Bedtime is for kids. Or not.
April 1, 2011 10:02 AM   Subscribe

I want my boyfriend to come to bed. He sometimes falls asleep on the couch after staying up late and playing video games. We're not communicating well, and neither of us is having much luck putting ourselves in the others' shoes. Can you offer some perspective?

About us: We’re both early 30’s, together ~4 years, living together since December of last year. I’m an emotional sort and he’s a bit more taciturn.

Here is how a typical conflict plays out: It’s bedtime for me, about 10:30pm. Boyfriend stays up playing a video game or watching TV. I doze lightly, but wake up a half hour later or an hour later to find boyfriend not in bed. I drag myself out of bed to find him in the living room with the TV on, and he is curled up on the couch asleep. I wake him up, sometimes with some tugging, and get him off to bed. I am now going to bed closer to 11:00 or 11:30, and stew in bed upset for another half hour before finally falling asleep.

I don’t actually have a problem with us going to bed at different times, and I wouldn’t have a problem with him staying up as late as he wants – after all, he is an adult – if I knew that he would come to bed when he got tired. But because he regularly (at least once a week) falls asleep in front of the TV instead of coming to bed fifteen feet away, I can’t trust that on any given night he will ever come to bed. So I am left trying to stay up until he comes to bed, which leaves me sleep deprived and miserable, or going to bed before him, and sleeping lightly until he wakes me up by coming to bed himself (which doesn’t bother me) or until I wake up in a panic that he’s not there and getting out of bed to find him on the couch again.

We’ve talked about this, and it ends up becoming a fight. He doesn’t understand why this is so important to me, and he doesn’t think falling asleep on the couch once a week is a big deal. (“I come to bed 6/7 nights a week!”) From my point of view, since he’s said it isn’t important, I can’t understand why he doesn’t come to bed when he knows it is so meaningful to me. I tried to use a simile by saying, “If I like steak and chicken equally, but you reeeeally love steak, why wouldn’t I make it every night?” That didn’t seem to connect.

So why is his coming to bed every night so important to me? Because I feel that unhappy couples are couples where one person is sleeping on the couch. Because it feels like he is being avoidant and unwilling to make me happy by doing something that’s important to me with (what ought to be) very little effort on his part. Because I feel rejected when he chooses not to come to bed when he’s feeling tired. I’ve brought up all of these things to him, and he says that he’s not unhappy with our relationship, that he’s not rejecting me, and that he can’t help it if he falls asleep on the couch. I don’t understand how someone can’t help it – people don’t just go from awake to asleep with no “I’m getting tired” warning from their bodies unless they have narcolepsy (which he doesn’t have). It feels like he’s saying that he chooses to ignore this signal when it is convenient to him, without regard for my feelings.

I can imagine what this question would look like if he were writing it:

“My girlfriend likes to go to bed early, and I like to stay up late watching TV or playing video games. I usually come to bed, but she constantly nags me to come to bed. I don’t understand why this is so important because it’s totally irrational and doesn’t make any sense, and besides, I come to bed most nights anyway. Even if I fall asleep on the couch, I usually wake myself up midway through the night and go to bed. She’s starting to get shrill in her insistence that I come to bed, and she’s now asking me almost every night when I start playing a networked video game that I turn the volume way down when she goes to bed and tries to make me promise that I’ll come to bed. It’s irritating and she’s obviously upset, but I don’t understand what the big deal is and I feel like I’m being nagged to death. I can’t help it if I fall asleep on the couch. How can I get her to stop nagging me? Jezus, if this is my worst quality, she has it pretty good.”

Ultimately, we’re at an impasse because this is vastly important to me, and it is not at all an important priority to him. In fact, he thinks the debate is ridiculous and doesn’t want to even talk about it anymore. I don’t blame him at this point because every time we do it turns into a big fight. He has asked, incredulously, "Do you want to just have a lights-out bedtime every night?" And that sounds ridiculous, controlling, and unfair. But damn if that didn't sound sort of appealing, too. The more I push, the more he pushes back.

Help me come up with some compromises that we can both make that I can suggest to him, or some ways to bring this topic up that might resonate with him better. Everything I’ve typed above I’ve said to him before, and it’s not getting through. I’m not looking for the ubiquitous “see a couples therapist” answer, that’s kind of obvious but it’s not an option for us at this time.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (77 answers total) 22 users marked this as a favorite
 
So why is his coming to bed every night so important to me? Because I feel that unhappy couples are couples where one person is sleeping on the couch.

This is wrong. You need to stop thinking this.
posted by empath at 10:10 AM on April 1, 2011 [42 favorites]


Memail me.
posted by desjardins at 10:12 AM on April 1, 2011


Ultimately, we’re at an impasse because this is vastly important to me, and it is not at all an important priority to him. In fact, he thinks the debate is ridiculous and doesn’t want to even talk about it anymore. I don’t blame him at this point because every time we do it turns into a big fight. He has asked, incredulously, "Do you want to just have a lights-out bedtime every night?" And that sounds ridiculous, controlling, and unfair. But damn if that didn't sound sort of appealing, too

I think your first impression is probably right. I would honestly break up with someone who made a big deal about this. He's an adult. He loves video games, and he can't play them while you're around and awake. He needs some time by himself to do things that he likes to do.

I would seriously break up with someone who took a stand on this, if I were in his position.
posted by empath at 10:13 AM on April 1, 2011 [11 favorites]


Ultimately, we’re at an impasse because this is vastly important to me, and it is not at all an important priority to him.

It seems like the freedom to fall asleep in front of the TV once a week is indeed important to him. 6 out of 7 nights falling asleep like you want seems like a good compromise, but how would you feel about 13 out of 14 nights instead? That is, if he only fell asleep in front of the TV once a fortnight, rather than once a week? Would once every three weeks work for you?
posted by Greg Nog at 10:14 AM on April 1, 2011 [3 favorites]


Or email me, if you want to continue to be anonymous. It's in my profile.
posted by desjardins at 10:14 AM on April 1, 2011


Your situation is familiar. Like you, I'm in my thirties and in a happy relationship. The difference might be that I don't feel rejected. I worry about his health. Sleep deprivation wreaks havoc on the human body.

My husband falls asleep on the recliner while watching TV about one a week, or once every two weeks. Sometimes when I see that he is getting tired and yawning I'll say some encouraging words and lead him to bed. Example: It's getting late. We're both tired. Come to bed with me and you'll feel so much better in the morning. Most of the time he agrees and gets in bed. Sometimes he'll stay up and watch another episode of Deadliest Catch.

I say to stop asking and stop nagging. It sounds like he enjoys it and might need a little alone time. Try not to stay up waiting for him. You're giving up precious time where you could be sleeping. Sometimes my husband snores and I treasure the time I can fall asleep before he comes in and starts sawing logs.
posted by Fairchild at 10:15 AM on April 1, 2011 [8 favorites]


Try to stop using sleeping on the sofa once in a while as any sort of barometer to measure the happiness of relationships. The real problem is that you think he's dismissive of something that's important to you. It's not that, it's that he just wants some time to himself. Please let him have it. Hell, let him sleep on the sofa all night once in a while if he wants. I purposely stay up later than my husband most nights just so I can have some alone time with no one around and if he bugged me to give it up I would not be happy.
posted by iconomy at 10:16 AM on April 1, 2011 [6 favorites]


I don’t understand how someone can’t help it – people don’t just go from awake to asleep with no “I’m getting tired” warning from their bodies unless they have narcolepsy (which he doesn’t have).

I like to read myself to sleep. I'll often read until I fall asleep with the book in my hand. I don't put a bookmark in, I don't put the book away, I just fall asleep, and the book naturally closes on my finger which stores my place until I wake up. The reason why I don't get up and book the book away is because the act of getting up (or even just putting a bookmark in) makes me feel more awake, and then I have to do the whole process over again. I'm much better at falling asleep when I'm not aware that I'm falling asleep. If I start thinking about it, I wake up. So yes, I do get an "I'm getting tired" warning from my body, but paying attention to that warning makes it much harder for me to sleep.

