When my husband and I first moved in together as an engaged couple, he made it very clear that it was important to him that we both go to bed at the same time.
The idea was romantic and lovely.
As we didn’t wake up in the morning at the same hour, when we went to bed at night it felt like we were increasing our intimacy together.
It also meant that we were more likely to have sex, which just added to the more intimate and deeper connection we were trying to facilitate.
This was an arrangement that we followed to a T for almost a year. We would go to bed at the same time, with my partner sleeping immediately so that he could wake up to his alarm at 4:45 am.
While I, on the other hand, would lay in bed next to his sleeping form for several hours, the backlight of my e-reader illuminating the room ever-so-slightly, until I would start to feel tired, too.
In theory, this was a lovely idea.
In practice, the reality was very different.
The rose coloured glasses come off.
I began to get quite frustrated with going to bed earlier than I’d like, and sitting there restlessly as I read a book trying to relax enough to fall asleep.
There were a lot of things I wanted to do in the run of a day, but just never felt there was enough time to accomplish. I constantly felt like I was trying to catch up, and always failing to do so.
After dinner, as I felt a burst of productive energy kick in, it would soon be time to go to bed. I would immediately fell antsy and annoyed.
My husband, or rather fiancé at the time, was equally frustrated.
Because my constant shifting in bed, along with the light of my e-reader that was already set to the lowest brightness possible, still bothered him. If he shifted to face me, the dim light would instantly wake him up.
We were both silently seething and feeling more and more frustrated as time went on, and yet this was something we didn’t have an actual conversation about openly. We had both agreed when we first moved in together that going to bed at the same time was something we deeply valued, and stubbornly stuck to that theory for the better part of a year.
Imagine, reader — moving in with one another and never changing a single thing that you agreed to initially, even once the reality of actually living together kicks in and theories are quickly breaking down.
What a nightmare of a joke.
It’s safe to say we were pretty slow on the uptake.
The early bird vs. the night owl.
For the year before we were engaged, I was living in my house with only a girl friend as a roommate.
She was rarely home, so I had the house mostly to myself.
The natural flow of how I lived as a single woman was sleeping in and staying up late. I figured out that I’m more creatively driven and inspired later in the day, which worked better for running my business.
I had a great system going for that year.
Cue my fiance moving in with me, who is the absolute definition of an early bird. Before he even gets to work, he fits in a work out at the gym, a self-guided meditation, and a bunch of other stuff that I can’t even imagine doing before the sun comes up.
To my credit (and I truly do deserve credit for this), I gave the 5 a.m. wake up a try with him for a good month.
Science says that it takes three weeks to turn something into a habit, and I gave that sh*t my best go.
But the problem was, after he went to work, I would then grab a tea, sleepily sit on the couch with few episodes of Friends on Netflix, and the next thing I knew I was waking up several hours later because I had fallen back to sleep.
It was very obvious from the get-go that early morning wake-ups were not my thing. And yet, I stopped doing the early wake-up, but still went to bed early with my fiancé.
The tension of this arrangement came to a head during a marriage preparation session we had a few months before the wedding.
I finally reclaimed that which was mine, even though it hurt him.
During this marriage prep session, we went through a guided exercise of identifying tension points in our life together that we wanted to bring up, judgement-free, and resolve.
My fiancé brought up his utter frustrating with the bright light of my e-reader and my tossing and turning as he was trying to sleep. By this point, he was heavily into sleep research, and was borderline obsessed with figuring out how to achieve the best quality sleep possible. He took that sh*t very seriously.
I can’t even tell you, dear reader, just how utterly infuriated I was when I heard him whine about these specific things.
When I got visibly irritated by his comment, he asked what my problem was.
“I guess I’m just pretty pissed at you right now, because you won’t even meet me half-way. Going to bed early just to be near you as you sleep is a sacrifice I’ve intentionally been making for a year now, for the sake of our intimacy together. And you have zero appreciation for what I’m giving up to fulfill that commitment. What do you expect me to do, sit there twiddling my thumbs for two hours until I’m tired enough to sleep? I have so many other things I’d rather be doing, but am not completely and entirely for YOU.”
It was especially the word ‘sacrifice’ that took my partner so off guard — he’d never thought of it like that before. I saw the hurt flash across his face instantly, and it broke my heart a little. But at least he was now seeing my perspective.
Enough was enough. I needed to be honest. This arrangement was no longer working for me anymore. To be honest, I don’t think it ever work for me at all.
In fact, it was actually hurting me. I was severely stressed, feeling like I had no downtime or me-time to unwind, relax or partake in my favourite hobbies.
Instead, I felt like a prisoner of that bed in the hours when I felt most inspired and alive.
I was just so lost in the honeymoon phase of being newly engaged and moving in together that I didn’t clue in like I should have.
This remains one of the most important conversations we’ve ever had in our relationship.
Because not only did it brought to light not only our differences in habit, but also the differences in how we needed to properly sustain ourselves as unique individuals.
My now-husband uses his mornings for self-improvement, self-development, as well as maintaining both his mental and physical health. I also require these elements to be met in order for myself to live a whole and healthy life.
But I cannot achieve these requirements in the morning. It’s just never been the way that I work, whether it’s reading or exercising or finishing up some client work or even taking a shower, I’ve always been a night owl who functions more efficiently once the sun has gone down.
And I also have a fundamental rule in the mornings of: “If the sun is not out, then neither am I.”
That was one of the important pieces that got lost along the way.
The two of us got so engrossed in trying to facilitate and maintain my partner’s schedule and need for healthy balance, that we equally neglected my needs and the ways that I sustain myself.
Because that’s what we’re trained to do as women in romantic relationships — we’re trained to sacrifice and put the needs of our partner before ourselves.
This is always been the case for me, as I’m a chronic people pleaser, that I look out for the needs of my loved ones first, often at the expense of myself.
Because that’s what women have been trained to do for the better part of our existence. We’ve been groomed to satisfying and think of the needs of men before ourselves, often to the detriment of our own fulfilment and mental health.
I have to admit, it’s kind of embarrassing for me to say that it took a whole year for me to realize that something so fundamentally necessary for myself and my health was neglected so severely by not only me, but also my partner.
I look forward to a future for my daughter and my daughter’s daughter and my daughter’s daughter’s daughter where considering the needs of women and their requirements for health becomes just as instinctual as considering those of men.
And that is exactly the future that I am working so intentionally to build.
And until then, I will continue to reclaim the night as my own, and spend those sweet, sweet hours from 9 p.m. to midnight reading, exercising, journaling and doing anything and everything that I need for my own self-care and self-love.
And I hope you will join me in doing the same.
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