Cohabitation Conundrums AKA I Really Love My Snooze Button

...and navigating them while sleep-deprived


Back when I was dating Nick, who would eventually become my husband, there were very few times where I seriously questioned whether or not this relationship would last. We were friends for a while before we became a couple, and by the time we finally got together, our relationship became pretty serious, pretty quickly. Before long, we reached that awkward stage of dating, when you’re spending practically every night together anyway, and both of your leases are about to expire (at the same time! convenient!), but isn’t it a little soon to be moving in together?

We went back and forth about this for several weeks, weighing the pros and cons. On the one hand, we were already talking about marriage, and where we’d move together after graduation. Officially sharing a lease would save us money in the meantime, and (logistically, anyway) would make our lives a whole lot easier. (As a child of divorced parents, lugging my essentials back and forth between homes on a nightly basis was all too familiar and not particularly enjoyable.) On the other hand, the quickness of the potential move gave both of us pause. Were there facts about Nick that I didn’t know yet—deal-breaker facts, like cutting his toenails in bed or flossing at the kitchen table—that would only reveal themselves through officially cohabitating? Or, were we still in the honeymoon phase of dating? Would things deteriorate rapidly once we moved in together and the rosy glow of our still-new relationship faded away?

It was a risk we were willing to take. We felt fairly confident that moving in together was the right decision, even if it was a little sooner than we might have otherwise chosen under different circumstances. We talked about splitting the rent and who would handle each utility bill and how we’d divvy up groceries. We sorted out how we’d share household tasks like cooking and cleaning. Overall, it seemed like we were as prepared as we could be, and I had little doubt that moving in together would be a blast.

But those doubts did come, eventually. Most of the time, those doubts came at 5:30 in the morning. And then 5:45. And then 6:00. And…

Yes, I had found myself with a chronic snooze button user. Nick’s penchant for the snooze button had been easier to overlook in our earlier days of dating, when our sleepovers were mostly confined to weekends, and there was usually no need to set an alarm clock at all. But as we began spending more and more nights together, and looking for an apartment where we’d soon spend every night together, the habit became hard to ignore.

If Nick needed to be up at, say, 7:30, he would happily set the alarm for 5:30, and proceed to hit the snooze button at fifteen-minute intervals for the next two hours. Usually, the alarm was set unnecessarily early for some overly ambitious reason. “I think I’ll get up extra early tomorrow and get ahead on my homework,” he’d decide, as we got ready for bed. We’d cuddle up and drift off to dreamland peacefully.

Then the shrillness of the beeping alarm would pierce the cold, dark Cleveland morning, when the radiator by my bed was just warming up for the day.

“Mmm,” Nick would mutter. “Maybe just fifteen more minutes.” He’d promptly roll over and fall back into a deep slumber, while I’d toss and turn, trying in vain to fall back to sleep. Maybe I wouldn’t fall back to sleep at all, or maybe I’d start to doze just a minute or two before the alarm went off and it was time to start the process all over again. Either way, by the second or third (or fourth…) time Nick hit “snooze,” I’d be working myself into a sleepy rage. By the time we finally got out of bed (at the time we actually needed to begin our day), I’d have been awake for nearly a full two hours. I’d head off to work or class cranky, while Nick would start his day refreshed from a series of fifteen-minute power-naps.

At first, I tried talking him out of setting the alarm clock for any earlier than was strictly necessary. But he’d always convince himself (and me) that this time would be different. “No, this time I really need to get up early,” he’d insist. “I have a night class tomorrow and need to get Wednesday’s reading done ahead of time. I will definitely get up the very first time the alarm goes off. I promise.”

Then the morning would come all too quickly, and it would be so warm nestled under the covers in our chilly apartment, and Nick would decide he was almost positive he could get all that reading done on his lunch break, and he just needed fifteen more minutes, just fifteen more minutes, I promise, and then he’d definitely get out of bed…

It sounds somewhat overdramatic that I considered this incompatibility as a potential deal breaker in an otherwise wonderful relationship. But it wasn’t really about the snooze button. (Or, not just about the snooze button.) While Nick truly thrives on four or five hours of sleep, I most definitely require something closer to a full eight hours. And when I don’t get it, the results are not particularly pretty, or rational. (“You just don’t respect my needs!” I’d cry, as I slammed the car door.)

Navigating our first major cohabitation hurdle was challenging enough. Navigating it while sleep-deprived was even worse. If we couldn’t agree on something as fundamental as sleeping—something you do every single day, something that is directly tied to your overall health and happiness—what other disagreements were lurking beneath the surface of our previously agreeable relationship?

Turns out, not much. It wasn’t long before we signed our new lease together, and our transition into official cohabitation was actually fairly uneventful. But is it any wonder we hit a few speed bumps along the way? After all, by the time most people move in with their significant other, they’ve got at least a few decades of life under their belts, and have formulated some strong opinions about what that life should look like. Butter or margarine? Scented or unscented detergent? What’s our stance on eating raw cookie dough? Are we okay with having a television in the bedroom, or is the bedroom an electronics-free zone? Air conditioning, or windows open? These are just a few of the hundreds of simple decisions most adults have been making for themselves for years without giving it much thought—until some margarine-eating, TV-watching partner on a crusade against raw cookie dough barges in and starts asking questions, and those hundreds of simple decisions turn into hundreds and thousands of tiny compromises.

Compared to the bigger questions that arise when merging your life with another person’s—pets? kids? where to live?—these compromises seem like small potatoes. But in the midst of the fight, which in our case stretched out over a period of several weeks, it can be easy to let the disagreement take on a life of its own. Not only am I exhausted, but I am stuck with this snooze button-hitting monster for the rest of my life (or at the very least, for the duration of this twelve-month lease)!

In retrospect, aside from the snooze button situation, Nick and I had a shockingly easy transition into living together. Eventually, we even came to an agreement on some ground rules for snooze button usage. I agreed not to lose my mind over the occasional snooze, as long as it wasn’t every day, and as long as it didn’t stretch out over a two-hour period at fifteen-minute intervals. In return, I made more of an effort to stay up later with Nick a couple of nights each week, so he wouldn’t be burning the midnight oil alone. Once in a while, after staying up past my bedtime to hang out with my new roommate, I may have even hit the snooze button in the morning.

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