I need to sleep!
August 7, 2016 11:09 AM   Subscribe

I'm a very light sleeper who hates to be awakened. I have a bad cold. I feel like my partner is not respectful enough of my need to stay asleep. I need your advice.

He no longer wakes me up for sex in the middle of the night. He doesn't wake me in the morning just to talk any more. But just now, he woke me up to ask for some information for our internet bill. I've told him a million times to only wake me up if there is a real emergency.

He says that:
- He can't tell when I'm asleep
- He tries not to be noisy
- This is just normal among people who live together

I just... don't know how to communicate to him how important it is for me not to be awakened unless it's really, really, really important.

If you're in a couple that has this issue, what creative techniques have you used to deal with it? Is there a list somewhere of "things not to do while someone is sleeping"? Maybe something for sleeping babies or other situations where it's really important not to wake someone up?

I think he's trying here, and I'd like to provide some information so that he can do a better job of being careful around me. He doesn't have this problem at all, so I don't think he can understand it.
posted by 3491again to Human Relations (42 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Can you sleep with a sleep mask on? If not, maybe some other wearable to indicate "I'm resting, do not disturb"?
posted by Night_owl at 11:26 AM on August 7, 2016 [2 favorites]

I'm having a hard time understanding why he's having a hard time understanding what "don't wake me up unless it's an emergency" means. If it's really that hard for him to exist in the house without waking you, and if the thing you need most right now while you're sick is to be left alone so that you can rest, then he needs to get out of the house for a while and leave you to it. That's totally not unreasonable to ask; I've lived in small, crowded houses with partners before, where it was literally impossible to do anything besides sit still and read a book without risking waking the other person up, and if they really needed to sleep while I was up, I'd go take a walk or find a coffeeshop to work in or go visit a friend or something so that they could get their rest.

Basically, I feel like he can't be trying very hard to respect your needs here. Sick people need to sleep. Even if he can't easily tell whether you're actually unconscious, he should know that "lying down with eyes closed" means "trying to sleep, leave me alone." He shouldn't just be trying to be quiet, he should be giving you a wide berth so that you can get your rest. You're sick.

Yeah it's normal among people who live together that occasionally you'll get woken up by the other person, and your question here is pretty brief and bare so I'm sure I don't have all the context and history that I would need to feel really good about giving you a strong answer, but when one partner is sick it's even more normal for the healthy partner to go to extraordinary lengths to make sure that the sick partner's needs are addressed so that they can get better as quickly as possible. If their need is for peace and quiet, then that's totally reasonable and he shouldn't be bugging you.

It also sounds like this is more than just an issue right now. It sounds like this is an ongoing issue that is exacerbated right now by the fact that you are sick. I can't tell if the normal state of affairs is such that he generally gives you what you need in order to get sufficient sleep under ordinary, not-sick circumstances, though it sounds like you had to fight for that. I'm getting the feeling that maybe there's some lingering resentment there on both sides, you because you had to fight for something that you felt ought to have been a non-issue, and him because, well, I'm not exactly sure why but maybe he just is not naturally very good at the give-and-take of a relationship, especially with cohabitation, and is used to having things his own way?

Maybe I'm off base and he's a better partner than he sounds like here—again, not a lot to go on in this question so forgive me if I'm over-reaching in my interpretation—but he needs to understand that part of moving in with someone is accepting gracefully the fact that he will not be able to live his life exactly as before, that he is going to have to make significant changes, accomodations, and compromises. That goes for both of you of course, but we're talking about him right now.

Is he a younger guy? Is this the first time he's lived with a partner? I know that at one point in my life I had this embarassing-in-retrospect fantasy that living with a girlfriend would be just like living apart except with sex on demand. (That's an oversimplification and not very kind to my past self, but you get the gist of it.) Turns out that is so not what it's about. Maybe he hasn't quite got to that point in terms of maturity? If not, you are at some point going to have to help him get there or else cut him adrift to learn or not learn on his own.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 11:28 AM on August 7, 2016 [29 favorites]

- He can't tell when I'm asleep

So tell him when you are asleep. Give him visible/audible signals: door closed, lights off, white-noise-machine on, do-not-disturb-sign hanging on door handle. Every time you are/want to be asleep. And when he wakes you to ask about the internet bill, don't answer. Tell him to ask you later, after you have gotten up.

