I never sleep with Hubs anymore.
Don’t panic, I don’t mean in the biblical sense, I’m not about to open the floodgates of self disclosure, but I do want to talk about sleep, marriage and staying connected.
Sleep (or lack thereof) is a big problem in our house. With an autistic daughter who is awake for large portions of the night, several times a week, and a 2.5 yr old son who is himself beginning to develop disturbed sleep patterns, exhaustion has become the norm for me and Hubs.
It’s not just the exhaustion that makes things difficult though, it’s the separation. The nocturnal disruption upstairs (our children are LOUD at night) means we have to get creative with sleeping arrangements. We have a kingsize bed, a double bed, a roll out futon mattress, and we have a sofa bed downstairs. As Hubs has to go to work everyday, drive across the city and hopefully not kill any of his patients, he Usually sleeps downstairs on the sofa bed to try and get some peace to sleep. I’m left upstairs, in the kingsize bed that suddenly seems either really empty, or really full, depending on which of the children and animals decides to share it with me.
I miss Hubs being there. I miss cuddling. I miss cuddles that turn into something more. I miss falling asleep with my nose pressed into his back. I miss falling asleep with his arm round me, safe and protected, then throwing him off five minutes later when I get too warm. I miss stretching my leg out in the night and feeling his hairy legs with my toes. I miss waking up in the morning with his head on the next-door pillow. I miss starting and ending every day with him. I miss feeling connected.
Sometimes it’s like being housemates. After the chaos of bedtime, and the epic post-children tidy up, we finally sit down. We watch a couple of episodes of something on Netflix, then before you can say “maybe we could…creep upstairs and…” one of the small fry wakes up. Then it’s a kiss goodnight and we don’t see each other till the next morning. Ships passing in the night, that’s what we are. Add to that a difficulty in securing babysitters, and the opportunity to spend any quality time together Just as a couple happens more rarely than ever.
So last month, we Tried something different, we decided to make some positive changes. We quit smoking together (16 days Smoke free now), started eating better and exercising. The idea being that this would not only make us into healthier, more-likely-to-live-longer people (and longevity is SO important for parents who may well be caring for their child into that child’s adulthood), but that making these changes together would help us feel more connected.
And it was working, until Hubs slipped on a toy car on the stairs, landed awkwardly and triggered an old back injury. Now he can’t exercise, although he’s sticking to the smoke-free, healthy eating plan.
And also, he’s off work becasue he can’t drive.
He’s been in terrible pain (which is thankfully subsiding) but one positive result of his injury is that he’s home, all day every day. When the kids are at school and nursery and I’d usually be alone, he’s here. Suddenly we have time together in abundance.
Time to connect.
Yes, it mainly involves me massaging Deep Heat cream and Diclofenac gel into his lower back while he grunts in pain, or me driving him to doctor/physiotherapy appointments while he regales me with a critique of my driving skills.
But still, time to connect. Time to become hyper aware of and wonder anew at, each other’s little foibles. Which brings me to the beard.
Time to appreciate the beard. Have I not mentioned the beard? How remiss of me. In a further example of lifestyle change, Hubs has grown a beard. Over the last 12 days it’s become like a third child to me, so much does it dominate our conversation. Freed from the financial commitments of purchasing tobacco, Hubs has instead taken up researching, discussing with me and purchasing beard grooming products online – combs, balms, oils, brushes, scissors…. The number of beard products on the market is dizzying. Hubs greets every parcel that gets delivered with a childlike delight. He keeps anointing himself and making me smell the beard – “what does this one smell like?” (Honey, it smells like sandalwood. They all smell like sandalwood. I’m married to an incense stick).
We must have had 1000 plus conversations about the shape and thickness of the beard, and how soft it is, and how lustrous. He’s actually talking about it and checking it in the mirror while I type this and giggle to myself. Seriously, people have no idea of the level of commitment that adopting a beard requires. There should be guides, warnings, online support groups. I actually like the beard on him, it suits him. Even though the congregation at church didn’t recognise him and thought I’d met someone else. And even though my Mom (with the sinister glimmer of cable ties in her eyes) keeps comparing him to Jamie Dornan from the film “fifty shades of grey” (#fiftyshadesofawkward).
What I like most though, is that for the first time in ages he’s taking pride in his appearance, he’s asking my opinion and valuing it. I’m seeking his advice on my exercise plan. We’re discussing, conversing, laughing with (and at) each other, complimenting each other. We’re driving each other mad with our little quirks, but at least we have time to notice them for once. We’re having petty arguments, but we have time to resolve them. We might not be sleeping in the same bed, or starting and ending our days together, but we’re spending every waking hour in between in each other’s company. I remember who I married, and that I really do love my maddening hirsute guy. For that, for the irritations and for the laughter, I’m grateful.
Now if you’ll excuse me, we’re going to plan the redesign of our garden. Which may or may not include the identification of which area of the patio we’ll end up burying each other under.