This has been a tough year for me. We added a third child into our family, I am finishing my doctoral program, and I have felt like I am running myself ragged at work. Not to mention that everyone in my family has contracted scurvy this year (I blame Jenny McCarthy). I’m popping Advil Cold and Sinus like it’s a street drug and considered showing up at my family doctor with a firearm demanding the hard stuff. Life has been hectic, and every relationship right now feels strained. My husband and I started doing something a few years ago that has deeply impacted our marriage for the better.
We stopped sleeping together.
Equilibrium theory says that intimacy and distance vary together. I know that this is true every time my husband continues watching an episode of Alaskan Bush People even after I have told him to stop. If I see one more clan member refer to “Brown Town,” I will set the television on fire. I burn holes through the side of his face with my eyes trying to will the remote into my hand like that child sorceress Matilda, all while sitting as far from him on the couch as possible. I am one of the only adults on this planet who has never smoked weed, and all those brain cells I preserved in high school start dwindling the second Bear and Snowbird ask Pa for a lick of the family lolly. Let’s turn on Sister Wives like the cultured adults we are please? My husband and I tend to sit close to one another in the evening, but not during Alaskan Bush People. I’m seething. And equilibrium theory will tell you why, because intimacy and distance vary together.
There are some days that we are literally ships in the night. I barely see him. In between running to and from work and errands today, I stopped by my house. He was standing in the driveway when I pulled in, and at the sight of me, he smiled. There was something really warm about the way his face lit up. After 6 years of marriage and 3 kids, he still blushes when he sees me. It felt like high school and I was Kelly Kapowski. I was on my way back to work, so I didn’t stay long, but for the rest of the evening my mind wandered back to that effortless grin he gave me. I needed that moment with him in a day that would be largely marked by his absence.
Despite our terrible schedules this year, illness, and Alaskan Bush People, my husband and I made a choice a few years ago that I think keeps us intimately connected and I want you to try it. We stopped sleeping together.
At 5am every morning we stop sleeping. We get up in the dark, fumble our way down the stairs, and we make coffee. Before we run off to our separate locations for the day and alternating commitments we have made, we have worship together. It’s our time to sit uninterrupted with no kids, no social media, and no television. It’s just the two of us, facing one another on the couch, bonding. Sometimes we sit in silence for an hour. Other times we giggle like teenagers. It’s not so much about the depth of the conversation, but the quality of the time. I look forward to each morning like it’s a romantic date, only it’s our living room sofa, and my teeth aren’t brushed.
I can see how many couples suffer affairs. Life gets busy. We spend more time at work than we do at home, and equilibrium theory says that intimacy and distance vary together. You can’t live separate lives and expect it to not separate your hearts, no matter how meaningful your vows were. At 5am, before the sun is even up, my husband and I make sure to close the distance. We stop sleeping.
At first it was hard, but now it feels easy. I can’t imagine going to work without first having sat across from him. When I am on my death bed, one of the memories from my life that will sit like fog in my mind is watching my husband read his Bible in that giant plush robe on our couch. It’s not sexy. It’s not even masculine. But when I close my eyes, it is one of my favorite images.
I just want to throw this out there, there are few things in life more intimate, than kneeling beside someone in prayer. It takes vulnerability. I am not sure what the atheistic equivalent would be? Perhaps try meditating together. All I know is when I go to work after worship with him, his heart comes with me.
About 3 years ago I stopped sleeping with my husband, and getting up while the world was still dark and my kids were still quiet.
Life is busy. The day won’t just give you time for your relationship.
You are going to have to make it.
Heather Thompson Day is a lecturer for Southwestern Michigan College, Purdue Tech University, and Ferris State University. She is the author of 5 Christian Books and writer for The Spilled Milk Club. Facebook, or check her out on Instagram.