Bedtime Issues of the Sleeping Kind

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Part of having a great marriage is being respectful of your spouses needs, wants and desires, and that means in the morning, afternoon, and of course, at bedtime. No one expects to have every single request fulfilled in marriage, but some things really do matter, and when it comes to bedtime, my clients have asked me to intervene in certain issues when their own requests got no results.

One husband, who was a physician and had to be at the hospital by 6 am every week day, pleaded with his wife to not watch the television when he was trying to get a good night’s sleep. Even worse, she wanted to keep it on all night as background noise. For me, the therapist, it was hard to understand why the wife, a stay-at-home mom, would not accommodate her husband. Despite every effort ­other than turning off the TV — like suggesting she get headphones, he get earplugs and blinders for his eyes, nothing brought him peace and she would not budge on having the noise of the television. A few years later, they divorced.

As a marriage therapist I sometimes have to be like a judge in a courtroom. It’s not my favorite thing, but some people really do have unreasonable beliefs and demands. Part of my job is to inform them that that what they are asking is too much. Once I do that and we find that they are not willing to at least look within and examine what I’m saying, then it pretty much tells me I am dealing with a person who is not bendable, and that’s not good in marriage.

In the bedroom requests are very serious, because sleep is very serious. We all need good, deep sleep to be healthy and some of the issues I have dealt with might blow your mind …

A wife was disgusted with her husband’s propensity for grooming his nails in bed. “I hear a click, or crack, and every now and then a piece of toe or fingernail hits me in the face or flies across the room and bounces off the wall!” she would report. “Even if the nails weren’t hitting me, I find it totally disgusting to have him doing his nails in bed. He doesn’t care at all about what I think!”

This man’s dad had groomed his nails in bed and he had thought it was funny. I had to tell him that it was not.

We all know about the husband (or wife!) who snores and the spouse has to sleep in the guest bedroom, and then there is the partner who can’t stay up past 7 pm while the other spouse is a night owl. One wants it to be hot, the other cold. Door open, door shut. Curtains open, or closed. Fourteen pillows, no pillows. Heated blanket, no blankets. Dog and cat in bed, get them out of the bed — battles for sleep comfort can be endless.

So, here is what I would recommend to assist with any of these issues:

  • Have the spouse who is bothering the other one to develop empathy for the other, surely they can think of things that annoy them — how would they feel if the person annoying them wouldn’t take the disturbance elsewhere?
  • Work out a compromise and find intelligent solutions. Instead of having it 60 degrees in the room, make it 68, and the other person can wear heavier clothes and use blankets. People who are hot can put fans on themselves.
  • When push comes to shove, the person who creates the problem, whether it is noise, lights, unsanitary habits, heat, chill, pets or whatever, should remove themselves to a different location.

Another way to look at it is this: We all seek inner peace. That’s why couples come see me, because they want inner peace and something is going on in their marriage that it is taking it away. So, the rule is, it is never OK to expect or demand your partner to give up his or her inner peace so that you can have it. You must be willing to negotiate a compromise that will enable you both to have inner peace. If you are the one with with the annoying habit, the onus is on you to take it away or adjust it so that you may help your spouse have inner peace.

Having a great marriage is about taking action daily to love your partner. Forcing annoyances or unusual habits on them is the opposite of that. Good sleep is such an important issue that it really is important to find a compromise that works for both, or be nice, loving and considerate, and take yourself and/or what annoys your spouse away.

Originally published at on December 23, 2015.

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