“Can we talk about this tomorrow?” he’d say, not even lifting his head off his pillow to face me.
“…Sure,” I’d say, dejected as I flopped my face away from him.
“You really want to talk about this now?”
“It’s fine. Let’s talk.”
I hear him turn his head slightly.
“No. I don’t want to. Night.”
“Are you sure?”
OF COURSE NOT! But I’m not going to be all needy now. Humph.
“Yes. Good night.”
He snores. I simmer and sigh and feel my “love tank” approaching empty.
Well, it’s not like he cares. He’s sleeping.
It’s a lie, I know, but when it’s late at night, those are easy for me to dwell on. This is probably because late at night is not really the best time for anything except sleeping, even for night owls like me.
Does this sound familiar? The kids are finally down and you’re both finally off your devices and it’s time to go to bed. Now it’s the perfect time to… have a sleepover!!!! And chat about your thoughts and your day and your frustrations and hopes and goals.
…Or maybe this is the time of night when you’re both really tired and you’ve used up all your polite/thoughtful/courteous energy and really shouldn’t talk about anything too serious, because it can go downhill fast. The lack of aforementioned positive vibes sends even the most innocent conversations reeling towards the danger zone before you even realize what’s happening.
This was us. This was me. I’m not always super logical. Thank goodness Ben is. But he’s also very accommodating, and I can’t think of how many times I ended up reeling us into a serious and tiring conversation late at night when we both probably should have slept on it and waited until the next day. I usually ended up spewing a bunch of negative stuff on him that I probably would have forgotten about if I had just waited and rested.
Looking back, I think sometimes I did this in a desperate attempt to connect with him. I was grabbing for a connection between us, and was desperate enough to act like a toddler and take any attention I could get, even if it meant I had to throw an adult tantrum.
A lot of times, I really did just have something on my mind that I needed to talk about. So why not talk about it now? I’d think. If we didn’t have time today, what makes you think we’d have time tomorrow? Or the day after? There is never time just hanging around for the taking anymore.
Then my brother and sister in law shared a great tip with us: Ten minutes a day. After they put their kids down to bed each night, they immediately spent ten minutes catching up with each other. Before they buckled down to catch up on work, before checking email, and before cleaning up, they stopped and talked for ten minutes. Sometimes, they even set the timer to make sure it didn’t spiral out to much longer. The time boundary made it realistic and the consistency was a blessing. It was a blessing for their marriage, and it solved a lot of problems. They got much needed face time, related as friends and spouses, and went to bed happy at night.
It worked so well for them that I thought we should try it again. We had actually been trying to do ten minutes a day of “couch time” already, which was an idea I had gotten from this book. The idea was to show your children that mommy and daddy love and prioritize each other by spending focused time on each other in front of the kids. The kids are supposed to play quietly while mommy and daddy connect with each other and chat uninterrupted. We had been doing it on and off, but the conversations usually felt a little forced. Part of the problem was that my purpose was more to teach my daughter to share her father’s attention rather than to build up our marriage relationship. Also, I wasn’t about to talk about my frustrations with my toddler in front of her during couch time.
After hearing how my brother did it, we decided to be a little more flexible with our “couch time.” We could spend those ten minutes chatting in front of the kids, but if we skipped it, it was also worthwhile to block that time off to chat intentionally after they went to bed. The important part was that we made it a priority to pause and catch up with each day, even if only for ten minutes. We’ve been doing it for a couple months now, and I agree- it’s great! I get some much needed face time, he gets some time to pause and reflect on his day, we catch up on things we’d probably otherwise miss, and we both go to bed in peace most nights.
Ten minutes a day. Sounds a little too easy to be true, but carving out this little bit of time has already made a big difference for two sets of young and frazzled parents. Try it out, and make it three! 🙂