I'm not suggesting that your boyfriend is similar. I myself am not clear on how video games can be soporific. But there are more shades of grey between sleeping during an activity and narcolepsy.

Personally, I agree that couples going to bed together is important, and I can understand your fear. As a child, my first signs of upcoming parental divorce were when my dad started sleeping in front of the T.V. instead of going to the bedroom.

But I don't think that's what's going on in your case. This is more just him wanting some wind down time along once in a while and getting caught up with it. Those 6/7th of the week when he comes to bed with you are what you should be focusing on, not the other 1/7th. I think the best thing to do is be honest with your feelings, tell him all about your worries (show him this post, which is really well worded) and then let the issue drop. Not stop talking about it, but change your focus, dream about the other 6/7ths, and go to sleep for real.
posted by yeolcoatl at 10:16 AM on April 1, 2011 [11 favorites]


Like those above, I recommend that you chill out on this issue. Although you're living together, everybody needs his/her own space sometimes, and it sounds like, for him, those 1-2 nights a week when he falls asleep on his own might be that space, whether or not he's articulating it this way. Furthermore, when he has clearly told you that it's no reflection of his feelings for you, it becomes an issue of respect and trust on your part to take him at his word and give him a certain degree of freedom and autonomy over his own body and choices.

My answer would be different if this were most nights of the week. But since it is only once or twice a week, I think the burden falls on you to accept the situation, and to snuggle extra hard on those five nights when he is curled up beside you as you doze off.
posted by artemisia at 10:17 AM on April 1, 2011 [10 favorites]


At some point, there's going to be something else that's important to you that he doesn't think is important. If he's going to just say "Whatever, you're ridiculous" every time this happens, this is going to be a miserable relationship. I would be pissed if I were dismissed like that. That's how you talk to a child.

If he doesn't see a problem of tossing off things you say are really important, you should really think about whether or not you want to be with this person in the long-term.

In the short term, perhaps you can work out a night in which he tells you ahead of time, I'm not coming to bed.
posted by ignignokt at 10:17 AM on April 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


I can see that this would annoy you (and if it gets to be 3-4 nights a week then I'd be totally on your side), but once a week? If he doesn't wake you or it doesn't bother you when he climbs into bed at 2AM (which you said it doesn't) then I'd just let it go. Go to sleep and don't go looking for him.

Note that he's not sleeping on the couch - he's falling asleep on the couch. If he eventually comes to bed then you are still sleeping together as a couple, just not falling asleep as a couple.

My wife sometimes wakes up in the wee hours and can't fall back to sleep. She usually goes to the other room and sleeps there in a bed not occupied by me and 53 cats (well, it seems like 53). I wake up and she's not there. I don't follow her to the other room because that would wake her up (and the 53 cats would follow me), so I fall back to sleep alone. It's not ideal from my perspective, but it's a minor thing and she needs her sleep.
posted by It's Never Lurgi at 10:19 AM on April 1, 2011 [4 favorites]


He probably wants some alone time. If you live together and sleep together 6/7 nights out of the week, that's a lot of time together, it's hard to see why the 7th night is such a big deal. Lots of happy couples frequently sleep seperately, it's pretty typical.

Maybe he could make a point at least a couple nights a week to go to bed at the same time with you and you could promise not to say anything at all a few days a week about when/if he comes to bed.
posted by skewed at 10:19 AM on April 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


I drag myself out of bed to find him in the living room with the TV on, and he is curled up on the couch asleep. I wake him up, sometimes with some tugging, and get him off to bed.

This is rude. He is not 5 and you aren't his mom.
posted by asockpuppet at 10:22 AM on April 1, 2011 [53 favorites]


I disagree with the comments so far. I think you deserve a boyfriend more in tune with your intimacy needs. He likely won't know what he's lost until it's gone. Good luck.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 10:22 AM on April 1, 2011 [8 favorites]


I have sort of the same experience as yeolcoatl - if I'm snug as a bug in a rug watching TV on the sofa, the thought of getting up....turning off the TV and the HTPC and the lights....going upstairs...brushing my teeth...putting on pajamas....just seems like a whole bunch of unnecessary work to accomplish what is just about to happen...right....now...zzzzzzzz.

I always fall asleep after my husband. Always. If he made me come to bed at the same time as him, *I'd* be the one stewing and upset and annoyed.
posted by Lucinda at 10:23 AM on April 1, 2011 [3 favorites]


Whatever, you're ridiculous on this one.

When I sleep on the couch it's because I just got home from work about 11 or 12 or 1 and my wife has to be up around 5.5. If I'm not tired I'm not going to just get into bed because it's time to do so.

So I sit out in the living room and watch TV. Then I start to get tired. But if I walk across the apartment I'm going to wake back up. So I grab a blanket and pillow and just sleep on the couch.

It's not because either of us is mad at the other. It's not because we're having any sort of problem.

It's because I'm trying to be nice and not wake up my wife in the middle of the night.

I don't know what your boyfriend does during the day. But I work in a restaurant, and for me that either wears me out to the point of barely being able to change into PJs and brush my teeth before conking out or not being able to fall asleep until 4am because I'm just that wired.

So seriously, if the only issue you two have is him falling asleep on the couch once a week you're doing just fun.

Also, don't stay awake waiting for him. Just go to sleep.
posted by theichibun at 10:23 AM on April 1, 2011 [4 favorites]


It's very possible the one night a week (seriously, just one?) that he stays up and falls asleep on the couch his a little taste of independence that he enjoys once in a while.

I love my wife, she loves me, we have a good marriage, but I freaking love the hour or two I have to myself after she goes to bed. It's awesome. I can watch anything I want, play video games and if there's some leftover friend chicken in the fridge you can bet I'm gonna eat it. I don't want to be single, but I love that hour or so where I can act like I'm single.

Sounds like you have a pretty good boyfriend. Give him this one. Don't drive him off.

Another thing, different people have different ways of getting to sleep. I need a bit of a transition period myself. I can't just go "Yep, gettin' tired. Time to go lie down and fall asleep!" Sometimes I can be exhausted at 10:00 PM but if I go to bed I'm suddenly wide awake. I have to sort of wear myself out.

Also, I occasionally sleep on the couch (or extra bed) for one reason or another, as does my wife. I have never done it out of anger or after a fight, nor has she. We are a happy couple. Probably happier for it, actually.
posted by bondcliff at 10:23 AM on April 1, 2011 [39 favorites]


This is rude.

That is an extremely mild way of putting it.
posted by enn at 10:23 AM on April 1, 2011 [14 favorites]


Based only on what you've said here, I think you're being kinda controlling and totally uncompromising. A person has a right to bodily autonomy, and dictating where your boyfriend sleeps every single of the week is crossing a boundary. What if your boyfriend were to say, for example, that you had to shower together every single day, and complained if you took one day off?

I wonder, though, if this is part of a bigger pattern? Does your boyfriend do other things that make you unhappy, despite the fact that you've voiced your concern and it wouldn't take much effort for him to change things? Does he get irrationally stubborn about changing simply because you're asking him to do something? Conversely, do you try to control him in other areas of your lives? Is this just one more example?
posted by yarly at 10:23 AM on April 1, 2011 [14 favorites]


This is a big enough conflict between my husband and I that I'll probably send him this question and be like, "Look! We're not alone!" (though I'm pretty sure this has come up on here at least once before).

I recognize that the issue is somewhat irrational for me--probably fear of abandonment stuff (dead parent stuff), but I've woken up to have panic attacks about it and my attempts to be more understanding about this are pretty impaired when I wake up an anxious mess. Lately, he's been coming and reading in bed with me for about a half hour, until I doze off, at which point he goes and does his own thing. I know he sees it as pretty annoying, but less annoying than having a fight or simmering resentment about it, and it's a small concession that's made a major difference to how well I sleep. Anyway, I'm curious to see how other people respond here.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 10:23 AM on April 1, 2011 [2 favorites]


Also: TV in the bedroom? Preferably one with a sleep setting on the remote?
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 10:25 AM on April 1, 2011


I feel that unhappy couples are couples where one person is sleeping on the couch.

