Amy's side: I need more sleep!
When Chris and I began our friendship four years ago, we'd stay up all night talking, laughing, sharing stories, and getting to know each other. We'd barely realize what time it was until we'd notice the sun rising.
I have two children from my first marriage, so most of those all-night dates were every other weekend when the girls were with their father. This allowed me to get extra sleep the next day and be refreshed by the time the girls returned home on Sunday night.
Because our relationship was new and exciting, and these all-nighters happened only every other weekend, I never considered that there could be a problem in our future. While I'd explained to Chris that I needed a lot of sleep, it didn't pose a problem at that point in our relationship.
After we were married, Chris and I continued the all-night gab sessions. But I quickly discovered they weren't feasible on weekdays when the alarm went off at 7:00 A.M. for school and work.
I couldn't keep up with the late night pace we were setting! By the time I got home from work, made dinner, packed lunches, helped the girls with homework, and ran errands, I was wiped out, with no energy left for Chris.
I wanted to spend time with my husband. But how was I supposed to keep a job, manage a house, be a mom and a wife—all with little sleep?
Chris's side: I miss my wife
I'm a night owl who can get by with only a few hours of sleep. When we were dating, Amy had no trouble staying up. Those all-nighters were nothing new for me because my normal wind-down time isn't until 3:00 A.M. Once we were married, I realized what Amy meant when she'd told me repeatedly that she needed a lot of sleep.
We'd have our family time during dinner when we'd catch up on the day's events. But as soon as dinner was over, the chores and homework began, and everyone went their own ways. Amy would be burned out and ready for bed by 10:00—just when I was ready to start hanging out with her.
I was beginning to feel as though I was the same single man I was before I married this family—but now I was living in a house of sleeping females!
I have to admit, the cat stayed up with me—but that just wasn't the same! It was as if I had a wife only every other weekend when the girls were at their father's house. Even those weekends were changing. Amy would want to spend time alone reading or working on crafts, and once again, I was alone at midnight. This was a problem we needed to address—fast!
What Chris and Amy did
One night when the girls were away for the weekend, Chris approached Amy.
"I miss you," he confessed. "I feel as though I never get to see you anymore. There must be a way we can spend more time together and be sure you still get enough rest."
Amy admitted she shared Chris's concerns, and they spent the rest of the evening brainstorming ideas. Along the way, they intentionally tried to joke and tease about the situation to keep things light.
From that brainstorming "meeting" and through a lot of honesty, Chris and Amy were able to find "together time" that was compatible with their disparate inner clocks.
"We knew the first step was to make the girls part of the solution," says Amy. When Emma and Leah returned home from visiting their father, Chris and Amy sat with them for a "family meeting."
"We explained to them the importance of 'couple time' for a husband and wife," says Amy. "And we set some ground rules. For an hour or so after supper, while Leah and Emma work on homework or watch TV, Chris and I get uninterrupted time to spend together."
"We also make a point to connect for an additional hour or so after the girls are in bed and before Amy needs to hit the sack," says Chris.
"The girls were fine with the situation, once they understood how adults need 'adult' time too," says Amy. "Chris and I have seen our relationship grow, but also we've watched Emma and Leah develop a respect for adult relationships."
During the day, Chris and Amy e-mail each other with updates, questions, or just to share a thought or event.
"We still indulge in late-night talks, but mostly on weekends," Chris says. "And we've grown to accept that we have different internal clocks—neither is 'right' or 'wrong,' just different."
They try to respect each other's periodic need for solitude. "I love to have Amy around me, but I know she needs to 'refuel' by spending some time alone," says Chris. "I know it's not about me. And since I know in a hour or so I'll get her back, I'm okay with us having our own space."
Chris and Amy both admit it was difficult to rearrange their lives in order to make their marriage the number one priority. "But the blessings are finally beginning to show," says Amy. "We're stronger—in our relationship with each other, with the girls, and with the Lord. And it's been a win-win situation. We get more of each other. And I'm more attuned to Chris—now that I'm getting more sleep!"
Chris and Amy Kirk have been married for one year and live in Michigan.
Copyright © 2004 by the author or Christianity Today/Marriage Partnership magazine. Click here for reprint information on Marriage Partnership.