- He tries not to be noisy

You don't say specifically what he does that is noisy, but house rules can be after x time or if the do-not-disturb sign is in use, then no shoes in the house, earbuds with internet use, TV volume no higher than 22, etc. Put foam tabs inside your cabinets so they don't slam, etc.

If it's not about that kind of noise but more about him being impulsive about talking to you, then have him write things down that come up while you're asleep. House rule: DND sign up/white-noise-machine on = notepad out.

- This is just normal among people who live together

What is normal for people who live together is to negotiate house rules together that are mutually beneficial and considerate and most of all consistent. The rules can change from group houses to cohabiting to raising kids to empty-nesting so it's up for discussion. He doesn't get to clomp around in doc martens while you're asleep because someone else's living situation doesn't have stocking-feet as a house rule.
posted by headnsouth at 11:29 AM on August 7, 2016 [1 favorite]

It's normal to occasionally accidentally get woken up by someone in the house if you live with other people. It's absolutely NOT normal for someone to intentionally wake you up, regularly, to ask a non-urgent question. And unless you sleep sitting up with your eyes open, I'm having a really hard time understanding what he means when he says he "can't tell if you're asleep." I mean, even if you haven't fallen asleep yet, if you're in bed with your eyes closed, you're very obviously TRYING to sleep....
posted by primethyme at 11:32 AM on August 7, 2016 [66 favorites]

I solved this problem by being extremely bad tempered about being woken up and also refusing to do whatever was asked of me. Some people are like cats- you have to spray them with the water bottle while they're in the act.
posted by fshgrl at 11:55 AM on August 7, 2016 [64 favorites]

Okay, so directly telling him 'Don't Wake Me Up!' doesn't seem to be getting through.... there are two things you could try: one is to sleep in separate rooms, with some version of a Do Not Disturb sign on the door, with earplugs in and the door locked.

Alternatively, and this might be a bit passive-aggressive for a lot of folks: wake him up. Every time he takes a nap, wake him up to ask about the phone bill. If you get up earlier than him or go to bed after him, wake him up to ask what he wants for dinner tomorrow. If he falls asleep on the couch playing video games, wake him up to ask about something stupid/pointless ("did you put your socks in the laundry basket?" kind of stuff) at that particular moment. Continue doing this until he complains.
posted by easily confused at 11:58 AM on August 7, 2016 [8 favorites]

Is your partner a space alien who is unfamiliar with human biology?

He says that:
- He can't tell when I'm asleep
- He tries not to be noisy
- This is just normal among people who live together

When you say "he's trying" - does he comprehend that a person in bed with their eyes closed is sleeping? There should be nothing you need to do in this situation. And ESPECIALLY if you're sick.
I can't even think of some better way to signal that a person is sleeping. If he really doesn't understand that I seriously think he needs to go get his head checked. Does he have a cognitive disability? Has he been hit on the head lately? Does he need to have an MRI done?

And does he comprehend that asking you a question is the very definition of being noisy?

And this is absolutely not normal among people who live together.

Do you want someone to call him up and tell him to get his act together and start acting like an adult? I'll do it if you want. This is just so bizarre.
posted by bleep at 11:58 AM on August 7, 2016 [33 favorites]

Do you live in a studio apartment or are you falling asleep on the couch in the living room? If not then this is not normal and he needs to be quiet and stop waking you up.
posted by hazyjane at 11:58 AM on August 7, 2016 [7 favorites]

In a previous relationship, he woke me up intentionally and was verbally and emotionally abusive for falling asleep when he "needed me." He was not working; I was working full-time.

That alone was reason enough for me to leave, but at the time it felt so petty to leave because he wouldn't let me sleep.

But seriously. Your partner should be able to remember not to wake you up. It doesn't seem like he is forgetting, short of some kind of physical problem or mental condition. He just feels entitled to wake you up when he wants to.

My current partner will not only NOT wake me up, but he'll work to make sure that I have what I need. I do a lot of red eye flights, and so I sleep a good portion of the time when I first get there. He waits until I actually wake up, and then brings me food. Then he lets me sleep again. He has never complained about it once. That's what your partner should be doing.

