There are many ways you can connect with your wife. You can buy her fresh flowers every week or meticulously plan a regular date night. You can suffer through her favorite show or do your best to convince her to fall in love with yours.
Or, you can just sleep with her. I mean that literally (although I suppose sex is also a way to literally connect with your spouse, given the nature of human anatomy). Getting into a bedtime routine with your wife is a simple way to add structure to your relationship while helping foster intimacy. They don’t call it pillow talk for nothing.
But calling it simple isn’t meant to imply it’s easy — and I say that from personal experience. When left to her own devices, my wife is one of those women who awakens with the sun, a smile on her face as birds chirp in her ear about which outfit they’ve selected for her to wear. I’m barely sentient until my fourth cup of coffee kicks in.
While it’s possible our morning modes are determined by the fact that she’s a Disney princess made flesh and I’m a real-world version of the dad from Foxtrot, the less fantastic explanation is she’s more of a morning person and I’m a night owl. But that’s not the whole story. Anyone can be a morning person if they go to bed at a quarter to ten, and if my wife had her way, that’s when she’d turn in every night. And she doesn’t like to sleep alone.
When she says “I’m going to bed,” what she usually means is “we’re going to bed.” It took me longer than it should have to recognize this, but that’s primarily because I’d assumed women say what they mean. I was also being stubborn, as she’d utter this phrase at what was, for me, a laughably early hour. During the first year we lived together she was often due at work before 6 a.m., which meant many nights she was eager to hit the sack before we’d sat down for dinner.
I struggle with insomnia from time-to-time and the fastest way to induce a bout of it is to actively try to sleep. I was loathe to turn in so early because I knew I’d just end up staring at the ceiling for hours, my mind hitting sleep mode just a few minutes before her alarm would go off. Our routines were out of whack and so were we. She eventually got a new job with a less oppressive start time, but that didn’t completely close the distance between our preferred hour of rest. It took some work, but over the years our evening (and therefore morning) schedules have aligned. It required compromise, effort, and my wife’s uncanny ability to fall asleep pretty much anywhere. It’s much easier to go to bed with your wife if you’re basically carrying her there.
These days I’m more likely to head to the bedroom, rousing her from a quiet slumber on the couch induced by whatever movie or binge-a-thon we agreed to engage in roughly 30 minutes before her body’s bedtime. Other nights, if she tells me she’s going to sleep before she actually does, I’ll accompany her — not out of a sense of duty, or ritual, but because I find the feeling of her rhythmic breathing against my own chest to be more soporific than anything the Vicks corporation can bottle up. We’ll talk about our day, or laugh about our night. We’ll hip-check each other at the bathroom sink, wordlessly flirting over who has a right to spit (her) and who has to hold a mouthful of mouthwash until the other moves out of the way (me. Always me). We’ll weave yawny yarns about our new house in a future far away, our heads on our pillows as we outwardly imagine a bathroom with a massive vanity mirror and a double sink. If we didn’t go to bed together, I’d undoubtedly have less awareness of what her dreams really are.
There are other practical reasons for this practice. If she’s asleep when I come to bed there’s a good chance I’ll wake her up, which means tucking in together lessens the likelihood that I’ll be punched in the face; it increases the odds that we will “connect” (a.k.a. “have sex”) before we doze off; it means we are more often well-rested (or dog tired) together, which will ultimately inform our plans for the coming week or weekend.
It also leads to better sleep. I’d like to think there’s a romantic reason for the fact that when my wife and I are apart we both have a hard time falling asleep, but it’s more likely we’re just creatures of habit and our habits have evolved to include each other. For busy parents who spend much of their waking hours engaging with either their jobs or their kids, the quiet hour spent winding down before bed is often the only respite you have from both. What better time to talk with your spouse about the ways your job (or your kids) are keeping you up at night?
If you’re fortunate enough to have a circadian clock that’s synced up with your spouse’s, there’s even less reason to fight the urge to head to bed at the same time. If you’re on opposite ends of the spectrum, try to meet each other halfway. You spend roughly one-third of your life asleep. You might as well sync up with someone you love.