Valentine’s Day is just around the corner and in that spirit, our resident loveologist, Wendy Strgar would like to add a little love to your life. In the days leading up to Valentine’s Day (including today), you’ll have a chance to win her new book, Love That Works: A Guide to Enduring Intimacy. Check out this excerpt and leave a comment for your chance to win your very own copy!
Making Time for Love
Josie and Phil barely saw each other. Especially in bed: Phil worked for a lumberyard during the day and Josie worked the night shift at a nursing home. Sometimes they even passed each other in the doorway, with a kiss on the lips, and then headed in separate directions. Their sex life had always been happy – they’d only emerged from their honeymoon suite for meals – and they had kept a passionate connection as their marriage had mellowed into its second decade. Josie had always prided herself, secretly, on their spontaneity – the time they’d torn each others’ clothes off in a rowboat on a secluded lake, the time they had furtively fooled around like teenagers in a parked car in their own driveway, just feet away from their bedroom but unwilling to wait. But the truth was, their new work schedules were taking their toll. In the moments that did find them in bed at the same time, Phil was usually exhausted. Josie’s flirtatious advances seemed to go unnoticed. She started to look at herself longer in the mirror, wondering if something had started to go and if Phil could tell and didn’t want her anymore. Weren’t men supposed to be the ones full of libido, all the time? It was definitely driving a wedge between them, especially as Josie decided to pretend as if their sex life didn’t exist and wait for him to seduce her. That didn’t happen, and the hurt went deeper. Finally, she decided to start asking him on “dates”—dates that would set them up for a sexual encounter. He was thrilled, and sent her little e-mails and phone calls inquiring about the night’s date. Spontaneity, she decided, was for people with time on their hands. Good sex in a busy life took planning.
Making time for love is an important indicator of the commitment and sustainability of your relationship. When you consider the outrageous scheduling hoops we agree to without a qualm in our work settings (or even more intensely, in managing our children’s activity calendars), it makes you wonder how the idea of scheduling intimacy could still be so taboo.
Yet, taboo it is—many of us seem to have an overriding belief that sex and intimacy are somehow tainted if they are not spontaneous and immediate. This belief system is connected to the shame and guilt we carry around from our adolescence (when we could only describe a make-out session if we could first say, “I don’t know how it happened, but suddenly we were just …”). It seems we can only fully embrace our sexuality if it just happens to us. Planning for it forces us to claim the most unpredictable, and to some degree, uncontrollable, aspect of our lives.
There are a lot of good reasons to start including love time in your regular schedule. Leaving love to the spontaneous in a life that is overbooked with commitments to family and careers means that our love often gets the lowest ebb of our energy. Most of us arrive at our bedrooms exhausted, finally turning away from the last email, the last bill to be paid, the last dish to be washed, the last light turned off. Even the most spontaneous among us can barely muster the energy to imagine a wild interlude at that moment.
Planning love dates can add excitement to the rest of the week. Looking forward to an intimate time, which can, but doesn’t have to include full-on sex, can be both relaxing and stimulating. Couples who are struggling to find physical connection may find it easier agreeing to mutual massages than envisioning hours of lovemaking. Either way, setting aside time and energy for your partner sends a message that sustains commitments. While my husband and I don’t have set days of the week, we do discuss and agree to “dates” either later in the day or the next day. Setting this time for lovemaking becomes part of the foreplay and gives permission to entertain thoughts that might come in handy later.
Inventing a shared language for intimacy also connects partners. Revisiting the art of flirting can spice up even the most common of conversations: “What’s for dinner?” suddenly has multiple meanings. We are more playful with each other when we are waiting for our date time. Unfulfilled or even worse, conflicting expectations about intimacy are often the most difficult ground for couples to maneuver. This is where communication is the currency of the relationship on every level.
Learning to schedule time for love requires that we acknowledge, and are willing to talk about our sex life together. This is challenging because the taboo is so strongly against speaking honestly and openly about sex. Yet, developing a language for love is one of the strongest predictors of having a good sex life. Couples who can talk about what they want or prefer in their physical lives, may actually be able to get it. Code words are ok—they may even add some excitement to the game. As long as you make time to play.