Dunno about this but I can tell you that unhappy couples are those where one partner makes the other responsible for his/her own happiness.
posted by trunk muffins at 10:30 AM on April 1, 2011 [54 favorites]


You are not being at all reasonable here. You need to let this one go.
posted by amro at 10:33 AM on April 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


Happy couples are rested couples. I *regularly* fall asleep on the futon while my husband plays games. If he can get me up, then I usually zombie my way into bed and it's fine. If I'm way too out, then he lets me alone and I wake myself up around 3 or 4 and go to bed.

I can't sleep if I think I'm keeping him awake by being awake. I can't sleep if I think too much. I can't sleep if I have caffiene to close to bed. I can't sleep for LOTS OF REASONS. My body creates insomnia out of thin air. I also can't sleep in bed with him in the other room, because it sets off some kind of monitor my body has for "location of husband." So, you're lucky you can sleep in bed without him, from my point of view. If he's getting enough sleep and you're not because you're waking up to police his sleeping habits, you need to stop waking up to police his sleeping habits. If he doesn't like being asleep on the couch, he'll get up and go to bed. I think you need to accept that his sleeping habits have no bearing on the happiness of your relationship, except for the fact that you're making it one.
posted by Medieval Maven at 10:33 AM on April 1, 2011 [5 favorites]


I know several people who have a habit of spending the night on the sofa or in the recliner in front of the TV. I think it's some sort of mental "comfort" thing - they're all cozy, and to get up and walk to the bedroom would disrupt that wonderfully warm drowsy sleepy zone that occurs right before you zonk out. I don't think he's deliberately sending you any sort of "I don't want to sleep with you" message, I think that this has just become a soothing sort of ritual for him. I can understand your sleeplessness when you're laying in bed and lightly dozing while waiting for him - I got so accustomed to having Mr. Adams beside me in bed that if I awoke during the night and discovered he wasn't there* would sleep fitfully on and off until morning. (*A few years ago he started getting up and moving to the sofa in the other room during the night now and then because he :::scoff:::said that my snoring was keeping him awake! Can you imagine? I don't snore!) But I adjusted to it and can now sleep soundly whether he's beside me or not. He's at home when he's not working, he does boring things like grocery shopping with me, and he'll watch TV shows he loathes but knows that I enjoy just so we can sit together in the evenings. I'm not saying you should deny your feelings, but I am saying that if your boyfriend is "there" in every other way - coming home at night, spending awake time with you, etc, then maybe you can eventually learn to not feel affronted when he conks out on the couch.
posted by Oriole Adams at 10:34 AM on April 1, 2011 [2 favorites]


Sorry, but this concern makes it sound like you have a screw loose. He's not avoiding sleeping with you, he goes to bed when he wakes up. He only does this once a week. It's not like he's not in bed because he's out with coke and hookers. He's watching some extra tv, and maybe sometimes he's tired enough from the day and cozy enough on the couch that he falls asleep. Your reation to this makes you sound controling, really controling and patronizing. Your anxiety over the issue is unfounded. Why can't you sleep without him in the bed? Because he hasn't heeded your command to get to bed before he falls asleep?


I tried to use a simile by saying, “If I like steak and chicken equally, but you reeeeally love steak, why wouldn’t I make it every night?” That didn’t seem to connect.
This simile is dumb. You wouldn't make steak every night because you need variety or some nights the store doesn't have any appetizing steaks, or any number of reasons that indicate nothing about your relationship status.

LEt it go or let him go.
posted by WeekendJen at 10:34 AM on April 1, 2011 [9 favorites]


When my husband and I got married, this was also an issue for us. I always fall asleep first. He loves to stay up and watch tv or play a video game. It caused some squabbles because I felt neglected and alone.

We've been married for over 17 years now. We're still happy. Some weeks, he comes to bed with me every night. Some weeks, he doesn't. Last night was one of those nights. I was in bed a little after 10. I have no idea what time he came to bed. At some point in the night, I realized I was snuggled up against him. He very rarely wakes me when he comes to bed.

How we got to this point was fairly simple. I realized that I wasn't neglected and alone when I really wanted his attention or intimacy. I wasn't asking for his attention when I was asleep. So, I stopped initiating an argument over it. I don't wait up for him. I don't get angry over something he's doing that has no impact upon me.

Let this issue go. Go and get your sleep without worrying about his. He'll come to bed when he wants.
posted by onhazier at 10:37 AM on April 1, 2011 [8 favorites]


My boyfriend often (5 nights a week?) stays up later than me to have some alone time and play video games.

I enjoy it, to be honest. I like to have the whole bed to flail around in until I fall asleep. I like not having to listen to him fall asleep first and start snoring (which then keeps me up longer). I like being able to read as long as I want without having to worry about the light bothering him.

We're in a tight, solid relationship. Relationships can allow for autonomy. I think you should let him have his 1 night a week. If I were in his position, I would start to feel resentful that I wasn't 'allowed.' That I had to watch myself so I didn't fall asleep. That you would come wake me up like a little child if I did. Really, it would bother me very very much. And as someone else said, I believe, it's just rude.
posted by Windigo at 10:37 AM on April 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


I really like this proposed compromise upthread:
Maybe he could make a point at least a couple nights a week to go to bed at the same time with you and you could promise not to say anything at all a few days a week about when/if he comes to bed.
I agree with the people who've said that maybe he needs a bit of alone time, and that this isn't as unimportant to him as you think. This way you're getting more of the going to bed together intimacy you want, but he's still getting his weekly night on the couch.

(Also, as one data point, I'm not narcoleptic but I do have trouble falling asleep, and sometimes I fall asleep on my couch watching TV, and the act of getting up and moving to bed at that point wakes me up and sets me way back on the whole falling asleep thing.)
posted by J. Wilson at 10:37 AM on April 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


Another suggestion as a compromise from (one of the few, apparently) people sympathetic to you: if you have a regular bedtime, and if that's something that's fine for you, would his coming and tucking you in, so to speak, be a reasonable compromise? Nice reassuring hug and kiss, etc.

I know that in my attempts to be reasonable about this, I've ended up going to bed later and later, probably because I really hate going to bed alone, and I end up a crabby pants. But maybe giving in to the fact that *you* need a regular bedtime routine might be enough to mitigate your anxieties.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 10:38 AM on April 1, 2011 [4 favorites]


- and as someone on the side of "you're being unreasonable," I want to chime back in and say that my boyfriend usually pops into the bedroom when I say I'm going to bed to give me a kiss goodnight (AKA 'tucking me in') before heading back to do whatever it is he was doing. It's nice. You should look into it, and it might actually help you not feel rejected as such?
posted by Windigo at 10:43 AM on April 1, 2011 [11 favorites]


I am the guy on the couch. Part of the reason that I could fall asleep was the drone of the tv. When it went off, my mind started racing and I could not sleep. If I went to bed, I would lay there with my mind racing over all of the stuff going on in my world and I couldn't stop thinking about it. Monotonous, stupid tv put me right to sleep. This still happens but much less frequently because I try to deal with my stress in different ways while I am awake. It is rare but my partner was/is supportive and that has helped me through.

It may be just that simple. Don't over read into it.
posted by zerobyproxy at 10:45 AM on April 1, 2011


Is your husband decompressing enough during the daylight hours, or is this an effort to tack on some alone time for mental stability. I'm pretty similar to your husband. I put my kid to bed at 7:00, I put my wife to bed betweeen 9:30 and 10:00. I go to bed between 12:00 and 1:00 AM.

