Our sex life sucked. That isn’t an easy thing to say out loud (or share with strangers on the Internet!) but it is true. Our intimate time was becoming extremely rare, and it was affecting our relationship and our family as a whole.
Unfortunately, between the pain and fatigue of my rheumatoid arthritis and the realities of raising two toddlers (which is really just another kind of pain and fatigue), my husband and I couldn’t seem to make any progress. Arthritis stiffness and early-rising children made morning sex pretty much impossible. Instead, I would wake up each day resolving to save energy for my husband that evening. But then the 1-year-old would gleefully Godzilla-stomp the 3-year-old’s carefully arranged train tracks, 20 minutes of screaming would ensue, and I would look at the clock and realize it wasn’t even 9 a.m. By the time my husband got home from work and we got the kids to bed, it was all I could do to stare blankly at the TV for half an hour before passing out. Something had to change.
And that’s how my husband and I found ourselves discussing the idea of scheduling sex. At first, it didn’t really appeal to either of us. It seemed forced and unromantic. My husband was concerned that it would become just another stressful thing on my to-do list. (No pun intended!) But our libidos were seriously mismatched, and we had very limited time to be alone together. Since we were both committed to improving the situation, we decided to give it a try.
As we discussed which night of the week might make a good candidate, we realized that there was actually a lot more missing from our lives than just sex. All forms of intimacy and connection between us had basically gone out the window, from touching to kissing to even just having an adult conversation. We had become so wrapped up in the needs of our kids that we hadn’t paid any real attention to our own relationship for months.
Additionally, as a stay-at-home mom of two small humans and who also lives with a chronic illness, I am often exhausted and overwhelmed. The work is never done. Diaper changes. Laundry. Grocery shopping. Cooking. Racking my brain for ways to get the 3-year-old to consume any type of nutrient. Cleaning a million messes. Doctor’s appointments for the kids. Doctor’s appointments for me. Endless visits to the pharmacy. Medical bills. Fighting with the insurance company. The list goes on and on and on. No wonder I couldn’t get in the mood!
After thinking about these issues, we finally we had an idea: What if we scheduled one night, every week, when we would each put effort into addressing our spouse’s unmet needs? His unmet need was physical intimacy, while mine was time to relax and unwind. So we agreed that on our scheduled night, my husband would take over child care and cook dinner when he got home from work, and I would try to relax and have a little fun in the bedroom. We picked a night and agreed to try it for a month.
Several months later, this plan has been very successful for us. Most weeks, a little time to myself to unwind is all I really need to rediscover my long-missing desire. But I think it’s also important to note that my husband isn’t giving me this time in exchange for sex. He’s freely giving me the time to help me, and I am freely doing my best to reserve enough energy to help him.
It doesn’t always work. Sometimes the kids are just too crazy for me to really get a break. Sometimes, despite our best efforts, I am just too exhausted or overwhelmed to even consider sex. But that’s OK—with both of us. The point is that we put real effort into meeting each other’s needs, and that actually counts for a lot. In fact, since we have started this schedule, we have both been inspired to meet each other’s needs on unscheduled days, too.
Someone once told me that a family is like a triangle, and a triangle has three corners: the kids, the couple and the individual. It’s really easy to ignore the needs of the couple and the individual while focusing on the kids, but then the triangle will be unbalanced. It turns out that the best thing you can do for your family, as a whole, is to make sure that all three parts of the triangle are getting the attention they need and deserve. And, believe it or not, scheduling sex has allowed us to do just that.