How little time can a couple spend together before the marriage is headed for trouble?
THERE were two things I didn’t reckon on when I got married. One was that H and I would end up sleeping in separate bedrooms. The other was that we’d end up having a weekend marriage. The two are linked.
I’ve written about how we have had to resort to sleeping in different rooms because I can’t sleep with the air-conditioner on as it makes me ill, and he can’t sleep with it off because the mosquitoes will eat him alive.
Nineteen months on, a wall still separates us at night. Once a month or so, I’ll volunteer to sleep over, but it’s with trepidation on both our parts because we know exactly what will happen.
You sure? He’ll ask, sceptically.
Of course, I’ll say. I want to. I need to. We need to. I’ll be okay.
I am – we are – always not okay.
I’ll be sniffling and snorting and tossing and turning the whole night, keeping him awake too. It doesn’t help that our dog – who normally sleeps with either of us – doesn’t like this threesome arrangement. He gets growly and fights with us for space on the bed.
When morning finally comes, we are both grumpy, sleep-deprived and look like the living dead.
I’ve learnt to choose Friday nights for these sleepovers because if the experience leaves us knackered, we can at least recover with a proper night’s rest on Saturday and Sunday nights in our own bedrooms, before Monday and the workweek rolls around. After every one of these frightful Friday nights, I’ll declare that it’s not worth sleeping together. He doesn’t disagree.
But once in a while, the urge to do so is just too great, and we give in. But at least we got to spend a decent amount of our waking hours together during the workweek.
We’d see each other a good two hours in the morning before we set off for work and there’d be at least an hour at night before we part ways and go to bed. It wasn’t a lot, but I think that’s pretty normal for couples working long hours during the week.
All that changed in January this year. He started a new job which requires him to leave the house at 6.30am. Because he has to wake up early, he has to be in bed by 10 or 10.30pm.
I, on the other hand, rarely reach home before 10.30pm, by which time he’d be fast asleep (in his own room). I sleep past midnight and get up only at 7.30am, and by then, he would have been long gone.
Of course we want to spend more time together, but it has been a real dilemma. Should I wake him up to get some face-time with him when I come back, or let him sleep? Should he snuggle up next to me before he leaves and risk disturbing my sleep?
The first two weeks of this new arrangement were most unsatisfactory. He stayed awake until I came home but all we could fit in was a brief and tired run-down of our day before he hit the sack. I’d set the alarm at 6.20am so I could see him off, but I wasn’t able to go back to sleep after he left and that ruined the rest of my day.
We’ve since concluded that if we love each other, we really should let the other sleep. The last two weeks in particular have been especially ridiculous, with absolutely no sightings during the whole workweek.
We said goodnight at 10.30pm on Sunday and met up again only at 11pm on Friday – a full five-day absence although we live in the same house.
Who are you, I asked him when we finally met. Who are you, he asked back.
You’re slimmer, I said last Friday, scrutinising his face. Is that a new dress you’re wearing, he wondered.
It’s like he’s a boarder in my house or that we’re having a long-distance relationship. Welcome to my weekend marriage.
There are some advantages, to be sure.
Absence does make the heart grow fonder and when we do meet, it’s nice. We feel almost shy. Because we have so little time, we don’t want to waste it squabbling over silly things. Saturdays and Sundays have become really precious and we do everything together.
The timing has also been such that he has not been around to witness my pre-menstrual mood swings. That’s been a definite plus for him.
Going solo on weekdays is a bit like being single again. I get to do my own thing at my own pace, but with the happy knowledge he’s next door should I need him.
But who am I kidding?
A friend asked me if I don’t miss his touch, given how we don’t even sleep together. Yes, of course I do.
I miss having him around to hear my daily laments. I miss having his shoulder to cry on. I miss not knowing what’s happening in his life as it happens. I miss our toes touching when we do sleep together.
We speak on the phone and text each other several times a day, but it’s different. That’s no substitute for someone stroking your hair when you’re feeling blue.
We’ve been trying to cope.
He started writing me little notes before he left in the morning. I followed suit. These handwritten notes have since grown to become letters one, two pages long.
Every morning, I’ll go to his room and there’ll be a nice letter waiting for me on the table. Every night before I sleep, I’ll write him my own note which I’ll slip into the pocket of the pants he’ll be wearing the next day. (His clothes, ironed, would have been left outside his room.)
This pen-pal business is kind of romantic, I suppose, but it is camouflaging what could become a real problem for us if we are not careful: being apart for so much can’t be healthy for a marriage.
Couples can grow estranged and, for goodness’ sakes, we already aren’t even sleeping together too. And much as I tell myself that it’s quality time like the weekends that’s more important, I know that that’s not true. To have a strong marriage, you must invest time in it. Sooner or later, something has got to give.
There’s no way he can leave later in the morning and so I must find a way to come home earlier at night.
While work is important to me, surely my marriage must count for more? — The Sunday Times / Asia News Network
Did you find this article insightful?