Waking you up to ask about a bill? Fuck that noise.
posted by guster4lovers at 12:01 PM on August 7, 2016 [28 favorites]

He can't tell when I'm asleep

Signs of human sleep so common as to be universal: Is in bed; is horizontal; eyes are closed.

If a person meets those criteria and they are not actually asleep, it's a good bet that they are trying to fall asleep. What does it mean that your boyfriend "can't tell"? Because unless you normally sleep sitting or standing up, and/or sleep with your eyes open, he shouldn't need to wake you up in order to find out if you are asleep.

Tell him that when you are lying still with your eyes closed that you are asleep and he should not wake you up unless the place is on fire or you are going to be late for something.

I am really confused about why he has a hard time with this.
posted by rtha at 12:03 PM on August 7, 2016 [5 favorites]

My vote is that bleep calls him and records the conversation for posterity.
posted by guster4lovers at 12:03 PM on August 7, 2016 [34 favorites]

Are you sleeping somewhere other than your bed?? I mean... if you're falling asleep on the couch in the living room then yeah I get why he might accidentally wake you up, or not realize you need to not be woken. But if you're in your bed, there's no excuse. Next time he does it scream as loud as you can right in his face. It's about par in terms of civility.
posted by fingersandtoes at 12:04 PM on August 7, 2016 [2 favorites]

He gets one more chance at this. ONE. "If this bedroom door is closed I am still asleep and do not wake me up unless the house is literally on fire." If even that doesn't get through to him, you've got an asshole problem on your hands.
posted by MsMolly at 12:04 PM on August 7, 2016 [8 favorites]

I disagree that you should have to do all the work of signposting when you're trying to sleep and explaining to him in baby terms what constitutes sufficient quietness in the house, and what constitutes an emergency, and why it is that he needs to give you peace even if he's not sure whether you're actually asleep or just lying there quietly waiting for your sinuses to open up enough that you can nod off for a bit without suffocating. He should be figuring that out on his own and erring on the side of caution—or maybe asking you whether he's doing enough, when you're obviously awake and he's coming by to bring you a glass of water and another dose of tylenol or whatever. Nor should he be giving you pushback when you tell him that he's not doing a good enough job of letting you sleep. You're sick! You shouldn't have to deal with that shit.

I agree that maybe you do have to, as an expedient way of dealing with this problem right now while it's an acute issue and you don't have the energy for a Talk, but it's not acceptable in the long term. You should be getting nursed and pampered right now, not forced to dicker over the exact maximum volume of the TV. If that kind of thing is the status quo, then he needs to up his relationship game because it really doesn't sound like he's giving it everything he's got. If that really is all he's got, then he needs to wise up and level up because he shouldn't expect you to put up with that level of not-really-trying indefinitely.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 12:07 PM on August 7, 2016 [4 favorites]

The examples you give are all of him waking you up on purpose, but you mention that he tries not to be noisy. Is the problem that he's choosing to wake you up when he needs to wait, or that he's not being careful enough to be quiet and waking you accidentally? The solutions to these problems are different.

Accidentally waking someone up is something that is going to happen in a relationship sometimes, especially if (having a cold) you're sleeping during the day and he's home. Going out because you need extra sleep, trying harder to be quiet, etc. are important good faith efforts, but if him flushing the toilet is going to wake you up, there will probably have to be compromise on both sides here.

But it doesn't sound like these are good faith efforts; it sounds like he wants you to be available to tend his needs and/or answer his questions whenever the heck he feels like it. Again, sick throws things off a bit--maybe he knows not to wake you in the middle of the night, but he figures that you've been asleep for 18 hours and you wouldn't mind answering a quick question so you can get the bill paid. He's wrong, but that's one thing.

But if you've made it perfectly clear that waking you up is never okay unless there is an actual life or death situation, and he keeps doing it, and you keep telling him and he doesn't change--yeah, that's a disrespectful boundary violation that I'd call a red flag. Maybe it's the only one and he's just a great guy with a blind spot, but I'd be worried about how he's bulldozing you here on a matter of your fundamental health needs.

So, which do you think it is?
posted by gideonfrog at 12:08 PM on August 7, 2016

Sorry I keep coming back to this question because it's so outrageous.

I think he's trying here, and I'd like to provide some information so that he can do a better job of being careful around me.

