same day and time to make sure I get my needs met.

While it’s a relief in some ways to know that we’ll have this time together on a consistent basis, I also feel like she’s just adding me to her checklist of things she needs to get done. I don’t want this becoming something that she dreads and endures. I have no idea if this is healthy for our marriage.

Answer

It sounds like you’re both tired of this interaction and are looking for a way to break out of the sexual intimacy rut. The current arrangement isn’t working for either of you, which is probably why your wife suggested something different. I don’t know if this is the best answer for your marriage, but I can suggest some considerations to help you both stay connected to each other.

First, please recognize that there are a variety of reasons your wife might not enjoy sexual intimacy, even though she has a good marriage:

  • If you have children, it could be sleep deprivation, exhaustion, stress, interruptions, lack of personal space and a multitude of other challenges that come with mom life.
  • Your wife might have physical discomfort or other physical health challenges that prevent her from caring about or enjoying sexual intimacy.
  • She might have a history of attachment-related issues from her family or previous romantic relationships that make it difficult to trust and relax into the vulnerability necessary for connected marital intimacy.
  • Sometimes spouses have unpleasant sexual experiences in the early months of marriage that are never addressed and become the template for future sexual encounters. Roles and expectations are often unintentionally assumed, and couples can play out these dysfunctional dances for decades.

If any of those situations fit your situation, it’s not wise to carry on without addressing them together. Many of these examples are environmental and might not require major adjustments.

Recognize that your wife was the one who suggested scheduling time on a regular basis. She’s seeing you and recognizing that this is missing in your marriage. Don’t complicate it by guessing her motives and intentions. She’s blocking out time to be with you, so allow her to move toward you in this way.

However, I recognize that you don’t want to be treated like a task she needs to mark off her list. Your deeper need is to be desired and wanted. That is a normal and healthy desire that you actually share with your wife. If you only use that time to go through the motions of having sex, then you’re both missing an important opportunity for your marriage.

Think of the scheduling as a dedicated time to be together regardless of whether or not you share a sexual experience. She likely believes that your greatest need is to have a sexual experience with her. I believe your greatest need is to know that you matter to her.

You’ve been having sexual experiences with her for years, but the deeper need of knowing that she desires to be close to you isn’t registering. I also have to wonder if you know what her greatest need is in the marriage. Chances are she’s feeling unfulfilled as well.

If you only make the focus of this dedicated time about sex, then you’re missing a tremendous opportunity to address both of your deeper needs. In the dictionary, the sexual meaning of “intercourse” is the third definition of that word. The first two definitions read, “communication between individuals” and “interchange of thoughts, feelings, etc.”

Those primary definitions are actually great goals to have as you think about how to spend this time together. Use this time to talk, snuggle, ask questions and be together. Let her know that it’s important to you that you feel wanted and know she’s looking forward to this with you.

Find out for her what would make this time together meaningful and special for her. She might be going through the motions and trying to keep you satisfied, completely forgetting about herself. However, you don’t have to forget about her. Ask her what she needs and what would help her feel cherished and close to you.

Scheduling sex isn’t the problem. Lots of couples with busy lives need to be intentional about making time for talking, connecting and sexual intimacy. Scheduling time is just one proactive way to prioritize it, but you want it to be a meaningful and connecting experience for the couple. That will take more courageous questions and conversation to find out what each of you really need from each other.

Take the focus off of intercourse as the goal. Instead, focus on how each of you can feel wanted and important to the other. You’ve broken out your old routine and now you have an opportunity to learn more about each other and create a new way of connecting.

Stay connected!

Geoff Steurer is a licensed marriage and family therapist in private practice in St. George, Utah. He specializes in working with couples in all stages of their relationships. The opinions stated in this article are his own and may not be representative of St. George News.

Have a relationship question for Geoff to answer? Submit to:

Email: geoff@lovingmarriage.com

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Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2019, all rights reserved.

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14 Comments

  • Shorm January 2, 2019 at 8:12 am

    Sex is a habit. If your marriage is great otherwise, it’s probably just that your wife isn’t in the habit of wanting sex. Scheduling it is the first step to getting her back in the habit. Be extra cute and flirty with her throughout the day and that will help too, but don’t stop being cute and flirty once you get some or she’ll think she was being used.

  • Comment January 2, 2019 at 12:17 pm

    Firstly, 20 years is a long time. If you’re wife is menopausal or post-menopausal it might have a lot to do with her having no desire for sex. You could discuss with her about asking her doctor for some HRT.

