98.7% of Hollywood movie sex happens in a fit of lifestyle disrupting passion. If you are involved in a monogamous relationship that goes beyond the honeymoon, in other words- if you want to be happily married, you know that the scenario presented in Hollywood gives 2 lifestyle options. The first is to have amazing lifestyle disrupting passionate sex, when you feel like it. In our experience and from talking to friends this happens 2 to 10 times a year. Toss in kids and pregnancy to the mix and you can chop those numbers in half. Which leads option #2. You put sex on the back burner because you simply do not measure up.
We don’t look like hollywood stars and when we’re honest we’re not as brave, attractive, or horny as them either. Which is good. Hollywood is fake. But the feeling of failure remains far after the realization. And in our experience Hollywood (or porn) does most of the lasting education about what us and others believe about sex and most have yet to come up with a replacement to the action flick narrative.
In our early years we thought scheduling sex sounded robotic and would kill it. Why did we think that? Because of the Hollywood narrative. And so we decided to wing it, play it by ear, wait for a fit of passion, etc. And sometimes it worked. But here’s what we noticed. 90% of our energy was spent on trying to decide and agree on whether or not to even have sex.
In our case, my wife Kami, started getting sexually molested around the age of 12. This translated into our sex life as it never being “the right time”. I was exposed to porn around the age of 7 and thus began my trajectory. So for me it was always “the right time”. This meant that every time the option of sex existed – which is every day, it took an incredible amount of time and energy to go through the ritual and dance of coercion, rejection, disapproval and pain of trying to agree. We’ve talked to many couples that have decided that it wasn’t worth it. This was all we knew so it just felt normal but we didn’t realize there was another way to spend this same energy.
We now realize that energy spent deciding whether or not to have sex came from energy we could have spent focusing on technique, actual intimacy, facing deeper fears or demons, or understanding and communicating our desires. We have started spending much more time on these things because we have created a schedule. It sounds obvious now but at the time it didn’t.
Every thing in my life that I take seriously we have scheduled into our weekly life. We have kind of a saying around here that has helped our family: “If it’s not scheduled into your week it’s not important. “ More than a year ago we decided we wanted to understand the Toraic Scriptures. So what did we do? We scheduled it twice a week. A year and a half ago we decided to run marathons. It wasn’t going to happen on accident so we scheduled running 3 days a week. Two months ago when I started writing I scheduled it 6 days a week. 2 months ago we decided that all the guys liked wings, cigars and bourbon. We scheduled it once a week. Olympians and CEOs understand that you don’t get to amazing places on accident. But why do we have this visceral reaction against scheduling sex? We’re afraid it will just kill the passion. What if someone told me that scheduling running , writing or bourbon and wings would kill the passion? We’d think they were crazy. Someone once asked, British playwright, Somerset Maugham if he wrote on a schedule or when struck by inspiration. “I write only when inspiration strikes, ” he replied. “Fortunately it strikes every morning at nine o’clock sharp.”
Sex is complicated. It’s intimate. It reveals wounds. It can be messy physically and emotionally. And so, like many other things it can reveal our destructive tendencies or apathy. This is what makes masturbation so appealing. You feel like it. You go for it. Simple. Sex with another, is about the needs, desires, limitations, and yes, even the schedule of another. But, it’s in that community that you find the true fulfillment that sex and humanity were designed for. For this reason it’s worth it. You’re worth it. Your spouse is worth it. Your relationship is worth it. But that doesn’t change the fact that it’s complicated.
In the Hollywood narrative, sex usually lasts 2 minutes on screen in a relationship that is set to last 2 weeks. You don’t see many scenes with couples celebrating their 40th wedding anniversary by getting it on. This is why the slam bam passion scenes work. But I want my marriage to last until one of us dies, and be awesome. If we have sex 2 times a week for 50 years (we’re almost a third there) that’s 5200 times. We will not have sex 5200 times based upon spontaneous passion. In Malcom Gladwell’s famous book outliers he states that it takes 10,000 hours to become an expert at something. Those 10,000 hours don’t happen on accident either. With work, sports, and art, we understand this. Maybe we should start considering it with with sex. Because when it comes to my wife and sex: I want to be an expert. And I hope you feel the same way for your marriage and family.
So, if you’re encountering ongoing conflict or apathy around sex you may want to consider a schedule for a month or a lifetime. It’s just a tool. It probably won’t make it easier but it will allow you to direct your collective energy into the areas that deserve it. Without my writing schedule I would have spent the first hour of each day contemplating all of my excuses and motivations and scheduling variables. That energy, was instead spent on my book. I would recommend a minimum of once a week. This is not a sex thing. This is a scheduling thing. We have heard from other couples that use this as a good benchmark. For us, it’s a minimum. In the end, it doesn’t matter what we do, what others do or what’s “average”. All that matters is that you and your spouse agree. No one else should be your Hollywood, including Hollywood. Remember, you can always cancel and add a day. We’ve skipped running days. But then again, when it was negative 2 degrees we were out there in the freezing rain. And when it’s a beautiful Friday afternoon I don’t feel like I can’t run just because it’s on the calendar. And this May, when the marathon comes, we’ll finish it together.