You have provided all the information you need to provide - by being a human being the same as him, and by being kind of enough to let him know that you're a light sleeper and to please not wake you up. If he needs more than this to perform the very bottom of the barrel basic care and concern that one human is obligated to provide for another - he's not trying, and he's not fit to be anyone's roommate, much less partner.
posted by bleep at 12:30 PM on August 7, 2016 [7 favorites]

Some people's "emergency" boils down to "I want to talk to you right now about whatever just went through my brain." Those people cannot be trusted to filter on this topic.

In all honesty, he sounds like he's being a deliberate asshole while pretending that it's all accidental and he's clueless. Humans know what a sleeping human looks like. If he has to be TOLD don't wake me up right now, I am in sleep mode, and he's still doing it? I don't think it sounds like he's trying, though I suppose I have to give him kudos for laying off the 2 a.m. sex and chatter.

I'm not sure: is this a situation where he wakes you up when you're both in bed supposed to be sleeping, or is he interrupting you during nap time?
posted by jenfullmoon at 12:55 PM on August 7, 2016 [2 favorites]

Is there blood, vomit, or fire? No? Then there's no need to wake you up. (That's my sister's rule for her children.)
posted by Ms Vegetable at 12:59 PM on August 7, 2016 [12 favorites]

I don't really have any more suggestions but I did want to add that as you have presented them, your needs are not out of the ordinary or high-maintenance, and that in this context he is doing a terrible job of being a supportive partner. He sounds very self-centered. I also need a lot of sleep and can't stand being woken up when it's not necessary. It happens occasionally when you share space with someone, but not very often and the other person is expected to be apologetic. Honestly, I'm getting pretty angry at him for you right now!
posted by radioamy at 1:17 PM on August 7, 2016 [1 favorite]

I can't think of any further information you can provide to help him in this situation. You've told him exactly what needs to be said. He's just refusing to respect your needs. Honestly, it sounds like he's being a dick. Humans know when other humans are sleeping or are trying to sleep. This isn't normal relationship behavior in my book (him waking you up for shit that isn't an emergency).

I'm also an extremely light sleeper and I need something like 9 hours a night just to feel kind of rested. My husband wakes me up occasionally, but is always apologetic. If he's having a restless night in our shared bed, he'll leave the bedroom and sleep elsewhere in our apartment just so I can get rest. I can't imagine him bugging me when I'm sick and trying to sleep - he's always gone out of his way to take care of me and make sure I'm getting what I need. You deserve a partner that does this for you too. Good luck. Maybe just show him this thread? Seems like we are mostly in agreement here that his behavior seems a bit off.
posted by FireFountain at 1:33 PM on August 7, 2016 [2 favorites]

I'm the early riser in my house, and I honestly can't tell the difference sometimes between my wife trying to go back to sleep and just not getting out of the bed yet. So I'll go in there to ask her something and it turns out she's not really awake yet.

I've got a few things I try to get done while I'm awake before she wakes up:

1 - Dishes. It's quiet enough, and she can sleep through the dishwasher no matter what.

2 - Go to the flea market. It gets me out of the house, I can be as loud as I want out there. Except it leads to buying more video games so that's not always a good one.

3 - Watching foreign movies/TV. I use the subtitles, I can keep the volume low. She doesn't like kung fu movies all that much anyway, so this is a way to not hear about how they're stupid. Or how violent some anime can be.

Really the key can be something as simple as finding him something to do while you're not available and not going to interrupt him. Our rule is that I can finish watching whatever horrible thing I've already started and she can't say anything about it.

Another thing is to get him to realize that something like the bills won't change in the few hours between when he wakes you up and when you would have woken up naturally.

Or, like everyone else has already said, maybe he's just a shit head. We can't really tell you that for sure without being in your home.
posted by theichibun at 1:37 PM on August 7, 2016 [1 favorite]

Ok- so I am going to toss out an idea that doesn't seem to be mentioned much yet... But is it possible that the amount of sleep you require or the times you choose to sleep is actually unreasonable/extreme? If this happens a lot and we assume your partner isn't a jackass that wakes you up about the phone bill at 3:42 am every night- maybe your sleeping schedule is causing your partner some sort of irritation and interference with their day to day life?