I have a stressful job (that I'm currently avoiding doing), I leave work, pick up my son, get the dogs out, and then either feed my son something prepared, or scramble to make a 5 minute dinner. I do the whole bedtime routine, then immediately slide into cooking dinner for my wife and I . My wife gets home between 7:30 and 8:00, we eat, chat for a bit, watch some TV and then she falls asleep. I clean the kitchen, take the dogs out, and then put her to bed. I'm lucky if my day - which starts generally between 5:30 and 6:00 AM, is finished by 8:30. Now, I'm doing some extra duty right now because my wife is pregnant and works both the morning and the evening ends of things. (I just want to be clear, my wife isn't lazy - she's working both ends and watches him in the middle). Anyway, my point is: if he's straight out from start to finish - he needs time to decompress... 10:00 to midnight is my Metafilter / Daily Show / Video Game time.

I make sure to tuck my wife in every night. If she wakes up, I'll usually grab her a glass of water or tylenol or whatever she needs, I'm definitely on toddler duty for that time. But, it beats staring at the cieling for two hours stressing out over money, projects, time, and whatever else is out of my control.
posted by Nanukthedog at 10:46 AM on April 1, 2011 [2 favorites]


OP, I can absolutely relate to this and I'm not dumb, I don't have a screw loose, I'm not particularly controlling, unreasonable or anxious (as your behavior has been characterized here). I did, however, grow up (and raise my kids) to see "bedtime" as a distinct end to the day, with some rituals attached that signal sleepytime. For me, it seems very odd (maybe lazy? yes, there, I said it!) for someone to not participate in the rituals associated with bedtime (make sure the door is locked, shut the lights, tv off, etc) and just fall asleep where they plopped down hours earlier. I get that others don't see it that way, and that's cool, but you're not nuts.
posted by thinkpiece at 10:47 AM on April 1, 2011 [6 favorites]


I don't think he needs to compromise because you're the one who is being unreasonable. Him wanting to do his own thing some nights is not a reflection of his feelings towards you, and your need to have in him bed promptly is not more important than his need to sometimes stay up and sleep on the couch.

I think that PhoBWanKenobi's idea of a good night ritual for you is awesome, you can feel secure and loved while he still is able to do his thing.
posted by crankylex at 10:48 AM on April 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


Because I feel that unhappy couples are couples where one person is sleeping on the couch.

This is the problem. You’re confusing FEELING with FACT and it’s causing you to act irrationally. You need to address this “feeling” or belief you have, because it’s simply untrue. Plenty of happy couples sleep apart once in awhile. Just reading the accounts of fellow mefites above will tell you that. And conversely, plenty of unhappy couples sleep together every night – you know that.

You asked for some compromises you could both make to make this better. Might I respectfully suggest that the only person who needs to compromise here is you:

1. He’s already coming to bed with you 6 out of 7 nights a week
2. On the one night that he doesn’t, you come after him like a child.
3. Bonus: you nag him every night on your way to bed.

This is not going to end well unless you can cut this out. He wants some autonomy, and he deserves to have his feelings respected, too. What are YOU willing to give him?
posted by yawper at 10:56 AM on April 1, 2011 [9 favorites]


I’ve brought up all of these things to him, and he says that he’s not unhappy with our relationship, that he’s not rejecting me,

Why are you not believing him when he says this? It sounds like he's tried to reassure you that this is not about a problem with you, or with the relationship, but at the same time you've glossed over that and continue to fret that this is his way of rejecting you or a signal that you're an unhappy couple. Stop and listen to what he says. It's not about you, it's not about the relationship. Give yourself permission to fall asleep when he's not in bed yet; just as you chose to turn this into A Big Deal, you can choose to turn it into a non-issue.

And if at this point you're going "Yeah, but- if I'm the worried one, shouldn't he accommodate that and make me feel better by going to bed with me every night?" Well...no. The worry is your problem and he has already done his part by trying to explain away your fears. He has a right to his wishes as much as you do yours. Six out of seven nights is a great compromise, in your favor.

Some people love to fall asleep in front of the TV. My husband is one of them; he puts the TV on when he wants to take a nap. I don't get it, but everyone sleeps differently. We often go to bed at different times. Sometimes he does pause his movie or video game and comes upstairs to give me a kiss goodnight, maybe a brief cuddle. I agree with PhoBWanKenobi that a set "come tuck me in" routine might help you.
posted by castlebravo at 10:58 AM on April 1, 2011 [9 favorites]


and this: this is vastly important to me

Please figure this out. Figure out why you’re placing so much responsibility for your happiness on someone else.
posted by yawper at 10:59 AM on April 1, 2011 [3 favorites]


My husband likes to stay up later than me, but always gives me a goodnight cuddle before I go to sleep. It's loving, fun, and there's no problem between us.

I would actually prefer to sleep in a completely separate bed all the time - I don't understand why people sleeping in the same bed = happy marriage. I would be an even happier wife if we had different beds and I could stretch out and roll over the way I naturally do. We've got a bigger bed now and that's helped, but I definitely don't sleep as well as I do when i'm alone in bed. It's nothing to do with our relationship, it's just my body.

If I'm sick or uncomfortable, i'll often wait until my husband goes to sleep, then go and sleep on the sofa. If my husband woke up and tried to drag me back to bed just because of some artificial construct about how people should sleep, i'd be very, very unhappy with him.
posted by ukdanae at 11:05 AM on April 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


OP, my Ctrl+F search for the word sex brought up zero hits in the thread so far :)

Are you used to a routine with past loves that involved the spectrum of physical intimacy occurring before sleep? Whether that be all-out sex or cuddles while watching the evening news, do you feel like you are missing that, and as a result, feel a loss in intimacy?

If so, maybe your compromise with your BF should be to insist on a loving hug/cuddle/kiss before you go to bed and he goes off to play video games.
posted by teg4rvn at 11:08 AM on April 1, 2011


My boyfriend often has to stay up later than I do because I am a sleep princess and go to bed ridiculously early. If I asked him to he'll get into bed and snuggle for a bit until I'm really sleepy. Regardless he 'tucks me in' and that's usually enough.

I don't think you have a screw loose either and perhaps you are amplifying this into a Really Big Deal when it doesn't have to be a big deal. You're framing this as a 'typical conflict' but it doesn't have to be! I promise!

But it doesn't seem like you have a problem with different bedtimes, just the fact that he sometimes falls asleep on the couch rather than come back into bed. It's not a personal slight, I can almost assure you. If I have a nice blanket on the couch and I'm sleepy, I love couch sleeps.
posted by amicamentis at 11:08 AM on April 1, 2011


I don't think you have a screw loose. Things that are irritants during the day get magnified at night, because a little bit of anxiety (will he come to bed? when? do I need to come and get him?) will quite nicely keep you awake, ruining your own ability to have a good night's sleep. If it's become a Big Issue between you two, then that anxiety will go up tenfold, since you're thinking (will he come to bed? if he won't, does that mean he doesn't love me as much as I love him?), etc. And it's a vicious cycle; the more you're upset about this, the more it becomes a Big Deal to you and therefore makes you feel even more hurt that he's not doing what you need him to do.

Unfortunately, the commenters saying that you don't have a right to control your boyfriend's behavior are correct as well. So what do you do?

One of the things that you can address is your own feeling of lack of control here; you can do this, paradoxically, by occasionally encouraging him not to come to bed. As in "you've had a really tough day at work today honey, do you want to just zone out with some video games for a few hours instead of coming to bed?" I bet you'll feel entirely different sleeping those nights; you'll feel like you've done something nice for him, you won't be lying there worrying about your relationship. Over time, hopefully this will loosen the association between him staying up and your relationship being in trouble.
posted by wyzewoman at 11:10 AM on April 1, 2011 [8 favorites]


My husband plays both roles in this common story. He falls asleep on the couch often (most nights), but he also wakes up later on, asks me to come to bed with him, and calls to me from bed because I like to do work on the computer late at night. I'm a night owl and I can't go to bed as early as he does, because late night is one of my most productive/alert times. He puts up with that and I appreciate it.

