When Naomi Richmond* was trying to conceive her second child, the sex felt more forced than fun. “It was so scheduled,” says the 36-year-old, who tracked her ovulation to time sex for three months prior to conception. Richmond and her husband opted to have sex every other day during the week that she was ovulating each month. It was the most sex the couple has ever had, says Richmond, and her husband’s busy work schedule, coupled with their then-two-year-old daughter and an unexpected case of the flu, made it challenging to get in the mood so often.
For couples that are following an ovulation calendar to get pregnant, scheduled sex is a reality, but that doesn’t mean it needs to feel like a chore on your to-do list. “We have this idea that sex has to be spontaneous, but there isn’t anything wrong with it being scheduled,” says Adrienne Bairstow, a registered sex therapist at East Toronto Therapy. She says it’s OK to have an appointment for sex. “It’s what you do when you get there that’s important,” she says. Here are six ways to make scheduled sex feel sexy.
For Cheryl McMeeken, a sex and relationship therapist based in Calgary, scheduled sex provides an opportunity to build anticipation. “Planned sex can be great because it gives us something to look forward to,” she says. On the day of a scheduled tryst, leave flattering notes in your partner’s work bag for him to discover later in the day or send flirty texts and photos. Visual cues, like leaving out your lingerie or a bottle of your partner’s favourite massage oil, can help stoke the fires, says Bairstow. Building this anticipation for your partner can also be a way of building anticipation for yourself, she explains. She also suggests fantasizing during the day or masturbating (to orgasm or only partway) to help get your mojo going.
If you aren’t in the mood when the moment arrives, that’s OK. “Take the time to connect in a non-sexual way first,” says Bairstow. Ask about each other’s day and unwind over a glass of wine, a cup of tea or even a bath. Eye gazing—staring into each other’s eyes for two minutes—can help. It’s an exercise used in tantric sex that is used to deepen emotional connections, says Bairstow. Deep breathing can also help calm your brain down, minimize the distractions of the day and help you focus on your partner.
The goal of making a baby can lead couples to overthink sex. “Pressure is the enemy of sex,” says Bairstow. Temporarily press pause on all baby-related talk and focus on pleasure instead. Try creating a welcoming and technology-free environment in your bedroom—that means no TV, computers or phones. Prevent fatigue from killing the mood by delegating household tasks if you can or bowing out of social activities you don’t enjoy.
“Women are often overextended and, if we’re really depleted, that affects our hormone levels,” says McMeeken. Once you’ve eliminated as many stressors as possible, get out of your head and focus on your senses of touch, smell and taste. Start with a foot massage that evolves into a full-body and erotic massage, advises McMeeken. Focus on fun by giving role-playing a whirl or reading erotica to each other.
If sex is viewed primarily as baby-making time instead of time to enjoy each other’s company, it can become another task on your to-do list. The longer the stretch between sexual encounters, the more awkward it can feel to reconnect. Desire can help breed desire, says McMeeken, who recommends that couples continue having sex outside of their ovulation window. “Having sex more can make sex feel less like a chore,” she says.
Both experts recommend shaking up your routine and having sex outside the bedroom. Experiment with different rooms in your house or even the car. “You can make it feel spontaneous, even if it isn’t,” says McMeeken. Or discuss new positions you would both like to try and give them a whirl. If your budget allows, get away and book a holiday. “When couples go on vacation, it’s a lot easier to quiet your mind and connect with each other,” says Bairstow.
Following an ovulation schedule for several months with no success can cause frustration and lead to tension in a relationship (both inside and outside the bedroom), especially if a couple starts to suspect fertility issues. “Fertility problems can take a toll on the relationship, and couples often aren’t equipped to deal with the stress involved,” says Bairstow. Unfortunately, that’s the worst time to clam up. “Some people shut down, but good communication equals good sex,” says McMeeken. If you’re having difficulty talking one on one, a counsellor can help, says Bairstow. “Your relationship doesn’t need to be in trouble to see a sex and couples therapist,” she says.
*Name has been changed