Whether you're newly engaged or recently married, you're probably used to receiving words of wisdom from your friends and family, coworkers, and even perfect strangers. When it comes to giving tips for a happy marriage, you might be surprised by how many people will offer their pre-bed advice. If you're wondering, "I have to work on my marriage while I'm sleeping, too?" we totally understand. Relationships are hard enough to balance while you're awake! But what people mean when they talk about bedtime behavior is usually the importance of being on the same page with your partner at the end of each day.
Here, Kathy McMahon, Psy.D., a clinical psychologist and President of Couples Therapy Inc., shares the things you and your partner should do each night before you fall asleep.
Go to bed before you're totally exhausted.
Even though you're busy and the demands of your work and personal lives, especially when intertwined, may make it impossible to savor any time for yourself or your significant other, experts agree it's important to set aside some time for intimacy time before bed. To do so, you need to get ready for bed before you're actually ready to sleep, though. "Your body needs a transition time to go from 'overdrive' to 'calm,'" says Dr. McMahon. "Value this transition and make your bedroom a sanctuary."
Leave your electronic devices charging far away from your bedside.
Try as you might, it's easy to fall into the trap of slipping into bed with your cell phone, tablet, or even laptop. That's why you should designate a space for charging your devices that's far from the bed. Not only does doing so allow you to focus more on each other and less on your bright screen, but, Dr. McMahon says that a no-technology zone allows for 30-minutes of "decompression time." "Science has shown that electronic devices have no place at your bedside," she says. "What if you need an alarm clock that your phone provides? Splurge and pick up a cheap one for a few dollars."
"Not a peck like you'd give your Aunt Gertie—aim for breathing slowly and deeply before you start, to calm down your nervous system," says Dr. McMahon. "Then look at your partner and fully take him or her in." Instead of simply kissing quickly and then closing your eyes, she recommends holding your kiss for at least six seconds.
Hold each other, while laying down, even if you can't fall asleep like this.
Dr. McMahon recommends staying in this position until you both feel calm and serene and then move to your corner of the bed. "We are mammals—cuddling before becoming vulnerable, (as we are in sleep), calms us down biologically and cognitively," she says. "Do this regardless of whether you are angry or not, as holding each other reminds you that you both have more to your relationship than the current fight of the week."
Learn to talk about intimacy in a way that's comfortable.
By no means do you need to have sex every single night, but Dr. McMahon points out that it's important to never shut your partner down in an insulting or rude way. You should both feel comfortable talking about intimacy. "This is a task of adult development," she explains. "Unless both of you can ask for sex in a way that pleases your partner or refuse a sexual invitation in a way that doesn't offend, you'll avoid the potential for 'misunderstanding.'"
Reassure yourself that negative things will pass.
As anyone in a long-term relationship knows, real ones are far from perfect. They're complicated and it's very normal for couples to have disagreements and arguments. Dr. McMahon notes that it's important to remember, even in trying times, that things will get better and to voice these optimistic thoughts at night alongside your partner. "When you hear this, don't argue—just let it sink into your unconscious and drift off to sleep in peace."