Q: Both my wife and I got married late in life, in our forties. And we’re a few years into it. I feel like a happily married man, but the nights are becoming unbearable. Sharing a bed with my wife is a nightmare! If I move during the night, she wakes me up to let me know that I woke her up! If I snore softly, or loudly, she wakes me up to let me know that I woke her up. I sleep fairly quietly most of the time, but will snore sometimes if I’m extremely tired and suffering from lack of sleep. She controls 90% of what we watch on TV in the bedroom. And once she falls asleep, the TV must be shut off, otherwise it wakes her up. I’ve always fallen asleep to the television, but those days are long over as I now must watch TV in another room until I become sleepy. And she takes up 3/4 of the bed, which leaves me clinging to the edge of our queen size bed. The irony in all of this is that she gets at least 8 hours of sleep at night, while I must function on an average of 5 hours many nights because I work late into the night. I don’t understand how a person, who gets so much more sleep than I do, can still manage to wake me up to let me know that I’m disrupting her precious sleep. I never awaken her for snoring or moving during the night, despite the fact that I’m also a fairly light sleeper unless I’m totally exhausted. I feel like any signs that I’m actually alive, present and well are an annoyance to her in the night; and therefore, she must wake me up to remind me to disappear so that I do not disrupt her sleep. But if I try to sleep in another room, she gets upset about that too. I never had trouble sharing my bed with women in the past, so I don’t know what to do. Do you have any suggestions?
A: Well, it sounds like she wants the idea of sharing a bed with a husband, but is perhaps not that into the actual logistics and concrete aspects of it. She is clinging to being single, while being in the marriage to you. I’m speaking specifically to the nighttime/sleeping aspect of the marriage and not to the many other aspects of married life since you stated that you’re happy, otherwise. I can only hope that her nighttime behavior is not symbolic of her other views and approaches to the marriage, because to be quite honest with you, she’s being very selfish.
Here’s the deal. Many many people enjoyed sleeping alone prior to getting married. And those many people struggle to adjust to sharing a bed with another person. But, the thing to remember is that every relationship is going to entail sacrifices. We really can’t have our cake and eat it too! It’s cliché because it’s true. Perhaps you and your wife need to have a heart-to-heart discussion on whether or not the gains of marriage are outweighing the losses. Is she getting more out of the marriage than what she’s losing? This is a necessary discussion that lays the foundation for the essential aspect of marriage called picking your battles. Marriage is about give and take, while selfish disregard for a partner will surely leave that partner feeling as if their presence is not needed or wanted.
I do agree with her desires for a good night’s rest, but I don’t agree with the extent to which she is going to achieve it. Why get married if you’re then going to damage that marriage by attempting to be single while in that marriage. This is one of the mildest ways that married people attempt to cling to single life. The others are another article entirely. The bottom line is, you can’t demand the single life while sharing your life with another person. It simply doesn’t work and only leaves your spouse feeling unwanted and a burden.
Because this is a mild version of this problem, I can easily suggest some things that you two might try:
- Get some earplugs if noise is an unbearable disturbance.
- Buy a better mattress that allows individuality. This would be a mattress that allows one person to toss and turn without disturbing the person sleeping next to them (e.g. memory foam, sleep number, etc.). This would be the exact opposite of a waterbed, by the way. This will also require her to sleep on her own side of the bed, as opposed to taking up 3/4 of the bed, as that would leave her on your side, experiencing your movements (because you’re still alive) and defeating the overall purpose of individuality.
- I absolutely agree with her that you should not exit the marital bed to sleep in another room. I’m seeing this occur more and more often in couple’s therapy and I never agree with it. It only increases the gap between the two parties. And after sleeping alone, both parties get used to it again. It’s a return to single life that I am rarely able to get couples to overcome once they’re back in that place. Couples need to connect physically and emotionally, so sleeping together is an essential aspect of keeping and reuniting that connection.
- As for the TV issues, I suggest meeting each other half way on this. She needs to be more flexible on actually sharing the TV with you as it pertains to deciding what to watch. Take turns deciding. Assign days. Flip for it. Try anything that balances the scales better than the current approach. But you may need to sacrifice your desires to have the TV on late into the night if you’re coming to bed late because of work. Come to an agreement on the latest shut-off time and stick to it. Don’t keep her up all night just so that you can watch late night TV. And if she starts sharing the TV, you might not feel the need to be up late watching TV in another room because you’d be able to watch your shows with her.
Hopefully these suggestions will improve your situation. Thank you for your question and do take care.