When you have an opposite schedule than your partner — whether it's because of work or different sleep schedules — it seems like the only solution is to separate. It takes some effort, but you can manage it and live in harmony.
If your schedules are opposite enough, you might never see each other during your waking moments. You'll come home late from work to find your significant other already asleep and by the time you wake up in the morning they have already gone off to work. Or, even if your work schedules are on the same timetable, your sleep schedules might be totally opposite and you want to go to bed just as they're ramping up their evening time. Both situations are difficult to deal with, but it's not impossible to find a balance.
Schedule a Little Time to Spend Together, No Matter What
It might seem impossible, but the most important thing you can do is schedule time together. Whether this is just a couple of meals together a week or a full day off together, make sure you're making time for the other person whenever you can.
The Huffington Post breaks down a few simple ideas for what to do with your time:
When you're both home, make sure to carve out together time even if it means just watching a movie or sharing a meal. And take out your calendars every month so you can put aside time for an actual date away from home. Even if your date is hot chocolate together during one of your breaks at work, it's essential to find time to connect.
It's not just that passive time though. If you can, schedule more than that. Take long weekends together every now and then, schedule date nights or get together with all your mutual friends. Several readers suggest keeping a shared Google calendar that highlights your off time so you know when you can get some time together. This stuff comes easy at the beginning of a relationship as you bend your schedule to fit the will of your new partner, but it gets increasingly difficult over time. You have to make a continual effort.
Use Small Gestures to Show the Other Person You Care
If you go a few days without seeing someone, it's easy to start falling into the trap where you're feeling lonely or you're not connecting anymore. Instead of letting this feeling take hold, make the effort to make your significant other know you care with a small gesture of some kind.
You don't need to go out and buy some fancy gift. Flowers delivered to their work, a meal left in the refrigerator, or even just a call letting them know you care does the trick. It's the little things that count, so pack them a lunch, leave them notes, and do anything you can to remind them that you care and they're important to you. It seems like nothing, but it goes a long way when you're on the receiving end.
Make Time to Air Grievances
When you don't see each other often, little annoyances start to build up. The garbage wasn't taken out. Dishes get left in the sink. Clothes are all over the bedroom. When you can't deal with this in the moment, those little annoyances start to fester into something bigger. Left unchecked, these things can reverse the effects of those rare moments you get to spend together by turning your alone time into an argument.
It might sound silly to schedule time for this, but when you don't see each other often, it's worth it. Psychology Today has a few bits of advice for how to handle these conversations:
Start by sharing a tiny, annoyingly irksome complaint about each other's habits. Afterward, build up to a huge complaint. The reason it's good to swap? Both of you must empathise with how it feels to be told you're annoyingly irksome. Plus, you'll both feel an equal sense of "growth opportunity" because you will both have an equal amount of issues to work on for the sake of happily-ever-after love.
These types of "State of the Union" conversations can help ensure those minor annoyances don't explode into something bigger. Make a list of these types of grievances, and let them rip when your schedule permits. Just remember to keep it constructive. Make sure both of you are on board and don't take anything too personally.
Recalibrate Your Sleeping Area
If you're on a different sleep schedule than your partner, things can get ugly fast. One person wants to go bed while the other wants to stay awake. The other person's up early in the morning and making a racket. When you don't get a good night of sleep you get irritable and things go downhill from there.
Dealing with different sleep schedules is about pinpointing exactly what's wrong and coming up with a solution that works for both of you. You might need to change up your sleeping area, make some concessions about sleep times, or even get separate beds. Here are a few different ideas you guys came up with to deal with this:
- Talk about the issue and see if you can make concessions. If you get up early in the morning, promise to be quiet or leave the house when you can. If you stay up late, try to be quiet, use headphones or spend your time in another room. If there's a TV in your bedroom, get rid of it. If you're struggling to get sleep during the day, try blackout curtains. The sky's the limit here, so brainstorm and try as many solutions as you can for your particular problem.
- Try to alter your sleep schedule. Not everyone can completely change their sleep schedule, but it's worth a shot. If the rest of your schedule permits, try on your partner's sleep schedule for a week to see if you can line them up better.
- If concessions aren't working, consider separate beds or a separate workspace. If you like to stay up late or get up early to work, look for a co-op workspace in your area that suits your hours. For separate beds, a pull-out couch or futon is a great investment that will give your partner the space they need without requiring an entire room.
- If you prefer to wake up early, get an alarm clock that doesn't annoy the other person. For example, most fitness trackers feature a vibrating alarm clock.
Obviously, not everything is going to work for everyone, but if you open up the dialogue you'll at least have a chance to figure out a solution to the problem.
One of the first things that suffers from opposing schedules — whether it's work schedules or sleep schedules — is sex. This is especially the case if you don't find yourself going to bed at the same time often.
When this is the case, it's time to schedule those intimate moments so you know you'll always have them. Psychology Today refers to this as the "Bic Cure:"
The Bic Cure is writing in ink (uneraseable) on your calendar a weekly date night or afternoon, and a monthly romantic getaway of at least one day. Nowadays, many people have stopped using paper calendars and use their technological devices to schedule important appointments. Both methods work if we use them...
For the Bic Cure to be successful, they will need to schedule their romantic interludes and commit to them by writing in ink on their calendars. Since time spent on the health and maintenance of their relationship is as essential as any other aspect of their lives, this time must be held as sacred and essential as time spent doing anything else that nurtures the well-being of the family. The dates are just as important as any client appointments, dentist visits or pediatric check ups.
It might sound like a bit of a mood killer to schedule for something that should be spontaneous and natural. But when you're not in the same place at the same time for those spontaneous interactions, it's impossible to have one. Scheduling for sex can also be a great boon for the relationship. You not only reestablish intimacy, you also have something to look forward to as the days go on. Do whatever works for you here. If you tend to have mornings available, take advantage of that time. If you happen to get some extra time for lunch, that's a perfect time to get together and release some stress in the middle of the day.
Sometimes, you just need to make the best of a bad situation. Regardless of whether a scheduling divergence is temporary or permanent, it's a good opportunity to take some time to yourself to work on those projects you've been putting off for years.
The hidden beauty of opposite schedules is that both people end up getting their little pocket of time alone. If you're an evening person, it's usually at night when the other person's gone to bed. If you're a morning person, you'll typically have the morning to yourself to sip coffee and do what you love. Enjoy those routines while you can.
Likewise, if you're on separate work schedules, take the added time and make use of it. Sure, it's difficult and often lonely, but if you're doing something productive with that time it will make you feel a whole lot better.
That said, if it's work that's causing the issue, it might be time to look for other solutions. If you can quit, quit. Chances are your family is far more important than your job.