One concrete suggestion I have for you is that when you go to bed, suggest that he bring a laptop into the bedroom. He can use headphones to do something with sound. My husband will often do this and watch Hulu or read websites until he falls asleep. This seems like a good compromise for people who like to go to sleep while doing something like watching video, but don't have a TV in the bedroom. If the reason he's staying up is because he wants some time to himself, then this suggestion won't be a good one, and I think you should try to come to terms with the situation. No matter which side of the argument you're on (about whether this is a reasonable or unreasonable request), it certainly doesn't seem like it should be a relationship dealbreaker.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 11:13 AM on April 1, 2011


As an additional data point, I've occasionally fallen asleep on my couch instead of in bed while living alone and single. There were no problems in my relationship. I didn't have a relationship to have problems with. It's just that my couch at the time was super comfy (combined with the above mentioned book thing).
posted by yeolcoatl at 11:14 AM on April 1, 2011 [6 favorites]


Ok, I have two things.

Thing one. I have been the person on the couch falling asleep. In one relationship it was because of a massive failure in communication, but it was more than once a week and it was accompanied by a severe decline in sex. In another relationship, I've been the person on the couch, but it was once or twice every two weeks and was not accompanied by any loss in communication or decline in sex...I just fall asleep sometimes to the TV, and it is sortof without warning. I mean, I do know that I am sleepy, but I won't fall asleep right then, and so I stay up reading or watching tv and eventually pass out on my media. A lot of times there is a bit of stupid sleepy brain in this where if I were more awake, I could make a better decision and realize that if I got up, I'd probably fall asleep within minutes in bed, but that idea literally does not occur.

Thing two. I've been the person waiting in bed. It was a big deal in that relationship because I made it a big deal. Once I made my stubborn way (wasn't easy) out of projecting a lot of importance into something that wasn't important, I got over it in.....about two weeks and it never bothered me again. Don't let insecurities on your part become a problem because you won't believe him when he reassures you.
posted by nile_red at 11:16 AM on April 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


I doze lightly, but wake up a half hour later or an hour later to find boyfriend not in bed. I drag myself out of bed to find him in the living room with the TV on, and he is curled up on the couch asleep. I wake him up, sometimes with some tugging, and get him off to bed. I am now going to bed closer to 11:00 or 11:30, and stew in bed upset for another half hour before finally falling asleep.

You need to stop doing this. All of it. The dragging, the tugging, the stewing.

Even if I fall asleep on the couch, I usually wake myself up midway through the night and go to bed.

This is part of what you wrote pretending to be your bf. So is that true? He wakes himself up and comes to bed anyway? Then why are you "dragging yourself out of bed" and going and tugging at him??? Please try to see how controlling your behavior is, and how you it seems that nothing less than 100% of you having your way is going to make you happy here.
posted by iconomy at 11:27 AM on April 1, 2011 [7 favorites]


But because he regularly (at least once a week) falls asleep in front of the TV instead of coming to bed fifteen feet away, I can’t trust that on any given night he will ever come to bed.

This really jumped out at me. Do you have a history with parents or significant others who neglected you or left abruptly? It sounds like this is really bound up with trust and safety for you (and I ask because, having an absent parent, I can sympathize with what comes across here to me as "I'm not important enough to come back to"). This particular sentence sounds like you're more bothered not knowing if he's going to come to bed or not, any night, than the fact that it's one night a week.

Could it help to offer or suggest that the weekends be his 'game nights' where you don't get to nag him? This way you would know that on particular days he probably won't come to bed, and if he does it's a nice surprise, while you can feel like you know which nights are 'secure' or not?
posted by nakedmolerats at 11:30 AM on April 1, 2011 [2 favorites]


people have covered the sleeping thing really well. some people just need some alone/decompression time and some time to feel like they're in complete control. i just wanted to touch on something else you said...

From my point of view, since he’s said it isn’t important, I can’t understand why he doesn’t come to bed when he knows it is so meaningful to me.

when one partner says "this is super duper important to me" and the other says "this isn't that important to me," but the fight happens over and over and over again, especially around issues of autonomy and control and being treated like an adult/child - i found that the person who keeps saying it isn't important is actually saying "i don't feel i can tell you why this is important."

i've rather painfully realized that when this happened to me, when i was the one pushing for the reason, that i was being irrational and i wasn't making a safe space for my partner to talk. they felt like their reason would hit one of my triggers and the fight would be much bigger so they just dug their heels into "why do you care so much??" as a way to try to get me to back off and let them breathe a little.
posted by nadawi at 11:46 AM on April 1, 2011 [41 favorites]


I'm kind of like you, sometimes one person choosing to sleep on the couch is a sign of a huge underlying red flag. Don't neccesarily use that as a gauge, use the intimacy quotient as a gauge. Do you still feel very connected? If so, don't worry about it.

That being said, it would be a struggle for me to have a partner who didn't go to bed with me. I am fortunate to be in a relationship where we always go to bed together when we are together. We also eat all our meals together, but that's just us and it works for us. So you need to decide whether this is something that you have to have. Honestly, if it only happens every now and then, I would endeavor to just let it go.
posted by stormygrey at 11:50 AM on April 1, 2011


OP, when you write: I don't actually have a problem with us going to bed at different times, and I wouldn't have a problem with him staying up as late as he wants - after all, he is an adult - if I knew that he would come to bed when he got tired. I don't believe you. You later state that you try staying up until he comes to sleep. So, even if he does come down to bed an hour later, you've forced yourself to stay awake an extra hour.

You admit that you're not communicating well with your boyfriend on this subject. Your problem is (currently) not that he's falling asleep, your problem is that the two of you are not communicating well on this subject. Fix the communication problems, and then see if there's still a problem regarding sleeping times and locations.

Additionally, when you say you want him to sleep with you because it gives the appearance of a happy couple (ok, that's extreme paraphrasing of you on my part, but that's how I read it), that makes me think there are issues with either you or your relationship that are unrelated to where your boyfriend sleeps. I think you need some serious introspection before and while working with your boyfriend on communication issues.
posted by nobeagle at 11:55 AM on April 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


I think you need to realize that if your boyfriend were actually to behave the way you want him to, it would be a favor, and not the fulfillment of a basic duty. It doesn't sound as if you're approaching it in that sort of way. I don't get the impression that you're saying, "Boyfriend, I really miss you when we sleep apart. Will you help me talk through this problem I'm having, and maybe discuss some ways that might help me feel better?" Instead, you're framing your problem as if it were his fault, which it is not.

So ask; don't demand, coerce or nag. Be prepared to accept "no" for an answer; you simply can't force this sort of thing.
posted by jon1270 at 12:28 PM on April 1, 2011 [9 favorites]


Also,

He has asked, incredulously, "Do you want to just have a lights-out bedtime every night?" And that sounds ridiculous, controlling, and unfair. But damn if that didn't sound sort of appealing, too.

It might've been really helpful if you'd responded to his question as you did here, i.e. "Well, when you put it that way it sounds ridiculous, controlling and unfair. I don't want to be that way, but I must admit that the idea does sound rather appealing. Would you, uh, be willing to consider doing something like that some of the time? Pretty please?"

See how that frames it as your issue, which you're asking for his help with? See how that sets you up for compromise instead of control? See how that's good for everyone?
posted by jon1270 at 12:39 PM on April 1, 2011 [4 favorites]


Geeze, people are being really mean to the OP about this, calling her irrational and whatnot. The OP is clear - she knows this is an irrational response, but it doesn't make her response any less real or upsetting.

I struggle with similar kinds of hypervigilance/abandonment issues. My partner is much more gregarious than me, and can also stay up later, so when we're out at a party or with friends I'll often go home early and he'll stay out for a few more hours. I usually fall into a light sleep, then almost startle awake when I realize he's not there. It's a combination of being used to someone next to me when I fall asleep (it's not good sleep hygiene, but he'll often fiddle around on his laptop in bed while I sleep; I like having him there), and an almost brain stem fear that someone I love isn't there and might never come back.

