A couple weeks ago, we were hanging out with our friends Becky and Jared, and we got to talking about marriage and sleeping together. It got me thinking about my own experience, and what I am learning, and what we are figuring out, and so I thought I would share it with you all.
First off, I've slept alone my entire life. I've never had to share a bed with a sibling, and I've always had at least a queen-sized bed to sleep in. I’m not going to lie, it's been pretty awesome. Secondly, I love sleep. I don't do it a ton, or too often, but one of the biggest joys in life - to me - is a great night's sleep. Oh man, just thinking about it makes me feel seriously warm and fuzzy inside. It's the best.
So, I got married
. And now I am no longer sleeping alone. And it's...different. It's not bad. But it's not easy. And this is my own issue, not Rachel's.
The stark reality is that at this stage of our marriage - eight months in - I still don't sleep well when sharing a bed. I think it's because I think about her, and simply do not want to wake her by my movements or noises (if I want to get some water, if the bed creaks while I shift, if I want to adjust my pillows or throw off the covers, if I have to cough, whatever). Also, I can't be touching another human while sleeping. Because if she breaks away from me, I will realize that our skin is no longer touching, and I will wake up.
The thing is, I promised Rachel in our wedding vows that I would learn to fall asleep while cuddling
. It was important to her, and so it is important to me. And believe it or not, I have done it a time or two during afternoon naps. But afternoon naps aren't for solid, quality sleep. They are for resting. And if we fall asleep while cuddling, any movement she makes will definitely wake me, and any movement I make will likely wake her. But cuddling during naptime is all about intimacy rather than being refreshed and recharged. And I’m okay with that. But nighttime sleep is so very different. As I think anyone would agree.
I promised Rachel in our wedding vows that I would learn to fall asleep while cuddling. It was important to her, and so it is important to me.
We are blessed to have a king-sized bed. And I am pretty sure that it helps a lot. So here is what we've worked out: at night, after we're done cuddling, she moves over to one side of the bed, and I move over to the other side, and we keep not one but two pillows side by side each other to form a barrier in between us. We tried a one-pillow barrier, but Rachel kept breaching it in her sleep, and I never could wake her to get her back over to her side (because that's just mean, and I want to always be loving, and the loving thing to do is to let her sleep peacefully). While I make progress in becoming more comfortable with another person in the same bed, this is helping me for now so that her movements don't wake me up when I'm asleep.
So there you have it. I know it's a bit unique, and we both talked it out in great detail to make sure there were no hurt feelings at all, and a complete peace about it on both sides. All couples should do that with any decision like this.
Another issue worth discussing is that now that I am married, I seem to have a lot more on my mind that keeps me awake at night. I hate that. I can't imagine how much harder it will be with kids to think about. I would, of course, rather have Rachel (and kids) in my life than less on my mind - less to think about and care about and pray about. That right there is something I obviously need to sort out between me and God. He's pretty clear that I need to cast all my cares on Him. I'm working on it. All of this is still quite new to me, and I'm learning as I go.
That right there is something I obviously need to sort out between me and God. He's pretty clear that I need to cast all my cares on Him. I'm working on it.
I should also be honest and say that I was/am definitely tempted to go to the guest room sometimes and once again experience sleeping soundly (but alone) in a bed all to myself. But in my heart, I absolutely know I can't do that. I choose her. I choose closeness, and intimacy, and marriage. And I will get used to sleeping with her if I put in the time and effort (like everything else in my life). It's not a big deal. I'm so lucky to have such a godly bombshell in my bed anyway. I know this. I'm not going to quit. And it's going to get easier in time. I made that vow I mentioned earlier. I'm sticking to it no matter what, and God will help me figure this out.
Sleep really does matter a ton to me, though. I have the best days after the best nights. Truly, I am so much more productive, happy, thankful, energized, whimsical, fun, patient, and creative. And my profession is all about knowledge creation and dissemination. I need for my mind to be in the best shape possible to come up with the best ideas for my writing, teaching, researching, presenting, and innovating. And so I just constantly crave a great night's sleep. Constantly. That's the life I'm living now.
Rachel also says that when I've slept well, I am "a different person." She says I am more sweet, more considerate, and less focused on what I need to do for the day and more attentive to her and how she is doing and what she wants and needs. That first made me feel like complete crap
, because I don't
sleep amazingly most days, and so that means that I am not always the best possible husband I can be. But then I realized it's true - I totally can love her better if I am properly rested.
What's interesting is that Rachel says that after a great night's sleep, I also can receive
love better. I guess this means that I am more observant of what she does to bless me, and I perhaps take more time to enjoy a hug, or kiss, or snuggle time, or any other physical affection she wants to share with me. I am speculating here, but I think that makes sense too. When I've slept well, I feel less overwhelmed by all of my responsibilities. And that gives me the mental margin to be in the moment and enjoy the company and care of my wife.
I am more observant of what she does to bless me, and I perhaps take more time to enjoy a hug, or kiss, or snuggle time, or any other physical affection she wants to share with me.
Hmmm…what else have I learned? Well, we have also found that everything just works better if Rachel and I go to bed at the same time. If I come in late, or she comes in late, we disturb the other person. And if you're that person being disturbed, it sucks to have to try to fall asleep again after you've powered down...because then your hard-drive mind starts spinning up again. That’s the worst. And then I’m like GAHHHH give it a rest, you crazy brain!
But if we go to bed together, we can cuddle, chat and catch up, pray together, tell each other "I love you," share a kiss goodnight, and then separate to our sides to slip into slumber. I will say that this takes selflessness, because sometimes I want to get more work done at night, or watch a sporting event on TV while practicing guitar, or work on writing a blog entry like this one. But then I remind myself that all of those things can wait, and the priority should be a stable routine with my spouse where we finish the day together and avoid undermining each person's goal for an undisturbed night's sleep.
I think that's all I want to say for now about sleeping with my wife. Life is good, and life requires growth. This is just part of it, and something I never really expected as an issue that I would face. But I'm actually glad for it because it's stretching me
, and allowing me to demonstrate that I'm willing to fight for what I want, and fight for what matters to both of us. I know it's only sleep, but it's a big deal. I'm looking forward to seeing how all of this gets sorted in time!