Not Sleeping So Good Myself

Friday, June 12, 2009

Question

I was looking forward to retirement because I thought my wife and I would have more time together, especially for sex. I've worked a lot of ridiculous hours that made it hard for us to find time to keep the sexual side of our relationship alive. But it seems like we are living in the same house but not really connecting. The biggest problem, in my opinion, is her sleeping schedule. She is staying up all night and not going to bed until early in the morning. I am on the same schedule I was on when I worked. Sometimes this means that I am literally waking up just when she is coming to bed. It seems rather daunting to make love more often if we are never in the bed at the same time.

I've tried talking to her, and she says that she is having trouble with insomnia, and this has gotten worse with menopause. She continues to be very affectionate with me. But she has asked me if I plan to be home all the time, and suggested volunteer work. I would rather be planning to take some trips together even if they are just three-day weekends. But she has a schedule of classes and other commitments that seems difficult to disrupt.

This is depressing me more than I realized before I started writing this e-mail. I worked hard for decades so we could be financially secure right now, and I feel very fortunate that most of our assets survived all of the problems in the stock market. Now I am wondering if retirement is going to ruin my marriage instead of make it better.?

Answer

As a world class insomniac, I can tell you that it is a difficult problem that often has multiple causes and requires more than one solution. Experts suggest making sure that you have a comfortable mattress with adequate back support—the right mix of firm to solid. The bedroom should be used only for sleeping. Avoid taking hot showers, exercising, or eating a big meal before trying to sleep. Keep a schedule so that your body will learn to get into a predictable rhythm. Once you go to bed, try to deliberately relax each muscle in your body. Sometimes these suggestions are not enough, perhaps because the person needs help with anxiety or hormonal fluctuations. Would your wife be willing to consult with a specialist? This could make a big difference.

Since she has expressed concern about you being home all day, make an effort to develop some interests that will keep you occupied when she is taking a class or going to some other activity. This will take a little pressure off of her, so she doesn't feel that she has to entertain you all of the time. It sounds like retirement has changed your schedule a lot more than it has affected hers. If she is used to having a certain amount of time alone, she may need more of this than you do. (I say this because it's common for extroverts and introverts to be drawn to one another, according to that ancient axiom about opposites attracting.)

When sex isn't happening as frequently as one partner would like, I always ask about the health of the rest of the relationship. Does your wife have any reason to feel resentment toward you? Has your sex life been mutually satisfying? It may be important to pin her down and demand some genuine soul-searching about these things. If there is anything she's wanted that hasn't been happening in the bedroom, or if there's been anything sexually undesirable that she's put up with, she may be panicking about being expected to perform even more frequently. While it would be sad if this was true, the two of you can have a second honeymoon now and work on fixing whatever was wrong in the past. You sound like a tender-hearted man who is quite in love and open to change and personal growth. If the conversation becomes too heated or she is reluctant to participate, insist on some couples counseling.

Finally, if it's really true that the only problem is your sleeping schedules, let me remind you and your wife that you don't have to plan to sleep with somebody in order to have sex with them. She could join you in bed, play around until both of you were satisfied, then cuddle you until you fell asleep. Then, if she honestly still wasn't tired, she could get up and putter around. I would suggest that you could also surprise her, but I think this plan will work better than you waking up from a sound sleep to carry out your amorous intentions.

I hope your wife realizes how lucky she is to have a husband who is still sexually capable and interested, not only in sex, but in a richer and deeper relationship. If she thinks that men and women your age shouldn't be erotically active, she is mistaken—many couples find a new joy in sexual involvement once their children have left home and work no longer places so many demands upon them. Maybe some of these suggestions will get to the bottom of what's gone wrong, so that domestic harmony can be restored, only to be interrupted by cries of joy and salacious amazement.