It might be worth a conversation with them that isn't just you communicating your feelings- but asking about theirs as well. Just something to think about.
posted by KMoney at 1:49 PM on August 7, 2016 [4 favorites]

But seriously. Your partner should be able to remember not to wake you up. It doesn't seem like he is forgetting, short of some kind of physical problem or mental condition. He just feels entitled to wake you up when he wants to.

Yeah, he may have poor impulse control. My guy isn't always that good at holding an idea in his head for a long time and does mean well. So we have to do things sometimes that seem ridiculous like I will say "I am going into my room and closing the door. Until I come out of the room, assume I am asleep and do not disturb me." We sleep separately if I am not feeling well. He has a son who will basically wake him up any time, for any reason. The son has a mental illness and is really unable to sort of process other people as being real in some ways so there's a sign on the door "Only knock if it's an emergency" and this works some of the time.

My guy really wants to be considerate and so even though our process is a little weird, the way I can tell is that if he DOES wake me by accident (and I can't go back to sleep, and I'm annoyed) he is sorry, not making up a ton of excuses why it was okay for him to do the thing I asked him not to do.

People can get phobic about sleeping, part of what else I worked on was getting good sleep at night and doing what I needed to do to get that (learning to relax, occasionally medicine if things were out of hand) so I was owning my part of the issue. Sometimes people can use sleep as a way of forcing space into a situation where they don't feel like they have enough, because it can create firm boundaries where others might not seem as firm. Be aware of the role sleep plays in both of your lives and have a discussion about it. If he means well he should be able to work with you on a strategy of how he can parse that you are sleeping and how you can not have to always worry you'll be woken up.
posted by jessamyn at 2:00 PM on August 7, 2016 [8 favorites]

Oh, wow. That sucks.

I am a light/terrible sleeper, and my husband is one of those jerks who can sleep anytime and anywhere, so he doesn't fundamentally understand my need to sleep uninterrupted, but he manages to respect it anyway. Even if I do fall asleep on the couch or something, he knows that sleep can be hard won for me, so he tiptoes around and leaves me be wherever or however I've managed to catch some sleep. He even takes proactive measures to keep the dogs from jumping on me, and if there's anyone else around, he'll run interference so they don't disturb me either.

I do like fshgrl, where I'm a belligerent asshole when someone wakes me up, and I also frequently complain about my lack of sleep to him, so he knows what a big deal sleep is for me.

But shockingly, I don't think that my whining and yelling was solely responsible for that resolution, like it is for most problems. It's mostly because he actually cares about my well being and wants to make life better for me instead of worse.

It IS normal for people to live together to annoy and inconvenience each other fairly regularly, but if they respect and care about each other, they not only try to minimize that, but they actively try to make things better for them.

If it's really necessary, get a whiteboard or something where he can write down non-urgent questions for you when he thinks of them. Or, you know, he could figure something out for himself if he's having such a hard time doing normal things like waiting to talk to people.

I'm sorry, and I'm super angry for you. After he gets off the phone with bleep, tell him some old lady on the internet is also all mad.
posted by ernielundquist at 2:21 PM on August 7, 2016 [8 favorites]

Oh, I should probably clarify that I have successfully used the "be a jerk when I wake up" tactic successfully on other people I have lived with in the past. I am not denigrating that.

It's just a whole nother thing to me that this is your adult boyfriend and not your annoying eight year old brother or some passive aggressive roommate or something.
posted by ernielundquist at 2:28 PM on August 7, 2016 [1 favorite]

Make him sleep on the couch while you are sick. And tell him that when you go to the bedroom that means that you should be considered "asleep", and that therefore he should not bother you.

Actually - do that, but also give him a notepad of "Things I need to ask you when you wake up" so he can write things down whenever he has the urge to ask you something. This will only buy you peace while you are sick, but it could also get him to consider how much he is instinctively going to wake you up for things.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 2:29 PM on August 7, 2016 [2 favorites]

My partner has a hard time falling sleep and is completely maddened by my impulses to touch them or talk to them when they are trying to fall asleep. I'm still not 100%, but at this point I try not to pester them when I think they are falling asleep, let alone already sleeping. This is not like sleepovers where you can ask "are you asleep? are you asleep?" in increasingly louder tones until your friend actually wakes up. Ask your partner to write down questions on a pad that you can check in the morning.... and then leave you alone, even if you might still technically be awake.
posted by spamandkimchi at 2:33 PM on August 7, 2016