It's an irrational response, and I used to call and text message almost compulsively when I woke up in this confused and fearful state. What helped was unpacking what was *really* behind those fearful feelings - an expectation of abandonment, the emotional fuzziness that comes with sleep.

If one person in a relationship has a problem, both people do. Your feelings aren't rational, but that doesn't mean that your boyfriend shouldnt' care about them. There are some great suggestions in this thread about compromises, like one or two nights a week when he comes to bed with you, or a 'tucking in', or something to make sure your needs are met.

Being called a 'nag' for experiencing weirdo little neuroses isn't helpful. You guys will be fine, and you'll find a way to work through this.
posted by nerdfish at 12:45 PM on April 1, 2011 [6 favorites]


I wouldn’t have a problem with him staying up as late as he wants – after all, he is an adult – if I knew that he would come to bed when he got tired. But because he regularly (at least once a week) falls asleep in front of the TV instead of coming to bed fifteen feet away, I can’t trust that on any given night he will ever come to bed.

I don't mean to be terse, but so what if he doesn't come to bed? You need to get the sleep that is right for YOU, and take care of yourself.

I used to have this problem with my ex. I'd beg and plead and it was always a dramatic event. Sometimes he would still be up playing video games at 7 AM when I'd be getting up to leave for work.

My (now) husband likes to stay up late sometimes on the weekends. I can't say that I am ecstatic about it - I'd rather we go to bed around the same time - but I like to sleep so I go to bed early. I decided this time around that I wouldn't be begging or pleading or whatever. It's really just as simple as that. I like to sleep, so I go to sleep. He likes to stay up to make his weekends (mentally) last as long as possible.

By the same token, I love to sleep in and he doesn't. He doesn't beg me to get up, or poke or prod me, when the "time to get out of bed" arrives. If I want to sleep until 11 (and hate myself later), he lets me.
posted by getawaysticks at 1:16 PM on April 1, 2011


Look, you said it - "he's an adult" - then why not treat him as one?

You need to see it in perspective. Try this, may not work, but why not:

Make a list of all the reasons you are with your boyfriend, all the reasons you love him, all the qualities you like in him, and why you like them and all the things he's done for you that you appreciated, and write down every moment you can remember when he made you feel good.

Write all that down on a sheet of paper.

Now, take another sheet of paper and write "once a week he doesn't come to bed at the same time as I do and that really upsets me". Then, below it, write down any other things that annoy you about him, and about your relationship, and anything else you can think of that bothers you in your life at the moment, if anything.

Then take some time to reread everything and see if you spot anything interesting there. If you're running the risk of sabotaging a relationship over a demand to impose your own bedtime rules every day of the week, there may likely be other issues that this quarrel is becoming an outlet for, and that's why it's become so important to you. Only you can find out.
posted by bitteschoen at 1:32 PM on April 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


By the same token, I love to sleep in and he doesn't. He doesn't beg me to get up, or poke or prod me, when the "time to get out of bed" arrives. If I want to sleep until 11 (and hate myself later), he lets me.

This is an excellent point. "The time to get out of bed" varies for everyone just as "the time to get in the bed" does. I too like to sleep in (I could easily sleep till noon any day) and my husband gets up at 5 or 6 AM no matter what.
posted by iconomy at 1:35 PM on April 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm with the "Let him be" camp, but otherwise, go sleep with him on the couch on those nights and see how that goes.
posted by Seboshin at 1:37 PM on April 1, 2011


I had a very similar problem with my ex, in that he would come to bed much later than me, and I couldn't sleep until he came to bed. I'm a really light sleeper, and for me, it was the anticipation of knowing that I would eventually be woken up when he came to bed, but I didn't know when that time would be. I think if I had known for sure that he wouldn't be coming to bed at all on a particular day I would have slept much better. We never did find a good way to resolve it, but I can relate to finding it disruptive to sleep when there's that uncertainty hanging over your head.

That said, I also think that the emotional component also played a part - I often felt like by going to bed alone, we were missing out on some quality time together. But it was more a symptom than a cause - I really agree with the previous posters who have said that you should look at how emotionally satisfied you are in the rest of the relationship, rather than having this one issue be a yardstick.

And I also really recommend doing a tucking-in ritual for having that feeling of intimacy without having to have the same bedtime. When I spend the night with the guy I'm seeing now, I go to sleep a good 2-3 hours earlier than he does, but he always sees me to bed, and it's a great time to have quieter time together, talk for a bit, kiss, have sex, what have you - then I get to fall asleep really content and happy, and even though I don't know when he's coming to bed, or if he's going to fall asleep on the sofa, I can sleep much better having had that connection.
posted by Neely O'Hara at 1:42 PM on April 1, 2011 [5 favorites]


Wow. I don't even see this as the issue at all. I think it could be one or more of the following:

How is your sex life? Do you guys have sex regularly? Is this whole thing about him falling asleep in the bed about sex? Has his libido dropped and you are trying to get him to have sex with you by forcing him into the bed at night? (Probably won't work) Or are you the one who is usually turning him down, and maybe he has started avoiding the whole bedtime-but-no-sex scenario by waiting until you've fallen asleep to come to bed?

He says he loves you but you don't believe him. You think his falling asleep on the couch means he doesn't love you. He says it doesn't mean that. You don't believe him. Why not? If he's loving and wonderful and you feel totally loved and secure the rest of the time, why are you letting this one issue eclipse the rest of your relationship? There is something about having bedtime at exactly the same that you are not voicing or acknowledging that is blowing this way out of proportion. And if you don't feel totally loved and secure the rest of the time, then this is just the one instance that you are clinging to and blowing out of proportion, and you are letting this one issue eclipse the real problems in your relationship.

You are not allowing him to voice any thoughts or feelings on this issue. Even here, in this post, you took it upon yourself to assume what he would say about this from his perspective. And honestly, it sounds exactly like your perspective. You clearly have never heard, or listened to, his real feelings on this matter, because "his side" up there is all you talking. The fact that he doesn't want to even talk about this anymore is a clue to me that he sees no benefit in discussing this with you, probably because you are not listening to him. There is almost definitely more to this on his side than accidentally falling asleep, even if it's just the fact that he is digging his heels in to your controlling behavior. Is he one of those people who feels an urge to do something just because someone tells him he can't?

People fall asleep without realizing it all the time. When people fall asleep at the wheel on the road, do you think they are like "Oh gosh, I'm about to fall asleep here, but fuck it, I don't care about these other yahoos on the road--I don't think I'll pull over"? No, that's not what they think. They might not even realize that they're tired. Or they know they're tired, but who isn't, and they figure they can make it until the next stop. And then bam!, they've crashed into an oncoming truck. So on the couch, your boyfriend is playing videogames, and thinking "Hmm, almost time for bed but I'm gonna just play one more round," not realizing how tired he actually is, and then bam!, he's asleep, and then bam!, he has someone pulling and tugging and scolding him like his mother used to do.

Your whole explanation of why it's important to you reads like a litany of your assumptions about his feelings. You are upset because [you assume] he is being avoidant and [you assume] unwilling to make you happy with what [you assume] would be little effort on his part. You are upset because [you assume] he's rejecting you. You're upset because [you assume] he’s saying that he chooses to ignore this signal when it is convenient to him, without regard for your feelings.

You don't mention your own actual feelings at all, just your feelings about your assumptions about his feelings.

I think, aside from couple's therapy, you might benefit from therapy on your own, to address or come to terms with or learn to express your true feelings about this, because you can't even tell them to us anonymously, so I assume you are not communicating them to your boyfriend.
posted by thebazilist at 1:52 PM on April 1, 2011 [12 favorites]


People are being really hard on you in this thread, which I don't think is fair. Most people have things that are important to them that others think make no sense. Clearly this is very important to you, and that's OK.

