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#1371: “I’m a cuckoo morning lark in a parliament of night owls.” from Valerie L's blog

Dear Captain,

I (she/her) married my husband Alex (he/him) 8 months ago, and in the process married into an incredibly tight college friend group focused around Alex, his best friend Ryan (he/him), and his best friend’s wife Sara (she/her) (everyone is mid-30s). All three are night owls and I am a morning lark. At home, Alex and I just crash and wake up at different times; he’s very loving and respectful of my need to sleep. However, for vacations the group ends up traveling together and sharing a hotel room or RV space. It ends up 3 on 1 for preferences around timing and I always end up the one who is sleep deprived.

I’ve tried explaining this all to Alex, and he keeps saying I’m not clear to the group about my need for sleep. I think they’re all looking for me to loudly yell back in the moment when they’re keeping me up, but that’s not who I am and not what I’m capable of at 3am when I’m exhausted. At this point, my preference would be to just not share sleeping space with Ryan and Sara, but if I decline the RV or shared rooms in advance I’m left out of planning and don’t get a say in food or other things.

I love Alex but… I need sleep. We don’t have kids yet, but we’re of that age where it’s a question. I don’t want to end up sleepwalking along (pun semi-intended) in this marriage until I find myself facing the same issue with fewer options to resolve it.

Sara and Ryan (Ryan especially) just kind of bulldoze through life. I think part of it is that Alex would rather be behind the plow than in front of it with me. I also can’t help but think Alex just wishes I was a night owl like Sara, or that I just was Sara (we look incredibly similar and it’s a recurring joke in the group). I know that’s not an entirely reasonable fear; I just don’t know how to disentangle that insecurity from all of this. Advice?

Sleepless Lark

Dear Sleepless Lark,

Greeting: 

Hello, I have retained your most excellent subject line as the post title. Love it! A+!

Advice:

1) From now on, if Alex wants you to accompany him on future vacations with Ryan and Sara, he must plan to include a private space so that they can all stay up as long as they want to and you can go to sleep whenever you want to. In the past, Alex has told you that you’re “not clear to the group about my need for sleep.”  Challenge accepted! You’re about to get extremely clear about all that.

2) If you and Alex are not already doing this, I suggest alternating trips with Ryan and Sara with vacations where it’s just the two of you and/or YOUR closest friends doing stuff that YOU like at YOUR pace sometimes. Budget out your vacation time and money for the year, as a couple, in advance, so that it’s not always this thing where your vacation is more about other people’s incredibly specific fun than your own.

For best results, talk to Alex  – and only Alex – during the initial planning stages of the next trip with his friends. Be direct and forthright about what you need from now on in order to have fun on these vacations. He wants you to “be more clear” so yeah! Be clear with him about the incredibly reasonable stuff you need, and then be clear that you’d like him to a) ensure you are included in discussions about meals and activities and b) make whatever it is clear to his friends on your behalf, without making you the unreasonable fun-killing scapegoat, so it’s not three against one at 3 a.m or you ready to eat your own hand at 9 the next morning because nobody told you whether breakfast was going to be a thing today. Does he want you to come with? Does he want you to enjoy yourself? Great! This should be no problem, then! If seeing to your own bodily comfort is such a problem, then perhaps he should go by himself next time.

Possible starting script: “Alex, a road trip to [place] sounds fun, but before anybody books anything, I want to make sure that we’ll have our own room or some other way that I can have a private, quiet space to sleep when the rest of you stay up late.” 

Good news, you live in a time where there have never been so many options for doing this! You can:

  • Book separate hotel rooms, so that one can be Party Central and one can be The Sleepy Zone.
  • Book a motel room or cabin nearby where the RV will be parked so that you have a separate place to retire to when you’re ready for bed.
  • Rent a larger space, like a vacation house or apartment that has multiple sleeping areas so that they can stay up and you can have a little quiet.
  • Budget these trips differently from the start, with the baseline expectation that you’ll need private/separate sleep accommodations. If that makes the trip unaffordable, oh no, guess y’all can’t afford to go this time!

If he balks at any of it, remind him that he told you to be “more clear” (I’m never letting that go, fyi,) and remind him that you are telling him this because you DO want to go on these trips, you DO want him to be able to stay up with his buds and do all the fun stuff in the world, and to do that well you need a little bit more attention to your own creature comforts.

Start with “a room for Lark to sleep” as the minimum, baseline necessity for traveling with these people, and build from there.

I don’t really know what to do about your feelings about Alex’s potential “joke” feelings about Sara, except to say: This is your marriage, this is your precious vacation time, and I think that you should generally take up more space in all of it, not less.

I think that some of the anxiety and friction here is because you’ve been hovering between “date/guest of founding group member” and “active group member/participant” for a while with these trips. As a date/guest, it’s Alex’s job to make sure you are comfortable and having fun. As a participant in your own right, you have more power to assert what you need, and Alex’s job as your spouse to help you do that/get out of the way of you doing that.  If you’re not particularly enjoying yourself, maybe it’s time to either stay home doing exactly what you like with your time, or go full participant.

For example, since you’ve said you tend to get “left out” of meal and activity plans, probably do a little of your own advance planning/scouting in the area to ensure that you can eat regular meals at reasonable times. If there’s something you particularly want to see or do in the area, make sure Alex knows about it. If there’s a group grocery list, put things that you like to eat and drink on it. If Ryan and Sara and others are cool with winging it, fine! If you have a plan, and someone else in the group comes up with a better plan in the moment, it’s okay to do that plan instead! But if people want to join you for breakfast at [place] on [day], they should be ready to leave by [time], because that’s when you and the giant stack of books you brought along are going.

If the rest of the group, especially your husband, imply that a few alterations that will greatly improve your vacation experiences amount to you “being difficult” or “ruining the vibe,” or try make it about how “unclear” you are, remind yourself: You’re not asking everyone else to tiptoe around your or keep your exact same hours, you’re not screaming at all of them to shut up and go to sleep at 3 a.m. (even though your husband thinks that’s what you’re supposed to do). Instead, you’re asking for a little space, grace, and forethought because you are not Sara 2.0 and you have different needs. So don’t retreat! “Yep, that’s me, Mrs. Lark T. Buzzkill, Esq, also, if you want in on the the free hotel breakfast it closes at 10, see you there, or not. Hope that’s clear!”  “Ha, that joke about how much I look like Sara never gets less funny, but it’s so easy to tell us apart! Sara is married to Ryan, and if I don’t get enough sleep I stop functioning, so, goodnight y’all!.” 

In closing: You are not weird or difficult for having a bedtime and wanting to know when your next meal is coming from. ❤

Bonus: Here is a tried-and-true general recommendation for vacationing with a group of fellow adults with different planning styles, activity levels, people-ing capacity, and interests: DON’T try to plan out every minute or do every single thing all together as a group. Pick a few set things to do all together on specific days, and be very transparent about costs, travel times, and logistics. Pick maybe one daily meal as “everyone cooks/eats/goes out all together for a hot, sit-down meal” and leave lots of down-time for people to nap, go off exploring, and subsist on iterations of the cheese plate or things-dipped-into-other-things as they wish. You’ll get plenty of fun and way fewer headaches.


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