Remember those college dorm whiteboards? (Omg does this mean I am SO OLD?) Anyway, put one of those on the bedroom door, so he can ask you whatever he wants, and you can answer when you wake up.
posted by instamatic at 3:06 PM on August 7, 2016 [3 favorites]

I had a lover who used to wake me up in the middle of the night. We slept in separate rooms because I am also a light/terrible sleeper. So first the guy would keep me up too late (I hadn't discovered Al-Anon yet so I was terrible about setting boundaries) and then he would wake me up in the middle of the night to talk to me or read me German love poems or whatever. We had diametrically opposed sleep schedules. He stayed up until 4 or 5 am every morning and I woke up at 8 am every morning. Eventually I did two things: 1. Told him my going to bed at 11 pm was necessary to my health; if I didn't get to bed regularly at that hour then I was going to break up with him and 2. Put a sign on the door to my bedroom saying, "Please don't wake me up. We can talk about it tomorrow. I love you." And I started going to bed when I needed to, and he stopped waking me up. I wonder if your partner needs a reminder that he can use his phone or a notebook or whatever to write down what he wants to talk about instead of waking you up. Because of my ADD, I also used to be rude to people but not on purpose. I was usually frantic because my brain was spinning and/or fixated on something and although the topic was not urgent, my brain would somehow convince me that it was urgent. I don't think "person X is doing a thoughtless or harmful thing = person X is an asshole" is a useful default. Most of us, myself included, don't wake up every morning wondering how we can make our partners suffer. Often, we just don't get it, whatever it may be, and may need additional help to better understand the problem so we can change. If we don't change, then of course we shouldn't be surprised if our partners issue an ultimatum. So IMHO, OP, you may want to ask your partner to work with you to brainstorm solutions to this problem because IT IS INTOLERABLE TO YOU and cannot continue.
posted by Bella Donna at 3:52 PM on August 7, 2016 [3 favorites]

Sorry, I was super wordy and didn't actually make my point: TL;DR: Put the burden on him to come up with a solution after explaining to him that the situation is intolerable to you and cannot continue because this is affecting your health. You are willing to help him brainstorm solutions if he wants that, but he doesn't get to wake you up on purpose anymore unless it's an actual emergency (and then define what an actual emergency is for you) when the sleeping signal (sign on the door, lights out, whatever) is in use.
posted by Bella Donna at 3:57 PM on August 7, 2016 [2 favorites]

Some people's "emergency" boils down to "I want to talk to you right now about whatever just went through my brain." Those people cannot be trusted to filter on this topic.

Generally they outgrow this by age 10. Waking someone up to ask about the internet bill? Yeesh. In a murder trial I think a jury would vote to acquit.

How about a rule that until you've spoken, he shouldn't speak to you. Basically, assume you are asleep until proven otherwise, since he isn't able to identify the physiological signs the rest of us are familiar with.
posted by kitten magic at 4:38 PM on August 7, 2016 [3 favorites]

Your boyfriend is either an asshole or too stupid to breathe. Which one of these guys do you want to be dating? I like the tactic mentioned up thread, use his method against him and wake him up every time he is asleep. When he complains, tell him that you couldn't tell that he was asleep.

Some people are so self absorbed that they have no empathy for anyone else - until it happens to them. My issue with this guy isn't even the sleeping thing, it's the fact that he's the kind of guy who would do it in the first place. This means that even when you nip this situation in the bud, his inconsiderate nature will just manifest in other ways.
posted by Jubey at 4:43 PM on August 7, 2016 [15 favorites]

Just as a datapoint: my husband and I have a fairly normal healthy relation and have lived together for three years. In that time I literally cannot recall a single instance where I have woken him up intentionally to address my needs unless it was pre-discussed before bed (a ride to the airport, etc), OR was because he fell asleep on the couch and I wanted him to come to bed with me (he hates and groans but does come to bed), or because he fell asleep with his bedside light on and I want him to turn it off since he can do it without getting up and I can't (he hates this too but does it). I also can't recall a single time he intentionally woke me up unexpectedly that wasn't pre-planned or similar to the above instances.

