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Dear Parents: Sleep Scorekeeping is Probably Eroding Your Marriage

Raise your hand if you’re a parent who’s ever awoken and (loudly) proclaimed your sleep deficit to your partner only to have them do the math right back atcha. (“You’re tired? Were you up at 5 a.m. to change a dirty diaper?”) It’s annoying. It’s irritating. It also begs the question: Why can’t we just compassionately acknowledge our partner’s hardship…and move on?

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Instead, parents the world over resort to something else: Sleep scorekeeping.

Sleep scorekeeping is what happens when one parent can’t speak openly about their child-fueled sleep deficit without the other parent issuing a response that evens (or one-ups) the score. It doesn’t matter if your kid is five months or five years—parents turn into sleep scorekeepers the minute they suffer a night where their routine is thrown.

And surely this isn’t good for your marriage, right?

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Correct, says Jocelyn Freeman, relationship coach and co-author of The Argument Hangover, who notes that sleep scorekeeping, go figure, is exacerbated by fatigue and actually stems from feelings of resentment that your partner isn’t acknowledging your efforts. “When we begrudgingly bring up or compete about who slept more or less than the other, what we’re really saying is, ‘Do you see me, do you appreciate me and do you know how good you have it?’” Freeman says.

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