I'd approach this from a practical standpoint though. You have done all you can to communicate to him why this is important to you. That's not working. You can't control whether he will ultimately do this for you. You can control yourself--you can decide to make this less important to yourself, or you can try to understand his perspective better. I agree with you that he is being disingenuous; if this issue were as unimportant to him as he says, he would go to bed with you and make you happy, if only because it would keep you from nagging him to death. It might help you to understand why it is important to him, even if he won't tell you why. Or you might dump him and find someone who understands this. But nagging him to come to bed and trying to get him to understand you on this is not working for either of you, so cut that out.
posted by massysett at 2:15 PM on April 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


I agree people are being tough on you - I think you're coming from a good place of concern for your dude's well-being, but it's potentially presenting as nagging. A way to get around that would be to adjust your approach to this problem in order to be proactive rather than reactive. Instead of dragging him off the couch after he's already fallen asleep, suggest some compromises that help you both get the sleep you need while having your respective emotional needs met.

In my own life, I fall asleep and stay asleep easily. My boyfriend is a mild insomniac, and most nights he's up several hours past me before he makes it to bed. I love the cozy intimacy of bedtime (as it seems like you do), and he needs his decompression time before his brain lets him conk out, so here's what we do so that we both get what we need:

Most nights as I get into bed after I read or whatever, he'll "tuck me in" and come in to lay down beside me when I turn the light out. Sometimes we chat for a bit, sometimes we just snuggle, but he hangs out until I start getting too sleepy to really be conscious, then he heads out to the other room to do his thing. Depending on how tired I am, some nights it's 20 minutes and some nights it's less than 5, but regardless it's not a huge investment of time for him and it goes a long way towards making me feel loved. It's become a ritual I enjoy so much that I miss it on the rare night we hit the sack at the same time.

Maybe something like this will work for you, and who knows? If you can reframe bedtime for him to be a loving moment at the end of your day rather than a chore (once again, I'm not suggesting you're being shrill here, I'm just speaking to how it might be perceived) he may become more amenable to going to bed at the same time as you. Or not, and that's okay. The idea is just to create some moment around bedtime that's sweet and couple-y for the both of you before you head off to your respective sleeps, however you may prefer them.
posted by superfluousm at 2:35 PM on April 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


Actually, on re-reading this question, it strikes me that the issue isn't whether he comes to bed or not, but that he insists that what you think is a big deal isn't a big deal. Maybe what you really need from your partner right now is some acknowledgement that your feelings are valid - something like he knows that it makes you anxious, and that falling asleep together is important to him, too, and that he wants you to feel more secure and less anxious.
posted by nerdfish at 2:44 PM on April 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


OP, I was you and I understand how frustrating and rejection-fuelled the situation can be. I would go to bed at my bed time, but the fella wanted to stay up and watch more telly or listen to more music. I too would wake up an hour or two later, realise the bed was empty and go hunting the house for the fella. Sometimes he was there on the couch, sometimes he wasn't even in the house but 100m away in the shed with his drum kit. I'd wake him up, pout a bit, and either drag him down to the house (with his assistance, he's a big dude) or have a little flare-up at his sleeping form and stomp back to bed fuming and alone. As you know, this is a no-win situation.

Then somewhere along the line I realised that his sleeping habits were not my business. If he wanted to fall asleep on the snare with a drum-stick under his forehead, that was his choice. If he wanted to drink another bottle of wine and go commune with the stars, or watch a re-run of episode 339 of Prisoner, who was I to tell him he couldn't?

Part of my concern/control issues was about health and safety. I worried about him if I knew he'd been hitting the booze a bit heavily that day - worried that he'd curl up on the porch seat and die of hypothermia over night, or worry over something equally patronising such as him slipping on cow shit and falling face flat into another pat, inhaling and drowning in manure.

Finally I gave up. If I woke in the bed and he was not there, I would give myself a quick self-soothing thought session (he's enjoying the moonlight, he's warm with the cat on the couch, he's resorting his music library, he loves me and will give me cuddles in the morning) and this would help me get back to sleep. Most times he would be there when I woke again in the morning. Very occasionally he wasn't but instead in the kitchen making me an early breakfast.

And funnily enough, in the way these things work, since I've stopped stressing about it and started enjoying the odd occasion of having the bed to myself, he's reduced the number of times he stays away and awake. It used to be once a week or a fortnight. Now it's been a month or two since his last late-nighter. It's slipped into the background as a non-issue and all is good.
posted by Kerasia at 2:53 PM on April 1, 2011 [6 favorites]


Look, I was like you very early on and had this same exact issue. I'm going to tell you how this turns out:

You eventually end up realizing it's not a big deal, and you laugh at how silly and insecure and weird you were, and you're embarrassed you ever thought it was a problem. It seriously doesn't matter. You're being overly insecure about this and reading way to much into this. My parents fall asleep all over their house.

This issue is not worth wasting your energy on. You should just practice accepting things he does and stop being rigid.

Don't waste your energy fighting and making him feel like he's doing something wrong. Because it honestly doesn't matter and falling asleep on the couch doesn't mean that he doesn't love you.

Also, you guys are an unhappy couple because the sole metric of couples being unhappy is how much they fight.

Look, I get that you say that this is important to you but it's not within the zone of being reasonable. If he said to you, "It's really important to me that you leave the bathroom door open when you pee because couples who are happy don't have private moments," would be silly.

What would be wrong of him and blatantly disrespectful of your needs would be something along the lines of, you were, say, having a baby and it was his and you really wanted him there with you and he said watching you give birth would be boring and gross and it wouldn't matter if he was there or not because it's not like he's a doctor and he wanted to watch the SuperBowl at home instead and you should call him when you and the baby need a pickup from the hospital. That would be pretty terrible.

Falling asleep on the couch? Not a bad thing. Panicking because he's not there in the middle of the night? You might want to talk to a counselor about that and your ideas of what causes unhappiness in a committed relationship.

Just enjoy living together and create harmony.
posted by anniecat at 2:54 PM on April 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'll echo PhoBWanKenobi on the suggestion for TV in the bedroom. (The goodnight ritual was also a good suggestion, particularly if you're a light sleeper and unlikely to tolerate TV while you sleep.)

Like someone else upthread, I worry about my husband's health if I wake up after midnight and find that he hasn't come to bed yet - I have to get up to make sure he's not worried about something, and that disrupts my sleep. So we bought a TV with a sleep timer and put it in the bedroom. Unless he has to be actively doing something past my usual bedtime, I ask if he wouldn't mind watching TV in the bedroom while I fall asleep. I bought one of those sleep masks so the light from the TV won't bother my eyes, and he keeps the volume pretty low. It's worked wonders for getting him to bed earlier many nights.
posted by Terriniski at 3:36 PM on April 1, 2011


More information about your mutual schedules would be helpful.

Without that, it's hard to say what's going on.

That said, I'd be on the look out for escapism. Is he using TV/Video Games to escape from something?
posted by veryblue1 at 3:58 PM on April 1, 2011


I think you're the one who needs to be compromising with him. This is not a big deal.

And yes you can just fall asleep on the couch without having narcolepsy. I do it all the time. It appears your boyfriend does too.
posted by mleigh at 4:31 PM on April 1, 2011


I am a night owl, and I love my alone time. My husband is.. well, not a morning person, but not a night owl. He also doesn't like to feel left out. Here is the routine we have naturally developed over time:

At about 11pm, I usually leave him the remote if we're both watching TV, and I go dabble in my hobbies. He watches his (in my opinion) silly shows about giant container ships or World War II or whatever, and falls asleep on the couch by midnight. I read or play games or surf the internet until about 2am. Then I wake him up off the couch and we go to bed together.

I am sure that it must be extremely frustrating for you to feel like your boyfriend does not recognize how important this is to you, but on the other hand your "ideal" dream of lights out, everyone goes to bed when YOU'RE ready for it seems really controlly to me. A good long-term relationship is in part about choosing your battles -- make sure this is one you really think you need to have.
posted by jess at 4:51 PM on April 1, 2011 [2 favorites]


Are you sure you aren't upset about another part of the relationship? Because this is sorta crazy.

