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Strategic Sex

Go ahead. Put another category on your Daytimer and watch your love life improve.

The children were finally in bed, the house was quiet, the lights were low—and I was exhausted. Nevertheless, I could tell by the vibes I was getting from my husband, Robert, that sex was on his mind. Crawling into bed, I lay still, secretly hoping he'd just doze off.

In our early years of marriage, this scene was replayed several nights a week. We were both in our mid-twenties with two children and a third on the way. We were both working long hours—he at a high-pressure banking job and I in the trenches of stay-at-home motherhood.

After supper when we managed finally to get the kids in bed, the first thing on his weary mind was always the last thing on mine. When I tried to explain how tired I was, he'd feel rejected and I'd feel angry. Then we'd stay up half the night trying to reach a truce, usually through a multi-toned discussion that always resulted in hurt feelings for both of us.

One providential night, worn from the toll the frequent arguments were taking on our marriage, Robert asked, "What if we scheduled it?"

The suggestion took me by surprise. Can a married couple really schedule something as intimate as sex? Surely that would take all the romance and passion out of it. The more we talked about it, however, the more it sounded like a solution that would work for both of us. And when we put it into practice we discovered what a great solution it really was.

If a deficit in physical affection is causing more tension than bliss at your house, try these painless tips for scheduling sex.

Pick a night,

or two. Decide together which nights are best, considering both your schedules and your children's. Most important, be realistic. At the time we devised our plan, for instance, I was employed part time and had to be at work by 7:30 every Monday morning. A mutual decision not to schedule sex on Sunday nights took the pressure off both of us, leaving us free to enjoy the evening. I wasn't stressed about staying up late with an early morning looming over me, and he wasn't anxious about when I'd ever be energetic enough for intimacy since it was already on the schedule.

Stay on schedule.

Whether you're running a business or running a household, fatigue is inevitable. While making a reservation helps take the guessing game out of marital intimacy, chances are slim that you'll always be in the mood on scheduled nights. Lorraine Pintus, co-author of the book Intimate Issues, suggests that women should help themselves get into the mood by lighting candles or listening to special songs to trigger some of the senses in the body. "And when it's been a really tough day," she adds, "a woman shouldn't hesitate to call her husband at work and ask for a few hours to herself when he gets home, promising to make it worth his while later." Because you pamper everyone else, give yourself some replenishing time to pamper yourself.

While some argue that scheduling makes sex seem too much like a duty, obligated affection is biblical. "The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband," the apostle Paul reminds us in 1 Corinthians 7:3, prompting us again in verse 5 to "not deprive each other." In other words, sometimes physical union is something one spouse does for the other, no strings attached.

Savor the anticipation.

A word of caution: While scheduled intimacy may work well in reducing tension where your love life is concerned, it can sometimes cause lovemaking to become too predictable. My husband and I have found that scheduling has its seasons in our marriage. We're currently in one of those scheduling seasons—since we have seven children and the youngest is 18 months old. But scheduled sex doesn't have to turn into routine sex.

"Couples should use the anticipation of scheduled sex to their advantage," says Pintus, adding that leaving notes or other hints in different places every day can become like a private conversation between spouses, heightening excitement. Impulse is grand, but it doesn't supply the building that expectation does.

Every marriage goes through seasons where spur-of-the-moment sex is low on the priority list. While spontaneity is refreshing, it isn't a necessity.

Be honest about your feelings.

Once we started to schedule sex and Robert saw that I was committed to making that work, he said, "I was so glad when I realized you didn't need me the same way I needed you." While that may sound odd, he told me it was freeing to recognize that just because our needs are diverse doesn't mean we don't have the same needs. In fact, that revelation was freeing for both of us. Robert no longer questions my attraction to him, and I don't have to convince him of that attraction. Instead, he realizes that physical intimacy isn't usually my favorite way to convey my attraction to him. "Affection may be expressed in many ways during those off-season times," confirms Pintus, "such as arranging a fishing day with his friends." For instance, Robert appreciates when I make him breakfast to-go during the workweek. Nothing elaborate—he views even a sandwich as an expression of love. Wives can find out what else—besides sex—is important to their husbands and make it happen.

Lighten Up.

Scheduled intimacy won't instantly solve all your marital problems. Frustrations are inevitable, disagreements to be expected. Consequently, a sense of humor is imperative.

Recently, for instance, I was doing some routine bedtime chores, when Robert came downstairs after putting the kids to bed. He grabbed me, planted a kiss directly on my mouth, and belted out the old Mel Carter song from the '50s, "Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me," with a slight alteration to the lyrics: "Kiss me, kiss me, and try not to think of all the things you need to do, do." It felt so good to explode with laughter instead of anger at his rendition. Though I must admit even as few as five years ago, I'd have read something more into his little song and found it annoying. But instead I realized he was having fun, enjoying me.

When tensions mount, remember that sex is only a part of your relationship. Keep your sense of humor, and adapt it to the seasons that accompany marriage.

The beauty of scheduling is knowing how to pace yourself by being cognizant that there will be one more thing on your "to do" list before you turn in. But by working with your spouse to create a plan for regularly scheduled sex, you can minimize marital tension and maximize marital intimacy.

Margie Sims, a freelance author, lives with her family in Tennessee. Don't call her on Tuesday or Saturday nights after 9:30.

Read more articles that highlight writing by Christian women at ChristianityToday.com/Women

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