It’s been that kind of day. One where you slammed the alarm clock’s off button at 6:00 a.m. and began the sprint. Shower, get ready, throw in a load of laundry, feed pets, wake kids, trip over toys on your way to make breakfast, field phone calls, make lunches, race with kids to the bus stop, juggle work and errands and motherhood, put out fires all day, grocery store trip, help kids with homework, prepare supper, evening activities, and on and on and on. Are you tired yet?
You fall into bed — long past your official bedtime — with the notion that the only welcome visitor at this moment is sleep, precious sleep. But then the hubby comes knocking instead. “Hey, honey! Heh-heh-heh,” he murmurs as he starts to unbutton the flannel nightgown that you were sure would be a hammer-on-head clue that you are not up for any additional activity today. Will you open the door? Slam it on his fingers and teach him to not mess with the NO ENTRY sign? Will you offer to lie there and sleep through the sex while he takes care of his “needs”? Will you simply utter through clenched teeth, “Don’t touch me, I’m exhausted!”
Fatigue is a tall wall for many spouses. We have full lives with work, children, household responsibilities, church, recreation, friends, and spouses all competing for our attention on the calendar. Most of the time, we take care of the urgent, even before the important.
Sometimes, that’s okay. If your infant awakens at 4:00 a.m. needing to be fed, that’s urgent…and important. You must forgo sleep, handle her needs, and deal with the inevitable lack of rest the next day. But sometimes, we are running around like those proverbial headless chickens without setting any priorities. We have signed ourselves up for every church committee, every PTA event, every team booster club, and we have no time for physical intimacy with our spouse.
In other words, sometimes our exhaustion can’t be helped. Sometimes it can. Make sex a priority on your to-do list. If you write down your daily schedule and there isn’t an hour anywhere in the week to make love to your honey, drop something else, not the sex. Yes, it’s amazing of you to make all of the costumes for your child’s preschool pageant, but if it costs you marital intimacy, it isn’t worth it. Your child won’t care that you hand-stitched their Lincoln hat if you and daddy have no relationship twenty years from now.
Do it sometimes anyway. Remember that infant at 4:00 a.m.? Or your early morning work meeting? Or the phone call from a friend at dawn? You woke up for those, right? Because you consider them important. When you place significance on sexual intimacy with your spouse, that means that sometimes you will agree to have sex when conditions are not ideal. You may need to shake the sleep from your eyes, do some stretches, or suggest a vertical position so you won’t accidentally doze off midway through. However, you might find yourself rather alert within a few minutes if you and hubby are focusing on one another’s pleasure. You might be rather happy you decided to give up the extra twenty minutes of sleep. In fact, you might sleep better afterward — all cozied up in your sweetie’s arms.
If this is a perpetual problem, address it. If you are always tired, maybe you have a vitamin or hormonal deficiency or other health problem that you need to discuss with your doctor. If your spouse seems to always suggest lovemaking right when you have finally snuggled into bed with your eyes drooping, converse openly about finding mutually conducive times for sexual intimacy. If you wake up every morning before the birds and crawl into bed every night at 3:00 a.m., change your sleeping schedule to get more rest and be more available to your spouse.
You can also reschedule. There are Christian sexuality experts who recommend never turning your spouse down. I agree that your spouse shouldn’t feel like an American Idol contestant nervously hoping that they won’t be rejected this time. Yet, there are those days when life has beaten up on you like you’re Million Dollar Baby and you can barely move. If you have a generally good sex life, your spouse will probably accept you saying, “How about tomorrow morning?” or “Tonight I want to get a full night of sleep, and tomorrow night I want to clear an hour just for you and me.” Make sure your spouse understands that the postponement has nothing to do with him/her, but your own temporary fatigue. Suggest a plan for engaging later. (See Should You Refuse?)
Whatever you do, try to avoid the “Don’t touch me, I’m exhausted!” line. I’ve used it before, and it doesn’t really have the effect you want in marriage.
Is exhaustion a continuing problem in your marriage? Is it hindering sexual intimacy with your spouse? How do you address those times of extreme fatigue?