So basically, this is really weird behavior on his part.
posted by samthemander at 5:40 PM on August 7, 2016 [9 favorites]

I hate to tell you, he understands he just doesn't care.
posted by wwax at 6:30 PM on August 7, 2016 [4 favorites]

He no longer wakes me up for sex in the middle of the night. He doesn't wake me in the morning just to talk any more. But just now, he woke me up to ask for some information for our internet bill.

It is totally insane that he did or does any of this. This is not normal. It is so far beyond normal. It's certainly not respectful.

If your partner is really such a complete idiot can he can't understand the simple direction to not deliberately wake you up, get your bedroom (he can sleep on the couch if you don't have a spare room), put a 'do not disturb unless the house is literally on fire sign' on it, and lock the door.

He doesn't have this problem at all, so I don't think he can understand it.

He doesn't have this problem because you're not an idiot that wakes him up all the time.

He doesn't have to understand it. He just has to NOT DO IT.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 7:26 PM on August 7, 2016 [15 favorites]

Your boyfriend is either an asshole or too stupid to breathe. Which one of these guys do you want to be dating?

In fairness my Dad is famous for waking people up for stupid reasons and he's neither an asshole nor too stupid to breathe. He just has a very poorly calibrated sense of what other people might consider noteworthy and he never fucking sleeps. Things he has woken people up for:
made pancake batter, wondered if I wanted some pancakes. I did not.
funny thing on tv, often Jon Stewart related.
dog doing something cute.

Things he has failed to wake people up for:
kitchen on fire (only a bit according to him)
important telephone calls from overseas
being bitten by poisonous spider and subsequent ER visit (him, not the sleeping family who would have been fine with being woken up for that, obviously).

I realize that makes him sound like the worlds biggest moron but he's not. He's just kind of lacking in common sense.
posted by fshgrl at 7:33 PM on August 7, 2016 [4 favorites]

And this is absolutely not normal among people who live together.

This does follow a pattern of some people who have a hard time empathizing with people who are different than them. I would bet a whole lot of money that he's in the category of people who sleep well or aren't bothered by being woken up. In my experience, people who are fortunate enough to not be burdened with sleeping problems sometimes have a hard time understanding people who need more sleep (which is understandably infuriating). Their life context doesn't seem to accommodate it, at least not without someone bringing it to their attention, sometimes repeatedly. It's understandably discourteous, and requires some direct education.

It seems to be a similar sort of thing when (some) extroverts have a hard time considering the preferences of people who are introverted, or when (some) people tend to "collect" more things who don't understand people who see less stuff, and negative space in a living environment, as aesthetically pleasing and calming. These are examples of hard discussions about compromise that sometimes need to happen (and which I've had to have during my life, as an introverted, clutter-adverse insomniac). It's partly a matter of growing up to understand others and learning empathy when it infringes on their well-being, but it's also an issue (perhaps primarily) of being willing to have frank discussions about needs with those who aren't "getting it" for whatever reason, sometimes more than once, with built in consequences if necessary.
posted by SpacemanStix at 7:42 PM on August 7, 2016 [1 favorite]

I'd say the larger problem is what seems like reflexive excuse-making that suggests that the core issue may be just a total refusal to accept the concept that he's doing something – anything – wrong at all. I say this because his explanations contradict each other, so rather than "we have problem A because of reason B," in which you can solve for B, you have a Jenga stack of reasons that allow no solvability:

- He can't tell when I'm asleep (I didn't know!)
- He tries not to be noisy (Okay, I did know, and made some effort that you just don't appreciate.)
- This is just normal among people who live together (Okay, I did know, and maybe didn't make that much effort not to wake you, but it's not my fault because you are the abnormal one here.)

So the question is, does he react to all possible problems with his actions in this way, or is it only the sleeping thing? If it's the former, then he needs to understand that he has this automatic "deflect, debate, deny" dynamic when confronted with behavior issues, and if it's the latter, then there is apparently some strange resentment, or fear, or feeling of abandonment, or control, or passive aggressive punishment (is there the possibility that there may be some, even subconscious, quid pro quo happening, in which he feels that you do not allow him to do a certain thing he wants to do, so he is striking back, with some amount of plausible deniability cover?) ... at any rate, something odd going on with his feelings about you sleeping when he isn't. In either case, it seems like something that requires talking through in good faith, or maybe some counseling to be able to view the problem objectively, which he may not view as reasonable or necessary.

