What Do Married Men Dread Hearing from Their Spouses?
“I know it’s late, but we need to talk!”
The tension between women wanting to talk and men wanting to sleep is the stuff of standard sitcom fare since the days of I Love Lucy. Nevertheless, there’s an epidemic of sleep-deprived couples lacking adequate communication. As a result, sex is often less frequent than one or both partners would like, and feeling “tired” (not enough sleep) or “disconnected” (not enough pillow talk) are common explanations.
The superficial solution is simple, set aside time to connect earlier in the day and prioritize at least ten minutes of daily communication absent electronic devices. More sleep, more sex and a stronger sense of marital satisfaction should result. But beneath the surface, this clash is psychologically complex and illuminates the ongoing challenge of balancing separateness and togetherness. For a marriage to be intimate, both partners must learn to be engaged with each other while simultaneously existing as two separate selves. This means learning to affirm one’s self enough to contain the urge to talk if your partner needs to sleep AND developing the ability to rally for a conversation even when you’re exhausted. Balancing this tension often means managing an underlying fear of abandonment that can accompany the urge to connect through words. Or managing an underlying fear of engulfment that may drive the urge to take space through sleep or other independent pursuits.
Men might not be thrilled when they hear phrases like “I’m PMSing again!” or “Guess what day it is????!!!” but I suspect they secretly enjoy how such phrases remind them of the importance of balancing separateness and togetherness.