Many Couples Plan Ahead to Get It On

We have seen a falling economy lead to fewer jobs for many, more work for those still employed and soaring stress levels for everyone.

But no matter what their job situation, people can still find ways to fill their planners and stay busy, or at least distracted.

Unfortunately, a busy life can take its toll between the sheets, so much so that many couples in committed relationships find they must schedule time to have sex in order to make sure it happens at all.

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"In the magic of a beginning of a relationship, people seem to always find that need to be together to be a priority and it starts spontaneously," said Dr. Eli Coleman, professor and director of the Program in Human Sexuality at the University of Minnesota Medical School. "Especially when people start realizing that loss of intimacy, scheduling and prioritizing can revitalize them."

In fact, of the sexually active respondents to a poll from Consumer Reports, published this week, 45 percent reported planning a time to have sex with their partners.

Shula Jackson, 36, found that she and her husband's sex life had fallen victim to her family's busy schedule.

"It was my experience with a dual-career family that if we didn't save time to be together -- and it's not for lack of willingness -- but everything else will just elbow sex off the calendar," said Jackson, a blogger and CEO of SensuousWife.com, an online sexual health and well-being store.

Then, five years into her marriage, Jackson said she experienced a spiritual and sexual awakening, becoming the high-drive partner in her marriage.

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A busy life and increased sexual drive could have left Jackson biting her nails, wondering when she and her husband would next have sex. Instead, she tried a different tack.

"I was resistant to the idea [of scheduling]," Jackson said. "How unbelievably unromantic is that? But it's definitely something that has given good fruit and has been a positive."

Making 'Sexy Time'

In fact, many are resistant to the scheduling time for sex. Online message boards and chats loudly proclaim that pre-planned sex is ridiculous and decreases the pleasure and excitement of a spontaneous romp.

"It is a challenge because the romantic ideal is that it happens in spontaneous ways. I hope we don't loose that, too," Coleman said. "The reality is with things impinging on people's lives, couples only wait for that spontaneity when both people happen to be available and ready."

This can be where prioritizing intimacy comes in and scheduling time together can be very important to the longevity and health of a relationship.

"The act of creating intimate space together is important for creating [an] intimate connection with each other," said David Greenfield, an assistant clinical professor of Psychiatry at the University of Connecticut School of Medicine. "The longer they wait, the harder it gets to create that intimacy."

And even when people don't explicitly pencil in some "sexy time" on their calendars, the truth is they plan for sex all the time.

Couples who are trying to get pregnant often keep close tabs on the woman's ovulation cycle and time intercourse for the moment when conception is most likely. People in long-distance relationships may plan for sex during visits. Special dates, such as Valentine's Day or a birthday, can guarantee a roll in the hay for some.

On average, adults have sex about 61 times per year, according to the University of Chicago's National Opinion Research Center.

A Night for Nookie

Jackson, who lives in Houston, was pleased with her and her husband's decision to set aside specific times to be intimate.

"Scheduled sex can be a wonderful tool for taking the edge off a drive difference," Jackson said. "The higher drive spouse can have that happy hopeful feeling like you get when you're looking forward to a vacation."

Women do tend to push for "couple time" on the calendar more than men, often because they are the social coordinators in the relationship rather than because of a drive difference.

But Coleman pointed out that setting aside time with their significant other can become increasingly important for men as they age and experience libidinal changes.

And experts say it is important to differentiate between sex that occurs spontaneously and spontaneity and creativity during sex.

"One can schedule time but not demand anything," Coleman said. "You're allowing the time for spontaneity to occur."

Planning ahead can build anticipation for what is to come.

"I've enjoyed hot text messages with my husband," Jackson said. "It can be a nice way to say 'hey, I desire you.'"

But as much as couples may try to compromise and schedule time for each other, having sex when one partner is not in the mood can cause serious problems.

"It's not healthy to have sexual intimacy when you don't want to," Coleman said. "Psychologically it is not erotic to feel pressured. It's not erotic to go through the motions when your mind and heart really isn't there."

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