Why Every Marriage Improves After a Good Night’s Sleep

fishAt some point in the middle of the night, I woke to find my daughter standing next to my bed. She was screaming, “Daddy surprised me! Daddy surprised me!”

“Daddy is sleeping,” I said groggily. “Where he always sleeps. What’s so surprising about that?”

“Daddy surprised me! Daddy surprised me!”

She was caught in the Twilight Zone between sleep and wakefulness.

“Oh come here love muffin,” I said, pulling her onto me. “Shhh. It was just a dream. Just a dream. Everything’s okay now. Mommy’s here. I won’t let Daddy surprise you again.”

“Wha?” my husband groaned, somehow sensing that he was being blamed for something that he didn’t do.

“She had a bad dream,” I said and then we all fell back to sleep.

During the next several hours, I woke every 15 minutes or so. I woke because:

  • I felt feet pressing into my back
  • My daughter’s mouth was so close to my face that I could feel her breath on my skin
  • My daughter’s head was pressing into my back
  • Feet were in my back, again
  • Feet were in my back, yet again
  • A heavy being was laying on top of me sideways
  • I had that sensation that I was about to fall off the bed. I had this sensation because I literally was about to fall off the bed, as my daughter and the dog had burrowed into my back and had slowly pushed me off

For the 15th time, I picked up my daughter and moved her back to the middle of the bed. I kicked the dog, getting him to move over, too.

Within two seconds, my daughter had rolled back towards me. Her foot was in my butt.

“That’s it!” I thought.


“I’m not kicking you!” she said.

“Move over,” I said.


“Stop kicking me,” I said.

“I’m kicking you because I’m hot!”

“Then move over. You’re hot because you’re sleeping on top of me.”

“You’re not being nice to me! Whaaaaaaaa!”

“Great,” I mumbled under my breath.

I got up, went to the bathroom, and checked the clock. It was 6:30 a.m.

I had nowhere to sleep so I might as well get up, I thought.

Later, after dropping the Little Bed Thief off at daycare, I arrived home to find my husband. He’s not usually home on Mondays. Usually? He’s at work. But today he closed his store so he and his employees could attend a funeral.

I should have felt sympathy for him. He was home because he would eventually be going to a funeral. Poor him.

Yet, all I felt was anger.

“God damn it. Why does he have to be home?” That’s exactly what I thought.

The TV was on. Bike inner tubes were everywhere. And the bathroom? He’d just turned it into a HazMat zone.

I know. I know. He hadn’t done anything wrong. It’s not as if he could have done things differently in the bathroom. It’s not as if it’s a crime to watch the news or do whatever it was he was doing with his bike tires.

No, he’d done nothing truly wrong other than sleep peacefully all night long. But that was enough of an infraction to warrant the hairy eyeball as far as I was concerned at that moment.

I took a deep breath.

“He’ll be gone soon,” I told myself as I walked to my computer and started editing the book about the year I saved my marriage.

Just as I was fixing some text in the eulogy – his eulogy, mind you – he started doing this thing that he does and that I hate. He continually walked outside and then inside, outside and then inside. Every time he did so, he slammed the door and every time he slammed the door, the house rocked back and forth as if we were having an Earthquake.

“Does he have to walk in and out 15 hundred times before he leaves?” I thought. That’s the PG rated version of that thought, mind you.

I sighed one of those sighs that could kill a small animal, stood up, and stared at him through the window. I thought, “Leave. Leave. Leave. Leave. Leave.”

He came back in and, yet again, slammed the door.

I walked to the bedroom, figuring I’d straighten things up until he left. I only had, what? Five minutes or so before he would stop walking in and out and eventually would stay out for good, right?

That’s when I noticed the dead goldfish. They’d been sitting there, in a little baggy with some water, since the day before, when, just 24 hours after buying them, my daughter had discovered them floating belly up in her tank.

They were sitting in a baggie on my dresser because my husband insisted on taking them back to the store to get his money back.

Except he hadn’t gotten around to returning them.

So there they sat. On my dresser. Why not on his dresser? Why mine?

Yes, of course, I could have just taken the fish and flushed them down the toilet myself.

Except that I don’t touch dead things. Dead things are not in my job description. Dead things? They are in my husband’s job description.

I obviously could not hang out in the bedroom. Some sort of dead fish germ might get in me.

I walked back to my office and looked outside. He was gone.

“Thank God,” I thought.

I tell you this story because I think it illustrates a point. I only found fault with my husband this morning because I was tired. On any other normal day? I wouldn’t have been annoyed at all.

Fatigue sure does have a way of inflicting marital discord.

That’s why one of most important pieces of marital advice is this: on your list of priorities, you need to come first. You need to come before your marriage and before your job as parent. Otherwise, you’ll end up tired and grumpy and, before you know it, you’ll find yourself arguing with your spouse about dead goldfish on your dresser.

It’s really impossible to be a good spouse and a good parent if you are not a good you. Give yourself what you need to function at your best—rest, “me” time, mental stimulation, vacations, pampering and so on. Then the rest will more easily fall into place.

