FARGO - According to a recent report, 45 percent of couples plan a time to have sex with their partners. Planning means one or both people write it down or mentally know that Tuesdays are now allocated for intimate time.
For some, the idea seems like common sense. For others, it seems like a really good way to make a fun thing not so fun.
"It's simply one of the best ways to prioritize intimacy and put it at the top of the list," says psychotherapist and nationally recognized sexuality counselor Ian Kerner. "The idea that desire is spontaneous and that it switches on like a light switch goes against science."
If you are adverse to scheduling because you worry it will make sex into a chore, you aren't alone.
But why not view it as something fun to do as a couple? Or your way of working on the marriage?
With the new year, many people are bound to make resolutions aimed at improving their relationships; this could be a way to achieve that.
People thrive on scheduling other activities, from happy hours to play dates. And, for couples with kids, it may be the only time they get one-on-one time with their partner.
Consider creating a "date night bag" filled spontaneous and fun ideas to maintain a sense of spontaneity.
Or, keep in mind that intimacy doesn't have to mean only sex; simply spending time together, reconnecting with one another is a form of intimacy.
Desire requires arousal to initiate the process. This means if you put your body in motion, your brain will slowly get on board as well. The actual physical act can be enough to get the ball rolling, so to speak.
However, if this doesn't work, there may be underlying problems that need to be dealt with beforehand.
"When everything else is great (in the relationship), but couples aren't connecting sexually, my first suggestion is usually to go in for a physical and make sure both partners are healthy," says Emily Coler-Hanson, a marriage and family therapist based in Fargo.
Other situations that can affect your sex drive include lack of sleep, the presence of children or attachment injuries. Coler-Hanson said addressing these types of issues is very important to rebuilding a sexual relationship.
Schedule it once a week
Once any underlying issues have been addressed, mutually decide on a day each week that will involve intimacy.
"Studies show that sex once a week improves overall relationship satisfaction," Kerner says.
Scheduling a time allows both of you to anticipate it more and may even increase your flirtation with your partner.
Coler-Hanson says that happiness peaking at sex once per week isn't an unusual circumstance. For example, consider income. Most people believe the higher income the happier you are, but happiness peaks at about $75,000 per household.
However, most people estimate that to be happy you need to make between $100,000 -$199,000, which is between two and four times the national average of a household income.
Whether you schedule intimacy once a week or each day, make that decision together. "Some people feel that it takes the spontaneity out of it, others feel that it makes it important," Coler-Hanson says.
She also added that some enjoy looking forward to the predictability of the matter, but ultimately it will come down to what works for the couple.
The bottom line: "sex begets sex"
If you're in a bit of a rut, "have sex," Kerner says. "So many of us want to want to have sex, but we aren't putting our bodies through the motions, and if you just go for it... carve out a little bit of time and then start kissing and connecting... you'll sort of discover 'hey this is fun!'"
However, the idea that "sex begets sex" only works if you are in a "committed, trusting relationship," Coler-Hanson says. "It's not a first date move to try to get someone to sleep with you (and) it's doesn't mean start grabbing at your partner hoping they get into it."
So what does it mean, exactly?
It means showing your partner non-physical affection. Once you've stimulated them mentally, then you can start hugging and kissing.
For some, this may mean classic romance (flowers, candy, etc.), but for others this means showing them you care.
"Foreplay for some is coming home to a clean house or getting a massage," Coler-Hanson says.
Coler-Hanson also noted that there are many unrealistic expectations that put pressure on people because the United States is a very "sex-driven culture."
This affects how we perceive foreplay, our partners and even how much sex we think we should be having.
So instead of just setting New Year's resolutions about physical health, consider investing in the health of your relationship; you may be surprised by the benefits that come from setting aside time for intimacy with your significant other.