My husband and I have needed a lot of heart to heart conversations lately. Any major relationship transition increases the frequency at which heart to heart conversations are necessary, and becoming parents is definitely not an exception. Unfortunately, transitions also tend to cut into the time you have available for heart to hearts, and again, becoming parents is definitely not an exception.
Sleep time has become a major issue around here. When our daughter was first born, she often slept 5-6 hours at a time, and we celebrated our good luck: “We got a good sleeper!” Well, she is showing her true colors now. She often only sleeps 2-3 hours at a time, all night long. Turns out she’s a normal baby after all. Because I’m the one who gets up with her during the night, this change has had a huge effect on me. Not only that, but it happened while I was extremely ill. That illness is also why this blog is a few weeks late – sorry about that! The tiredness made the illness worse, which increased the tiredness, and around and around it went. I had mentioned to my husband that I was tired, that I was stressed, that our night time setup wasn’t working well for me, but we never had a serious conversation about it, and finally I realized it was time for a heart to heart.
As we discussed on Tuesday, a heart to heart conversation requires you to lower your defenses and really be vulnerable with the other person. Unfortunately, that’s not how I started out. I was so worried about the outcome of the conversation, about the possibility that my husband would resist changing things, that I went into the conversation with my defenses fully up. Naturally, he picked up on that, and soon we were in the middle of a heated discussion on the topic.
Finally, I told him that it was really difficult having my sleep constantly interrupted during the night, and he said, “Yes, but I would probably deal with it better than you are.” Hurt, I stormed out of the room, snapping as I went, “How does that comment help anyone?”
Because my husband truly is a caring and humble man, he quickly realized his mistake and followed after me to apologize for his comment. He was putting our daughter to sleep, so I accepted his apology and set the conversation aside for a bit. While he put her to sleep, I thought about how I could communicate to him how essential it was that we change our sleep routine. As I thought about how to get us both on the same team, my defenses went down and I remembered that he was tired too, and had been shouldering his share of the load like a champ.
After a while, I went to him, and said, “I know you’re tired too, and I really appreciate that. Have you ever seen me overwork myself so much that I’ve gotten sick enough to go to the hospital, though? I don’t want to put an extra load on you, but obviously what we’re doing right now just isn’t healthy for me.” He was quiet for a minute as he digested this, then our heart to heart began in earnest.
I realized two things about heart to hearts from this conversation. First, I was reminded of the importance of letting down my defenses, and pausing to let them down again if they come up. Second, I realized the importance of recognizing my husband’s contributions and focusing on what works instead of on what is exactly equal and fair.
Oh, and the conclusion of our conversation? We moved my bedtime earlier so that now I give our daughter to Stan and go to sleep early enough to get at least 4-5 hours of uninterrupted sleep before she starts waking up for the night. It lets me get enough sleep to function without cutting into my husband’s sleep time, plus it gives him more time to spend with her, since he is at work most of the day. It’s working for us now, but I’m sure another heart to heart will be necessary on the topic soon, and I hope that this time we can go immediately into the productive part of the heart to heart and skip the defensiveness that slows the conversation and leads to hurt feelings.