    It’s also possible your wife’s drive may have just died out for good. As women age into their late 30s and beyond their biological prerogative for sex becomes less and less until it finally becomes nonexistent with menopause. Whereas men my retain “the urge to spread their seed” well into their senior citizen years. I guess you could say this isn’t fair, right? But biology is what it is. My point is: you may have to find some other way to have your needs met. It’s pretty typical for things to get quite boring in that department after 2 decades.

    • Comment January 2, 2019 at 12:24 pm

      and I’m not recommending anyone cheats on their spouse. Gettin’ old aint no fun is it?

    • KR567 January 3, 2019 at 8:49 am

      LOL ! ….you are the last person on this planet I would ever take advice from

  • pay attention January 2, 2019 at 5:12 pm

    Maybe she just wants you to take a shower

  • Redbud January 2, 2019 at 7:54 pm

    I can also confirm that scheduling sex is something many couples do, especially older couples. Yes it takes out the spontaneity, but at least you’re getting some.

    Try doing something for her. Is there anything she wants you to do around the house like replace a broken light, hang up a picture, maybe cook her dinner one night, plant her some flowers, anything along those lines.

    Buy some massage oil and give her a nice backrub before you start your scheduled sex session, and slowly work your way to other areas. This way you’re paying attention to her first, and start off with something she enjoys.

    -try counseling if it doesn’t get better

    -if you try everything, and you’ve exhausted all your resources, pornography and lotion could be an option then at least your needs are met in a selfish sort of way

    -if porn is not an option, then last resort is divorce. Bottom line is that you shouldn’t be stuck in an unhappy marriage forever. Even though everything else in your marriage is great, sex is an important part of it, and sooner or later she needs to realize that, especially if you’ve given it your best effort for weeks, months, or years at a time.

    -finally, I wish I could say Trump could help you out, unfortunately he can’t help with this situation! Good luck and I hope your marriage and sex life gets better, and if it ends in divorce then I’m sorry for that situation too but at least you have a chance at being happy.

  • Bon January 2, 2019 at 11:30 pm

    Sheesh. The “advice” from these commenters is terrible. Geoffs was much better. Follow the good advice from a trained professional and God Bless in your marriage.

  • gfjml January 3, 2019 at 12:01 pm

    Let me start by saying the comments are really off base!

    I am a female who has been married for 23 years, so I am speaking from experience. It took me most of my marriage to finally find a doctor who would take me serious when I asked for my hormones to be checked. Keep in mind I’ve had other health issues related to hormones, but I was “too young” to have low hormones that would lessen my sex drive, or so I was told by numerous doctors. I kept searching and once I got my hormones tested, sure enough I was WAY low and not at the age that menopause was a factor. Within a week of starting hormone cream I was amazed at the difference I felt. The new found desire I had for my husband was unreal, I couldn’t leave him alone! Forget about age, the last 2 years our sex life has been far better.

    • Mike P January 4, 2019 at 9:44 am

      gfjml, so where ya rubbing that cream? Just wonderin’

  • Comment January 3, 2019 at 1:16 pm

    LOL! Completely agree. Here’s your “good” advice if you want it. A guy who’s married 20+ years will put sex wayyyyyy low on the list of priorities and pretty much “set it on the back burner”. The spark of that relationship is loooooong gone, and what you’re left with is more of a life-companion sort of setup. After 20+ years you’re not passionately lusting or deeply infatuated. You still have a lot of love, but that passion is dried up and blown away, and it aint comin’ back. You learn to be extremely patient, and if the wife is not at all interesting in sex there isn’t a lot to be done. Some couples try to “spice things up” with porn, kink, toys, bdsm, etc, etc. Even all that garbage is going to become boring after a time, because really, people get bored of each other in the sex department after being married so long. I’m not going to recommend porn for this, because it’s something I’m personally trying to give up (I never used any of the things I’ve listed, including porn, to try to “spice things up” in my marriage, but to each their own.). The fact of the matter is the guy may have to learn to go solo to meet his needs… Han Solo, ya know. LOL

    • Comment January 3, 2019 at 1:23 pm

      Now, I’ll read geoff’s advice and see how it compares

  • Diana January 5, 2019 at 9:51 pm

    The question is “is the wife taken antidepressants?” Most people with depression, anxiety and PTSD who take antidepressants may have a low sex drive. If that’s the case, take some time to let the medication clear out of her system.

    • Redbud January 7, 2019 at 1:13 am

      Bupropion (Wellbutrin) is actually one of the few antidepressants that don’t usually cause low libido, and has been known to increase it in some cases. It has been out for a while, but as with all meds, check with your doctor first.

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