I've been able to discuss various issues (both fairly simple / practical as well as more touchy) with my husband by saying "we are having a problem pattern with X, so let's talk about solving that without accusations or excuses, just as a rational problem to untangle together," and while it doesn't mean that X never, ever occurs again, it's definitely easier afterwards to say, "remember how we discussed this X thing? It's kind of happening again right now..." Of course if the problems were so many and so recurrent that we had to have this kind of conversation and reminder all the time, it would probably not be very effective, but if respect is mutual and the will is there on both sides, it's very useful. Good luck, I hope you can reason it through together, and that you can have a nice nap afterward!
posted by taz at 12:40 AM on August 8, 2016 [21 favorites]

Taz's analysis of his excuses really resonates with me. The "deflect, debate, deny" response (Thanks for that phrasing, Taz! Totally stealing that.) is a pattern I've seen play out in lots of relationships, including some of my own past relationships. I used to be That Guy in my relationships, and it made me a poor partner. Recognizing that behavior in myself and working past it has made a huge difference in my life—all of it, not just my romantic life.

If the pattern Taz describes is typical of how he reacts to criticism, he really needs to work on that. It's a bigger problem than just waking you up unnecessarily. You can work on it with him if you're both willing, or he can work on it alone. But if that is how he customarily behaves in your relationship, the relationship ain't gonna be a happy one for very long. That sort of thing is near the root of a lot of relationship dysfunction, in my experience.

Maybe I'm reading a lot into not very little here, but what Taz said really struck a powerful chord.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 6:05 AM on August 8, 2016 [1 favorite]

I keep coming back to this thread because I can't get it out of my head. This is bonkers, your boyfriend has no respect for your boundaries, and you deserve better treatment!

Just as an anecdote: Saturday night my husband didn't sleep well for some reason, and he was tired on Sunday. Sunday night we had plans, so that afternoon my husband was reading on the couch and said "I'm going to take a quick nap before we go out." Even if he hadn't said that, it would have been obvious to me because his eyes were closed and his hat brim was angled over his eyes. I did everything in my power not to bother him. I had to go in the living/kitchen area a few times, but I freakin tiptoed. I kept the door to the bedroom closed so that the dog wouldn't go in and wake him. Etc.
posted by radioamy at 10:36 AM on August 8, 2016 [1 favorite]

He no longer wakes me up for sex in the middle of the night. He doesn't wake me in the morning just to talk any more. But just now, he woke me up to ask for some information for our internet bill.


I was shocked by your question, and I'm even more shocked that there are others in this thread who have people in their lives who regularly wake them up from sleep for selfish reasons. My family and relationships have had their share of issues, and I am no stranger to abusive dynamics, but this behavior is just beyond.

I think what I'm trying to say is: this is EMPHATICALLY NOT "just normal among people who live together." It is one of the most extremely demanding examples of compulsory emotional labor I've ever heard of; you do not exist to answer questions or listen thoughtfully or fuck on demand, whenever he wants, even when you are ASLEEP. This is not a communication problem that you can fix with lists or a creative strategy. If a whole grown human being can't follow the instruction "Don't purposefully wake me up unless one of us is in actual danger" then they are not worthy of your time, your hand-holding, or your interrupted sleep.
posted by CtrlAltDelete at 9:22 PM on August 8, 2016 [11 favorites]

Has this guy been living on the moon? How can he NOT tell when a fellow human being is asleep? (Unless you're hanging upside down from a prehensile tail, I'm presuming you're in a lying down position like most of us humans...)

He lacks empathy for you. That's a major red flag.

Another commenter mentioned the word entitlement. Another red flag.

Others have mentioned the excuses he makes. Yet more abusive behaviour. Shifting blame away from himself may make HIM feel better, but it is damaging to YOU.

I heard recently that in abusive relationships, the abuser often uses sleep (or lack thereof) as a way of controlling a partner. We're not at our best when we don't sleep; our memory, performance, etc. suffers. Combined with his sense of entitlement, excuse-making, and the utter lack of empathy on his part, do you think it's a possibility that your guy is trying to mess with you in this way?

I'm just trying to say that this isn't about one single issue; it's about many. Take a careful look at the whole picture. All these shitty things he is doing have a cumulative effect.
posted by chatelaine at 8:20 AM on August 10, 2016

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