Do you agree that you need to come first? Why or why not? If you do, what are you doing to feed yourself and ensure that you are your best self?

25 comments… add one

  • Natalie December 28, 2009, 12:17 pm

    I needed this today. I woke up (home alone as the husband is at work) on a rampage not happy with anything. It blew up in my face about a half hour ago and I’m coming down from that now (feeling guilty). Thanks for writing this. I should’ve journaled my feelings out or something before talking to my husband about them because we both got defensive fast. Journaling sometimes helps me to process the emotional/irrational thoughts and get them out of my head to allow me to calm down before approaching my husband. I don’t do it a lot anymore and think I should.

  • Marissa December 28, 2009, 1:29 pm

    I have this day a LOT. I am glad that you wrote this one too… I’m forwarding it to the husband, maybe it will give him a little insight to the “why are you so angry with me today?” question… the one i’m always too angry to answer rationally.

  • Alexandra December 28, 2009, 3:39 pm

    My adult daughter sometimes tells me I put myself first too much, so I’ve been doing my best to do the opposite, trying to put my husband first, who is not her father, by the way. This being said, I agree about what a difference a good night of sleep makes.

    I loved the first paragraphs about the night invasion of your bed, which, for me, is only a sweet memory now ….

  • Dustin | Engaged Marriage December 28, 2009, 3:44 pm

    Our son does the SAME (damn) thing when he climbs into bed with us! I really don’t know how he can actually be sleeping with all of the movement and little annoyances he manages the entire time.

    Anyway, I totally agree with you that “me” time is vitally important to the health of any relationship, and especially in marriage. I like to bowhunt in the fall/winter and do cycling in the spring/summer. I actually do enjoy these things, but most of all I love the mental break they give me. I actually encourage my wife to do this more often…happy wife, happy life!
    .-= Dustin | Engaged Marriage´s last blog ..Want an Exceptional Marriage? Stop Living in the Valleys! =-.

  • Tracey December 28, 2009, 4:49 pm

    I love the last paragraph. I wish I had that advice given to me months ago then I would not be in this predicament now…

  • Kathy December 28, 2009, 5:33 pm

    Sleep is one of the most important things we can give ourselves. I know this because I’ve been sleep deprived for over 3 years. On the rare occasion that I get a full night of sleep, it’s like I’m a totally different person. Sleep is a wonderful thing.

    Alisa, at least you didn’t wake to a heal in your eye. LOL!!! That was my daughter’s routine on the rare, rare, rare occasion that she slept with me – heal in my eye. One too many times I thought for certain I’d have a black eye when I woke up.

    I totally agree that “me” needs to come first. I nap instead of doing laundry or any other chore around the house, when I’ve had a really bad night of little sleep.

    Christmas day we went to lunch and then we were thinking about going to a movie. Well, after lunch, I knew I needed a nap. So, we drove home, let the dog out to pee and I changed into my PJs and napped for three wonderful hours. I did the same on Saturday and Sunday. I need my sleep otherwise I’m crabby and unpleasant no matter how hard I try not to be crabby and unpleasant.

    And I really hope the surgery I’ll be having in the next month or so will get be back to sleeping the way I used to – like a dead person – nothing can wake me. LOL!!!

  • Stephanie December 28, 2009, 8:09 pm

    Sometimes not even Sleep helps!!!!! We could have the best marriage in the world and then all the sudden his face makes me want to puke!!! Even Better yet; he’s a Pastor!!

  • Heather December 28, 2009, 8:10 pm

    My husband lets me sleep in on Saturdays and holidays. He knows if I get good sleep then he’s going to get lucky.

  • Shauntelle December 28, 2009, 8:15 pm

    OMG Alisa, I was just thinking about this very subject this morning–not the sleep thing because I’ve given up on ever getting a good night’s sleep until my youngest moves out of our house– but the treat yourself good thing! I’ve been vaguely disgruntled for the last few weeks, holiday stress aside, and this morning I realized it’s because I have started putting my needs on the low, low, low priority list again… have to stop that.


  • Roxanne @ Champion of My Heart December 28, 2009, 8:21 pm

    For me, the irrational frustration comes in the morning. Once something wakes me up, it’s SO hard to sleep again, but not my DH, he konks back out so fast, especially in those precious hours right before you have to get up. I swear, sometimes it takes all my inner strength not to poke him … simply because he can sleep and I cannot.

  • Natalie December 28, 2009, 9:39 pm

    Roxanne… I get the morning anger too. I can fall back asleep, but no matter if I do that or not, when I do get up, I need a good hour of “me” time in some way or I am super crabby. It seems worse when I wake up and DH has gone to work and I see what’s “left” for me, even if it’s not a big deal. I’m crabby when I wake up, no matter when it is (morning, after a nap).

  • Nakita December 28, 2009, 10:47 pm

    My fantasy of married life has been falling apart for the last couple of years now. I have read numerous books and searched various websites for some… advice, wisdom, HELP. I’ve done plenty of soul searching and done everything possible to see my husband as the man that he actually is. Not the man whose every flaw has been exagerated in my unrational anger. He does have flaws. I have many too. But he is a good man.

