Elizabeth's Side: His sleep schedule is irritating.
After 18 years of marriage, you'd think we would have conquered the whole sleep schedule by now. But it's worse than ever! I need to go to bed by 10:30 at the latest. That means being asleep at 10:30. As a working mom, I need a solid eight hours of sleep just to survive.
Every night when I tell James that I need to go to bed, he always gives the same response, "Do you want trouble?" ("Trouble" means that James will follow me to the bedroom for a short time until I fall asleep and then go back to the living room.) If I say no, then he simply stays out in the living room as I go to bed alone.
So here I am with the same two options night after night: Go to bed alone, or if I'm in the mood … then go to sleep alone. I'm just not a night owl, but most nights he goes back to the living room, watches TV, does work stuff or whatever it is that he does after I go to bed. I know he's not cleaning the house!
It irritates me that unless I'm up for one more "activity," James is out of the picture, or even sometimes afterwards he's back in the living room. I hate going to bed alone, but staying up and waiting for him to be tired just isn't an option.
James' Side: Her sleep schedule isn't realistic.
Every night at about 10 or 10:15, Elizabeth puts down whatever she's doing and gives me a look. She's ready to go to bed. But that's the time when I'm still wide awake and ready to keep going.
It's a broken routine. I hear her say, "I'm tired …" then fill in the blank with any number of sentences describing every detail of just how tired she is. As if, after 18 years of marriage, I don't know that she needs to be in bed at 10:30."
Depending on the "look," my typical response—and yes, I realize that it's a bad habit—is to ask, "Do you want trouble?" or "You don't want trouble do you?" or "Okay, I'm not tired yet, I'll be there in a while."
Some nights, if she's still awake enough, I'll follow her to the bedroom for some "quality" time together, then I return to the living room. I just can't fall asleep—so I don't want to lie there wide awake when I could be doing something.
But the other nights, when Elizabeth isn't in the "trouble" mood, I stay up. That's when Elizabeth gives me the "I hate going to bed without you" speech.
I feel bad. Sometimes on those "trouble free" nights, I'll still try to go in with her and lie there for 10-15 minutes of boredom, eventually leaving once I hear her first signs of sleep. Then I go back to what I was doing. It seems silly.
I want to spend time with Elizabeth. But lying in bed not sleeping seems like a waste of the most creative time of my day.
What They Did
The underlying element of James and Elizabeth's issue had very little to do with their sleep schedules. It was more about time that they needed to spend together. James would go to bed, if he got what he (they) wanted. But on the nights that James didn't get what he wanted, Elizabeth didn't get what she needed.