How early birds and night owls can make it work as a couple

The key is empathy, understanding, and compromise.

22 February, 2024
How early birds and night owls can make it work as a couple

As a morning person, I’m programmed to wake up early in the morning and be the first one, among my colleagues, to reach work. Consequently, staying up late at night is a huge problem for me. I thought being a morning person was a good thing until I met my partner, who is a complete night owl. Not only does she have trouble getting up early in the morning but also lacks energy during the first half of the day. We soon realised that this is one of the biggest disparities in our personalities. 

Now these differences can be a problem and cause trouble, and in extreme cases, resentment in the relationship. At night, when I’m getting ready for bed, the last thing I want to do is have a conversation, let alone go out. My partner, on the other hand, is supercharged and wants to tell me everything about her day. In the mornings, I’m busy doing my chores around the house and my energy and gusto can sometimes be annoying to her as she wants to sleep peacefully.

So how does a couple, one being a night owl and the other an early bird, make it work? Read on to find out.

You tend to ignore this in the early stages of your relationship 

The signs you ignore at the start of a relationship can become a problem later on. At first, the morning person will go out of their way to spend time with their partner at night because that’s the only time in their schedule when they can get to know each other. However, with time, you begin to recognise these differences and acknowledge the truth that one of you is an AM person and the other is a PM person. But hey, there’s no problem that can't be solved, provided both partners are equally committed to making it work. 

Understanding and empathy

In order to have a fulfilling relationship, people and their problems need to be understood. And when it comes to a morning and a night person being together, understanding each other’s Circadian Rhythm is crucial. For the unaware, circadian rhythms are the physical, mental, and behavioural changes that an individual experiences over a 24-hour cycle. These rhythms are deeply influenced by light and dark, and understanding this is crucial, whether you’re a morning or a night person, to avoid arguments involving a ‘You can’t even do this for me’ tone. You have to understand, it’s not that they don’t want to, it’s just that they’re unable to, and finding out why is important. Talking about it and understanding that your partner is different from you is important. 

So how and when do spend time together? 

Having a conversation at night is tough for a morning person. The same goes for a night person during the day; you might want to cuddle or have sex but find that the other person is fast asleep. Morning walks aren’t the same without your partner and a late-night movie is boring when you’re snacking by yourself. So does this mean that AM and PM people don’t cuddle, have sex, or go out? Absolutely not. Every relationship requires some compromise and you both must try to meet each other halfway. The morning person could go to bed early so that they’re able to stay awake at night. Similarly, the night person too, could go to sleep early in order to wake up earlier in the morning to enjoy those precious moments with their loved one. Creating a shared experience, where you find ways to spend quality time together despite your different schedules, can help foster the relationship. 

Things to avoid

In addition to knowing what to do to make things work, knowing what not to do also plays a crucial role. For starters, don’t disrespect them and their choices just because they function best at a different time. Also if you have any plans during the day or night (because that’s when you do things), the least you can do is inform your partner in advance. Just 'cause they won’t be there doesn't mean that they shouldn’t know. 

The second and most important thing, speaking from personal experience, is to not use the morning person vs. night person detail in a conversation or argument. For example, if they haven’t cleaned up the table after eating (while you were asleep), simply convey that instead of telling them that they stay up all night and wake up after you’ve left for work. It’s very easy to bring up things when you’re angry but you do not want to go down that road.

Inputs by Mehezabin Dordi, clinical psychologist, Sir H N Reliance Foundation Hospital, Mumbai

Also read: How sleeping next to your partner is improving your relationship and mental health

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