    In the last couple of years I finally learned that taking care of myself is more important than anything he could or could not do to make me happy. When I am focused on the things that bring me joy in life, the little things he does (that used to send me through the roof!) are just that… little things.

    Instead of dwelling on what is going on in our relationship, I go for a long meditative walk and figure out what I really need. A good book. More sleep. We must be healthy: mind, body and spirit. That is our responsibility to ourselves.

  • Vidya Sury December 29, 2009, 12:30 am

    I was thinking, when I read this – “How could she have sneaked in and seen what was happening?” :-). This post touched a sensitive chord – I totally agree that there’s nothing like a good night’s (or a few hours’) rest to give one a different (positive) perspective on things.

    Thanks – I actually felt like reproducing this on my own blog – but figured it is better to link to it :-D

    I always enjoy reading your emails.

    Warmly – Vidya Sury
    .-= Vidya Sury´s last blog ..Taking A Mental Vacation! =-.

  • OneHotTamale25 December 29, 2009, 1:33 am

    Of course I come first! DUH!

    Seriously, self care is vital to say the least. Scripture states we are to love our neighbors as ourselves. How can ever carry out that task if we don’t actually love ourselves? How can we actually love ourselves if we don’t make time for the things that make us fill fulfilled? We can most certainly fill fulfilled in our marriages, but even in our marriages we are still individuals who have individual needs and wants. Those cannot go unaddressed if we expect to offer our best selves to our spouses.

  • Judy December 29, 2009, 9:05 am

    I think that if it is tired it needs a nap and if it is hungry it needs to be fed…..view yourself as a person of worth….just as worthy of TLC as anyone else on the planet. You are worthy right at this very moment. ZZZzzzzzzzzz…..

  • Tracy December 29, 2009, 9:58 am

    I read this yesterday but I was too tired to comment because our monkey boy was in bed with us. I am not sure why I am so loathe to make sleep a priority for myself, but I am. Maybe because it feels “weak” and “uncool”. I do take a perverse pride in knowing I am better at realizing I need sleep than my husband, even though his lack of sleep makes him miserable to live with at times. Who knew people could literally growl like a wildebeast?
    .-= Tracy´s last blog ..My personal policy on… =-.

  • Julie Roads December 29, 2009, 9:58 am

    First of all, GREAT picture.
    Second of all, it’s amazing – to turn this post totally around – what a good sleep and its overnight affects have on mood. I can be so upset and if I just keep my mouth closed until morning, the picture looks dramatically different. It’s a hard lesson to learn though, when you’re ready for an all out wrestling match…
    .-= Julie Roads´s last blog ..Wind fall, Wind wall =-.

  • Donna Hull December 29, 2009, 12:44 pm

    What an insightful post. And you’re right about what fatigue can make us do. It works that way for both spouses, too. My husband and I have learned to realize that when we’re tired, we say and do things that aren’t our normal behavior. We’ve found a humorous way of attacking the problem. When one of us is acting tired and grouchy the other one will say, “Do I need to put you down.”
    .-= Donna Hull´s last blog ..Traveling in Terrorist Times =-.

  • Alisa Bowman December 29, 2009, 12:54 pm

    Donna–I LOVE that last line.
    .-= Alisa Bowman´s last blog ..Why Every Marriage Improves After a Good Night’s Sleep =-.

  • Sheryl December 29, 2009, 5:03 pm

    When I’m tired I turn irrational and cannot function. I need to be put down. Badly.

  • MarthaandMe December 29, 2009, 7:47 pm

    I love this – you are SO right. I am very cranky when tired. Why is that the men sleep perfectly well with kids and dogs in the bed yet we don’t?

  • Jen December 29, 2009, 8:33 pm

    This is such a tough balance to achieve, between self and family. As a writer, working on my first novel, I’ve been struggling a lot with this during the past few years. But I do always put my sleep first or I’m no good to anyone.
    .-= Jen´s last blog ..A Tribute to the Real Santa =-.

  • Meredith Resnick - The Writer's [Inner] Journey December 29, 2009, 10:58 pm

    Your stories are always entertaining AND they always speak the truth. Sleep, among other things, is how we care for ourselves. It’s sounds so mundane, so basic. But things like sleep, eating well, quiet time, being true to self make all the difference.

  • Maureen December 30, 2009, 1:38 pm

    Heather: my husband too. If I get a good nite sleep he knows he gets lucky or I pamper him.
    Tracy: Its the other way around. It takes strength to take that time for yourself.

    Great post. I get up at 4:30 am every weekday morning with my hubby and make him breakfast and lunch. A lot of my friends think I’m crazy & I should tell him to make it himself. But because of him, I get to be at home, do as I please every day, take a nap when I need one and I get some of the most glorious and impromptu presents and mini vacations. i.e. I get compensated greatly for what I do.

  • Rebecca January 6, 2010, 11:43 pm

    Oh my goodness it’s just perfect that I came across this blog today…I only managed about 4 hours sleep last night and even though my husband cleaned, did laundry and all my errands today, I still was annoyed. Jeez how irrational. I think bedtime is early tonight!


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