How My Insomnia Nearly Killed My Relationship

February 12, 2018  |  
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Gettyimages.com/Moody young woman resting on her bed

I’ve fought a lifelong battle with insomnia, but until about five years ago, it was only my battle. What changed? I got into a serious relationship and moved in with that partner. Suddenly, my insomnia started to affect somebody else. Before I lived with my boyfriend, I could hide the effects of my problem. I might stay at his apartment one night, remain awake the entire night, stay perky long enough for breakfast, and then go home to my place where I’d finally get some sleep…around 10 in the morning. (The freelance life allows for this, but it isn’t exactly my preference). But once I moved in with my partner, all of the bad stuff that comes with insomnia—the irritable disposition, the depression, the forgetfulness—started to affect him. And I realized I needed to finally try to treat this problem. Here is how my insomnia nearly killed my relationship.

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I would be pushy about bedtime

If I didn’t fall asleep during a brief window of time in which I was sleepy, I wouldn’t sleep the whole night. So I’d demand we stop what we were doing—turn off the movie only 30 minutes in or leave the party—so I could go to bed on time. My bedtime dictated my partner’s schedule, and he hated it.

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The sex window was small

Naturally, if my window of time in which I could fall asleep was small, the window to have sex was even smaller. My partner had to be ready to have sex at least 20 minutes before my sleep window. If he was just 10 minutes late, I’d say, “It’s too late. I need to go to sleep in ten minutes.”

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I would cancel plans a lot

I’d often cancel plans we’d been looking forward to for weeks because I got no sleep the night before, and didn’t have the energy to go. My boyfriend actually stopped counting on things to happen, or looking forward to things, because he knew my insomnia could mean we had to cancel everything.

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Or just be cranky during those plans

Sometimes I’d still drag myself to the things we had planned, but I’d be irritable, cranky, and pessimistic the entire time, ruining the experience for my partner.

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I’d blame my partner for waking me up

If I were fortunate enough to fall asleep and something woke me up, that something (or someone) would feel my wrath. I’d get angry with my partner simply because his foot accidentally touched mine and woke me up.

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Or blame him for keeping me awake

If I wasn’t angry with my partner for waking me up, I was angry at him for keeping me up. Anything he was doing while I was trying to sleep—like simply using his electric toothbrush—was, in my eyes, a direct affront to my sleep.

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A lot of tasks fell on him

My boyfriend pretty much had to walk the dog every morning because when the alarm would go off, I’d tell him, “It’s 7am and I haven’t fallen asleep yet—can you take care of the dog?”

"Woman on the phone in bed pf"

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I often needed the room to myself

I’d often just request that my partner slept in the guest room so that I could sleep well, but that obviously wasn’t great for our relationship.

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I would lose my sense of humor

When you’re sleep-deprived, nothing is funny. Especially someone trying to make a joke about your insomnia. Basically, I had no sense of humor, and that didn’t make for a very fun dynamic around the apartment.

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I would be too tired to listen

I wasn’t engaging in my partner’s life. He would tell me about his day, but I’d be mostly checked-out. I’d also forget important things he told me about his life, because I was like a zombie.

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I would be too tired to have sex

I was usually just too tired to have sex, even if we had plenty of time to do it.

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I would be too cranky to cuddle

I would even be too cranky to cuddle. My poor partner would try to spoon me and I’d just say, “I don’t feel like being touched right now.” I was irritable, and wasn’t well rested enough to feel affectionate.

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I would be bossy about sleeping arrangements

I was very particular about sleeping arrangements. I acted like the types of blinds we bought for our bedroom windows, the sheets, the lamps, the sound machine, were all my decision.

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I would fall behind on cleanliness

Trying to complete my most basic tasks every day—like making a living—took everything out of me. I had nothing left when it was time to do laundry or clean my dishes, leaving the apartment in disarray.

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I would be emotionally distant

Overall, I was emotionally distant. My partner didn’t feel connected to me, and I didn’t even realize that because I didn’t feel anything.

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