He doesn’t understand why this is so important to me, and he doesn’t think falling asleep on the couch once a week is a big deal. (“I come to bed 6/7 nights a week!”) From my point of view, since he’s said it isn’t important, I can’t understand why he doesn’t come to bed when he knows it is so meaningful to me.

The freedom to do what he wants in this context is important to him, and since it doesn't actually hurt you, he can't understand why you're being so insistent on this?

See what I just did there? That's why it doesn't work when you do it.
posted by spaltavian at 5:37 PM on April 1, 2011 [2 favorites]


But because he regularly (at least once a week) falls asleep in front of the TV instead of coming to bed fifteen feet away, I can’t trust that on any given night he will ever come to bed.

I can understand being annoyed. My SO often stays up later than me listening to music, and sometimes he dozes off with his head on the kitchen table. If I wake up alone at 4 am, I'm liable to be annoyed, and then must decide if I am annoyed enough to wake myself up further by going downstairs to fetch him for bed.

I can't understand permanently not trusting him to come to bed or panicking. He's demonstrated that most of the time he'll move to the bed at some point, and meanwhile you know exactly where he is, 15 feet away.

I agree that the nagging is at cross-purposes with what you want. You're likely compounding his need for a little independent couch-snoozing time on his own terms, and you're making bedtime sound like a chore.
posted by desuetude at 8:09 PM on April 1, 2011


What you need is a bedtime ritual, as was recommended above. You'll get the assurance of him being there and focusing on you as you go to bed, then he gets the alone time that he needs. The way my husband and I do this is, he reads to me for a little bit, which gives us a nice time together, and I fall asleep while he reads and then he stays up late. Maybe for you it'd be a different ritual, whatever. The point is to find a way that he can express affection and assurance for you at bedtime, without giving up what he wants, which is alone time after you go to bed and the freedom to not worry about where he's going to fall asleep.

I don't think you're being all wackadoo like people are accusing you of being. Having to go to bed alone knowing that your SO prefers to be elsewhere can be very lonely and sad. But not being "allowed" to go to sleep on your own on the couch once a week, would be crazy-making to your guy. So you need to find a way to get what you need without denying him what he needs.
posted by fingersandtoes at 8:30 PM on April 1, 2011


Why don't you go fall asleep on the couch while he's watching TV?
posted by anaelith at 9:24 PM on April 1, 2011 [1 favorite]


Just a bit of personal experience here: I have a difficult time going to sleep at night, and I cannot predict what time I will go to sleep, unless I medicate myself, and I prefer not to always do that. I toss and turn. Sometimes I NEED a change in environment where I am sleeping, and for whatever reason, that will cut through the insomnia. Sometimes I just need some physical space and to not have someone touching me, being in close proximity, or making demands on my sleep time, or else this will aggravate me and keep me awake. And nothing makes me more bonkers that someone telling me that I'm either going to be too early, or staying up too late, as sleeping has become for me a very difficult and personal issue to deal with that requires flexibility, lest I go crazy. Add to this the fact that I tend to be naturally reclusive anyway, and you have a scenario that can easily create as much tension as you may feel over being lonely. And it has absolutely nothing to do with home much I love my wife. It took me quite awhile to even be able to express these kinds of things clearly, though,, so perhaps you would want to extend your boyfriend some emotional room and give him the space to spend a night or so a week on the couch if he wants. Perhaps he feels as strongly about his need for some sleep freedom and physical space as you do your need for closeness. If it's only a day a week or so, that sounds like a pretty good compromise to me.
posted by SpacemanStix at 10:23 PM on April 1, 2011


The person you are fighting with is yourself. That person is trying to impose a meaning on "coming to bed" that the other person does not share. Why?
posted by Ironmouth at 8:59 AM on April 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm with the team saying that you're trying to impose a meaning on his actions that he doesn't mean. He tells you he's happy in the relationship and you say "but but but but" and he still says "no I'm happy." And you say "but but but but look." And he's like "gaahhh"! So you've got a happy mate who you're making unhappy by trying to convince him that he's unhappy. You're going to make him that way eventually. Maybe you should work on feeling more secure, should analyze whether you have any other reasons to feel insecure in the relationship yourself.

He likes staying up and occasionally it means he falls asleep out there. That's all it is. Let him control this basic aspect of his own life. Do you regulate his bathroom visits? I know that's extreme and I'm not trying to be flippant, but that's the direction it starts to head in. Don't be mom. If there aren't other indicators of a problem relationship, just this, then change yourself instead of trying to change him. Go to sleep and know that he'll be there in the morning and you all will continue on with your happy relationship.

I like falling asleep on the couch, myself, and do it maybe once a week. Even as I get tired and flop over, I tell myself, "I'm not going to fall asleep, I'm just going to get comfortable and watch a bit more tv." And then that lovely drowse sets in on me every time and I feel great, and it's something special, different than falling asleep in bed. It's a kind of treat like a good nap. And then I wake up in the middle of the night and have to trudge upstairs. So now every time I lay down on the couch, I know I'm lying to myself and that I'll totally fall asleep and I don't care because it feels good. It doesn't mean anything and it's just something I like. If I got nagged for it, I'd be resentful. Here I am at home, the one place I can do what I want and relax and feel good, but nag nag nag, even in my sleep? Grrr!
posted by Askr at 10:26 AM on April 2, 2011 [3 favorites]


Early on in my current relationship, I would sometimes sneak out to the living room and crash on the couch for a little while, just to get out of a bed with a person in it (after so long just me!), or I was hot and twitchy, or whatever. Then mr. aria would come around in the wee hours of the morning and coax me back into bed, which I did grumpily, because it was 3 in the morning and I think we're all a little crazy when we're tired.

My point here is not that you're crazy or you've got some screws loose or you're being unreasonable, but I know for sure that I get totally whiny when I'm really tired (on the other end of this spectrum, if he goes to bed a couple minutes before me and I'm dragging myself through a couple more posts on Google Reader even though I'm exhausted, I get *really* whiny and insistent that he not fall asleep without me--because I'm tired and I'm nuts!).

I think the underlying problem here is that this is a thing that is important to you, reasonable or otherwise, and he doesn't seem to be accepting it as something to be discussed. So maybe compromises will be needed, maybe some more examination of why you want this so badly and feel that it's so important to you--but equally important to all of that is getting your boyfriend to respect it as important even if he thinks it's ridiculous. You're not going to be able to move forward if you're not on the same level of respect.
posted by adrianna aria at 8:59 PM on April 2, 2011


Oh man. Everybody has their ways of showing love, and from most of the other comments on this thread, it looks like you and I might be the only ones who consider 'sleeping together in the same bed' a particularly important show of affection. I, too, grew up thinking that only unhappy couples don't sleep together. And while the comments here show strong evidence that our opinion isn't typical, I'd still be upset if my boyfriend didn't come to bed at some point during the night. (Like you, I don't think have to go to bed at the same time--in fact we rarely do--but I'd think something was wrong if he never came to bed.)

So, regardless of the excellent advice above, you have a real problem: his coming to bed is a big deal to you, and unfortunately you can't just ignore or get over it just by being told to do so.

It sounds like you've tried many to tell your boyfriend how important this is to you. And he's having the reaction most people [at least on this thread] have had: "This shouldn't be so important to you. Your request is so unreasonable I won't bother to change my habits." That's the underlying message, which a lot of people have repeated here: You're being unreasonable.

So, two things.

(a) You're not being unreasonable. You feel this way for a reason. Whether or not you still want him to come to bed, even tomorrow, you had a legitimate reason for feeling the way you do now, today. It could be hormones, it could be subconscious issues, it could be triggering from your past, but there is a reason.

(b) Whether or not your boyfriend decides to change his behavior, you still need to feel heard and loved. Lots of commenters here had excellent explanations about why they wanted to sleep alone, or fall asleep on couches; I'm sure your boyfriend has equally good reasons. You should ask him what they are.

Good luck!
posted by timoni at 12:08 AM on April 5, 2011


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